Dr. Byron L. Cherry Sr. (B.S. ’82) has had a life-long relationship with Norfolk State University. As a youth. As a student. As an alumnus. As a donor. As Board of Visitors Rector.
Although Cherry sounded the gavel as BOV Rector for the last time in December, ending his seven years of service, he’ll continue to support his alma mater.
As a student, Cherry learned some tough lessons, but through the guidance of his professors and participation in ROTC, he was able to get his education on track. Norfolk State also gave him the chance to meet his wife Josephine (Benson) Cherry ’83, whom he’s been married to for 35 years. “I always give credit for what NSU did for me. Not sure if I would have been afforded the same opportunity at any other institution,” said Cherry. “I am ever grateful for faculty and administrators who saw something in me that they cared enough to mentor and to push me to do better!”
After graduating, Cherry went into the military, served for 26 years and retired at the rank of Colonel in the U.S. Army. He also went on to earn two master's degrees – from Troy State University and the National Defense University – and a Ph.D., in Organizational Leadership from Regent University. Cherry is a long-time supporter of Norfolk State. He and his wife are members of the University’s Emerald Society.
Cherry was first appointed to the Norfolk State University Board of Visitors in 2012 by then-Governor Bob McDonnell to serve out the term of Peter G. Decker Jr. McDonnell reappointed him in 2013 to a four-year term. Cherry, who was elected BOV rector in March 2016, was reappointed to a second four-year term in 2017 by then-Governor Terry McAuliffe. It was his experiences at NSU that made him want to give back to the University. “It was an unbelievable feeling. Who would have imagined that I, this kid from Norfolk, Virginia, who attended NSU would later have the opportunity to serve on the BOV and then become its Rector? God is truly good!”
As a board member, Cherry, a lifetime member of the NSU Alumni Association Inc., found that being an alumnus had its advantages. “You have an understanding of the culture and atmosphere of the University, and you want your institution to exceed and be competitive,” said Cherry. “When I look at what we did as a Board, no one person deserves any credit. We were a team, and we worked well together.” That is not to say that everything was perfect. “We were more like a family and in a family you had disputes among your brothers and sisters, but at the end of the day, we always did what was best for the family, or in this case the institution.”
With his board service behind him, Cherry hopes that people will remember this: “That I gave 100% to the institution I love and I gave my best,” he said. “Again, I am grateful for the opportunity to serve on the board at my alma mater, and it was a good ride!”