Founder's Day Trivia Answer - Friday
Of the 29 Greek organizations to establish a presence on the
Butler campus in the past 150 years, only one - Sigma Gamma Rho -
was founded here.
It couldn't have been easy.
The seven African-American women who organized the sorority
began their work in 1922, when the Ku Klux Klan was at its zenith
in Indiana and Klan head D.C. Stevenson lived within walking
distance of the Butler campus in Irvington.
In 1927, the University was one of a number of schools to limit
enrollment of "colored" students, a policy that stood for 20 years.
And on Dec. 30, 1929 - less than two months after the stock market
crashed - Sigma Gamma Rho was granted a charter at Butler.
Yet founders Cubena McClure, Bessie Rhodes Martin, Dorothy H.
Whiteside, Vivian White Marbury, Hattie M. Redford, Nannie Mae G.
Johnson and Mary Lou Allison Little and their successors
persevered. Today, the sorority they established to raise the
standards of teachers (and expanded three years later to include
"desirable young people, regardless of professional interest")
boasts 19,000 members nationwide and more than 500 chapters,
included groups in the Bermuda, Caribbean, Germany, the Bahamas and
"We've been able to maintain the core foundation of who we are
and how we present ourselves to the public," said Joann Loveless,
international grand basileus (president) of Sigma Gamma Rho
Sorority Inc. "I think that means a lot in terms of our
Though books have been written about Sigma Gamma Rho, they
reveal little about struggles the founders faced. "Behind These
Doors - A Legacy: The History of Sigma Gamma Rho" includes a letter
from founder Mary Lou Little. She wrote, in part: "Prior to
November 1922 I became obsessed with the idea of having a new
sorority to raise the standard of teachers in our city and wherever
Normal Schools, colleges and universities were located. So I
contacted six very ambitious and independent friends of mine. They
were enthusiastic to say the least. The seven of us started the
The women, who knew each other from Shortridge High School and
Butler, met nightly and on Saturdays, establishing the name, goals,
pledge and colors.
"They were obviously a minority," said Butler Professor of
Education Roger Boop, whose book "Fulfilling the Charter" includes
research on Sigma Gamma Rho, "and I think they wanted a bond of
sisterhood that they needed because of their minority status. The
bonding factor was that they were all teachers."
Over the years, Sigma Gamma Rho's Alpha chapter has dealt with
several dormant periods but always come back strong. When
Alexandria Crumble-Walker came to Butler in 2002, Sigma Gamma Rho
was dormant. But the graduate chapter, Alpha Sigma, could be found
recruiting at all major campus events.
"These were women I could aspire to be like," said
Crumble-Walker, who received her doctor of pharmacy and now works
for Walgreens in Oak Park, Ill. "It made me comfortable that I saw
people I could relate to - not because they were African-American,
but because they were at an institution of higher learning, they
were excited about being who they were and the goals they had
During her years at Butler, Crumble-Walker participated in many
Sigma Gamma Rho activities, including workshops to teach Shortridge
High School students about pregnancy prevention and financial
management, and the sorority's annual Scholarship Ball. She also
researched Sigma Gamma Rho and its founders, and decided, "Here's
my opportunity to carry on their legacy."
--Marc D. Allan