Top 5 reasons why YOU should care about Cheyney University

As many of you may or may not be aware the nation’s first Historically Black College and University (HBCU), Cheyney University of Pennsylvania (“Cheyney” or “the University”) is under tremendous pressure to meet rigid standards set out by the Middle States Commission of Higher Education (MSCHE). If the university fails to meet these standards by November 2017, they face loss of their accreditation and eventually closure.

There are so many deep-seated issues that have led the University to this point and you can certainly read about it in many articles across various mediums. However, it is critically important that we highlight what is NOT mentioned in the media, and often left out of the conversations regarding the school’s reputation. Cheyney University is a national treasure. It is an institution that ALL Americans should be proud of and its history alone should command great respect.

Here are 5 reasons why YOU should care about Cheyney and we hope to inspire you to take action to support and save this national landmark of an institution:


Did you know that Cheyney University is the oldest HBCU in the nation and it was founded right here in Philadelphia in 1837 — 180 years ago?

For those of you from Philadelphia, the school was located at 7th and Lombard and later moved to 9th and Bainbridge. Today Cheyney is located in Cheyney, PA (about 35 – 45 min outside of Philadelphia on the border of Delaware and Chester County).  

The school began when Richard Humphreys (a man born in the West Indies) traveled to America and witnessed the atrocities facing Black people at that time. He was devastated by the oppression of Black people and was compelled to make a difference. He knew that education would be instrumental to free slaves and thus, Mr. Humphreys bequest $10,000 in his will to be used to start “The Institute For Colored Youth” (which later became Cheyney University of Pennsylvania).  

Let’s just take a minute to let this sink in for just a second. “The Institute for Colored Youth” was started in 1837. What was happening during that time period? Exactly, it was slavery.

It was illegal for Black people to even be educated, let alone go to school. Plus, this was 24 years BEFORE the Civil War even began.

How can a school for Black people even be created during slavery? A time when possessing a book was egregious because of the color of your skin. This is nothing short of a miracle and for that, we should ALL be in “awe” that this school started in the first place.


Cheyney University alumni have not only made a tremendous impact on the city of Philadelphia, but they were pioneers for civil rights, public policy, social change, and helped build some of our most iconic buildings in Philadelphia and around the nation. The impact that Cheyney alumni have had on Philadelphia and the world is profound and quite frankly, ever lasting for generations to come. Let’s take a look at some of the iconic alumni.

Octavius Catto: Born in South Carolina as a free slave in 1839 his family moved north to Philadelphia a few years after he was born. Catto went on to become a huge icon in the Civil Rights Movement. Here are just a few of his accomplishments:

  • A student and principal at the Institute For Colored Youth
  • Created the first African American baseball team and won against all White teams
  • Fought for integration of African Americans on public transportation and won
  • Fought for African Americans to have the right to vote and was shot and killed by an Irish man for exercising his right to vote.
  • To see and learn more about Octavius Catto, please check out his video here.

Julian Abele: A prominent African American architect whose accomplishments include the following:

  • Designed the Free Library of Philadelphia
  • Designed the popular landmark, the Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Lead designer of Duke University in North Carolina
  • Designed the Memorial Library at Harvard University

Ed Bradley: Born and raised in Philadelphia and attended private catholic schools growing up. He graduated from Cheyney with a degree in education and taught 6th grade math while moonlighting at CBS radio show. In 1967, he was able to land a full-time job at CBS, which kickstarted his journalism career. Here are a few of his accomplishments:

  • The first African American journalist to cover the White House
  • 26 years of award winning journalism on CBS’s “60 Minutes” show
  • Covered over 500 stories during his tenure as a broadcaster on “60 Minutes”, the topics ranged from politics to education to sports, music and culture.
  • Winner of the Peabody Award that recognizes excellence in television and radio storytelling.
  • Winner of 19 Emmy Awards

Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell: Born and raised in West Philadelphia, a six term city councilwoman who has fought for the last 30 years for social change and better quality of life for her constituents. Here are a few of some her major accomplishments:

  • Chair of the Education Committee for the city of Philadelphia
  • Chair of the Housing and Urban Development Committee for the city of Philadelphia
  • Created a 10 year economic development plan to help increase affordable housing, jobs and business development in West Philadelphia.
  • Co-Founder for Mayor’s Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs

Those are just a few of some of the most notable alumni that Cheyney University has produced. The University boasts 30,000 alumni who are all across the world making impacts, being game changers and pioneers in their respective fields.

Current Students:

There are some very impressive college students that are attending Cheyney at the moment.  Many of these students come from low income families and some may not have been able to attend 4-year college due to the high cost of higher education.  

Cheyney not only gives these students the support that they need they also put them on a path to success in all aspects of their lives. Take a look at Samih. A recent Cheyney graduate who is from North Philadelphia. She did not have the financial means to pay for college and yet she had the grades, determination, and commitment to get her college degree.

Samih was a high achieving student who was able to secure a full scholarship as a result of her academic success, GPA and SAT/ACT scores.  She was amongst a cohort of high-achieving students who made up the Keystone Honors Scholars Program at Cheyney University, aside from tuition, each student also is provided with books and equipment along with opportunities to study abroad and to develop career skills through professional development activities.

This fall she will be attending The University of Pennsylvania and studying veterinary medicine.  She would have never had this opportunity if it were not for Cheyney University supporting her and guiding her to reach her dreams. Please consider helping her with her Go Fund Me page for her needed supplies for grad school.

Solution to Poverty

Philadelphia is one of the largest cities in our nation and unfortunately has one of the largest poverty rates in America. 25% of adults in Philadelphia live in poverty and 38% of the children are living in poverty. If we look at North Philadelphia and Kensington, 44% of adults live in poverty rate, almost doubled the rate of the rest of Philadelphia. This is a huge problem for our city as it stifles growth, the economy, can influence crime rates and more.  Cheyney University could be the solution to ending the cycle of poverty and here is why.

  • Cheyney University is the college that serves the majority of low income students with the many of these students receiving a Pell Grant. This means that Cheyney provides an opportunity of quality higher education to students that would not be given a chance to go to a 4 year college.  
  • Education is one of the pillars to ending the cycle of poverty as it helps students foster new skills in which they can become employable, teaches them how to think critically, and exposes them to opportunities that they never would have had otherwise. Cheyney has helped thousands of students gain many opportunities that they would have never received had they not gone to Cheyney. In addition there have been more students from Cheyney that have received doctorate degrees than any of the PASSHE schools.
  • Cheyney is the solution to poverty because nearly 26%of African Americans are living in poverty the second largest ethnic group in the country.  It has been well studied/documented that HBCU’s have a track record for not only doing a better job in supporting and educating the African American student, HBCU’s instill a sense of pride, confidence and security in the African American student better than Predominantly White Institutions.

Therefore with Cheyney being able to help the lower income student obtain a college degree, educate them and instill a sense of pride, confidence and security with the African American student, this is a huge opportunity with which to be a solution to the poverty issue in Philadelphia and around the nation.  


It is going to take YOU to help support Cheyney University. Really all of us.  We can not do this alone. Cheyney University is a national treasure and school that has helped thousands of people get a better education, and to have a better life.

Let’s face it. At the end of the day we have the same needs. We all want to be successful, we all want to have great jobs, take care of our families and hopefully the will to give back to others that may need support.  In the end, we all want the same things, and in a way we are all connected.

Please consider engaging with us by “Liking” us on Facebook / Linkedin at the Cheyney Foundation, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @CheyneyFund. Please consider making a gift to our Cheyney 180 Challenge to help more Cheyney students with their education.