Divine Nine

SFA graphic

An artistic rendering of the 10 granite pillars to be installed on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus this fall. The monuments will pay homage to the National Pan-Hellenic Council and its “Divine Nine” historically Black fraternities and sororities.

Ten granite pillars to be installed on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus will pay homage to the National Pan-Hellenic Council and its “Divine Nine” historically Black fraternities and sororities.

The 10 monuments will be erected in two rows of five along a pedestrian-only section of Raguet Street between the McGee Business Building and Miller Science Building in the heart of campus. The name of each NPHC Greek organization will be engraved on one of the historic markers, and the 10th pillar will recognize the council as a whole.

“I am excited to see the continuous progress of SFA’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives through these monuments,” said Dr. Michara Delaney-Fields, SFA’s chief diversity officer. “This project demonstrates our constant commitment to creating a clear and concise path of transformative change.”

The $85,000 installation is being entirely funded through donations and will include lighting, landscaping and site beautification. SFA’s Student Government Association and Interfraternity Council already have contributed to the project. Organizers are hoping the monuments can be funded and installed in time for SFA Homecoming in late October.

“These monuments will provide greater visibility for our historically Black fraternities and sororities, as well as honor the historic legacy of these organizations on our campus and across the country,” said Saville Harris, a 2010 and 2013 graduate of SFA and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

Until recently, Harris served as the SFA assistant director of student engagement-Greek life, and has been instrumental in the project’s planning.

Engraved benches will be placed between each marker in the colonnade, which is designed to be a place of reflection and remembrance, a designated space for NPHC celebrations and ceremonies, and a destination for campus guests and visiting alumni. Texas Christian University and Baylor have similar installations.

“Walking through these columns, I think people will get the sense of being in a cathedral or coliseum or some other place of great history, tradition and reverence,” Harris said. “It is going to be a phenomenal addition to the campus.”

Shamia Gipson, a 2020 SFA graduate and past president of SFA’s chapter of NPHC, said the idea for the project grew out of conversations she and Harris often shared about how historically Black Greek organizations could be more visible on campus.

“We started talking about NPHC monuments at other universities and how much we would love to have something bold and lasting to spread awareness about the importance of these groups at SFA,” said Gipson, who is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. “It is really humbling and exciting to think that those conversations eventually led to this project being approved, and the incredible history and contributions of these organizations are going to be recognized and celebrated.”

Gipson’s sorority sister, Courtney Bradley, a recent SFA graduate who served as the NPHC president during the spring 2021 semester, said she is most excited about the impact the project could potentially have on current and future students.

“One of the most important things in regard to student success is having representation, seeing people who look like you be successful in college and beyond,” Bradley said. “These monuments will be a sacred, historical marker for my culture and my community, a celebration of how far we have come and how far we can go in the future.”

The monuments will be created and installed by SFA alumni-owned Martus Stone-Nacogdoches Monument Company, which is completing the project for the cost of materials alone, according to wholesale manager and two-time SFA graduate Jenny Rhodes.

“We are Lumberjacks, once and always. We’re family,” Rhodes said. “When SFA reached out and we saw the need, we never hesitated. What these monuments stand for — the magnitude of the statement they are going to make for past, current and future students — it was just a no-brainer for us. We can’t wait to start.”

The NPHC comprises nine member organizations dedicated to promoting camaraderie, academic excellence and community service. The organizations, known collectively as “The Divine Nine,” include Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Delta Sigma Theta, Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta, Sigma Gamma Rho and Iota Phi Theta.

To donate to the marker project, visit sfasu.edu/nphc. Those who donate $1,000 or more will be recognized as a sponsor during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

For more information, contact the SFA Office of Development at 936-468-5406 or givetosfa@sfasu.edu.

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