Alumni of Penn State’s first Black student group create Ed Equity scholarship

April 20, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Nu Alumni Association has raised more than $140,000 to create the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Nu Alumni Educational Equity Scholarship at Penn State. The former members of Penn State’s first predominantly Black organization have leveraged a 2:1 match from the recently concluded Educational Equity Matching Program to establish a scholarship endowment for students who contribute to the diversity of the student body and have a demonstrated financial need.

“The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity has an enduring and impactful presence on campuses across the nation, and that includes here at Penn State,” said Marcus Whitehurst, vice provost for Educational Equity and former Second District Corridor VII Representative for the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. “Over the last century, the fraternity has played a vital role in creating an environment that celebrates diversity and inclusion on campus. The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Nu Alumni Educational Equity Scholarship will continue that important work while helping the University to welcome even more students from every background and ensure they have the resources they need to succeed.”

In celebration of the chapter’s 100-year anniversary, and in lieu of a previously planned centennial event disrupted by COVID-19, the Nu Alumni Association raised a combined $140,000 from its alumni ranks to establish the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Nu Alumni Educational Equity Scholarship, which will be awarded by the Office of Educational Equity to undergraduates who meet the necessary criteria across the University. Although matching funds are no longer available, educational equity scholarships will remain a priority for the University’s current fundraising campaign, “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence.”

According to Lawrence Ball, chair of the Nu Alumni Association, all donors to the scholarship fund are members of the organization, which is the chapter’s official alumni group for former Nu Chapter members. Overall, forty members have made gifts to the fund thus far, which represents eight decades of graduation years among the contributors.

“Scholarship and uplift are integral and deeply rooted components of our organization’s mission,” said Ball. “Our fundraising is an effort to provide a sustained endowment to students from underrepresented communities and, especially, students of color who often face challenges in meeting their needs. We view this gift as a significant reflection of our organization’s commitment, engagement, and awareness of the financial challenges that often beset students from underrepresented backgrounds at Penn State.”

The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity was founded in 1911 on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C., and was the first fraternity at a historically Black college. The Greek letters that comprise its name derive from the phrase, “friendship is essential to the soul,” which also serves as the fraternity’s motto. Its four Cardinal Principles, which guide the organization’s activities, are Manhood, Scholarship, Perseverance, and Uplift. Notable Omega Psi Phi alumni include the jazz musician Count Basie, television personality Steve Harvey, writer Langston Hughes, basketball superstar Michael Jordan, and political and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson.

The fraternity’s thirteenth chapter, named Nu, was founded at Penn State in March 1921. It was the first Omega Psi Phi chapter on the campus of a predominately white university. At the time, the chapter’s eight founding members formed the entirety of the Penn State Black population. Since its inception, Nu Chapter has played active roles in helping to establish other organizations for underrepresented students on Penn State’s University Park campus. The fraternity’s signature activities include projects and programs like the Miss Black Penn State pageant; Local Talent Hunt, which provides opportunities and financial assistance to young people in the performing arts; the Charles Drew Blood Drive; and Achievement Week, which honors and recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to community uplift. The Nu Alumni Association was founded in June 2006 to serve as the official body of the chapter’s alumni.

“Our vision, now and into the future, is that this gift will establish an enduring legacy of service, both to the Penn State community at large and, perhaps more urgently, to students of color,” said Ball. “We want to assure that these students’ success at Penn State is never stifled by lack of funds. And in matching our contributions, the University is showing its shared commitment to this vision.”

The Nu Alumni Association plans to celebrate the chapter’s centennial with in-person celebrations next year. Until then, fundraising efforts toward the Omega Psi Phi Nu Fraternity Alumni Educational Equity Scholarship will continue. Those interested in making a gift to the fund can visit raise.psu.edu/OmegaPsiPhiNuAlumniSchp or contact Sue Harris, director of development for Educational Equity, at sueharris@psu.edu.  

Gifts to the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Nu Alumni Educational Equity Scholarship will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.

Last Updated April 20, 2021