The end of an era has happened as Dr. Sonny Harris passed from labor to reward this morning in his sleep. Joan, my prayers are with you and the girls as you begin to prepare for his final tribute. Dr. E. Sonny Harris was the last of those warrior professors who stood shoulder to shoulder with students between 1980 and 1984 as we fought, marched, raised money for buses for Harrisburg and Black College Day and raised hell trying to save Cheyney State College from republican threat of closure. Dr. Will D. Tate, Dr. Arthur Bagley, Dr. Edward Williams and Dr. E. Sonny Harris were role models for many of us and fighters in their won way for the First HBCU, CHEYNEY STATE COLLEGE now CHEYNEY UNIVERSITY OF PA. THANK YOU GENTLEMAN AND GOOD NIGHT, I WILL SEE YOU IN THE MORNING.
From Michael Coard
This morning, I lost an elder who is one of the key persons in my life and who helped make me the man I am today.
Professor E. Sonny Harris died peacefully in his sleep. There's so much I could say about this wonderful human being who "bleeds Cheyney blue and white," but right now I'll say just two things.
No one has done more in the past 60 years than he has to save and fight to enhance historic Cheyney University. He was a raucous student activist at Cheyney, a dedicated math professor at Cheyney, a committed student government adviser at Cheyney, a fiery faculty union president at Cheyney, the force behind three historic and successful civil rights lawsuits on behalf of Cheyney, and the founder of Heeding Cheyney's Call. In a word, Professor Harris was- I mean is- Cheyney.
When I graduated from Cheyney as a poor North Philly kid, I got a full academic scholarship to Ohio State University School of Law. I lived with my single unemployed mother and couldn't afford the travel costs to get to Columbus, Ohio to start classes that September. I was too embarrassed to ask anyone for help, and Professor Harris- as my adviser- knew that I and my family had no money. So what did he do? He volunteered and rented a car for me. He paid for it. He let me drive myself. He gave me a map from AAA road services. I arrived to law school safely and on time. Because of him, I'm a lawyer today and the rest, as they say, is history.
In the midst of my unrelenting tears today, I'm too choked up to talk. But I am able to say and to forever mean this: "I love Professor Sonny Harris!"
— with Heeding Cheyney's Call.
Very Well Said Michael
I share Michael's grief. Professor Sonny Harris was the embodiment of what it means to be a strong Black Man, a warrior for justice, a facilitator of enlightenment and the consummate educator.
He was the one who initiated Heeding Cheyney's Call. He was the one with the burning sense of urgency to get things done to save and resurrect the school now!
Thinking back on the last several weeks I knew he wasn't feeling well but he kept on pressing, he kept on going. He was so apologetic if he had to miss a meeting (which he rarely did) because he was getting his house fixed or he had to go to the doctor's. When Michael Sonny and I went to Baltimore a few weeks ago to speak with our advisors at Morgan he was not well that day but he went anyway. He was determined to walk and just asked us to help him get in and out of the car and not to walk too fast. His mind was sharp and he was enthusiastic about going. We had an enjoyable trip and he was feeling better after meeting with Dr. Richardson and Pace McConkie. He used to call me every day sometimes several times a day because he couldn't get Michael anytime he wanted. he would call whenever depending on what was happening with HCC. The past two weeks he didn't do that he would text me. When I called him to ask why he hadn't called me he told me he wasn't feeling good that day or he had been out.
Dealing with the lawyers and government folks in Harrisburg Sonny Harris was fearless I mean without a trace of trepidation. At one meeting he chastised them for causing Cheyney's woe's, they turned red but didn't respond. He was a living encyclopedia about Cheyney, politics, the union, the collective bargaining agreement, Act 188 and so much more. He will be impossible to replace. He was funny and had a quick wit. Michael Joe and I teased him about being a Que and he would come right back at us. I can truly say he was a man's man. Sonny Harris is/was an example of what it means to be a conscious Black Man in the modern world. May his journey amongst the ancestors be as noble and productive as he was while here.
in less than one hour, Professor Harris got more than 100 "likes" and heartfelt comments on Facebook. He was and is truly loved. Long live the great Cheyney legacy of this great Cheyney man!
A true pioneer, GRIO, soldier, professor. He will be missed yet avenged through his lawsuit Heeding Cheyney's Call.
To be absent from the body is to present with the Lord. R.I.P. Professor
When you think of Cheyney you think of people like Professor Sonny Harris. He should many of us what it was like to be a strong role model & man that cared about your well being. He may have yelled at us but he did it with love. He pushed us to produce our best work. Thanks for standing in the Gap for us. You will be missed.
