The History of Iota Chapter
A chronology of the historical dates and milestone activities related to Iota Chapter.
November 17, 1911 – Omega Psi Phi Fraternity is founded at Howard University in Washington, DC.
December 15, 1911 – Alpha chapter, the 1st chapter of the Fraternity, is established at Howard University.
February 6, 1914 – The chartering of Beta chapter, the 2nd chapter of the Fraternity established at Lincoln University in Lincoln University, PA, initiated the expansion of the Fraternity.
October 28, 1914 – Omega Psi Phi Fraternity is incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia.
The next chapters established by the Grand Chapter were:
#3 Gamma chapter, 1916-17 in Boston, MA;
#4 Delta chapter, 1919 in Nashville, TN;
#5 Epsilon chapter, April 18, 1919 in New York, NY;
#6 Zeta chapter, October 30, 1919 in Richmond, VA and
#7 Eta chapter, December 27, 1919 in Atlanta, GA.
#8 Theta chapter's establishment is not so clear, but an article in the "Big Weekend Edition" of the Chicago Defender by assignment reporter Cliff Williams dated December 20, 1919 gives both insight into the when and where of Theta's establishment and adds the same questions into the when and where of Iota Chapter's establishment. The article announces, "8th Grand Conclave to be held during the following week of the 27th to the 29th at the seat of Gamma Chapter in Boston, MA." In listing the other chapters that will be represented, the articles indicates:
"All eyes are set towards the HUB. Brothers will gather here from as far west as the University of California, while all the following chapters will be represented: Alpha, Howard University; Beta, Lincoln University; Delta, Fisk University and Meharry; Epsilon, Columbia; Zeta, Virginia Union University; Eata(sic) Atlanta University; Theta, Dartmouth, and Iota, Pennsylvania University."
This account would seem to indicate that Theta and Iota were likely in existence in 1919 and before the date they are commonly recognized as being established. It also would seem to indicate that the original location of the universities they existed at or were established is also different than initially recognized as well - prompting the need for further research.
Further, the Annual Message from Grand Basileus Harold H. Thomas (1920-1921) printed in the August 1921 Oracle on pg. 4, quotes:
"Nine years have elapsed and today Omega Psi Phi has fifteen chapters reaching from Epsilon Chapter on the Atlantic Coast to Theta Chapter on the Pacific, and bears the unique distinction of having been the first Greek letter fraternity among the Negro college men to have spanned the continent."
This would now seem to indicate that Theta has changed coasts moving from East to West before settling at Wiley College in Marshall, TX in 1922! But adding further questions to the when and where of Theta and Iota Chapters - along with what was known about all the chapters established by 1921, the 1921 Howard University yearbook "Enopron" listed every chapter of the Fraternity and their locations. Theta was listed as a graduate chapter located in Atlantic City and Iota was listed as located at West Virginia Collegiate Institute! This was obviously a transposition of the chapters but if so, still new information about Theta's location - and additional confirmation of Iota as the first graduate chapter of the Fraternity. The Enopron went on to list Kappa at the University of California and Lambda as a graduate chapter, but on the East coast in Norfolk, VA.
NOTE: The newspaper clippings being referenced can be found in the DOCUMENTS section of this website.
August 17, 1920 – Iota Chapter is indicated as being established on the night of August 17, 1920 in Atlantic City, NJ after authority had been obtained from 7th Grand Basileus Raymond G. Robinson, who sent a telegram from Boston to authorize establishment. The initiation ceremony was held with Bro. J. Granady, and many visiting brothers from Alpha and Beta Chapters participated in the initiatory ceremonies. The field of candidates was combed carefully, and in order that Omega's first Graduate Chapter might have a solid foundation, from a large field of eligibles only two men were carefully chosen for the initiation - this is in accordance with Omega's time-honored custom of emphasizing quality rather than quantity. The two Brothers initiated were Bro. H. A. Warner and Bro. G. D. Brooks (who Bro. Brooks later was instrumental in establishing Nu Chapter at Pennsylvania State College in State College, PA. He also was it's first Basileus).
October 1, 1921 – The first chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity established in Chicago, IL - Sigma Chapter - is established as an undergraduate chapter for both the University of Chicago and Northwestern University.
December 1922 – Grand Basileus J. Alston Adkins and the 1922 Philadelphia Grand Conclave directed to re-sequence the chapter naming convention. To designate graduate chapters, “Omega” was to be added after the single Greek letter undergraduate chapter existing in the same city. This was necessary because when chapters were initially chartered, the sequence followed the Greek alphabet in the naming order they were chartered (first Alpha, then Beta, then Gamma and so on) but the sequencing had no regard if the chapter was undergraduate or graduate.
October 1, 1923 – A new charter, Sigma Omega graduate chapter, was assigned to the city of Chicago - making it the first graduate chapter established in Chicago as a part of the Grand Conclave directive resequencing the graduate and undergraduate naming convention mentioned above. The Sigma chapter charter, originally established as an undergraduate chapter in Chicago two years earlier in 1921 for both the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, was now to be assigned to the campus of the University of Chicago only.
