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Howard University President Emeritus James Cheek Dies
December 4, 1932 - January 8, 2010

Washington (Jan. 8, 2010) - Dr. James Edward Cheek, who during his 20-year presidency at Howard University presided over one the largest academic and financial expansions in the university’s 142-year history, died Friday, Jan. 8, in a hospital in Greensboro, N.C. He was 77.

The recipient of 19 honorary degrees and hundreds of awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, Cheek oversaw a dramatic increase in the number of schools, colleges, research programs, full-time faculty and Ph.D. programs. During his presidency, from 1969 to 1989, the student population increased by 6,000 and the university’s budget grew from $43 million to $417 million as the federal appropriation expanded from $29 million to $178 million.

Cheek was born in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., on Dec. 4, 1932, and despite suffering from severe cataracts, was an honor student Washington Street Grammar School there.
He graduated from Immanuel Lutheran College with a secondary diploma in 1950 and the following year served in Korean in the United States Air Force in Korea during the Korean War.

He earned a bachelor of arts degree in sociology and history from Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., 1955 a master of divinity degree from Colgate Rochester University in Rochester, N.Y., in 1958 and a Ph.D. in 1962 from Drew University in Madison, N.J. During this period, Cheek was honored with a Colgate Rochester Fellowship, a Rockerfeller Doctoral Fellowship and a Lily Foundation Fellowship.

Cheek was a professor of New Testament Theology at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Va., when in 1963, at age 30, he was named president of Shaw University, where a building is named in his honor. Five years later, he was appointed president
of Howard University.

Among the many accomplishments while Cheek served as president, the University founded WHMM, at the time, the nation's only black-owned public broadcasting station. It also built Howard University Hospital, established a School of Business, created WHUR radio station and bought land in northeast and northwest Washington onto which it relocated and expanded its School of Divinity and the School of Law.

He was named Washingtonian of the Year in 1980 while still serving as president of Howard.

Cheek served on the boards 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.

He was appointed by U.S. presidents to the Board of Foreign Scholarships, National Advisory Council to the Peace Corps, UNESCO, the Commission on Selection of White House Fellows and the President's Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Cheek is survived by his wife, Celestine, a son, James E. Cheek Jr., a screenwriter and director, and a daughter, Janet E. Cheek, a physician, and four grandchildren.

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