Members of the graduate chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. hold a proclamation signed by Mayor Stephen Hagerty at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. Photo by Heidi Randhava

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A sorority and a business organization are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year. Omega Pi Zeta, a graduate chapter of Zeta Phi Beta, Inc., has honored the organization’s 100-year history at special events and activities this year in Evanston, Chicago and Washington D.C.

Evanston Chamber of Commerce was working to grow business here before the first electronic TV was invented (1927), before penicillin was discovered (1928) and even before sliced bread (1928).

Zeta Phi Beta Celebrates a Century of Service

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., one of the country’s largest African American women’s service organizations, was founded the same year Tennessee delivered the crucial “yes” vote needed for ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. At the time, a newly revived Ku Klux Klan began expanding across the country under the guise of enforcing Prohibition, and the Harlem Renaissance was blossoming as an influential movement in African American literary history.

One hundred years later, Evanston Mayor Stephen Hagerty proclaimed Jan. 16  Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, Day in the City of Evanston.

“I encourage all to extend our best wishes and gratitude to this organization for their lasting services to our community,” Mayor Hagerty said at the Evanston City Council Omega Pi Zeta centennial resolution presentation on Jan. 13.

“The Evanston graduate chapter, chartered in 2012, has demonstrated outstanding community service in local school outreach, programming support of and partnerships with faith based communities, non-profits, professional organizations and benevolent entities that are part of the fabric of the Evanston community. These works include monthly workshops and services for senior citizens residing in Primm Towers, sponsoring scholarships for high school seniors through Evanston’s Unity and African American Youth Achievement Award ceremonies, supporting YWCA initiatives such as the women’s shelter and Race Against Hate, supporting and serving at and preparing food for local soup kitchens, adopting Mason Park as part of the Adopt-a-Park program, and assisting the local branch of the NAACP,” Mayor Hagerty read aloud from the Proclamation.

Krissie Harris, president of Omega Pi Zeta, was among five of the chapter’s 13 members who attended the Centennial Founders’ Day Weekend, Jan. 16-18 in Washington, D.C.

“I’m so excited to be able to participate in the centennial celebration of my organization Zeta Phi Beta. Having been a Zeta for 30 years, I know all of the hard work and service we have done to not only support our communities but also our nation,’ said Ms. Harris.

The celebration in Washington D.C. included notable guest speakers such as Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, attorney and Zeta Phi Beta member Anita Hill, former Congresswoman and Zeta Phi Beta member Donna Edwards, and award-winning journalist April Ryan. Performers included The Chuck Brown Band and the Zeta International Choir. Activities also included local service projects, a fashion show, and the “Finer Womanhood Empowerment Summit.”

Anniversary events will continue in Washington D.C. in June, with the Centennial Grand Boulé, The Blue and White Takeover.

Founded on Jan. 16, 1920 by five women at Howard University, Zeta Phi Beta has a 100-year history of implementing programs designed to address prejudices and poverty affecting humanity in general and the black community in particular. Headquartered in Washington D.C., the organization now has a diverse membership of more than 125,000 college educated women with more than 850 chapters in North America, Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, African and the Middle East.

Evanston Chamber Honors Three at 100th Anniversary

The pride and unity that Centennial anniversaries inspire was evident at the Evanston Chamber’s 100th Annual Celebration on Jan. 24 at the Hilton Orrington in Evanston. The Chamber marked the milestone with a sold-out event dedicated to Evanston’s dynamic business community together with our not-for-profits and the City of Evanston. The evening was an ideal opportunity to celebrate Chamber members and honor three remarkable individuals for their outstanding contributions to their business and community.

Scott Wilhelm of Byline Bank, presenting sponsor, introduced the following award recipients:

Honored as the 2020 Businessperson of the Year was Sandy Chen, owner of Koi Evanston, at 624 Davis St. Koi has offered authentic Chinese cuisines since 2004. As a restaurant proprietor and Chamber Board member, Ms. Chen has worked tirelessly to help build the reputation of Evanston’s restaurant row, as well as strengthen the community bond. She said that part of the work of the Chamber Board is to make contributions to help the younger generations develop career paths.

“Evanston is my home. I love Evanston. I’ll continue to serve our community and try to make a difference” said Ms. Chen in accepting the award. In closing, she quoted the late Evanston Mayor Lorraine Morton.

“Lastly, ‘A life of service is a life worth living,’ Thank you, Lorraine Morton,” said Ms. Chen.

Community Leadership Person of the Year was Dick Peach. Often referred to as one of Evanston’s “unofficial mayors,” Mr. Peach said he will soon be living in northern Minnesota, but Evanston will always be his home.

“It’s been a real joy being here for 73 years now. It’s easy to be involved in Evanston. This is a wonderful community, and I love it dearly,” said Mr. Peach, who has served in numerous leadership roles in Evanston organizations. Particularly near and dear to his heart is vocational education and the work he has done with Hecky Powell and the Evanston Work Ethic (WE) Program, Mr. Peach said. The goal of the WE Program is to help ETHS students improve their career and technical employment outcomes while meeting the needs of local employers and growing sectors and industries. Mr. Peach received the organization’s Work Ethic award for his role as a Board member in 2018.

Nonprofit/Public Service Person of the Year was Steve Newman of Evanston Scholars. A 1986 graduate of ETHS, Mr. Newman brings 20 years of teaching experience to his role as founder and executive director of Evanston Scholars. The nonprofit improves college access and success for a diverse group of ambitious students who are traditionally first generation college entrants, low income students, and students of color, starting with the college admissions process, continuing through college graduation and preparing for careers.

Mr. Newman cited the statistic that just 11% of first-generation, low-income students will have a college degree within six years of enrolling in school. By contrast, the college graduation rate for the first four cohorts of Evanston Scholarsn is 83%.

“The real secret sauce is our individualized relationships. It comes through mentors. It comes through a fantastic staff. And it comes through financial support, advisors, donors and frankly, a lot of people in this room, as I’m looking around,” Mr. Newman said.

Also recognized at the event were outgoing Chamber Board members Michael Corr, James Pepa, Michael Pure, Kuan Su and Alpana Singh. The 2019 Board President, Angela Valavanis, currently serves as past president on the Executive Committee, and Paul Fischl is the 2020 Chamber Board President.

The Chamber’s anniversary event was, above all, a celebration of a community of people who support each other and strive to help each other succeed while contributing their time and talents to ensure positive futures for the youth of the community.