Dear Theta Phi Alphas,
One of the best parts of being a member of Theta Phi Alpha is meeting and collaborating with members from other chapters and associations. I have lived in Nebraska for all but five years, and those five years were in Missouri. As a collegian, my chapter was composed of members like me. I attended my first national event in 1987 during a summer Leadership Conference. While this was a fantastic experience, the most amazing part was meeting Theta Phi Alphas from other chapters. That was the first time I realized that not everyone was just like me, that there were Theta Phi Alphas of different faiths, backgrounds, and ethnicities. I remember being very happy about this and keeping in touch with several collegians and alumnae I met. When I became an alumna and began volunteering as a National Officer, I had more opportunities to meet members different from me, including the Black members of Theta Phi Alpha. My sorority experience has allowed me to create memories with my fellow Black members because of these opportunities, and below are two of them.
Dionne Myers Tuplin is one of our Black members with whom I have created a bond through our sorority experience. I don’t remember exactly when I met Dionne, but I remember having an instant connection with her. My earliest memory of Dionne is at the chapter installation of the Gamma Gamma Chapter at Kutztown University in 1998. Dionne and two Alpha Epsilon chapter sisters (Jen Lando and Angela Pedi Seegel) stayed up most of the night before the installation to create a banner to present to the Gamma Gamma chapter. After seeing Dionne after all those late nights, I would continue to see her at Leadership Conferences and Conventions until her life moved in a direction that did not allow her to attend these events. No matter the cause, we stayed updated with each other’s well-being due to Facebook and Holiday cards. Now Dionne is a member of the Board of Trustees, and we are volunteering together again. Dionne is an inspiration for being the best person and leader you can be. I appreciate her daily inspirational posts and look forward to creating even more sorority experiences with her.
Another Black member whom I have created a bond with is Kishma Liburd. I met Kishma in 2014 at the Nebraska/Missouri Theta Phi Days. Kishma was living in Omaha, Nebraska, and responded to an email asking for alumnae to volunteer at the event. I enjoyed getting to know Kishma when she lived in Nebraska and the experiences we created. Now Kishma is the chair of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access (DEIA) Standing Committee, and I can volunteer with her again. Kishma’s passion for Theta Phi Alpha, an organization where all our members feel welcome and valued, is what I love most about her. I have learned so much from Kishma and look forward to learning more.
Furthermore, I am grateful to Dionne, Kishma, and other Black members for their friendship and sorority experiences that continue to create “Ever Loyal, Ever Lasting.” bonds. As Theta Phi Alpha celebrates Black History Month, we must recognize our Black members’ impact on the Fraternity. My experience as a collegian was good, but my experience as an alumna has been enriched by meeting members who are different from me. Our Black members have challenged us to do better and learn more about their history, which helps us be a better organization. Having Black members not only challenges us to do better, but it also led to the formation of the DEIA committee to ensure that our governing documents and experiences are inclusive to all our members.
As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, I would like to leave you with a quote from one of my favorite Black American television personalities, actress, and entrepreneur, whom I have always enjoyed, Oprah Winfrey, “Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody will know whether you did it or not.” Her quote hung on the wall in my office and inspired me every time I read it. Oprah is a Black woman who showed us that a Black woman could choose her path and be successful. I admire that greatly. Her life story of perseverance always spoke to me as a school counselor and helped me work with my students. Because of these members, I have done my personal development to learn about the experiences of our Black members in our country. I continue on this journey today.
Happy Black History Month!
Yours in the Bonds of Sisterhood,