Celestine Goodloe was grocery shopping recently when she was stopped by a young man who thought he recognized her. Because of her job at Xavier, this is a common occurrence.
“Don’t I know you?” he asked.
“Well, I work at Xavier,” she replied.
He nodded—but hesitated. There was something else. “Aren’t you a Delta?”
Yes, she is. And there is hardly a day that goes by when someone doesn’t recognize her for her sorority affiliation.
“It’s just a part of who you are,” she says. “It was 43 years ago when I decided to take this leap of faith, not knowing where it would go, or what it would be. But there’s still this connection.”
It’s a connection all the former Deltas at Xavier still feel—even 25 years later. And it's a connection every fraternity and sorority on campus makes with its pledges, encapsulating the importance of Greek life for African-American students.
‘We do push ourselves’
Goodloe, Xavier’s associate director for community outreach in Student Financial Services, pledged the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority in the 1970s as an undergraduate student at Bennett College in North Carolina.
In 1986, while working in admissions at Xavier, she became involved in the Cincinnati alumni chapter of the sorority. By 1991, she began to hear rumblings that Xavier students wanted to start their own chapter. “My thought was, if the students want it, I’ll do what I can to help,” she says.
She helped 17 women investigate what was needed to start the chapter. They had to create an official, sustainable group, one that was recognized and funded by the University. They had to present a constitution to the Student Senate. And they had to convince University administrators that the organization would align with the Xavier mission.
“As a sisterhood, we do push ourselves toward scholarship and service—just like we teach at Xavier,” says Vonnya Thomas, administrative assistant in Xavier’s Office of The Graduate School, who pledged Delta in 1999. “It’s like a family. We watch over each other and take care of each other.”
Ten women started the Rho Xi Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority at Xavier on April 12, 1992.
Two weeks ago, over a warm spring weekend, the Delta alumni came back to campus to celebrate 25 years of camaraderie, service and the importance of Greek life in the African-American community. Events spanned a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and members were joined by community representatives, family and friends.
‘We serve as support systems’
The National Pan-Hellenic Council is the governing body of the historical Black Greek organizations. At Xavier there are five:
- Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
- Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
- Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
- Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
- Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc.
“Black Greek Letter Organizations have a deep history rooted in a standard of excellence based on high scholastic achievement, brotherhood and sisterhood, civic action, community service and philanthropy,” says Joya Dillard, program coordinator for the Center for Diversity and Inclusion.
“This still holds true today. Several of our organizations are over 100 years old and were founded in the early 1900s. Our organizations are so important because we serve as support systems not just for our members but for the communities that we serve. Social justice and community service are the heart of our organizations.”
Many African-American students may wonder how they can connect on a university campus, Thomas says. “They will ask, ‘How am I going to get involved?’ It’s important to know these opportunities are out there."
Thomas graduated from Xavier in 2004 and says her network of sisters—more than 300,000 strong across the world—has helped her and others find employment opportunities. It's a common trait among those who pledge in the Greek system.
Xavier junior Kaelan Doolan knew several members of his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, who offered help when he was looking for a summer internship.
“The importance of African-American fraternities and sororities goes back just over a century,” Kaelan says. “My fraternity has had members that were and still are at the forefront of politics, art and many different aspects of social life. Martin Luther King Jr. and W.E.B. DuBois, one of the three founders of the NAACP, were both members of Alpha Phi Alpha. Langston Hughes was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Huey Newton, founder of the Black Panthers, was a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
“The same goes for sororities, like you have Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to run for president, who was a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American ever to win an Academy Award, was a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.,” he says. “These organizations have been at the forefront of almost every major pivotal moment in 20th century African-American history.”
Kaelan, from Canton, Ohio, got involved in the fraternity because he learned about the history of the organization and wanted to be connected to it. “The emphasis on scholarship particularly has had an impact on my college experience, because since becoming an Alpha, my grades have been at their highest, I've won a scholarship, and recently accepted an internship offer from CBS,” he says.
‘It gives you a connection’
The weekend of April 7-9 turned out to be very special for the Deltas.
On Friday night, there was a meet-and-greet where more than 30 members attended. On Saturday, they held a luncheon at the Cintas Center and that night, a community social action meeting at Gallagher. On Sunday, they went to church and hosted a cookout.
“It was amazing,” Thomas says. “It was so empowering. People need to know we have Greek life on this campus, and that it provides a family and a community for our students. It gives you a connection. It’s another way to open the door to Xavier.”
And it’s a gift that keeps on giving.
“I became a member because of the values that Delta women stand for,” says Mykia Lee, a senior from Buffalo. “I strive to embody these same values in my everyday life. Women of DST are adamant about public service and are trailblazers. This organization stood out to me because they are women who never accepted mediocrity, but always pursue excellence in every facet of life.”
Members say there is a responsibility to care for the family, to pass on the gift given to them.
“I became a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated because of the rich history of women committed to making the world a more inclusive place,” says Jadzia Ramsay, a senior from Brooklyn. “Women of Delta Sigma Theta helped pave the way for me to be here today and it is my duty to help pave the way for other African-American women.”