By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)
This Monday, June 15, Cheryl Seidel Richards (B.A., ’90; M.S., ’92) became president of the Charlotte, North Carolina campus of Johnson & Wales University. Her distinguished career in higher education as well as her CSU degrees in speech communication and student affairs in higher education make her uniquely qualified to lead a university in these challenging times.
After graduation from Thomas Jefferson High School in Denver, Richards enrolled at CSU because she “fell in love with Horsetooth and Fort Collins, and it was close enough to get home on a weekend and far enough to have some independence.” While at CSU, she was a member of the swim club and involved in a variety of other campus endeavors. She served as program assistant and, later, RA in the residence halls. During her graduate program, she served as hall director for the Lory Apartments.
From 1992 to 1994, Richards worked with English language training programs in Chicago, New York, and Florida, where she met her husband, Tom. He now works for Amerisource Bergan and plays in two bands, one named “best cover band in Charlotte.” This fall their daughter Ashlyn will be a high school senior, and son Liam will be a freshman.
Richards returned to CSU in 1994 as admissions counselor, working with Campus Visit Days, Nonresident Orientation, and International Admissions. In 1997, she accepted a position as director of conferences, meetings, and events at the University of Denver. Her next position was at Regis University in Denver as head of marketing and admissions. She worked primarily with the adult learner community.
In 2004, Richards was named director of business and industry training at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte. After four months, she was promoted to associate dean, focusing on continuing education and corporate training. The position required her to network with local businesses, and she began volunteering with the Chamber of Commerce. Before long she was serving on six different boards and was recognized as one of the city’s “50 Most Influential Women.” Someone gave her a napkin emblazoned “Help–stop me before I volunteer again!” She then worked as dean of the Central Piedmont Cato campus from 2007 to 2011, which had 11,000 students, some dual enrolled in high school and community college. She completed a Ph.D. in leadership for higher education in 2009.
She was hired as the first regional dean for Northeastern University at their Charlotte campus in 2011. Her outstanding performance proved the regional campus concept had merit; over the next few years, Northeastern opened campuses in Seattle, Silicon Valley, Toronto, Vancouver, and London. She was recognized as one of the “Top 25 Women in Business” and, in 2014, was named “Woman of the Year.”
When Johnson and Wales University’s Charlotte campus began looking for a new president, they talked to the local business community and became convinced that Richards was the person they should hire. There are serious challenges facing all higher education institutions currently, but this Ram, known as an “innovator with persistence,” has the skills, experience, drive, and support of the local business community that will enable her to navigate these challenges successfully.
Early in her career, Cheryl Richards let it be known that her career goal was one day to be president of a small college. We are proud of this Ram, who not only has achieved that goal but also had a host of impressive accomplishments along the way.