Phi Beta Sigma erects new monument marking century at Wiley College
A sea of blue and white spilled onto Wiley College’s campus Friday to honor a moment in history as the Beta chapter of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity unveiled a new monument in commemoration of the chapter’s centennial anniversary.
“Of all the places you could be, your footsteps led you here, and for that, we’re glad to see you so that you could witness this glorious occasion with us – celebrating the 100th anniversary of the existence of Beta chapter of Phi Beta Sigma being right here at Wiley College,” Rodney Hartfield, an alumni member said to attendees, noting that this year marked Beta’s centennial anniversary as the international fraternity’s second chapter, founded in 1915, on the campus of Wiley College.
“We’re also here to solidify this moment in history and we’re so glad you’re here to help us bear witness to this occasion,” Hartfield said.
As he welcomed the crowd, heavily populated with members of the fraternity and sister sorority, Zeta Phi Beta, Hartfield noted the fraternity felt it would be appropriate, prudent and well-deserved to erect an everlasting monument to pay tribute to the chapter as they reflect on 100 years.
“Although the principles of brotherhood, scholarship and service had remained intact, the existing monument that had been here at least since the 1960s had fallen into bad disrepair,” Hartfield said. “So, through the leadership of brother Ramsey Cooper and the diligent efforts of the ‘Beta 100’ committee, they vowed to make this day happen and you can see that this day is happening.”
Hartfield said the Beta Centennial granite monument is an everlasting reminder of the leadership of their founders and leaders, starting with Herbert L. Stevens, the chapter’s founder and first graduate member initiated into the historically black Greek-lettered organization, established by college-educated men.
“It is an everlasting reminder that God has, is and always will be, an everlasting reminder that Beta chapter is and continues to be a trendsetter and a way maker among chapters of Phi Beta Sigma,” he said. “It’s an everlasting reminder that Wiley has, is and continues to produce graduates who are willing to go forth and return inspired glorious deeds to do.”
The monument, boasting the chapter’s history, first charter line members, patrons’ names and the fraternity’s symbols, impressed all as it was unveiled in the midst of the light rain.
Dignitaries, including Sigma’s international president, Jonathan Mason; and Mary Wright, international president for Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, were especially wowed.
“This is awesome, man,” Mason said as he rushed to take photos. “I’m the president, but I’m still a fan.”
“Beautiful,” Wright complimented.
Edwin Miles, the Gulf Coast Regional Director, reflected on the brotherly and sisterly love felt during the ceremony as members chanted “Blue-Phi; you know” and Zetas followed with a spirited “Z-Phi.”
As Mason, the fraternity’s international president, addressed the crowd, he urged them to not forget the pillars that paved the way before them and to continue to give back.
“Yes, we’re here to celebrate Beta Centennial and I want to congratulate the Beta Centennial committee that has worked to put all this together. I want to thank Wiley College and their president for allowing us to construct a wonderful monument and I want to thank all of you that came out today, but if all we do is leave with a couple of memories, we’re in trouble,” Mason said.
He implored the crowd to let the occasion become a monument of transformation in communities.
“Let our time here become a monument to our rededication to the principles of Phi Beta Sigma and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated,” Mason said. “Let our time here become a monument to our commitment to make sure our young children have a seat at the table of success because until they have a seat at the table of success, nobody has a seat at the table of success.”
He said the tree that the founders of the fraternity and sorority planted is still bearing great fruit today.
“This is an important time in your history, but now as you move from celebration to the days passing this celebration, I challenge you (to) let’s make history – make history that will transform the lives of our people.”
Wiley’s president Dr. Haywood L. Strickland thanked the fraternity for gracing the campus with the new monument.
“The Phi Beta Sigmas I know have benefited us, have always brought to us great service and great dedication and we pause today to recognize the brotherhood, the scholarship and the service of this great fraternity,” Strickland said. “I only hope that the Beta members and generations to come will value and will edify, if you will, this moment and this monument and know the sacrifices that you have made to bring us to this day.”