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James Cheek

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Information about James Cheek

Profile image of James Cheek

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
University President

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Ham, Potato Salad
Favorite Time of Year:
Christmas
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
I would rather fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail.

Birthplace

Born:
12/4/1932
Birth Location:
Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
University President

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Ham, Potato Salad
Favorite Time of Year:
Christmas
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
I would rather fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail.

Birthplace

Born:
12/4/1932
Birth Location:
Roanoke Rapids
See how James Cheek is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

James Edward Cheek, president emeritus of Howard University, was born in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, on December 4, 1932. Despite severe eye cataracts, Cheek was an honor student at 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. Earning a B.A. in sociology and history from Shaw University in 1955, Cheek received a master's of divinity from Colgate Rochester University in 1958 and a Ph.D. from Drew University in 1962. During this period he 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 thirty. In 1968, he was appointed president of Howard University. During Cheek's twenty-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. He was named Washingtonian of the Year in 1980 and in 1983, while still serving as president of Howard, Cheek was awarded the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The recipient of hundreds of awards and nineteen honorary degrees, 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 included 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, Celestine, were parents of a son and a daughter and had two grandchildren.

Cheek passed away on January 8, 2010 at age 77.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of James Cheek interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - James Cheek's favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - James Cheek gives his family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - James Cheek describes his mother and his father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - James Cheek shares a family legend about his grandfather's old farm
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - James Cheek talks about where he grew up
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - James Cheek describes living with cataracts as a child
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - James Cheek's doctor prescribes surgery to fix his cataracts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - James Cheek describes undergoing surgeries to fix his cataracts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - James Cheek describes his dating experience during college
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - James Cheek explains why he chose the U.S. Air Force over the U.S. Army
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - James Cheek talks about being expelled from his high school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - James Cheek describes his experience at a private high school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - James Cheek discusses his interest in theology during high school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - James Cheek briefly describes his experience in the military
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - James Cheek describes his experience at a U.S. Air Force base in Minnesota
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - James Cheek tells of being transferred to Alaska instead of combat duty in Korea
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - James Cheek explains how he was discharged from the U.S. Air Force
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - James Cheek talks about resuming college after leaving the Air Force
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - James Cheek talks about leading a student strike as an undergraduate at Shaw University
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - James Cheek tells of how he met his wife, Celestine
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - James Cheek talks about his two children
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - James Cheek talks about his daughter's poor health during her childhood
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - James Cheek explains how the Mayo Clinic saved his daughter's life
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - James Cheek talks about attending divinity school
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - James Cheek explains how he became a graduate student at Drew University
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Slating of James Cheek (Second interview)
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - James Cheek describes his experience in graduate school at Drew University
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - James Cheek tells why he turned down his first job offer
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - James Cheek talks about the poor condition of Shaw University at the start of his presidency
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - James Cheek describes his disputes with Jesse Helms while fundraising for Shaw University
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - James Cheek talks about his relationship with Jesse Helms
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - James Cheek talks about presiding over Shaw University's rebirth
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - James Cheek discusses the expansion of Shaw University during his presidency
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - James Cheek mentions the Mid-Eastern Studies program at Shaw University
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - James Cheek explains how his success at Shaw University led to interest from Howard University
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - James Cheek talks about Howard University's efforts to hire him as president
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - James Cheek explains why he accepted the offer to be president of Howard University
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - James Cheek talks about previous presidents of Howard University
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - James Cheek describes civil rights activism on black college campuses during the 1960s
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - James Cheek talks about the end of the Congress for the Unity of Black Students
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - James Cheek talks about his reputation preceding him at Howard University
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - James Cheek talks about instilling a sense of respect and pride at Howard University
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - James Cheek explains how he won increased federal funding for Howard University
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - James Cheek describes his disillusionment with other presidents of historically black colleges
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - James Cheek talks about turning Howard University into a top research institution
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - James Cheek talks about the establishment of Howard University's radio and television stations
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Photo - James Cheek's father, King Virgil Cheek [ca. 1954]
  • Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Photo - James Cheek's mother, Lee Ella Williams Cheek [ca. 1950]
  • Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Photo - James Cheek and his wife, Celestine [ca. 1950s]
  • Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Photo - James Cheek and his family [ca. 1967]
  • Tape: 7 Story: 12 - Photo - James Cheek as the president of Shaw University [1964]
  • Tape: 7 Story: 13 - Photo - James Cheek with his wife Celestine at a reception
  • Tape: 7 Story: 14 - Photo - James Cheek observes construction at Shaw University [1960s]
  • Tape: 7 Story: 15 - Photo - James Cheek with two former presidents of Howard University [ca. 1970s]
  • Tape: 7 Story: 16 - Photo - James Cheek returns to his alma mater, Shaw University [2000]
  • Tape: 7 Story: 17 - Photo - James Cheek and his wife, Celestine [ca. 2000s]
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - James Cheek voices his hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - James Cheek discusses his regrets from his career as an educator
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - James Cheek recalls his past ambitions to be a writer
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - James Cheek discusses his legacy