New Divine Nine Plaza highlights NPHC organizations

Members of the Iota Phi Theta fraternity gather around the plaque for their fraternity in the Divine Nine Plaza on Oct. 2. (left to right) Ernest "Ice" Watson, 46, a 2000 graduate of EKU from St. Louis, Missouri; Deion Green, 27, a 2017 graduate of EKU from Lexington, Kentucky and Schuyler McCaig, 28, a 2018 graduate of Western Kentucky University.

The newest addition to Eastern Kentucky University’s campus was unveiled on Oct. 2 during Homecoming weekend. The Divine Nine Plaza, located next to the Carloftis Gardens, celebrates the nine Black fraternities and sororities in the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC). Over 100 members, both current and former EKU students, attended the ribbon cutting ceremony that opened the plaza.

The first of the Divine Nine organizations to arrive at EKU was Omega Psi Phi in 1970. 

“We were the first African American organization on EKU’s campus, let alone the first African American Greek letter organization,” said Andrew "Champ" Page, a pledge in Omega Psi Phi in the fall of 1987.

Page has been active with the organization ever since and is now the executive vice president and chief financial officer for Foot Locker. He called the plaza “living, permanent recognition of the NPHC’s place at EKU.”  

Page also said the plaza was an “acknowledgement of how the Divine Nine are at the forefront of attracting diverse students to EKU, because when a diverse student visits campus and sees someone wearing their colors, it will help them see their place here.”

This sentiment was echoed by Jazmin Cain, the current NPHC president and a member of Zeta Phi Beta sorority, who said, “when people come to EKU, they can figure out what family they belong to here.” 

The NPHC have been frequent leaders for African American students on campus.

Page said, “When I was on campus, it felt like the African American Greek letter organizations were looked to for leadership.”  

Page’s perspective on EKU’s treatment of the NPHC organizations is primarily one of gratitude. 

“When I was a student, the campus felt receptive to our activities, though there were differences in treatment between us and other fraternities and sororities,” Page said. “Many people from my time at EKU would tell you that it was a time when EKU fostered the growth of African American Greek letter organizations, or at least did not inhibit it.”

Page believes the benefits of being in a Greek letter organization are great, and listed several members: “Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Langston Hughes, Jesse Jackson, Thurgood Marshall and Kamala Harris are all members of an NPHC organization.” 

Page sees this network as one of the great benefits.

He said, “This network that you get connected to post college helps you fight through the biases that you come up against.” 

Even though each of the nine NPHC organizations are different, Page said he always felt the togetherness.

“We all saw each other as in it together, as members of African American sororities or fraternities regardless of our differences.” 

Page said he felt as though the sense of togetherness was seen by other sororities and fraternities that were not part of the NPHC.

“Even those in the non-NPHC fraternities respected that we were a Greek letter organization and what that meant,” Page said. 

Page looks back on his student experience as something that made him stronger. 

“It was a competitive environment, and we all wanted to see each other succeed.” 

However, Page also said he saw his participation in NPHC as formative in his experience.

“EKU made me, man,” Page said.  

To learn more about the nine NPHC fraternities and sororities, visit greeklife.eku.edu/nphc-chapters.

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