Faculty, staff, and students mourn the loss of our beloved colleague Cheryl Wall, Board of Governors Zora Neale Hurston Distinguished Professor of English, who was a leading voice in the field of African-American literature, a generous mentor to so many, and an institution builder at Rutgers and beyond.
Photo of Cheryl Wall receiving Honorable Mention for the William Sanders Scarborough Prize for her book On Freedom and the Will to Adorn: The Art of the African American Essay at the January 2020 MLA conference from MLA President Judith Butler.
Excerpt from announcement by President Robert Barchi:
Mourning Cheryl Wall, Beloved and Brilliant Rutgers Scholar
We are profoundly saddened by the death of this amazing scholar, teacher, and citizen of the University, who had been planning to retire this year. Cheryl Wall represented the very best of Rutgers: a world-class intellect whose scholarship advanced the conversation about African American literature and whose teaching and guidance inspired her students to think in new ways.
She arrived here in 1972 after studying at Howard and Harvard universities and immediately had an impact, both in her teaching and in her scholarship. Over the years, Professor Wall earned every accolade that defines success at this institution, from the Warren I. Susman Award for Excellence in Teaching to the Daniel Gorenstein Memorial Award for scholarly achievement and exceptional service to the University. She cared about everyone—her students, her colleagues, the university, our society—and made us all better.
Dr. Wall was a nationally regarded scholar and writer about African-American women writers, with special focus on the author Zora Neale Hurston. She was also the heart and soul of the Rutgers University–New Brunswick English Department, shaping its excellence over the past several decades and ensuring—perhaps more than any other professor—that Rutgers remains preeminent in and committed to the humanities.
Excerpt from announcement by Christopher J. Molloy, Ph.D., Chancellor, Rutgers–New Brunswick:
In Memory of Professor Cheryl Wall
Dr. Wall was an instrumental member of the School of Arts and Sciences Department of English where her contributions have become the essence of the school and our institution. While her intellect, profound teaching excellence and passion for literature made her an exceptional professor, it was her mentorship, guidance, and ongoing dedication to her students, colleagues and Rutgers University that set her apart.
A trailblazer and sustaining force, Dr. Wall drove the establishment of the graduate program in English at the School of Arts and Sciences, empowering students, encouraging a broad scale appreciation of the humanities and providing a path for continued education in literature. An established author of her own, Dr. Wall broke barriers as she illustrated her expertise and scholarship about African American literature and African American women writers in her many nationally and internationally renowned publications.
Dr. Wall inspired us to embrace new ideas, to stand for what we believe in, and above all else – to be kind. I am grateful to have had Dr. Wall as a colleague, and we are all fortunate to have had her as a member of the Rutgers family.
An interview with Cheryl Wall from the Institute for Women’s Leadership
Cheryl Wall is a Board of Governors Zora Neale Hurston Distinguished Professor of English and former Chair of the English Department. Wall is an author and a specialist in Black women’s writing, the Harlem Renaissance, and Zora Neale Hurston. She is a co-chair of the President’s Council on Institutional Diversity and Equity. Joining Douglass in 1972 as an assistant instructor, Wall describes her role in the development of the college and its legacy today. She discusses the intrinsic value of the humanities in the context of a liberal arts education, student activism on campus, and the evolution of the Douglass Woman. This video is part of the Women’s Education and Leadership Digital Collection at Rutgers.