November 1, 1923 – The Iota graduate chapter charter was transferred from Atlantic City, NJ to the University of Chicago and established as an undergraduate chapter, which displaced the undergraduate Sigma chapter charter already assigned to the university.
December 1923 – The Sigma chapter charter was transferred to McGill University in Montreal, Quebec Canada, (becoming the first international chapter in the Fraternity).
May 6, 1954 to October 12, 1957 – During this time period Iota chapter, which was still located at the University of Chicago, did not constitutionally have enough members to operate as a chapter in good standing in the Fraternity. Sigma Omega graduate chapter supported the efforts of the undergraduate brothers by initiating a series of lines between 1954 and 1957, culminating with the May 27, 1957 “Application for Undergraduate Chapter Charter” and the September 9, 1957 petition. Those undergraduate brothers included Bro. James Oldham (Industrial Education class of 1960), Bro. Dewey Jones (Liberal Arts class of 1957), Bro. Leon Walker (Education class of 1958), Bro. Henry Stenson (Education class of 1957), Bro. Jerry T. Jones (Electrical Engineering class of 1960), Bro. Carl Lamarr (Music class of 1961), Bro. Elbert Ford (Education class of 1957), and Bro. Clarence Hanna (Education class of 1957).
Tenth District Representative Bro. Abraham Ulmer, Jr. wrote the following in the application, “I recommend reestablishment of IOTA chapter in the Chicago area. The city is rich in prospective members and a well-organized chapter should flourish there.” In the petition, Vice 10th District Representative Bro. Virgil G. Trice, Jr. wrote, “The purpose of this petition is the reactivation of IOTA chapter as an undergraduate chapter in the metropolitan Chicago area. …our strength is in the Chicago Teachers College… This group was organized by and is currently operating as an integral part of the local graduate chapter, Sigma Omega. …we are placing our emphasis on the schools in Enclosure B: [Chicago Teachers College, Roosevelt University, Illinois Institute of Technology, and the University of Illinois (Navy Pier Branch)] … Sigma Omega chapter has worked very diligently to effect the development of an undergraduate group. Interest is currently at a peak. This opportunity to further the development of the Fraternity should be consummated as soon as possible.”
These efforts resulted in the Iota chapter charter being re-activated and re-designated as a citywide undergraduate chapter, then shortly afterward as an Intermediate Chapter for both graduate and undergraduate members. Intermediate chapters had been created as a vehicle for undergraduate students to have access and opportunity to join the fraternity, and for recent college graduates to continue to associate with the fraternity, in locations where a graduate chapter did not exist, or in larger urban areas with multiple colleges and universities but no chapter of the Fraternity on the campus. It was also a bridge to allow those recent graduates a chance to establish themselves in their careers and earn wages to be better able to financially support Omega through their dues payments. Iota chapter was designated as an Intermediate Chapter for 38 years until 1995.
February 12, 1995 – After an inactive period that began on November 1, 1983 due to the chapter not meeting the constitutionally required minimum membership threshold, Iota chapter was re-activated, retaining its Intermediate Chapter status. This reactivation was achieved chiefly through the efforts of Bro. Melvin M. Slater (Iota '81), and a past Basileus of Rho Gamma Gamma chapter, who along with Bro. Kenneth Coles, (Omicron Theta '77) and a past Basileus of Sigma Omega chapter, identified 51 other brothers to populate the newly reactivated Iota chapter.
July 12, 1995 – Iota chapter was re-chartered and returned to its original designation as a graduate chapter as part of a previous Grand Conclave mandate to re-designate all intermediate chapters as graduate chapters. (The intended need for intermediate chapters no longer existed because of the proliferation of graduate and undergraduate chapters to this point).
Iota Chapter Today…
“The Chapter will work towards the continued survival of the Fraternity, preeminently through reclamation and retention efforts, always remembering that Friendship is Essential to the Soul…and to ensure the continued survival of Black Americans, especially in the City of Chicago, by nurturing the talent, education, competition and achievements of the best and brightest among its citizens, along with the standards of Omega and her Cardinal Principles of Manhood, Scholarship, Perseverance and Uplift, and to serve mankind in the name of Almighty God, the Supreme Basileus of the Universe.”
Because of this Mission, the men of Iota chapter have a rich history of service to both the Fraternity and the City of Chicago. That mission and service continues today, centered around social action activities in and for the Black community, in the form of social service projects to worthy causes from volunteerism and mentoring to fundraising and philanthropic giving. Iota chapter also provides scholarship awards to graduating high school students in Chicago high schools from $100 to $2000 each; health initiative related activities through education; and voter registration efforts to encourage Black Chicagoans to be involved with the political process that helps shape their lives.
“Do thy duty that is best; Leave unto thy Lord the rest!”
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow