Throughout 2022, Butler University is honoring Sigma Gamma Rho (SGRho) sorority on the occasion of its 100th anniversary. The historically Black sorority was founded on Butler’s campus by seven educators on November 12, 1922. Of the nation’s four historically Black sororities, Sigma Gamma Rho is the only one that was founded at a predominantly white institution.
Butler honored SGRho February 16, when President James Danko presented the inaugural Ovid Butler Founder’s Award to SGRho. Rasheeda Liberty, Grand Basileus of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., accepted the award on behalf of the sorority. Molly Ford, Vice President of Employee Brand & Recruitment Marketing at Salesforce and a member of SGRho, delivered the Founder’s Celebration Keynote Address during the ceremony. The Ovid Butler Founder’s Award—which recognizes and celebrates individuals or organizations who embody Butler University’s values of innovation, excellence, diversity, equity, and inclusion—is named for the University’s founder, a well-known attorney and newspaper publisher of his time, and an active supporter of the antislavery movement. In 1855, Ovid founded North Western Christian University (renamed Butler University in his honor) on the values of diversity, inclusivity, and equality. The University admitted women and people of color on an equal basis with white males, a radical stance for the time.
“I imagine that Ovid would have taken great pride in knowing that, nearly 70 years after its founding, Butler University provided the inclusive and nurturing environment that inspired seven incredibly brave Black women to found a sorority,” President Danko said.
On May 6, Butler posthumously conferred honorary degrees upon the seven founders of SGRho during the University’s Degree Conferral Ceremony in Hinkle Fieldhouse. Rasheeda Liberty again represented SGRho during the ceremony. Dr. Khalilah Shabazz, great granddaughter of SGRho founder Vivian White Marbury ’31, provided additional remarks.
“Our Founders—all educators—were young women committed to a vision of empowering communities by uplifting women and youth,” Liberty said. “These courageous women believed that education was the key to unlocking opportunities. As we embark on our Centennial year with 100,000 members globally, we are honored to witness this historic moment where the progressive work of these powerful visionaries is being recognized by Butler University.”
“Sigma Gamma Rho’s founding on the Butler University campus is a source of pride for all of our students, alumni, trustees, faculty, and staff,” President Danko said. “Sigma Gamma Rho’s founders were seven courageous women who overcame the barriers created by racial segregation to form an organization that has not just survived, but thrived, for 100 years. I am honored to use the occasion of Sigma Gamma Rho’s Centennial Celebration as a platform to recognize and applaud its founders, and all those who have followed in their footsteps.”
Butler will continue to recognize SGRho throughout the year. Most notably, the Sigma Gamma Rho Founders’ Plaza is currently under construction near Atherton Union, with an expected completion date of June 2022. There will also be a celebration on campus on November 11, with a countdown to midnight, November 12, the date of SGRho’s founding.
July 12–17, more than 6,000 SGRho sisters and supporters will converge on Indianapolis for the official Centennial Celebration, with President Danko serving as the celebration’s honorary chairman. A week of festivities are planned, including Thee Homecoming Celebration at Butler on July 12. Other events planned for the week, many of which are open to the public, include a Day of Service, a Swim Clinic, community workshops, a concert, a Step Show, a Run/Walk, a Gala, and a Prayer and Praise Breakfast.
“As a community, Indianapolis strives to honor those who have shaped our history for the better,” Indianapolis Mayor Hogsett, MA ’87 said. “From its beginnings at Butler a century ago, Sigma Gamma Rho has been recognized internationally for its steadfast commitment to service and progress, a mission true to the seven dynamic young educators whom we celebrate today. Through this commemoration, we mark the contributions of past leaders while preparing the next generation to create their own legacy.”