The Passing of Dr. James E. Cheek, Former President of Howard University.

Posted: January 11, 2010 in Uncategorized
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Dr. James E. Cheek, 1932 – 2010, President of Howard University, 1969 – 1989

I received a call yesterday from brother Musa Abdul-Wahid (James Cheek, Jr.) informing me that his illustrious father Dr. James Cheek Sr, the long time President of Howard University (1969-1989), had passed away at the age of 77.  

Dr Cheek was only 37 years-old when he took on the challenge of becoming president of the nation’s preeminent historically Black University, increasing Howard’s operating budget from $43 million to $417 million during his twenty-year tenure! Dr. Cheek established the School of Communications which produces a high percentage of prominent African-Americans in the media. He also built a world-class School of Business that turns out many of our brightest leaders. Under his leadership Howard also gained a television and radio station (WHUR) which originated the “Quiet Storm” musical format. His most lasting legacy will forever remain the building of Howard University Hospital, which to this day provides first-rate, quality health care to the city’s economically disadvantaged, while at the same time training a disproportionate share of the country’s Black doctors. He did a good work and will be deeply missed. Read more about Dr. James E Cheek below the fold.

Funeral services will be held Thursday, January 14th at the Providence Baptist Church in Greensboro, N.C.




James E. Cheek

Dr. James Edward Cheek, president emeritus of Howard University, was born in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, on December 4, 1932. Despite suffering from severe cataracts, Cheek was an honor student Washington Street Grammar School. He graduated from Immanuel Lutheran College with a secondary diploma in 1950 and served as a member of the United States Air Force in Korea in 1951, eventually earning a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and history from Shaw University In 1955, Cheek received a Master of Divinity from Colgate Rochester University in 1958 and a PhD from Drew University in 1962. During this period, Cheek was honored with a Colgate Rochester Fellowship, a Rockefeller Doctoral Fellowship and a Lily Foundation Fellowship.  

Cheek was a professor of New Testament Theology at Virginia Union University when he was named president of Shaw University in 1963, at the age of 30.  

In 1969, Dr. Nabrit was succeeded by Dr. James E. Cheek as president of Howard University.  

Dr. Cheek was confronted in March 1969 with a student takeover of the university administration building. The takeover led to the resignation of Republican National Committee Chairman, Lee Atwater, from the university’s board of trustees, to which he had been recently appointed.  

During Cheek’s 20 year tenure at Howard, the student population increased by 3,500 and the number of schools, colleges, research programs, full-time faculty and Ph.D. programs increased dramatically. Howard’s budget increased from $43 million to $417 million as the federal appropriation went from $29 million to $178 million. Cheek’s tenure also brought while Howard acquired the trappings of a modern university, including radio, television and film facilities, satellite telecommunications, improved library facilities, a new hospital and a student center.  

Dr. Cheek served as a board member of several colleges and universities including the University of Miami, Drew University, Colgate Rochester University, New York Institute of Technology, Benedict College, Florida Memorial College, Fisk University and Howard University. His presidential appointments include the Board of Foreign Scholarships, National Advisory Council to the Peace Corps, UNESCO, Commission on Selection of White House Fellows and the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Cheek and his wife, Cellestine, are parents of a son and a daughter and have two grandchildren.  

He lived in Greensboro, North Carolina.  

1867 Charles B. Boynton
1867 – 1869 Byron Sunderland
1869 – 1874 Oliver Otis Howard
1875 – 1876 Edward P. Smith
1877 – 1889 William W. Patton
1890 – 1903 Jeremiah E. Rankin
1903 – 1906 John Gordon
1906 – 1912 Wilbur P. Thirkield
1912 – 1918 Stephen M. Newman
1918 – 1926 J. Stanley Durkee
1926 – 1960 Mordecai Wyatt Johnson (Howard’s first black president)
1960 – 1969 James M. Nabrit
1969 – 1989 James E. Cheek
1990 – 1994 Franklyn G. Jenifer
1994-1995 Joyce A. Ladner
1995 – 2008 H. Patrick Swygert
2008 – present Sidney A. Ribeau  

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