Following the vote, Cynthia Shapira, chair of the PSSHE board issued a statement, assuring other institutions it oversees that the policy was waived solely because Cheyney faced the loss of its accreditation, and that she has full faith in Walton leadership.
“I am willing to entertain any prudent and legal action within our authority that can help preserve the university’s future. Cheyney University is America’s oldest historically Black university, and it has an important role in our society,” she said.
“Unquestionably, Aaron Walton has demonstrated his commitment to Cheyney University and to helping to secure its future—working tirelessly on behalf of the institution and its students over the past nearly six months.”
Since his arrival, he has helped to put together a long-term financial plan for the university that includes hiring a provost, which has already been done, and a CFO, for which the search continues.
In August, PSSHE voted to forgive $30 million in loans it provided to the school, providing the budget is balanced in each of the next four years. So, Walton has agreed to serve until then. His salary will remain at $248,000.
“This was a one-time exception (to the board policy) because stability and leadership were among the Middle States’ issues. Besides, I was on the task force before I even came on—So I was already working on implementing the plan,” Walton said. “But I agreed to do it because it had to be done. There is too much at stake not to do this. This university has been here for 180 years, and I want it to be here for 180 more. It’s all about the students and we need to maintain continuity for them to finish their degrees. It’s critical.”
This isn’t the first time Walton has come to the rescue. Shortly after retiring from Highmark, he was among those who initially saved the August Wilson Center for African American Culture from bankruptcy, and served as its board chair. He is also a past board chair of NEED, the Negro Emergency Education Drive, and a founding member of 100 Black Men of Western Pennsylvania.
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