Groundbreaking ceremony held at UTC for Divine Nine Heritage Park

    The Omega Psi Phi fraternity was the first of the “Divine Nine” to make its way to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, with the local Eta Beta chapter founded on Feb. 27, 1971.

    A ceremony last Friday commemorated the 50th anniversary of five historically African-American fraternities and sororities, as well as the establishment of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Divine Nine Heritage Park.

    More than 300 people attended the event, which was held in the University Center’s Chattanooga Room.

    “Divine Nine” refers to the nine historically African-American fraternities and sororities in the United States.

    Dr. Yancy Freeman, UTC vice chancellor of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs–adorned in a black Alpha Phi Alpha sweater–paid tribute to the alumni of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), calling them “the absolute best minds and hearts of our community.”

    “My heart is full because this is really a dream come true for me, for this campus and for this community overall,” said Dr. Freeman, who earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from UTC.

    “The value of our Divine Nine organizations is that they allow students to see themselves and to be represented in ways that they can find their niche. This park will be a lasting reflection of the impact and the power and influence of the NPHC community.”

    Shown is a young man representing the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity’s ETA Phi Chapter at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

    Eight of the “Divine Nine” now have chapters at UTC.

    In 1971, just two years after UTC was formed through a merger of the University of Chattanooga, Chattanooga City College and the University of Tennessee System, five historically African-American fraternities and sororities began establishing chapters at UTC. 

    The Omega Psi Phi fraternity was the first of the “Divine Nine” to make its way to UTC, with the local Eta Beta chapter founded on Feb. 27, 1971. Three weeks later, on March 20, Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority’s Zeta Kappa chapter was founded on campus.

    A pair of sororities quickly followed: Delta Sigma Theta (Theta Rho chapter founded on May 22) and Zeta Phi Beta (Lambda Delta chapter founded on June 16). During the fall, the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity arrived with the Eta Phi chapter’s establishment on Nov. 11.

    In addition to those five Greek organizations, three other NPHC members have been on the UTC campus since the 1980s: Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity (1982), Phi Beta Sigma fraternity (1983) and Sigma Gamma Rho sorority (1984).

    According to a June Finance and Administration document from the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees for the 2021-22 school year, it will cost $250,000 to erect “ten bronze plaque pedestals” at Divine Nine Heritage Park, “along with providing site furniture, lighting, landscaping, brick pavers, sidewalks, ramps and stairs.”

    Divine Nine Heritage Park will be located at the on-campus intersection of Vine Street and Terrell Owens Way, adjacent to the University Center.

    During the groundbreaking ceremony, Chattanooga City Council members Isiah Hester and Raquetta Dotley, both alumni of the University and members of NPHC organizations as students, read a proclamation on behalf of Mayor Tim Kelly declaring Oct. 28, 2021, as NPHC Day.