Michelle Howard-Vital, PhD

Executive Vice President & Provost

Dr. Michelle Howard-VitalDr. Michelle Howard-Vital has currently accepted the position of executive vice president and provost at Florida Memorial University to work with a team of professionals committed to improving higher education for the next generational of leaders. She has previously served as a Senior Fellow for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and she is a member of the College Registry for College Presidents offering her services in transition times for colleges and universities.

Dr. Michelle Howard-Vital is also the former President of Cheyney University (2007-2014), Interim Chancellor of Winston-Salem State University (2006-2007), Associate Vice President for the University of North Carolina System at its General Administration in Chapel Hill (2003-2006), and Vice Chancellor for Public Service /Associate Provost at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (1993-2003).
Michelle Howard-Vital was born and educated in Chicago, Illinois. She earned her undergraduate degree in English Literature and Language and her Masters of Arts in Teaching English from the University of Chicago, and earned her doctorate in Public Policy Analysis from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Howard-Vital has over 30 years of experience in various roles in higher education, and she has worked in three states—Illinois, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. When starting as an English instructor and director of College Without Walls at Central YMCA Community College, at the age of 22, she proclaimed, “I cannot believe they are paying me so much–$10,000–to have so much fun.”

In addition to the positions stated previously, Dr. Howard-Vital served in a range of positions in higher education, including: Coordinator of the Biomedical Sciences Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Dean of Continuing Education at Harold Washington College, Dean of Continuing Education and Non-Traditional Degree Programs at Chicago State University, Associate Vice President for Academic Programs and Dean of University College at Edinboro University, and English Instructor at Central YMCA Community College. Dr. Howard-Vital has been tenured twice–at the community college level and at The University of North Carolina at Wilmington where she earned the rank of tenured professor. Further, she served as a member of the State Board of Education for the State of North Carolina from 2001-2007. Moreover, she successfully led two institutions to reaffirmation of accreditation granted by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Dr. Howard-Vital started her presidency in 2007 at a Historically Black institution that helped to transform the lives of many students. In spite of the institution’s deferred maintenance and public image of “struggling,” Dr. Howard-Vital recognized its past impact and its potential for underserved communities. Under her leadership, the university’s image improved with unprecedented publications and advertising to promote the institution’s impressive accomplishments to the public and stakeholders. Moreover, the Keystone Honor’s Program was enhanced and public forums with renown speakers such as Dr. Maya Angelou, Director Spike Lee, Dr. Cornel West, Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Alice Walker, Mrs. Harriet Fulbright (Fulbright Scholars) and Scholar Angela Davis–to name a few–were highlighted to engage the community in academic dialogue. Former President Bill Clinton also visited the campus and interacted with students and community leaders.

With the support of the Board of Governors, the leadership of local legislators, and senior staff, Dr. Howard-Vital was able to secure funding for a new, 400-bed student residence hall—the first such new structure in over 30 years. In addition, funding was secured for a new cutting-edge science building—the first new academic building in about thirty years—and capital developments such as the reconstruction of the first building on campus into an honors residence and lecture hall, the renovation of the Marian Anderson Music Hall, the addition of a professional-grade graphic arts lab, professionalization of the campus security department, the reconstruction of a wastewater treatment plant for the campus and surrounding community, and many other needed infrastructure upgrades. Cheyney University also became an “All Steinway school” in 2013.

Because of her focus on students, Dr. Howard-Vital would regularly walk the Cheyney University campus and greet students, engage in town hall conversations with all students, host Cabinet-to-Cabinet sessions with the student government association to understand students’ concerns and problems. With improvements in student facilities, common areas, and much-needed redecoration or replacement of aging residence halls, student satisfaction improved. Dr. Howard-Vital also initiated the development of a University College program to help retain and increase students’ progress towards graduation. After a successful reaffirmation of accreditation from the Middles States Association and change in system leadership, Dr. Howard-Vital retired from the presidency to return home to North Carolina.

Because she believes that many have helped in her career, Dr. Howard-Vital believes in honoring her supporters by “paying it forward” in the form of contributions to scholarship funds and volunteer work with organizations like the Professional Women’s Organization of LaRabida Hospital, The American Red Cross, The Links, Inc., and others. She and her husband, Geri R. Vital, still maintain scholarships at Cheyney University in their name and in the name of the late Dolores E. Howard (her mother, a career nurse in Chicago).

Dr. Howard-Vital has co-authored a text, and she has authored or co-authored book chapters, articles, reviews, and various professional papers. Some of the titles of her works include, “Entrepreneurship Education: A Cautious Ray of Hope in Instructional Reform for Disadvantaged Youth” (Rasheed & Howard-Vital, 2006); “Listening to Students: The Appeal of For-Profit Institutions” (2006); “Structuring a Supportive Environment for Women in Higher Education” (2006); and “Precollege Bridge Programs: Lessons learned in preparing students to pursue study and careers in the health sciences” (2007). Dr. Howard-Vital is a frequent blogger, and has published numerous articles in electronic journals, as well. (Her blog site is michellehowardvital-phd.com).

