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Cheyney University Celebrates 180 Years of Educating Young Minds

March 2, 2017

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Robert W. Bogle '75 (left), Chairman of the Cheyney University Council of Trustees, and President and Chief Operating Officer of The Philadelphia Tribune, America's oldest African American newspaper, receives the Excellence in Corporate Philanthropy Award from Miss Cheyney, Anitra Jackson, and Dr. Frank G. Pogue, Cheyney's Interim President. The Philadelphia Tribune was singled out for its ongoing support of the University.

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Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, the nation’s first HBCU (Historically Black College and University), celebrated its 180th birthday March 1 at its annual Founder’s Day Convocation. Students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the university filled the Marian Anderson Music Center Auditorium to hear Robert W. Bogle, a 1975 graduate of Cheyney, Chairman of the University’s Council of Trustees, and President and Chief Executive of The Philadelphia Tribune, deliver the Keynote Address.

The audience listened as Bogle told the story of a former student who wound up dropping out of Cheyney years ago because of some challenges. He eventually did come back, though, and finish what he started.

“He was determined that he wanted this education, this degree, this piece of paper, this thing that Cheyney meant to him and to some of his forebears,” Bogle said. “I’m telling you that story because it’s about myself. I wanted to tell you what Cheyney meant to and for me, and I hope you get it. This place will make a difference in your life,” he said, “This education will take you some places you never thought or dreamed possible.”

Over the nearly two centuries since the founding of the institution thanks to a man named Richard Humphreys who left money in his will to found the school, tens of thousands of students have called Cheyney home, receiving an education that has truly made a difference time and time again.

“One hundred and eighty years--that is a tremendous feat,” stated Dr. Frank G. Pogue, Cheyney’s Interim President. “Think about it – in 20 years, Cheyney University will celebrate its bicentennial.”

Fresh back from Washington, DC, where Pogue was among 92 HBCU presidents to witness President Donald Trump’s signing of an executive order signaling his support of historically black colleges and universities, he told those gathered that even America’s Vice President understands Cheyney’s historical significance.

“Vice President Mike Pence even shouted out ‘Cheyney University’ and recognized Cheyney University as the oldest HBCU in the United States,” he shared.

The University took time at the convocation to honor those who go above and beyond when it comes to supporting Cheyney and making a significant impact.

Bogle accepted the Excellence in Corporate Philanthropy Award for The Philadelphia Tribune’s support of the University. Dr. Mynora J. Bryant received the Outstanding Individual Philanthropy Award for executing her friend’s last wishes and establishing the Linda Diane Simmons endowed scholarship to help first generation Cheyney students pay for their education. Simmons, a 1972 Cheyney graduate, wanted to support future leaders, innovators and visionaries as they take the steps toward achieving their goals.

The Alumni Chapter Appreciation Award went to the Montgomery County Chapter this year for its fundraising and volunteerism efforts, among other things. 

The Spirit of 1837 Awards were given to Elizabeth Berry-Holmes ‘59 and Gaynelle Turner-Lewis ’73 for their financial support, volunteerism, and willingness to help out wherever they are needed, whenever they are needed.

Senior Quiyiim Saunders, received the first ever Heart of the Wolf Award for being a highly respected leader, a great ambassador for Cheyney, and an entrepreneur who started his own foundation to mentor students. Among his on campus roles are Resident Advisor, president of Alpha Phi Alpha Delta Pi chapter, Governor of Social & Cultural Affairs for Student Government, and a member of the Collegiate 100.

From a rousing performance by the Cheyney University Choir of the old Negro Spiritual “Guide My Feet” (Guide my feet while I run this race, for I don't want to run this race in vain) and the Cheyney University Classic Chamber Ensemble’s rendition of “Rise Up” (And I'll rise up, I'll rise like the day, I'll rise up, I'll rise unafraid), the major theme for the day was clear—Cheyney is rising and moving forward.

“Certainly, we still have challenges,” admitted Dr. Pogue, “but we have renewed hope because every attempt is being made to stabilize this institution so that it continues to thrive and is restored to its rightful place of historic greatness among our nation’s universities.”

"So, alumni, students, and friends, when you are asked, “How is Cheyney doing these days? Respond with words from the title of Ruth Wright Hayre’s biography, “Tell them we are rising,” said Student Governement President Sharell Reddin. "As we celebrate 180 years of stellar accomplishments, yes, indeed, we are rising."

Before passing away in 1998, Hayre became the first full-time African American teacher in the Philadelphia public school system (1946), the first African American senior high school principal (955), the first female president of the Philadelphia Board of Education (1990) and the first African American School Superintendent (1963). Her husband, Talmadge Hayre, taught at Cheyney.