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Odessa Hines
Director of Public Relations
Phone: 919-546-8268 

For Immediate Release
January 8, 2009
Media Contact: Tanya Wiley, WCP Communications
Phone: 336-765-0049 / 919-546-8250 Mobile 



James E Cheek(Raleigh, NC) - James E. Cheek, a towering figure in higher education, former President of Shaw University and an alumnus of Shaw passed away Friday, January 8 at the age of 77.

Cheek was admired as an eloquent thinker of great intellect. His clear, logical vision of both the promise and problems of modern higher education influenced generations of education and political leaders.

Born in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, Dr. Cheek was named President of Shaw in 1963 at the age of 30 - making him Shaw's youngest president. He would serve Shaw in this capacity for five years.

In 1968, he was appointed President of Howard University in Washington, DC, where he served 20 years. He retired in 1989.

When Dr. Cheek left Shaw University in 1968, the student population had more than doubled under his leadership.

"The entire Shaw University family today mourns the loss of one of our most beloved leaders, and we send our sincere condolences to the Cheek family," said Shaw University Board of Trustees Chairman Willie E. Gary. "Dr. Cheek had a profound effect on every aspect of this institution, from academics and research, to student life, alumni affairs and our engagement with the community. In a short period of time, his vision and leadership helped to make Shaw University the outstanding institution it is today."

Dr. Dorothy Cowser Yancy, who serves as Interim President at Shaw said "Shaw University will continue to benefit from Dr. Cheek's tremendous legacy."

Dr. Cheek graduated from Shaw in 1955 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and sociology. He received a Doctor of Ministry degree from Colgate Rochester and a Ph.D. from Drew University.

In 1983, Dr. Cheek was honored with the nation's highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The recipient of hundreds of awards and nineteen honorary degrees, Dr. Cheek will always be remembered as an educator, who further paved the way for other African American leaders in education.

Dr. Cheek is survived by his wife, Celestine, two children and four grandchildren.

Arrangements for Dr. James E. Cheek are as follows:
Family Visitation: Wednesday, January 13
  7PM - 8PM
  Providence Missionary Baptist Church
  1106 Tuscaloosa Street
  Greensboro, NC 27406
Homegoing Services: Thursday, January 14
  Providence Missionary Baptist Church

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Shaw University was founded in 1865 and is the oldest historically black university in the south. Shaw University is a private, co-educational liberal arts University that awards degrees at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The primary mission of Shaw University is teaching with the commitment to maintain excellence in research and academic programs that foster intellectual enhancement and technological skills.