He replaces Frank G. Pogue, who has served as interim president at the historically Black college in suburban Philadelphia since November 2014.
Walton is a former senior vice president of Highmark Inc., a health care company, and a longtime member of both the Board of Governors and California University of Pennsylvania’s Council of Trustees.
Cheyney, the nation’s oldest historically Black college, has faced ongoing financial issues and declining enrollment over the years. Earlier this month the state system announced that a task force was created to lead the development of a new institutional model for the historic institution. Robert W. Bogle, who is also the president and CEO of the Philadelphia Tribune, was made co-chair of the task force alongside Walton.
“Cheyney University is in the midst of a major transition toward a new operational model, even as it faces unprecedented challenges to its long-term sustainability,” said Board of Governor’s Chair Cynthia K. Shapira in a statement. “It needs strong leadership now more than ever. Aaron has a strong track record of leadership.”
Walton has a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology and audiology from California University and a master’s degree in public policy and management from Carnegie Mellon University. He has served more than 35 community boards, and was first appointed by Gov. Edward G. Rendell to the State System’s board of Governors in 2005.
Michael Coard, a Cheyney alumnus and activist with Heeding Cheyney’s Call, said on behalf of the advocacy organization, he was pleased that the PASSHE’s Task Force has taken its first step in searching for permanent leadership.
Coard continued, “But Heeding Cheyney’s Call is willing to give the Task Force a chance to ‘do the right thing’ before we go to confrontation mode.'”
Before taking the helm at Cheyney, Pogue was also president of Grambling State University, an HBCU in Louisiana. Additionally, this year Cheyney is celebrating 180 years of education.
PASSHE also appointed Philip K. Way, provost and vice president for academic and student affairs at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, to serve as the school’s interim president effective July 21. Way will replace Cheryl Norton who is retiring.
There are 14 schools in the PASSHE system.