Delta Sigma Theta commemorates 50 years of service
By Jacquie Nelson
It wasn’t just another day on the campus of Bowling Green State University—it felt a little different. There was a sense of celebration in the air. A group of women had a spring in their step as they found their way back to campus, the place where they grew into mature, talented and capable adults.
Over 150 Delta Sigma Theta’s returned to Bowling Green to celebrate 50 years of sisterhood, service and scholarship. Sporting crimson varsity sweaters, the women greeted one another with hugs and kisses, smiling broadly for photographs. Many had not seen each other for years, though time and distance didn’t seem to pose a problem. They gathered to spend time together and reconnect at the place, where 50 years ago, they became the first national African-American sorority at BGSU.
Recall for a minute what the culture of the world, the U.S. and even northwest Ohio looked like 50 years ago. There were many obstacles weighing heavy on the minds of young people—the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the beginning of the Women’s Rights Movement.
The time was tumultuous. Students were engaged in what was going on in the world and they were actively participating in sit-ins, walks and rallies, and voicing social concerns. In an odd way it bonded the student body and gave them a sense of courage and strength—attributes that sustained them and led them into their futures.
In February 1965, Fayetta Paulsen, dean of women, delivered historical news to the women of then Delta Xi Delta; their petition for national membership with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. had been granted. On March 20, 1965, after a five-year waiting period, and a name change from the previously established Las Almas Society, 10 undergraduate students would blaze the trail in Bowling Green by establishing the Epsilon Omicron chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.— the first African-American sorority at BGSU.
For charter member Marguerite Bryan Bibb ‘66, “It was a thrill to be part of the goal of fulfilling the dream and legacy of what our Big Sisters started and we helped become a reality.”
The original charter of 10 picked up where their national chapter of sisterhood had begun, with an emphasis on community and giving back through service. That common theme connects the over 250,000 Delta Sigma Theta’s worldwide.
“Each year we adopted a family and would borrow a car from someone on campus. At Thanksgiving we would deliver food, and during the holiday season we would help decorate the Christmas tree and leave gifts for the children from Santa. We did more than drop off items; we spent time with the family, built traditions and memories with them. It was one of my favorite memories about my time as a Delta Sigma Theta at BGSU,” recalled Carol Ware ’78.
The women of Delta Sigma Theta believe their sisterhood shaped whom they became as women and professionals, particularly the opportunity to grow within a group where working together and being held accountable by one another was commonplace and expected.
“Through my experience as a Delta Sigma Theta I learned how to work with and through women, a very powerful connection,” said Linda Forte ’74, a 2013 Academy of Distinguished Alumni award winner
“We were 18 people strong learning life lessons, the traditions of sisterhood and celebrating each others’ individual successes as well as ours together,” she added.
Another common theme mentioned by many of the women was their connection to the University, not just as sisters, but also as former students, current alumni and Falcon Flames. The experiences they had on campus left an indelible impression.
Linda Watters ’75, a 2014 Academy of Distinguished Alumni award winner and former Homecoming Queen, added, “The best outcome of my life on campus was meeting life-long friends; the campus environment was friendly and safe – a true community.”
“I received a great educational experience and a great campus experience. It is what you make of the experience, and I encourage future students to pursue their life’s passion with gusto, to trust your instincts and to be engaged,” Watters said.
The women of Delta Sigma Theta were totally engaged during their whirlwind weekend full of activities including a Friday mixer, a Saturday service project and the highlight—an evening gala. Saturday’s community service project included collecting toiletries and other necessities to donate to the Beach House Family Shelter in Toledo—an organization that helps homeless women and families regain their independence.
Saturday’s black-tie gala was attended by 200 people celebrating together with dinner, music, camaraderie and reflection. Keynote speaker Beverly Evans Smith, national vice president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., spoke about tradition and the growth of the chapter over 50 years. She noted the success of the Bowling Green chapter in graduating women who have consistently been leaders in their communities, professional businesswomen with distinguished careers and women of substance who continue to practice the mission of service across the world.
When asked about the successes of the Bowling Green Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, charter member Vivian Lawyer ’67 answered, “It was easy to carry the name of Delta Sigma Theta with pride and dignity. We knew the purpose was service and we performed service with kindness and loyalty. Through these lessons we learned to be true and comfortable with ourselves and with one another.”
Delta Sigma Theta is rich with distinguished alumni. Notable Deltas include the first African-American neurosurgeon, the first African-American woman General in the U.S. Army, Congresswomen, noted authors, actors and performers. They all helped mold a legacy that has made Delta Sigma Theta a true force, not just a sorority.
Forte summed up what it truly means to be part of a sisterhood steeped in rich history, “How powerful it is to work with women that you respect and like and who are a whole lot of fun too!”