100 Years of Omega Psi Phi at Penn State

Nu Chapter was founded by Daniel B. Taylor, a brother of Beta Chapter at Lincoln University in Oxford, PA, who came to Penn State to pursue his master’s degree. He recruited all eight Black male students on campus at the time to establish Nu Chapter, the first Black organization at the university. The Nu Chapter charter members were: George D. Brooks (Liberal Arts), Louis A. Potter (Agricultural Chemistry), Daniel B. Taylor (Agricultural Chemistry), James A. Gardiner (Mathematics), Eldridge A. Miller (Industrial Engineering), William N. Lewis (Horticulture), J. Lester Smith (Agronomy), James A. Moore (Pre-Med).

1921

Mildred Bunton Settle was the First Black Women Graduate from Penn State and member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. The Penn State Mildred Bunton/Calvin Waller Scholarship was co-named after her in honor of Women and the First Black Female Graduate in Nutrition at Penn State.

1934

Omega Psi Phi brother Henry Norwood “Barney” Ewell, Penn State’s “Ebony Spring Ace,” was selected to the AAU All-American track team in 400-meters. At the 1939 and 1940 Penn Relays, Ewell broke, and then bettered, the 50-yard dash world record with times of 5.1 and 5.0 seconds. In 1942, Ewell set a world record in the 200-yard dash with an 18.9 seconds performance. Ewell would be the most dominant and best-known athlete at Penn State during the early 1940s.

1940

Omega Psi Phi brother Henry Norwood “Barney” Ewell, now 30 years old, won the gold medal in the 400-meter relay, and silver medals in the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash at the 1948 London Olympics. His three medals are still the most won by a Penn State alumnus.

1948

Parmi Nous honor society tapped its first Black member, Omega Psi Phi Hardy Williams. Williams, a Liberal Arts major, was co-captain of the basketball team and the first Black man to earn a varsity letter in the sport (1949) at Penn State. He went on to serve on the Penn State board of trustees, and spent thirty years in the Pennsylvania State House and Senate.

1951

Omega Psi Phi was recognized as having the highest GPA of any fraternity or sorority at Penn State. Another notable distinction: the chapter included two Caucasians and one Asian brother, making it the first multiracial fraternity at Penn State.

1953

250 Black students are estimated to be enrolled at Penn State. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is reestablished on campus, primarily through efforts by Omega Psi Phi.

1964

Emmett Smith, Jr. suits up as the first known Black member of the Penn State Marching Blue Band. Smith, a tuba player from Pittsburgh, went on to perform with the band for two years. He was followed by Andrew Jackson in 1970, who performed on the bass drum and silks.

1967

Matthew Robinson, Jr. ’58 (BA Lib) debuted as Gordon on the first episode of Sesame Street. He went on to play the role for the first three seasons, writing The Gordon of Sesame Street Storybook, and recording an album of children’s songs, helping to shape the show into an international success. He went on to write and produce for the Cosby Show, the movies Save the Children and Amazing Grace, and the play The Confessions of Stepin Fetchit, and was awarded the NAACP Image Award.

1967

Benson Dutton ‘33 (BS Eng) is selected as Penn State’s Distinguished Alumni by the Board of Trustees. Dutton, a retired director of construction for the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and former dean of the School of Engineering at Tennessee State University, becomes the first Black alumnus selected for the award, which is the highest honor Penn State bestows on an outstanding alumnus.

1971

Nu brother Julian Abele Cook, Jr. was appointed as United States District Judge by President Jimmy Carter. He went on to serve as a Chief Judge from 1989-1996.

1978

Sharon Thorpe was crowned “Miss Black Penn State in the inaugural pageant by Omega Psi Phi. The pageant was created to “showcase the beauty of the African American culture through its young women.” Susan Lindner, the first runner-up, would be crowned Miss Black Penn State in 1981, and Anya Armstrong took the title in 1982.

1980

Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA) is established at Penn State to provide a “cross-academic line-and-support network” for African American graduate students. At the time, there were estimated to be about 300 Black graduate students at the university. Omega Psi Phi member Dr. Andrew Jackson was one of the founding members of BGSA.

1986

Dr. Eddie N. Moore, Jr. ‘68 (BS Bus) became the 12th president of Virginia State University, where he would serve for 17 years. Before his time at Virginia State University, he was Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Virginia, where he served on 15 state boards and had oversight authority for more than $20 billion of Virginia’s assets. Moore, a Vietnam War veteran, has earned several awards, including the 1995 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Award, honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Virginia State University, the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Funds Leadership Award, the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Penn State in 1999, the U.S. Army Outstanding Civilian Award, and the General Deputy and General Sommerville awards.

1992

Omega Psi Phi alumni brothers founded Iota Lambda Lambda, a graduate chapter of Omega Psi Phi to unite graduate brothers, oversee Nu Chapter undergraduate brothers, and carry out the ideals of the fraternity in this community.

2001

Ronald R. Davenport ‘58 (BS Bus) and Judith L. Davenport ‘61 (BS MeD Tech), founders of the Sheridan Broadcasting Corporation, the largest Black-owned communications network in the United States, pledged $3 million to Penn State. “Penn State has been so important to us,” Judith said. “As an African American alumna, I want other African American students and alumni to know how important we feel it is to support Penn State.”

2001

Nu Chapter returns to Penn State campus after being on hiatus since 2004. 

2017

Omega Psi Phi celebrates 100 years at Penn State, living out a century of a strong and effective brotherhood dedicated to cardinal principles of manhood, scholarship, perseverance, and uplift.

2021