May 16, 2011
In April, Eric Almonte and I had the opportunity to accompany several students from Cheyney university to Harrisburg, so that the students could tell their stories to various legislators. The students explained how the proposed budget cuts would affect their lives, and they wanted to ultimately influence legislators.
What was sort of intriguing about this trip was how many people reacted positively to the students from Cheyney University. Now, I must admit that the students were definitely outstanding representatives. Our student trustee has already been admitted into two prestigious law schools with scholarships. Cheyney University’s outgoing president of the student government association has also been accepted into the University of Pittsburgh’s law school, and one of the female students plans to pursue a doctorate degree. These students came from different parts of the state, and from other states, but they had one thing in common—they continue to demonstrate Cheyney University’s legacy of access, opportunity, and excellence. There are many other students like them on the university’s campus.
As we prepare to celebrate Cheyney University’s 175th anniversary, it is important to note that our legacy is really a compilation of the stories, of the excellence, and of the opportunities this institution has helped others achieve since its founding in 1837.
Like most institutions, our legacy encompasses the courage, sacrifices, and commitment of many individuals across three centuries—19th, 20th, and 21st. Some of those who have contributed to the legacy of Cheyney University will remain unsung heroes/heroines. Yet, when we celebrate the contributions of Cheyney University to the commonwealth, the region, and the world, we are talking about the stories of all the individuals who have taught, coached, graduated from, and contributed to the spirit of the institution. This includes people like:
- Octavius v. Catto, (1839-1871), class valedictorian of the Institute for Colored Youth, a teacher at the institute, and early civil rights leader in Philadelphia.
- Julian Francis Abele, (1881-1950), graduate of the Institute for Colored Youth, and the first African-American architect graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. His architectural work included contributions to Duke University and the Widener Memorial library at Harvard University.
- Edward Rudolph “Ed” Bradley, (1941-2006), acknowledged by some as one of America’s best journalists, worked as the host of CBS’ esteemed news program, 60 Minutes. Ed Bradley worked with CBS news for most of his journalism career.
- Alumnus Robert w. Bogle, chairman of the board of trustees for over 20 years, and the president and ceo of The Philadelphia Tribune. It is the oldest continuing running African-American newspaper, created in 1884 by Christopher James Perry, Jr.
- Alumnus Robert Traynham, CN8, Washington D.C. bureau chief. He serves as host of the national edition of Comcast Newsmakers and moderator of Roll Call, a Sunday political talk show on the Comcast network.
- Alumnus Mercer Redcross III, founder of The October Gallery, an art gallery in operation for over 26 years.
- Alumnus and Lieutenant General Ronald S. Coleman; one of a few African-Americans to earn the rank of lieutenant general in the United States Marine Corps with three-stars status. Lt. General Coleman recently retired as the deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs.
- Coach C. Vivian Stringer, former coach of the Lady Wolves during the team’s appearance in the 1982 final four NCAA tournament. She was inducted into the basketball hall of fame in 2009 with a stellar record of basketball wins.
- Alumnus Wayne M. Richardson who served as the first chief legal counsel of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. He is currently general counsel and secretary of the corporation of Fairleigh Dickinson University.
- Recent Alumna Stephanie Orji, a two-sport competitor in track and basketball, who won the prestigious McClendon Scholarship and is currently finishing her degree in sports management at West Chester University.
As we move forth with the celebration of our 175th year, the story of Cheyney University will continue to be a story of ordinary and extraordinary Americans who have sacrificed their personal comfort and ease for the welfare and brighter future of all Americans.
April 11, 2011
As we enter our 175th year since our founding in 1837, the 21st Century graduates of Cheyney University are just beginning to distinguish themselves. Nonetheless, the legacy of Cheyney University is being carried forth by by recent alumni like Walter Lewis, a 2010 graduate, who is pursuing an advanced degree in computational biology at Carnegie Mellon; by Martina Randall, a 2009 graduate, who is working on her medical degree in podiatric medicine at Temple University; by Dominique Curry, also a 2009 graduate, who plays with the St. Louis Rams (in the National Football League); and by Ezekiel Crenshaw who is pursuing his doctorate at Drexel University. We expect no less from the 2011 graduates—some of whom have already been admitted to the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Villanova University School of Law, and who are pursuing advanced degrees in the STEM areas.
Cheyney University has managed to add value to the lives of thousands of citizens and to enhance the intellectual capital of the Philadelphia region and Commonwealth. The University community acknowledges its needed role in the Commonwealth to bridge the gap between first-generation college families and a higher standard of living. This is noble work, and we are proud to do it.
It has been acknowledged that the Philadelphia public schools have seen growth in the overall graduation rate over the past three years. However, graduation rates are still too low for the 21st Century knowledge-driven economy in which these students will work. There is much work that needs to be done to increase student achievement and college completion in the Philadelphia area.
Moreover, researchers Socolar and Gunn, in the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, revealed that students of color (African American and Hispanic) are graduating from high school at lower rates than their white counterparts, taking fewer Advanced Placement courses, and many are not envisioning a future that includes college. Cheyney University is one attractive option for some of these students, and other students, who would like to pursue an education as a member of a University community rather than as a nameless face or a marginal minority.
Cheyney University Offers a Unique Value
While Cheyney University has been a small liberal arts institution since it joined the Commonwealth’s State System of Higher Education in 1983, it offers a unique value to many students of color and others who have not been advantaged by post-secondary institutions and/or familial advantages. For the last five years, for example, Cheyney University has accepted an entering class of about 400 students who, though talented and deserving, would be lost in many other institutions of higher education. These students, who are survivors of their secondary schools, tended to feel either neglected or invisible in these same secondary institutions. They came to Cheyney University with hopes that they can remedy the educational misfortunes of the past, and with hopes that they can leave the University as competitive graduate students or wage-earners in a global economy.
