ABOVE PHOTO: Cheyney University campus in 1906.
By Kiarra Solomon
This year marks the 175th Anniversary for Cheyney University, the oldest Historically Black University in the country. And while the University itself is about 25 miles outside of Philadelphia, it is highly unlikely that if you were educated in the Philadelphia school district you were not taught by a Cheyney graduate at some point.
“It is a very good feeling”, alumnus James Washington says, seemingly recalling his days at the university. “There is a sense of pride that I have, standing here knowing that this institution has been around longer than any other in the area for young people of color”.
Established on February 25, 1837, the “teachers training institute” was for a very long time one of the only places a teacher of color could go to receive an education and has arguably produced the largest number of teachers of any of the HBCUs. The school was ultimately moved to the rural outskirts of the Philadelphia to escape the racial riots and other incidents that occurred due to the rebellion against segregation.
PHOTO: Ed Bradley.
Very early on, the staff decided that it would be in the best interest of the students for the institution to be located outside of the city, especially after Octavius V. Catto (a graduate and teacher of the University) was murdered for his involvement in the civil rights movement in 1871.
Cheyney University has played such a pivotal role in the lives of many African Americans, especially young people, over the past 175 years but unfortunately, there is a need for this institution to get back to the “totality of education”. “For a very long time, Cheyney was the model for HBCUs: Bennett and Hampton and Morehouse” said Rev. Elisha B. Morris, Class of 1984 and the University’s Internship Coordinator. “We need to get back to that legacy”.
PHOTO: Jannie Blackwell.
So while this is a moment of celebration for the University, its alumni and current students, this is also a moment of urgency. Cheyney University will celebrate its 175th Anniversary on Thursday, October 18th at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. And every single dollar raised from the event will go to scholarships for students. Tickets for the event are $175.
The Gala will be hosted by Kenny Gamble of Philadelphia International Records. The night will feature performances by Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes, Bill Paul, Amazin’ Grace, Bill Jolly and the TSOP Band with an after party featuring Urban Guerrilla Orchestra.
The university will also honor several people and organizations that have made various contributions to the institution, including The Colemans for their philanthropic contributions to Cheyney. Junious Stanton, President of the National Alumni Association, also shared that there will also be a “surprise” honoree.
PHOTO: John Chaney.
Every alumnus shared very fond memories of Cheyney University. They spoke of the pride they had to be able to have graduated from the oldest African American institution in the country. They shared how Cheyney prepared them for excellency, many of them going on to great positions.
Some of the most prominent Cheyney University graduates include Councilwoman Janie Blackwell, former Temple Men’s Basketball coach John Chaney, and the late Ed Bradley best known for his awarding winning journalism on 60 minutes.
But there are no extremely rich Cheyney University Alumni. At least not any we know of. And so, at a time when the economy is in turmoil and a college education is becoming more and more expensive to afford, the goal of this celebration is to raise money to support the young people who are being prepared to be our future leaders.
To purchase tickets for the Cheyney University 175th Anniversary Gala you can call 215-843-2027 or visit www.cheyneyfoundation.org