HISTORY OF IOTA PI CHAPTER, GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN
Walter L. Burt, Ph.D.
Iota Pi Chapter was chartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan on March 9, 1974, by then presiding Tenth District Representative, the late Bro. Burnel Coulon, of Indianapolis, Indiana. Eleven fraternity brothers came together to support the incorporation of this Charter that was based upon the Fraternity’s four cardinal principles: Manhood, Scholarship, Perseverance, and Uplift.
The Officers elected for this newly established Chapter were:
Cliff Cobbin – Vice-President Dennis Booker, III – Keeper of Records and Seals Vertlee Trice – Keeper of Finance Albert Smith – Chaplain Frank Williams – Advisor Arthur Bivins – Member LaDon Carneige – Member
During its inception, the Chapter felt it should concentrate on implementing the Fraternity’s national programs. The Fraternity’s National initiatives would serve as a foundation for the Chapter to begin its outreach efforts in Grand Rapids. These initiatives included social programs that would enhance the matriculation of African American students in post-secondary institutions, increasing the enrollment of African American students in Historically-Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), supporting health care initiatives that were geared to improving the quality of life for African Americans, participating in and supporting civic and community activities such as voter registration, NAACP, blood drives, and mentoring students attending the Grand Rapids Public Schools.
Two years after its inception, the Chapter became inactive. This was precipitated by numerous members leaving the City to accept employment opportunities in other locations throughout the country. During the chapter’s hiatus, the remaining Brothers became familiar with new Brothers migrating into the Greater Grand Rapids Area. There was an interest on behalf of these Brothers to reactivate the Chapter. Subsequently, a meeting was held in the home of the late Brother Frank Williams, the senior member of the Chapter at the time.
After this meeting, a petition was made to the Tenth District Representative to reactivate the Chapter. And, on 15 February 1979, the DR gave his approval to reactivate Chapter.
After many deliberations, the Brothers supported a slate of officers they felt would lead the Chapter to greater heights and successful program outcomes.
The officers selected to lead this charge were:
Walter L. Burt, Ph.D., Basileus
Albert Smith, Vice-Basileus
Vertlee Trice, Keeper of Records and Seals
Alexander Thomas, Keeper of Finance Sidney Bailey, III, Editor to the Oracle Frank Williams, Advisor Randall Burt, Member Dennis Booker, Member
Presently, the Chapter consists of 42 active brothers. Eleven of these brothers are Life Members. The Chapter is well-represented by Brothers that are employed in professional organizations, corporations, businesses, civic, and public institutions. Consequently, Chapter brothers are well-poised to influence the decision-making process in the Greater Grand Rapids Area and State.
The Chapter continues to sponsor and/or support community functions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas programs, educational initiatives, gifts to families in need during the holiday seasons, civil rights walk-a-thons, participation in sponsored activities associated with the Grand Rapids African American Health Initiative (GRAAHI), the Omega Boys and Cub Scouts Troops, the Black Male Leadership Initiative, and the Grand Rapids Pan-Hellenic Council. Additionally, the Chapter sponsors its Annual Purple Carpet Scholarship Ball where the Chapter awards college scholarships to deserving students. During these events, the Chapter utilize this time to recognize and salute individuals and deserving organizations that are making outstanding contributions to community residents.
The Chapter also established the Omega Uplift Foundation, a 501 (c) 3 organization. This Foundation was established in September 2014 and serves to support programs and services sponsored by the Chapter. The Omega Uplift Foundation is committed to uplifting young and adult Black men to become scholars, good citizens, and fathers. It does this by supporting these individuals with activities that contribute to their educational growth, health awareness, and value to there respective families and community.
Through the Foundation, Iota Pi supports the Omega Boys’ and Girls’ Scout Troops and contributes funds for such activities that support improved student achievement, create mentorships, teach citizenship, and other activities that contribute to the well-being of young and adult Black males in the Greater Grand Rapids Area. A future goal of the Foundation is to raise funds that will create an endowment for youth to support post-secondary scholarships.
In 1974, undergraduate students from Grand Valley State University (GVSU) approached the Chapter about assisting them in developing an undergraduate chapter for individuals that have an interest in becoming members of the Fraternity. Unfortunately, however, upon graduation, many of these students return to their respective communities or relocate to other geographical areas. This condition has prevented students from recruiting the requisite number of students to establish a Chapter on this Campus. Despite this challenge, Iota Pi Chapter continues to support students attending contiguous colleges and universities in their pursuit of becoming OMEGA Men. To date, Iota Pi has supported 18 pledge lines that resulted in 76 undergraduate and graduate pledges.
The Chapter continues to support undergraduate and graduate students from GVSU, as well as other students that attend neighboring colleges and universities in the Greater Grand Rapids Area.