Cheryl Watkins Snead was a shining star. She was a successful business and community leader as well as a devoted wife, daughter, sister, aunt and friend.
For those who knew Cheryl, you know she had a dynamic, trailblazing spirit and infectious smile. She had the innate ability to lift-up those around her while maintaining the ambitious and energetic focus of a true leader. While immensely successful, Cheryl was also humble, patient and a passionate advocate for the empowerment of youth, people of color, women, and small businesses. Cheryl was an incredible soul who inspired and impacted so many around her and who was a champion of the process of continual improvement.
Born in Englewood, NJ on May 18, 1958 to the late Sylvia Watkins and William Watkins, Jr., Cheryl's career exemplified her pioneering and inspirational spirit. She was the first African-American woman to graduate from UMass Amherst with a B.A. degree in Mechanical Engineering. After honing her engineering and management skills at General Electric and earning her M.B.A. degree from Purdue University, Cheryl charted her own path in 1991 by founding Banneker Industries, Inc., named after Benjamin Banneker, the first recognized African-American mathematician, astronomer and inventor.
Since its founding, her business has grown immensely into a world-class provider of integrated logistics and supply chain management solutions with operations across the United States. For nearly 30 years, Cheryl led Banneker Industries to incredible heights, becoming one of the most successful women- and minority-owned businesses in the country. Of the over one-hundred awards earned by Cheryl and her Company, one of her most memorable achievements was when she and husband, Roland, accepted the U.S. National Subcontractor of the Year award in 2008, which also included a private lunch with President George W. Bush. In 2012, Cheryl was also included in President Obama's candidate pool for the U.S. SBA Administrator, and had the opportunity to personally sit down and meet with him during his trip to Rhode Island in 2014.
Throughout the years of business growth and success, Cheryl never stopped giving back. She served on various non-profit and for-profit boards locally, regionally and nationally. They included Amica Mutual Insurance Company where she chaired various committees and once served as a lead Director, and Bryant University which also awarded her an honorary degree. Cheryl also was a passionate, motivational speaker. Her generosity and "get-to-work" spirit earned her numerous awards, for both her business accomplishments and her ongoing civic work. She was named a Women's Business Enterprise Star in 2009 and inducted in the Women's Business Hall of Fame in 2014. Cheryl was also named New England Businesswoman of the Year by Bryant University's Women Summit and was featured nationally in Inc., MBE, Essence, Black Enterprise and ARMY magazines.
Cheryl is survived by her husband Roland Snead of North Providence; her father William Watkins, Jr. and his wife, Kae Watkins of Sarasota, FL; two sisters, Rene Payne of Franklin, MA and Linda Watkins of Cranston, RI; her brothers-in-law, Stephen Payne, Clarence Snead, Perry Snead, and Herman "Buddy" Snead; sister-in-law, Carolyn Scott and her husband, Donald Scott; her nephew, Marcus Payne; two nieces, Alana and Tanya Payne; as well as aunts, uncles and many cousins.
May we carry on Cheryl's legacy and continue to recognize her incredible character and love for life. Above all, let us remember Cheryl as a tremendous friend, beloved mentor, and compassionate and passionate servant leader. She will truly be missed but never forgotten.
A service celebrating the life of Cheryl Watkins Snead will take place on Saturday, February 10, 1:00 pm at The Ronald K. and Kati C. Machtley Interfaith Center at Bryant University, 1150 Douglas Pike, Smithfield, RI 02917.
In Lieu of flowers, please consider sending a donation in Cheryl's honor to either the Southern New England Chapter of the American Heart Association or The Greater Providence RI Links, Inc. Checks can be made payable to "SNE Go Red for Women" and mailed to The American Heart Association , One State Street, Providence, RI 02903 or to The Greater Providence RI Links, Inc. for The L.I.F.E. Program, P.O. Box 2433, Providence, RI 02906.