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Cheyney University President Announces Retirement

July 3, 2014

Dr. Michelle R. Howard-Vital, Cheyney University's 11th President

Dr. Michelle R. Howard-Vital, Cheyney University's 11th President

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania President Dr. Michelle R. Howard-Vital announced today that she will retire on July 31, 2014, exactly seven years after she took over the reins as the 11th president of the nation’s first institution of higher learning for African Americans.

Under Dr. Vital’s visionary leadership since July 2007, Cheyney University opened its first state-of-the-art residence hall in more than 30 years, and restored the oldest building on campus, Humphreys Hall, to a beautiful residence hall for honors students. In addition, construction of a new $22 million LEED-certified science center and planetarium is wrapping up, the first new academic building in more than three decades, which will open in August. Under Dr. Vital’s watch, a University College model was developed to improve retention and progression towards graduation, the Master in Public Administration degree program grew, CU expanded its campus into Center City Philadelphia and online, increased its international initiatives, expanded the community of stakeholders for the university, attracted internationally acclaimed speakers through the prestigious Keystone Honors Academy, and increased alumni, corporation/foundation, and state and federal giving.

“With graduation over, the new science center about to open to provide STEM opportunities for scores of students in the years to come, and having just led the university through a successful Middle States Self-Study visit in April, now seemed to be the perfect time for me to step down and get back to my home and relatives in North Carolina,” Dr. Vital shared. “Biblical scholars say the number 7 in the Bible signifies completion. My last day will come on my seventh anniversary. Cheyney University has been a challenging and rewarding experience that I will cherish. I leave knowing that I’ve accomplished much to benefit the university.”

Through her solid knowledge of technology and social media, Dr. Vital helped rebuild the Cheyney University brand through the development of a monthly online blog, a monthly digital newsletter (Vital Communications), YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram presence, as well as a Cheyney University Magazine. Instructional technology increased significantly under her tenure as did a more accountable structure of policies and procedures.

Before coming to Cheyney, Dr. Vital served as Interim Chancellor at Winston-Salem State University (Winston-Salem, NC). In addition, she has served as Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at The University of North Carolina, General Administration (Chapel Hill, NC), Vice Chancellor for Public Service and Continuing Studies and Associate Provost at The University of North Carolina at Wilmington (Wilmington, NC), Associate Vice President for Academic Programs and Dean of the University College at Edinboro University (Edinboro, PA), Dean of Continuing Education and Non-Traditional Degree Programs at Chicago State University (Chicago, IL), and Dean of Continuing Education at Harold Washington College (Chicago, IL).

Dr. Vital’s husband, Geri R. Vital, will join her in retirement. He served as a lecturer in the CU Graphic Design Program, founded the Collegiate 100 Chapter, and often offered his photography and graphic design skills to help promote the university.

“We will certainly miss the students, faculty, staff, and alumni, but we believe that Cheyney University will thrive,” Dr. Vital said. She plans to pursue personal and professional interests in North Carolina.

Following the university’s order of succession, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins will assume Dr. Vital’s responsibilities as acting president.