Cheryl Snead, founder, CEO and president of Banneker Industries, dies

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Cheryl W. Snead, CEO and president of Banneker Industries Inc., and long an advocate for advancement of women, died Monday following complications from recent surgery, her company confirmed.

Snead, who was 59, founded Banneker Industries in 1991. Under her leadership, the supply chain firm grew to include three locations in the United States and 55 employees. Forty-six people are employed in the company’s North Smithfield headquarters.

The company informed its employees of her death in an all-hands meeting Tuesday morning, said Ned O’Donnell, company chief financial officer. Junior Jabbie, the executive manager of corporate operations, will now serve as acting president.

In a joint message, O’Donnell and Jabbie informed business suppliers and clients, as well as other business associates, of her death. “Banneker has lost a visionary and inspirational genius and the world has lost an amazing human being,” they wrote. “All of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Cheryl have lost a dear friend, a trusted confidant and an inspiring mentor.”

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In a brief interview Tuesday, O’Donnell said Snead was recuperating from recent surgery when she had a setback. He described her as a natural and moral leader.

“She was very bright. She was a natural entrepreneur, and she had vision,” he said. “She absolutely was a moral leader, honest, straight-forward, very caring about the folks who worked for her, who she treated as family.”

Snead was a graduate of University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. She completed a master’s degree in business administration at Purdue University. She received an honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree from Bryant University in 2006.

Prior to founding Banneker Industries, she worked at General Electric for several years, according to her profile on the social media site LinkedIn.

She was a member of the board of directors for Amica Mutual Insurance Co. since 2000 and previously was a board of trustee member at Bryant University.

She was a board member of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, the largest certifier of women-owned businesses in the country. Its website posted a lengthy tribute to her on Tuesday.

Bryant University President Ronald K. Machtley issued a notice to staff, students and alumni, which read, in part: “Among her major contributions to Bryant was her work with faculty and staff to create the LITE program for aspiring minority students. On a personal level, Cheryl Watkins Snead was a delightful individual and an inspiration to us all.”

Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at