On Thursday, leaders and members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc. joined administrators from The University of Tulsa to plant and dedicate a tree in honor of the first National Pan-Hellenic Council sorority founded at TU. Many members of AKA are in Tulsa this week for the 93rd Mid-Western Regional Conference focusing on the city’s historic Black Wall Street.
“We wanted to make sure Alpha Kappa Alpha’s presence was always visible,” said Lindsay Echols, a leader for the AKA Mid-Western Region. “We are extremely excited to work together in partnership with The University of Tulsa.”
AKA is an international service organization founded on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1908. It is the oldest Greek-letter organization established by African American college-educated women. The Theta Xi chapter began at TU on March 2, 1974.
“Next year will be 50 years since we chartered this chapter,” said Cheryl Ceasar (BS ’75). “We were small in number, but we were mighty.”
TU President Brad R. Carson welcomed the attendees who came from far and near. “This tree will be a permanent reminder of the presence of AKA and ‘Divine Nine,’” he said, referring to the historically Black sororities and fraternities. “When we plant a tree, we honor those who have come before us. As it grows and blossoms, it will remind us of the potential of young people, changing their lives.”
The tree, which was planted along Sorority Row next to TU’s Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, honors the enduring, sustainable relationship between the university and AKA. A redbud tree was selected because it uniquely represents the deep-rooted relationship: The redbud is Oklahoma’s state tree and blooms pink flowers with green leaves, which are AKA’s colors.
“College is a journey. You are here to enhance yourself, to explore, find who you are. We know that is all made possible with a sense of community, and that’s what the members of Theta Xi do for The University of Tulsa,” said Christina Armstrong (BSBA ’12). “My hope is that this tree remains a symbol for all students at The University of Tulsa.”
Membership in historically Black sororities and fraternities has been relatively low at TU, but administrators seek to increase numbers of underrepresented populations in groups across campus.
“This ceremony and the planting of this commemorative tree is long overdue,” said Will DeViney, TU’s Greek life coordinator. “Visibility is an essential part of raising awareness for our NPHC organizations. I hope this is just the beginning of growth and expansion for our NPHC community at TU.”