On February 25, 1837, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania became the nation’s first Historically Black College and University (HBCU). The University was established through the bequest of Richard Humphreys, a Quaker philanthropist who bequeathed $10,000 — one-tenth of his estate — to design and establish a school to educate people of African descent and prepare them as teachers.
First known as the African Institute, the school was soon renamed the Institute for Colored Youth. In its early years, it provided training in trades and agriculture, which were the predominant skills needed in the general economy.
In 1902, the Institute was relocated to George Cheyney’s farm, a 275-acre property just 25 miles west of Philadelphia. The name “Cheyney” became associated with the school in 1913, though the school’s official name changed several times during the 20th century.
As a charter member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), Cheyney State College became Cheyney University of Pennsylvania in 1983, the oldest of the fourteen member institutions and the only HBCU in the state system.
While Cheyney University has a rich heritage as the first institution of higher learning for African Americans, our campus today welcomes students from a variety of races, cultures, and nationalities, all of whom receive educational instruction far beyond the vision of Richard Humphreys. Cheyney graduates still become teachers, but our alumni also enter careers such as journalism, medicine, business, science/technology, law, communications, and government service. The University offers baccalaureate degrees in an array of disciplines, and many graduates go on to secure advanced degrees in a variety of fields.
Cheyney University boasts more than 30,000 graduates. Well-known alumni include the late Ed Bradley, a correspondent for the CBS program “60 Minutes;”
Bayard Rustin, a prominent civil rights activist.
Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education;
Robert W. Bogle, publisher and CEO of the Philadelphia Tribune, the oldest newspaper continuously owned and operated by an African American;
Dr. Audrey F. Bronson, a member of the PA State System of Higher Education’s Board of Governors, ordained minister and retired educator;
Dr. Gladys Styles Johnston, former Chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Kearney; Thaddeus Kirkland, State Representative and Mayor of Chester, PA;
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