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Rhodes College unveils plaza honoring NPHC Fraternities and Sororities

Memphis’ Rhodes College became familiar stomping grounds this past weekend, after hosting the annual Black Students and Alumni Family Reunion beginning on Friday, March 23. With a calendar full of events, the three-day celebration capped with an alumni easter egg hunt.

However, it was the introduction of a National Pan-Hellenic Council Plaza on Saturday that left an indelible mark on the institution. 

“Our new NPHC plaza is a vitally important addition to our campus and a reflection of our commitment to ensuring that every student, and every graduate, feels fully welcome, supported, and included at the College,” said Rhodes College President Jennifer Collins.

Nine plaques representing the “Divine Nine” historic Black fraternities and sororities are featured within circular stonework. They include information about each organization’s history. Each lies in sequence to their founding. 

A current representative from each organization was on hand for the dedication.

The landmark is situated among footpaths that converge along the heart of the campus. Student members of the organizations were involved in the design, fundraising and construction. 

“Today, we are the navigators of this historical legacy,” said Asya Bray, a Zeta Phi Beta sister and chair of the NPHC Plaza planning committee. “While celebrating the historically Black sororities and fraternities, we continue to invest in the next generation of Rhodes NPHC.” 

She was joined in the two-year effort by fellow senior Erin Parker, who is President of the Rhodes College National Pan-Hellenic Council.

The umbrella council serves the nine historic organizations represented in the plaza, otherwise known as the Black Greek Letter Organizations. It is the first NPC’s stamp on the campus.

As well as commemorating Black Greek life, it will also serve as a gathering place for Black students currently studying at Rhodes. The plaza will also welcome prospective Black students to the school.

Along with the NPHC, Interfraternity Council Organizations (IFC) also have houses on the Rhodes College campus. 

Iota Phi Theta or Omega Psi Phi chapters are not currently present at Rhodes.

Donations from Rhodes alumni, including Johnny B. Moore, paid for the signage. Now living in Nashville, the Melrose High graduate is currently serving as President of Tennessee Region at Truist.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to honor and celebrate the Divine Nine with these plots, and we are very grateful to our students and alumni who helped make this project a reality,” said Collins.

In addition to plenty of food and drink, other highlights from the weekend included a student-alumni panel discussion on how campus life for Black students has evolved at Rhodes throughout the years.

The private liberal arts school changed its name from Southwestern College in 1984. It was renamed after former President Peyton Rhodes. African American students were first admitted during his 16-year tenure that ended in 1965.

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