Fraternity Celebrates 90 Years

Liz Coffin-Karlin

By Liz Coffin-KarlinThe Daily Northwestern

The Theta Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, Northwestern’s first black Greek letter organization, celebrated its 90th anniversary over the weekend.

The “Terrible” Theta Reunion weekend included a Friday Meet and Greet at the African-American Student Affairs House, a Saturday morning tailgate before the spring football game and a Saturday night Anniversary Celebration Banquet.

The fraternity was established April 21, 1917, by five black NU students.

Kappa Alpha Psi alumni from classes ranging from 1967 to 2006 returned to Evanston for the weekend’s festivities. After a campus tour, several said they were surprised at the changes to the campus.

“It’s a beautiful campus,” said Boris Prentiss, Weinberg ’91. “It’s really nice to be back. Lots has changed. They even moved The Rock.”

Dan Davis, who graduated in 1969, is considered the “godfather” of the Theta Chapter, according to Communication junior and fraternity member Adam Welton.

When Davis first came to NU as an undergraduate, the Theta chapter had been closed due to low enrollment.

“The number of black students recruited dwindled,” Davis said. “No black men, no Kappa Alpha Psi.”

Although Davis was raised in Chicago, he was born in Nashville, Tenn., where there are many historically black universities and fraternities. After his mother told him he was going to NU, he decided to reinvigorate the school’s chapter of Alpha Kappa Psi.

To do so, he had to be an active member of the fraternity, so he went to Chicago and pledged the Alpha Rho chapter, which is made up of students from several Chicago area schools. Then, back at NU, Davis recruited 12 new members, officially restarting the fraternity.

Many of the Kappa Alpha Psi alumni had never met Davis, and they approached him to introduce themselves during the night.

There are currently eight members of Kappa Alpha Psi at NU.

Although Kappa Alpha Psi chapters are usually small, several alumni agreed that “it’s not the quantity, it’s the quality.”

For the first time in many years, the fraternity gave out two $500 college scholarships to minority male students from the Chicago area.

The winners of the scholarships were Marcus Smith from King College Prep High School and Maurice Bell from Hales Franciscan High School. Next year, Smith will attend the University of Michigan, and Bell will attend Northern Illinois University.

Although Bell and his parents came to Saturday night’s dinner, Smith was not able to attend.

“I think it’s a great thing that the fraternity is giving back to the community,” said Patricia Campbell Bell, Maurice Bell’s mother. “We were thrilled that he won.”

Bell’s father Alfred Bell Jr. said he was happy to see “a group of men who made it giving back.”

Much of the money the alumni paid to attend the reunion went to the two scholarships.

During Saturday’s banquet, the undergraduate members showed photos from the fraternity’s archives. As alumni recognized themselves and friends, the room filled with laughs and jokes about old physiques and hairstyles.

“We’re coming together to celebrate … having an impact on a college like NU for 90 years … and that’s a really big thing,” said Troy Boyd, Jr, polemarch of the fraternity and a Medill junior.

Reach Liz Coffin-Karlin at [email protected]