Thus, Cheyney University offers a unique value by accepting students through a holistic examination of their backgrounds and potential. This means that the admissions staff examines the students’ grade point averages, letters of recommendations, background information, and they admit students who have the determination and potential to succeed—these students might not have scored as highly on their SAT or ACT tests as students entering some other institutions of higher education—yet they are deserving of a chance.
Once these students are accepted, they are monitored by the newly formed University College and the Academic Success Center. The professionals in these areas are experienced counselors, role models, and adults who care about the success of each student. They get to know the students’ stories, their talents, and their hardships. As the students pursue their majors, a University staff person monitors and solicits requests for internship experiences. Cheyney University is committed to obtaining internship experiences for each student who wants to participate in such an experience. These internship experiences allow students to develop the social and work skills needed to be successful in the work world after graduation. As students near graduation, they work with staff in the Career Services area to develop the appropriate resume, demeanor, and techniques for securing positions in which they can succeed. Because of the small size of the University, these services and interactions with students are more personal and more forceful in directing their life choices.
Further, it is the University’s goal, through Student Affairs, to have each student engaged in some type of activity to connect to the University community. These activities include Greek organizations, academic societies, residential learning communities, the choir, athletics, the band, and/or other such groups.
The Cheyney University is currently constructing its first new residence hall in over 30 years. This 400-bed residence hall will feature residential learning communities in which students will be encouraged to participate to enhance their development into responsible, academically proficient, and mature adults. The residence halls will also be used as other venues to help expose students to cultural and social activities.
Academically, the University community has expressed a strong interest in the development of centers of excellence in areas that include media and fine arts, natural and applied sciences, and urban education. The establishment of centers of excellence is a means for highlighting and improving academic programs; focusing grant activity and fundraising; garnering external support for the development of quality academic programs; and directing public service activities. Particularly, each center of excellence will be comprised of an advisory council that correlates the academic program to industry needs and identifies and acquires resources for the center of excellence. The University is currently focusing on the development of its first center of excellence—communications media, fine arts, and entertainment arts. With the construction of its new science building, the University will also develop its center of excellence in natural and applied sciences. Cheyney University is proud of the scholarship, academic backgrounds, and the research of its scientists. The University comes in second in the State System of Higher Education in its production of grants for research. In regards to urban education, The Call Me MISTER Program has begun the reestablishment of teacher education and the development of teacher-leaders at Cheyney University.
Thus, Cheyney University, through its work with talented, but disadvantaged students and families, and the development of centers of excellence, will mirror state and regional plans and will prepare diverse persons to take needed leadership roles in the 21st century in communication media, fine arts, and entertainment arts; natural and applied sciences; and urban education.
Without a doubt, one of the successes of Cheyney University has been its Keystone Honors Program. After about a decade of operation, the Keystone Honors Academy demonstrates how successful the students at Cheyney University can be with appropriate monetary and human resources. Furthermore, the Honors Academy is an example of a center of excellence with economic development benefits to the Commonwealth that will continue to be realized for future generations. In the 2007-2008 academic year, there were 250 students enrolled in the Honors Academy. Approximately seventy of those students graduated in the 2008 Spring Commencement. Keystone Honors Academy Students are high-achieving students who were attracted to pursue higher education at Cheyney University with academic scholarships. The retention rate of Keystone Honors Students is approximately 86 percent.
Without the competitive scholarships offered to these high achieving students, the Commonwealth might have permanently lost some of these high-achieving students to other states. In order to attract these students to Cheyney University, the institution created a desirable living and learning environment which included a refurbished living and learning residence hall, private bathrooms, computer resources, attractive furnishings, a Dean for the Honors College, and a more robust honors environment of seminars and mentors. As expected, many Keystone Honors Academy students continue to pursue graduate study in the Commonwealth through the Bond Hill graduate program and contribute to the intellectual capital of the region and nation. The continuation and expansion of the Keystone Honors Program is crucial to the success of the Commonwealth and the remediation of the low college-going rate for target groups of students.
It is our belief that Cheyney University continues to fulfill its historic mission to provide access and opportunities to African Americans and other developing leaders. Furthermore, it offers a 21st Century solution for preparing a diverse cadre of leaders for America. Alumni of Cheyney University continue to contribute to the progress and well-being of America in many cities, disciplines, and venues throughout the world. The success of the Keystone Honors Academy demonstrates what is needed to produce more intellectually competitive citizens for the Commonwealth.
P R E V I O U S P O S T S
- President's Blog - May 2014 - The Road Less Traveled
- PRESIDENT'S BLOG - April 2014 - Angela Davis - An Intellectual Bridge to the Future
- President's Blog - March 2014 - Let Us Continue to Build Heroines
- President's Blog - February 2014 - Loving One Another
- President's Blog - January 2014 - New Year's Hope
- President's Blog - November 2013 - Let Us Give Thanks to Our Parents and Our Grandparents
- President's Blog - October 2013 - When Thou Callest ....
- President's Blog - September 2013 - Let Us Hear It For The Southern Ladies
- PRESIDENT'S BLOG - August 2013 The Importance of Senior Leadership Teams
- President's Blog - July 2013 - The Great Migration-- A Journey Only Half Completed
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