AN HISTORICAL RECAP OF IOTA PI CHAPTER
OMEGA PSI PHI FRATERNITY, INC.
IOTA PI GRADUATE CHAPTER of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., was chartered in the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan on 9 March 1974 by the presiding Tenth District Representative, Bro. Burnel Coulon of Indianapolis, Indiana. Consistent with the Four Cardinal Principles of the National Fraternity, the Chapter was duly established on the principles of Manhood, Scholarship, Perservance, and Uplift. To lead this Chapter of 11 dedicated members, the Brothers of Iota Pi Chapter selected the following Brothers as their chartered officers:
James Walton: President
Cliff Cobbin: Vice-President
Dennis Booker, III: Keeper of Records and Seal
Vertlee Trice: Keeper of Finance
Albert Smith: Chaplain
Frank Williams*: Advisor
Arthur Bivins: Member
LaDon Carnegie: Member
During its early infancy, the Chapter took as its primary goal to implement the Fraternity’s national programs. The Chapter also took concerted steps to partner with other professional and social organizations that were designed to address the political and social issues that had an adverse impact on African Americans in the Greater Grand Rapids Metropolitan Area. Such issues addressed in the Chapter’s early initiatives related to the performance of African American students in K-12 institutions, matriculation of African American students in post-secondary institutions in both Historically Black College Institutions (HBCUs), as well as those universities that served under-represented minority groups, and high blood pressure screening.
In 1974, undergraduate students at Grand Valley State University (GVSU), a university that had relatively few students of color attending its university, and no representation of Black Greek-Lettered fraternities on its campus, approached the Chapter and asked the Graduate Chapter to provide jurisdiction of an interest group that wanted to pledge into the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. The Chapter decided to provide supervision of GVSU students’ interest group and to continue this relationship until such time that they were able to obtain the requisite number of Fraternity members to establish their own Campus chapter.
Due to a myriad of issues, an undergraduate chapter has not been established at GVSU. Iota Pi Graduate Chapter has continued to provide jurisdiction of eligible students that have an interest in joining the Fraternity. As of this date, the Chapter initiated its first line in 1982, and by 2010, the Chapter had taken on 12 different pledge lines--culminating in the initiation of 49 undergraduate brothers into the Iota Pi Graduate Chapter.
Since the incorporation of the Chapter in 1974, the Chapter continued to flourish. However, many of the Brothers that migrated into Grand Rapids were young, highly-educated and skilled professionals. As employment opportunities became available in other localities, the Chapter lost a significant proportion of its members to other cities throughout the United States. This emigration of its members forced the Chapter in 1976 to become inactive. By 1979, there was a new wave of professionals that migrated into the Greater Grand Rapids Metropolitan Area. After several meetings with local and newly-arrived Brothers, a meeting was held in the home of the late Brother Frank Williams, the senior elder of the Fraternity. It was at this meeting that a decision was made to reactivate the Chapter. On 15 February 1979, the Chapter was reactivated and the following brothers were selected as Officers of the Chapter. They were, according to office held:
Walter L. Burt: Basileus
Albert Smith: Vice-Basileus
Vertlee Trice: Keeper of Records and Seal
Alexander Thomas, Jr.: Keeper of Finance
Sidney Bailey III*: Editor to The Oracle
Frank Williams*: Advisor
Randall Burt*: Member
Dennis Booker: Member
Since 1979, the Chapter has maintained its active status with the National Office of the Omega Psi Fraternity Inc. However, two of the major challenges that the Chapter continue to face is the in and out-migration of highly-skilled professionals, and the exodus of undergraduate brothers at GVSU to leave the Greater Grand Rapids Area after having completed their undergraduate and graduate studies.
Iota Pi Chapter has distinguished itself as a leader within the Tenth District. This Chapter has hosted two successful Tenth District Meetings in Grand Rapids and has recorded unprecedented attendance. In each instance, the Chapter has managed its operations in a fiscally prudent manner and returned high profit yields back to the Tenth District. The Chapter continues to provide unwavering support to many programs and services throughout the Greater Grand Rapids community. This is demonstrated by its members’ employment in key professional corporations, organizations and institutions; serving on various local, state and national professional boards; and providing distinguishing services to various civic and social service organizations and institutions. These opportunities have afforded the members to sponsor and/or support various community functions as Thanksgiving Baskets, The Greater Grand Rapids Pan-Hellenic Council, Walkathons, Grand Rapids African American Health Initiative (GRAAHI), scholarship drives, Omega Boy Scouts Troop, Black Male Leadership Initiative, and many other community projects.