💝🌹God Chosen The Most Beautiful Flower For His Garden 💝🌹Dr Sonny E Harris🌹💝He Was My Mentor In Undergrad and Graduate School🌹💝If You Needed Something He Would Do His Best To Help You💝🌹He Instilled In Me How To Be An Excellent Educator🌹💝He's Words Were💝💕Never Say You Can't Do It Till You Tried💝🌹Dr Harris Was A Fighter Especially For Cheyney University Till His Death💝🌹When I Seen Dr Harris In July at Our Cheyney Meeting💝💕He Was So Happy To See Me As If I Gave Him A Pocket Full Of Candy🌹💝He Said 💝That's My Streeter🌹💝All Cheyney Alumni Should Do Something Special For Our Dr Sonny E Harris🌹💝Dr Harris Your Work Is Done On Earth💝🌹Rest Peacefully My Sweetheart With Our Heavenly Father🌹💝Love You So Much But God Loves You Best🌹💝You Will Definitely Be Our Guardian Angel Especially For Our Cheyney University 🌹🌹I'm So Lost For Words Right Now🌹💝Please Keep His Family and Cheyney Family In Your Prayers💝🌹
I'm truly shocked and sorry to learn about the passing of Professor Sonny Harris. Professor Harris was and continued to be the Greatest Champion for the Preservation and Salvation of our Beloved Cheyney University! I was privileged to have known Professor Harris for most of my Life because we both were from Atlantic City, New Jersey. Professor Harris' Tenacious Activism and Advocacy at Cheyney was not new to me because he exemplified and exercised those traits as the President of the Atlantic City Branch of the NAACP during my Youth and Teen Years. It was his influence during my early years that attracted me to become involved in our Community as a Community Activist as well. Professor Harris was also the influential piece of the puzzle that helped me solidify my choice to attend Cheyney in 1974. In addition, Professor Harris was a Beloved Mentor, Counselor and Friend that helped me all throughout my years at Cheyney that the word Thank-you would never be enough! My Sincere and Heartfelt Condolences are extended to his Family, Friends and Colleagues at this time. May He Forever be at Peace as He obtains his Rightful place with the Elders and our Ancestors.
I was a student of Professor Harris when I was at Cheyney and he left an impression on me I shall never forget. Definitely a fighter for our Alma Mater both in the classroom and University at large. My thoughts and Prayers are with his Family.
So sorry to receive this news! Loved reading the testimony shared by Michael Coard and moved to share my testimony as well. His advocacy on behalf of the union at Cheyney was strong and bold - he NEVER retreated when fighting on behalf of constituents. Academically, he "pledged" so many of us who came through teacher training during his tenure, AND HE WAS TOUGH! We were awesome educators (many still are) because of profs like Sonny Harris and we stood shoulder to shoulder with anybody from any other institution, bar none. Sonny Harris was an integral part of the final steps required before many of us could receive a degree in Elementary Education from Cheyney. Upon graduation, we were proud, we "knew our stuff" and were able to make a difference immediately in the classrooms we served, because of what we were taught by Sonny Harris and other professors. Personally, I was able to take what I learned under him and others in the department and excel in the Master's program at Ohio State Univerisity. I would later apply that same information in classrooms and then in a doctoral program as I sat side by side with graduate students from state universities, Ivy League and other institutions using the information I gained while at Cheyney. I pursued graduate matriculation without reservation and with great results. When I developed an education law and public policy niche, I had confidence developed over time from courses taken under Harris, Dr. Beatrice Johnson and others who taught us how to be tough, how to stand up on behalf of the community, how to exude professionalism during our pursuits. It is a myth to believe that ALL students attended Cheyney because there was no other place they could go. I did not attend Cheyney because I had no other options. I attended Cheyney because it was MY OWN choice, and I wanted to continue a legacy established by my mom (1951 grad) - a "teacher's teacher" who matriculated under the presidency of Cheyney's own Dr. Leslie Pickney Hill. When my mom attended Cheyney, the mantra then was a poem penned by Dr. Hill (1880 - 1960), and all students had to know these words.
LORD, who am I to teach the way
To little children day by day,
So prone myself to go astray?
I teach them KNOWLEDGE, but I know
How faint they flicker and how low
The candles of my knowledge glow.
I teach them POWER to will and do,
But only now to learn anew
My own great weakness through and through.
I teach them LOVE for all mankind
And all God's creatures, but I find
My love comes lagging far behind.
Lord, if their guide I still must be,
Oh let the little children see
The teacher leaning hard on Thee.
"The Teacher" is reprinted from The Book of American Negro Poetry. Ed. James Weldon Johnson. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1922.
Remember, Sonny Harris was a TEACHER first and Cheyney was once called "Cheyney State Teachers College." At the crux of the Cheyney teacher's #rallying_call has always been the notion to "teach the children at any and all costs" - prepare the next generation for a changing world. A poem was actually written to remind the matriculating students and alumni of such. "The Teacher" reflects the spirit that resided in Professor Harris. Think about the words in the poem against the following information regarding the life of Dr. Leslie Pickney Hill, and you will immediately appreciate God's purpose and plan for Sonny's (and others) existence at Cheyney during the recent phase of history.
"Between 1904 and 1907 Hill taught at Tuskegee Institute. From 1907 to 1913 he served as principal of the Industrial Institute in Manassas, Virginia and then became the head the Institute for Colored Youth in Cheyney, Pennsylvania (the school was renamed the Cheyney State Teachers College in 1951). During his time at Cheyney State Teachers College (1913-1951), Hill raised funds for the school, updated its curriculum, and encouraged interracial understanding, most notably by working with the Quakers. Drawing in his musical skills, he also directed the Cheyney Chorus which performed at colleges around the country. Under his administration, the school grew from 20 students to nearly 500 students and became an accredited state college.' "
- See more at: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/hill-leslie-pinckney-1880-1960…
Clearly, Dr. Hill FOUGHT for Cheyney's survival and Sonny Harris was one who grabbed the baton to "run his leg of the race." Sonny's tenure at Cheyney was God-prescribed and the fight that has been started must been seen through to the end. Many sacrificed greatly for the institution that too many others have taken for granted. Anybody who doesn't have the best interests of the university at heart cannot be allowed to tear apart what was built for generations to come. We stand on the shoulders of all who have come before us.
I am a better person for having crossed the path of Sonny Harris, other professors (e.g., Dr. Beatrice Johnson, Dr. Elizabeth Whatley, Dr. Mildr