Alpha Phi Alpha at Western Illinois University Celebrates 50 Years
Nearly 115 years ago, on Dec. 4, 1906, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. was founded at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, by seven young men known as “The Jewels.” Sixty-four years later, the Eta Eta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. was chartered at Western Illinois University.
WIU’s storied fraternity charter recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. According to Christopher Towers, a 1998 WIU Alumnus and 50th Anniversary chair, the Founding Jewels of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. were no ordinary achievers.
“Given the racial climate in the early 1900s, their accomplishments were monumental. Unfortunately, America still struggled with racial equality in the late 1960s, and Macomb, Illinois was no exception,” added Towers. “There were many racial barriers encountered at Western near the end of the Civil Rights Movement. The Black student population at WIU was less than 5 percent and racial tensions were still high. Thus, the reception of a Black fraternity on the campus of Western Illinois University ranged from indifference to open hostility.”
Two WIU sophomores, Randy Twilley and Silton Williams (now known as Kamal Rashid), were determined to bind themselves fraternally with other Black students to ensure that collectively they would succeed in the often-hostile environment. Twilley and Williams (Rashid), along with undergraduate students Artie Travis, Ronald Parker, Robert E. Weems and Melvin Funchess, joined graduate assistant Robert Thurston and Professor William R. Hayes Jr. to petition the Alpha Phi Alpha General Office for a fraternal charter.
“A rare solar eclipse occurred on Monday, August 31, 1970 – the day we received our charter at WIU,” said Towers. “For over 50 years, the Eta Eta Chapter has grown in number and in spirit; and to date over 225 talented young men have been initiated into the prestigious ranks of Eta Eta Chapter. The Eta Eta Chapter continues to fulfill our fraternity’s mission to develop leaders, promote brotherhood and academic excellence, while providing service and advocacy for our communities.”
At the 50th anniversary event held in Chicago on Aug. 27-28, Germaine Long, the current Eta Eta Chapter president, delivered the State of the Chapter Address, and Donald Profit, alumni historian, provided remarks on the evolution and progress of Eta Eta Chapter over the decades. 1995 WIU Graduate and Board of Trustees Chair Douglas Shaw received the Distinguished Alpha Award.
“When I joined Alpha Phi Alpha through Eta Eta Chapter at Western Illinois University in Spring 1992, I could not have imagined returning to the University nearly 30 years later to serve as chair of the Board of Trustees,” Shaw noted. “My leadership journey began in Eta Eta Chapter, and I am pleased to see the development of the current student leaders in Alpha Phi Alpha, and our other student organizations today.”