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July 15, 2014

Award-Winning Author Deborah Gregory '86 Honored at Empire State College Commencement in New York City

Deborah Gregory '86, recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award (center) is flanked by Dean Cynthia Ward of the college's New York City location and President Merodie A. Hancock.

Award-winning author Deborah Gregory ’86, center, recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award, is flanked by Dean Cynthia Ward of the college’s New York City location and President Merodie A. Hancock. Gregory was recognized during the New York City location's Commencement exercises. Gregory's young adult book series "Cheetah Girls" was made into three original Disney movies.

(NEW YORK CITY - July 24, 2014) SUNY Empire State College’s Metropolitan New York Center recognized Deborah Gregory, author of "The Cheetah Girls" book series for adolescent girls, with the Distinguished Alumni Award. The award was given at the commencement of Empire State College's New York City graduation. Gregory's book, which features a cast of multiracial young women who founded a singing group, was later made into a series of original Disney movies. The award was initially scheduled for the college's Black History Month event, but was postponed due to inclement weather.

“I am proud to join with the New York Center faculty, students, alumni, friends and staff in honoring the many contributions African-Americans, and in particular our African-American alumni, have made to our college and the greater society in which we all live,” said Merodie A. Hancock, president of the college. “Deborah Gregory is a most deserving recipient of our prestigious collegewide award and we are grateful to count them among our 73,000 alumni.”

“It's always an honor for me to be chosen for any award, especially one from my college,” said Gregory. “I chose the college in the first place because of its diversity efforts, which it continues to this day. My thanks go to Empire State College for acknowledging me with the 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award.”

About Deborah Gregory

Deborah Gregory earned her B.S. in cultural studies, with a concentration in English literature and writing, through the college’s Metropolitan New York Center. She penned the only black children’s book series in history to be franchised in movies, concerts, albums and merchandise. The characters of “The Cheetah Girls” literally took on a Hollywood life of their own as Disney superstars with three Disney Channel original movies, platinum-selling albums and sold-out nationwide concerts. 

Gregory, a best-selling author and award-winning writer, was homeless on the sidewalks of Brooklyn as a three-year old, along with her single mother and two sisters. Separated from her family, she became a ward of the state and spent her childhood in the foster care system until she aged out at 18. She went on to graduate from the SUNY Fashion Institute of Technology and model in Europe. After earning her bachelor’s from Empire State College in 1986, she began a career as a journalist. In 1990, she became a contributing writer for Redbook magazine.

Her Cheetahrama line of handcrafted fascinators, personal cases and jewelry is sold in select stores in United States and on her website. Gregory's Cheetahrama wares are also sold on the new curated shopping site Carbon Bazaar, which features diverse designers and was co-founded by her colleague, Duane Thomas, a former art director at Essence magazine.

Gregory’s “Catwalk” teen trilogy (Random House) pawed its way onto book shelves and unleashed another set of feline fatale characters. She also was a contributing writer for Essence magazine and her work has appeared in More, Heart and Soul, Vibe, Entertainment Weekly, Us and Seventeen magazines.

Currently, she is writing an adult novel.

Gregory has taken time to give back to Empire State College by speaking to many of its groups. including the Women’s Studies Residency and the Student Writers and Speakers Club.

About SUNY Empire State College

Empire State College, the nontraditional, open college of the SUNY system, educates more than 20,000 students worldwide at eight international sites, more than 35 locations in the state of New York, online, as well as face to face and through a blend of both, at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s levels.

The average age of an undergraduate student at the college is 35 and graduate students average age 40.

Most Empire State College students are working adults. Many are raising families and meeting civic commitments in the communities where they live, while studying part time.

In addition to awarding credit for prior college-level learning, the college pairs each undergraduate student with a faculty mentor who supports that student throughout his or her college career.

 Working with their mentors, students design an individual degree program and engage in guided independent study and course work onsite, online or through a combination of both, which provides the flexibility for students to choose where, when and how to learn.

Students have the opportunity to enroll five times during the year.

The college’s 73,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, nonprofit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, union members and more.

The college was first established in 1971 by the SUNY Board of Trustees with the encouragement of the late Ernest L. Boyer, chancellor of the SUNY system from 1970 to 1977.

Boyer also served as United States commissioner of education during the administration of President Jimmy Carter and then as president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

More information about the college is available at




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