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Tying the Past to the Future: Cheyney Family Descendant Visits CU

December 14, 2012

Curtis Cheyney, Esq., partner with  Swartz Campbell LLC, shows Cheyney University President Dr. Michelle R. Howard-Vital and Chief of Staff and Deputy to the President Sheilah Vance his family's tombstones in the historic cemetery located across the street from CU which is named after his ancestors

Curtis Cheyney, Esq., partner with Swartz Campbell LLC, shows Cheyney University President Dr. Michelle R. Howard-Vital and Chief of Staff and Deputy to the President Sheilah Vance his family's tombstones in the historic cemetery located across the street from CU which is named after his ancestors

For the first time in modern history, a descendent of the family who donated their farm so that the Institute for Colored Youth could be built and offer higher education to African Americans, visited the school, now known as Cheyney University of Pennsylvania.  Curtis Cheyney, Esq., a partner with Swartz Campbell LLC, toured Cheyney University Thursday, December 13th, with CU's President, Dr. Michelle R. Howard-Vital, her husband, Geri, and Chief of Staff and Deputy to the President, Sheilah Vance. 
 
"Cheyney University has such a rich heritage," the attorney said.  Although he grew up in the Overbrook section of Philadelphia and graduated from Overbrook High School, he fondly remembers coming to Cheyney, PA to visit relatives who lived throughout Thornbury Township on part of 1500 acres which brothers John and Thomas "Squire" Cheyney bought in 1724. While driving through areas near the University Thursday, Cheyney pointed out old family homesteads and showed where the post office, train station and general store used to be.  The history buff also recalled how "Squire" played a significant role in the Battle of Brandywine of 1777 by informing General George Washington that the British were about to attack from the north. That warning and Washington's decision to confront the British troops reportedly spared American troops from potentially disastrous results during the American Revolution.
 
The Vitals, Vance and Cheyney also stopped at the historic cemetery across the street from the University on Cheyney road, which serves as the final resting place for nearly 200 people, most of them Cheyney descendants.  He talked openly about his family's legacy to CU and the excitement that he felt touring the historic campus.
 
"Clearly the quad and the new science center are quite impressive. I love the quad. It's very tranquil and has the feel of a university as a learning center that is a cut above," he remarked.  "The architecture and the spacing of the solid stone give stability and the sense of enduring.  I was quite impressed with them.  It is a wonderful setting."
 
In addition, Cheyney was very impressed with the woman who is leading the University into a new day. He called it "a blessing" that "under the leadership of President Vital, the students and the community can have great confidence in her leadership for the future."
 
Cheyney, recently elected the National President of the Sons of the Revolution, offered to come back to campus to speak in regards to American history or the Revolutionary War.  He also offered to help in any way he could to move the University forward.
 
"The Cheyney family is very interested in the success of Cheyney University and its students," he said.  "We'd like to be good neighbors.  We are certainly open to do what we can to help the President succeed because she has good goals in mind.  Anything she wants us to do--we'll be there.  I take my hat off to her.  I think she's a fighter."