The Return of Divine Nine Fraternities to Widener
Brotherhood. Community. Belonging.
These are the words that the members of Widener University’s newly recognized fraternities use to describe their organizations and the sense of pride and place they create.
In the last year, two historically Black fraternities – the Gamma Delta Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.; and the Rho Phi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. – have returned or been chartered on campus.
It’s been nearly a decade since Widener has been home to a historically Black fraternity before the return on Phi Beta Sigma, Inc. in spring 2022. The arrival of Phi Beta Sigma, Inc. and Kappa Alpha Psi, Inc. was driven by student demand, and anchored by a desire to celebrate shared identity and wide array of cultural experiences.
“The main reason for bringing Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. on this campus is to give students the opportunity to be in an environment where Black men achieve on all levels, showing that Black men can do it all. And we want to show younger undergraduate students that they can achieve just like the older brothers in the fraternity,” said biology major Deryck St. Phard ’23, president of the Rho Phi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, Inc.
St. Phard was the first student to spark the flame in bringing the fraternity to campus this spring, along with six other members of his chartering line.
Adonijah Allsup ‘23, president of the Gamma Delta Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma, Inc., which returned in spring 2022, adds that the university’s commitment to belonging and support from administrators, has helped facilitate the revitalization of these fraternities.
“It’s about creating more spaces for students who might feel organizations such as these are a better cultural fit and feels more natural. Widener creates places that let you flourish,” said Allsup, a robotics engineering major.
The fraternities, as new chapters within the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), join three historically Black sororities already on campus – the Tau Alpha Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; the Upsilon Pi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; and the Pi Tau Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
“We’ve already had the great fortune of witnessing the leadership of our phenomenal women comprising our three NPHC sororities. However, I realized something was missing from the Widener student experience for our men of color,” said Austin Duckett, assistant dean of students, noting that the university would like to add a third historically Black fraternity in the future for parity with the sororities.
“Students want to grow and thrive in an institutional culture that deeply supports them, where they feel seen, feel like they belong, and are with people who understand their unique cultural perspective and its contributions,” said Duckett. “Not to mention that students tend to persist more when they find organizations and students that align with their values.”
Collin Cochran ’26, a civil engineering major and Kappa Alpha Psi, Inc.’s youngest chartering member, echoes that sentiment.
The organization gives a sense of community. There are very successful men who are alums, and we want to be part of that. And it shows us we’re not in this alone.” — Collin Cochran '26
Students in both fraternities say that they were drawn to their organizations by their respective missions, commitment to community engagement, opportunity for networking, and support from alumni who are tied to graduate chapters in the area and are serving as mentors.
The new chapters are also experiencing strong support from one other, and from the entire Fraternity and Sorority Life community at Widener.
While there may be some friendly competition among the NPHC fraternities, Allsup says that “at the end of the day we may have different letters on our chest, or wear different colors, but the base of the iceberg is the same. We share the same passion and are focused on inclusiveness.”
For Allsup, St. Phard, and the other graduating seniors of Phi Beta Sigma, Inc. and Kappa Alpha Psi, Inc., their time in their chapters has been short-lived. But their commitment is lifelong. They say they are proud to have brought their organizations to Widener, are excited to see the chapters grow, and plan to continue to support and mentor the next generation of brothers.
“We’ve set them up for success, our younger brothers. We laid the foundation for their futures in Greek Life,” said business administration major Darren Cox ’23, chaplain for Kappa Alpha Psi, Inc. “We want to see the overall development of every young man in the community regardless of their color or background.”