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An unincorporated association of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
Bro. Melvin T. Hargrett, Basileus
Omega's First Graduate Chapter - Established August 17, 1920
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HomeBrief History: Omega in Chicago

The History of Omega in Chicago

From its beginning, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity was created as an undergraduate organization that would have its chapters established strategically at colleges and universities. The chapters of the Fraternity initially established were therefore undergraduate chapters. Some were established on college campuses - like Alpha Chapter in 1911 at Howard University. Others were established to service multiple institutions within a larger jurisdiction starting with Gamma Chapter in 1916 for colleges and universities in the city of Boston including Harvard UniversityBoston University and the Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyThe concept of graduate members existed, but their membership was viewed to be honorary and termed, "elected active" - as opposed to being initiated like the undergraduates were - beginning with Founder Dr. Ernest E. Just who was "elected" by a vote of the membership into the Fraternity through Alpha Chapter at Howard University on February 28, 1912. 

As more undergraduate Brothers graduated, and as more "elected active" honorary members became graduate Brothers, the desire to continue associations with the Fraternity beyond the college years grew. Graduate brothers continued to be active members of the undergraduate chapters in existence, but their individual focus as graduates was understandably different than their undergraduate brethren. This eventually led to the establishment of graduate chapters in the Fraternity. In many areas the graduate chapters still had undergraduate members as well, but they still operated as a graduate chapter because that was their designation. (NOTE: The closest comparison to how these chapters would be viewed today in how they functioned would be as Intermediate chapters.)

As chapters were established, they were initially named following the order of the Greek alphabet – Alpha Chapter in 1911; Beta Chapter in 1914; Gamma Chapter in 1916; Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta and Theta Chapters in 1919. After the establishment of Iota Chapter on August 17, 1920 in Atlantic City, NJ as the first graduate chapter of the Fraternity - (who except for a few prominent professionals who were elected by a vote of the membership, was composed almost entirely of members who had previously been initiated in undergraduate chapters ref: Oracle, August 1921), this naming order did not allow for distinguishing the graduate chapters that may be chartered, from the undergraduate chapters. The 11th GRAND CONCLAVE in Philadelphia, PA in December 1922 was first to address the way the Fraternity was to standardize the naming convention of new chapters established - as well as their chapter types as undergraduate or as graduate.

The mandate from the 1922 Grand Conclave instructed that when a new graduate chapter was chartered, the chapter name would be assigned by adding "Omega" as the second Greek letter to the end of the name of the undergraduate chapter that existed in that city. Sigma Chapter had been established as an undergraduate chapter in Chicago in April 1921 for the University of Chicago and Northwestern University (ref: Oracle, August 1921), making Sigma Chapter the first chapter of the Fraternity established in Chicago - graduate or undergraduate. In addition to the undergraduates attending the University of Chicago and Northwestern, as mentioned previously, Sigma Chapter was also composed of graduate members of the Fraternity because there was no graduate chapter to belong to. That meant the first graduate chapter established in Chicago would be named Sigma Omega...which happened when it was chartered on October 1, 1923. The graduate Brothers who were members of the undergraduate Sigma Chapter, now had a new graduate chapter in Chicago to transfer their membership to and associate with - since to this point the closest graduate chapter had been Nu Omega Chapter, 250 miles away in Detroit, MI, established 9 months previous in January 1923. This action by the Supreme Council to charter Sigma Omega Chapter simultaneously called for the Sigma Chapter undergraduate charter to be separated from Northwestern University and anchored solely on the campus of the University of Chicago. (NOTE: Northwestern would eventually receive their own charter for Psi Sigma Chapter in approximately December 1934.)

The Sigma Chapter undergraduate charter remained at the University of Chicago until Iota Chapter, Omega's first graduate chapter that had been inactive in Atlantic City, NJ since May 1922, was re-designated an undergraduate chapter and relocated from Atlantic City and transferred to the University of Chicago by an action of the Supreme Council on November 1, 1923, displacing the undergraduate Sigma Chapter assigned there just one month previous. The Sigma charter was then relocated by the Supreme Council and transferred to McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on December 15, 1923 - and became the first International chapter of the Fraternity. (NOTE: Sigma Chapter is again in the Tenth District, located at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI since it was transferred there on March 4, 1961.)

Iota Chapter continued in operation at the University of Chicago as an undergraduate chapter for more than 30 years until a point the chapter did not constitutionally have enough members to operate as a chapter in good standing in the Fraternity. Sigma Omega Chapter supported the efforts of the undergraduate brothers of Iota Chapter by initiating a series of undergraduate lines between 1954 and 1957 with the intent to re-activate the chapter, culminating with the May 27, 1957 Application for Undergraduate Chapter Charter and the September 9, 1957 petition. These efforts resulted in the Iota Chapter being recognized by the Fraternity as being in good standing, and the charter being re-activated and re-designated, first 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 attending schools in the larger urban cities with multiple colleges and universities (where undergraduate chapters of the Fraternity did not exist on a campus) 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. It was also a bridge to allow those recent graduates a chance to establish themselves in their careers and start earning wages to be better able to financially support Omega through their dues payments.

Sigma Omega Chapter as a graduate chapter and Iota Chapter as an intermediate chapter continued as the only non-undergraduate chapters of the Fraternity in the City of Chicago until Epsilon Eta Chapter was established as an undergraduate chapter at Chicago State University in 1978 and Kappa Mu Chapter was established as an undergraduate chapter at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1983. On March 1, 1987 Rho Gamma Gamma Chapter was chartered as the second graduate chapter established in Chicago - Then, after a twelve-year inactive period that began in 1983, again for a lack of members to constitutionally operate as a chapter of the Fraternity in good standing, Iota Chapter was re-activated on February 12, 1995, retaining its Intermediate Chapter status. Shortly after the February reactivation, Iota Chapter was re-chartered and returned to its original designation as a graduate chapter on July 12, 1995 creating a third graduate chapter in Chicago. Rho Mu Mu Chapter was the fourth and final graduate chapter established in the City of Chicago on September 6, 2011 as part of a strategy to primarily target the grossly and historically underserved west side of Chicago.