Dr. Howard-Vital has received numerous awards and recognitions for her service in higher education, including: The Women of Distinction Award by the Philadelphia Business Journal (2012); the Women Cultivating Women Award in honor of Mary McLeod Bethune (2010); the Association for Black Women in Higher Education Award for Leadership for founding its Chicago Chapter (2002); the Million Dollar Club Award for her grants at The University of North Carolina at Wilmington (2001); being recognized by the University of Chicago as one of its outstanding graduates; and being given the Distinguished Alumni Award, by the University of Illinois for her contributions to education in the areas of scholarship, teaching, service, and administration (2000). The acknowledgement of service she appreciates most are the letters, cards, and emails of gratitude from former students at the institutions where she has worked or taught.

Dr. Howard-Vital’s pastimes include reading, posting inspirational blogs, gardening, traveling, interior design, and spending time with her husband, daughter, and stepson. Her husband, Geri R. Vital, is a professional graphic designer, former faculty member teaching speech and graphic design, and founder of the Collegiate 100 Chapter of the 100 Black Men at Cheyney University. She and her husband enjoy traveling, home renovation, and social events with family and friends. Their daughter, Madelyn Vital, has a master’s degree in environmental policy and law and a Juris Doctor (J.D.) focusing on environmental law. The son, Gabriel, has a computer science degree and master’s degree in human resources.


Cynthia W. Curry

Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration

Cynthia CurryMs. Cynthia W. Curry serves as the Vice President of Finance and Administration/ Chief Financial Officer for Florida Memorial University (Miami Gardens, FL). Her portfolio includes the areas of the Controller, Budget and Cash Management, Procurement, Human Resources, Auxiliary Services, Facilities Management, Security, Transportation and Risk Management.

Ms. Curry is a graduate of the University of Miami where she obtained her Bachelor and Master of Arts in Politics and Public Affairs. She is a longtime resident of the South Florida community, A seasoned and results-oriented business manager, Ms. Curry has served as Assistant County Manager/Senior Advisor for Miami-Dade County Office of the Mayor handling the management and oversight of a vast array of departments to include Finance, Housing, Property Appraisal, Fair Employment Practices, Economic Development and International Trade and many others. Ms. Curry has served as Senior Vice President for Business and Finance/Chief Financial Officer for Florida International University (Miami, FL), and President and Chief Executive Officer of her own company, CWC & Associates, Inc.

Drawing on her leadership roles in the business development area, Ms. Curry has extensive experience working successfully with county, municipal, private and academic sector entities to advance progress in many areas throughout the community. Ms. Curry led the charge for a successful Federal Empowerment Zone Application; led the community’s efforts for recovery after the devastation of Hurricane Andrew; served on the Governor’s Emergency Financial Oversight Board to the City of Miami as well as other note-worthy major assignments. She was a founding member of the South Florida Chapter of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA), two-term National President of NFBPA and a recipient of the Marks of Excellence Public Service Award from NFBPA. NFBPA’s Marks of Excellence Award is the organization’s highest honor bestowed upon an African American public administrator who has achieved extraordinary success in the field of public management while demonstrating an unselfish commitment to the community. She is the recipient of many honors and awards.


Marcus Burgess

Vice President of University Advancement

Marcus BurgessMr. Marcus H. Burgess is a native of Cades, South Carolina and a 1991 graduate of Kingstree Senior High School and currently resides in Coral Springs, Florida. He graduated Cum Laude with a B.S. Degree in Elementary Education from Claflin University in 1996. While at Claflin, he was elected Student Body President 1994-95, a member of the Honors College, a member of the Daisy E. Pearson Chapter of Teacher Education, and a member of the Lambda Sigma Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. He also holds a Master’s Degree in Elementary Administration and Supervision from The Citadel, in Charleston, South Carolina.

Prior to joining the FMU team, Mr. Burgess was employed as the Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina. There he oversaw marketing and communications, alumni relations, development, WVCD-790 AM campus radio and advancement services. Under his leadership, the college has experienced increased alumni participation and involvement through workshops and seminars from 7% to over 22% during his tenure. Under his leadership, the President’s Gala was revived and saw a net increase of over $140,000 in sponsorships and gifts. The establishment of a Student Philanthropy program has empowered the college’s students and future alumni to become involved in the fundraising process thus supporting their own education. The creation of Corporate Roundtables in various cities in South Carolina have increased the visibility of the college and created great partnership opportunities. He recently secured an $18.5 million HBCU Capital Finance loan to increase institutional fiscal sustainability.

Prior to Voorhees College, Mr. Burgess began his path to higher education at Claflin University as the Director of the Annual Fund/Alumni Relations, where he kept alumni abreast of all the happenings and current affairs of the University, served as a liaison between the Claflin University International Alumni Association and the college, and ensured that all alumni continue to support the University through student recruitment, monetary gifts, participation in class reunions, and much more. Through his efforts, Claflin University celebrated an alumni giving percentage of over 45% during his tenure, which was the highest among all Historically Black Colleges and Universities at that time. He raised an unprecedented $8 million from alumni in support of a $96.4 million Capital Campaign with an additional $100,000 from students.

Mr. Burgess also served in several different professional roles throughout his career which include a fifth grade teacher, an elementary, middle, and high school Assistant Principal and a sales representative for Bluegreen Corporation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. His accomplishments in K-12 education include Teacher of the Year for Kingstree Elementary School 1998-99, Omega Man of the Year for Delta Rho Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Incorporated 2002, recognized by the South Carolina Center for Teacher Recruitment as one of “Six Reasons to Teach” in South Carolina, and used as the featured teacher in “The Call Me Mister” Program – a program launched by Clemson University to get more African American males to become elementary teachers.

He was married to the late, Sonya T. Burgess, and together they have three children Marcus (Deuce), Mariana` and Tyler.


Thomas E. Snowden

Associate Professor of Biology

Dr. Thomas SnowdenDr. Thomas E. Snowden, is a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and matriculated to Paine College in Augusta, GA. While at Paine, Dr. Snowden played baseball; was President of the Biology Club, and participated in biomedical research through the Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS) program grant funded through the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He graduated cum laude with a B.S. degree in Honors Biology from Paine College in August of 1986.

After graduation, Dr. Snowden worked as a Research Technician in various Philadelphia-area institutions, including the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania; the Experimental Station of the DuPont Company; the Department of Bioscience & Biotechnology at Drexel University, and the Department of Neoplastic Diseases at Hahneman University Hospital/School of Medicine. He matriculated to Meharry Medical College in 1990 and received his Ph.D. in Microbiology (Biomedical Sciences) in May of 1999.

On August 13, 1999, Dr. Snowden was hired as an Assistant Professor of Biology in the Division of Natural Sciences & Mathematics at Florida Memorial College. He quickly established himself as a vital part of the transformation of the Division by improving the level of scholarship among the students within the Division. In April of 2003, Dr. Snowden was awarded the Extramural Associates Research Development Award (EARDA) by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He is the first and ONLY faculty member at FMU to receive an NIH grant as a Principal Investigator.
Dr. Snowden was promoted to Associate Professor in 2005 and was granted tenure in 2006. He became the Coordinator of the B.S. program in Biology in 2010 and is responsible for the submission of ALL of the assessment reports to the Office of Institutional Effectiveness. In May 2003, he was awarded the FMU Scholar of the Year for his outstanding work.
On August 15, 2014 Dr. Thomas E. Snowden officially assumed the Presidency of the Faculty Senate at Florida Memorial University (FMU). As President of the Faculty Senate, Bro. Snowden serves as the liaison between the faculty and the President’s Cabinet and the Board of Trustees. He is also responsible for attending meetings of the aforementioned entities as well as presiding over all meetings of the Faculty Senate.

Dr. Snowden is also a member of various professional societies, including the American Society for Microbiology (ASM); the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Has been married for 26 years to the former Laniese Vanessa Hines, a Registered Nurse and 1994 graduate of Tennessee State University. They have two children: Candice 26, a 2011 graduate of Wellesley College and Christopher 24, a junior Music major at FMU. His favorite Bible passage is James 1:22 “But be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves”.


Robert Smith

Athletic Director

Robert SmithRobert E. Smith began his coaching and teaching career at Florida Memorial University in 1981as an Assistant Professor in the Physical Education Department and as the head Baseball coach. He was hired by the late A. Chester Robinson, whom the Athletic Center was named after.

Smith taught as an Assistant Professor for 23 years until he was appointed the Director of Athletics position. He coached baseball for 27 years until he stepped down to hire a baseball coach. He enters his 11th year as Director of Athletics at Florida Memorial University.

Born in Milan, Georgia, his family moved to Jacksonville, Florida at an early age where he was raised on the East Side. He attended Andrew Jackson Senior High School where he participated in football and track & field.

Smith Received his Bachelor’s degree from the Historical Lincoln University( the 1st black college) in Pennsylvania and was coached by the legendary and NCAA Hall of Fame Coach, Cyrus Jones, who has always served as a men-tor and role model. He received his Master’s degree from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. While at Indiana University, he served as an Associate Instructor in the Health and Physical Education Department.

He is married to Regina Lowe-Smith (FMU class of 1982) and they have two sons, Marcus N. Smith (Jackson State University class of 2009) and Marlon C. Smith (Southern University class of 2012).