Pi Omega History
Seventeen years after that historic date of January 15, 1908, when Ethel Hedgeman’s dream of sisterhood became a reality, Emma Jeanette Henry caught this “vision fair.” So great was her desire to organize a graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority in a thriving industrial town among the hills of Tennessee, that she called four close friends together to share her enthusiasm.
Excitement was keen and interest high when these young college graduates were informed by the National Office that they had met requirements for the establishment of a chapter in Chattanooga, Tennessee. On June 25, 1925, at the First Congregational Church, the Pi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority, Inc. was chartered.
The five charter members were:
EMMA J. HENRY, a graduate of Atlanta University and a teacher of mathematics at Howard High School of which her father was the first Negro principal.
EMMA ROCHELL WHEELER, M.D., who established and operated Walden Hospital, the only hospital in the area that provided complete medical service for Negroes.
ALMA ZENOBIA HOWSE, a graduate of Fisk University, who had been a YWCA secretary in Chattanooga prior to accepting a teaching position in Raleigh, North Carolina. She was glad she decided to return home to teach at Howard High School because of the part she played for nearly forty years in shaping the destiny of Pi Omega.
DELOLAH BRADFORD, the youngest of the group, was a recent graduate of Fisk University.
LOUISE ROCHELL, the niece of Dr. Wheeler, was a Fisk graduate and secretary of the Phyllis Wheatley Branch, YWCA before moving to Lakeland, Florida.
Officers selected for the new chapter were: Emma J. Henry, President; Delolah Bradford, Secretary; and Zenobia Howse, Treasurer.
Pi Omega would face many challenges in its early years. Delolah left Chattanooga to accept a position as a teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Louise moved to Florida. This loss of two members was a blow to the young chapter. For the next two years, Emma and Zenobia met again and again hoping to find some way out of their difficulties. Even though Dr. Wheeler’s lucrative practice kept her from attending meetings, her moral support and encouragement to Emma and Zee were sources of inspiration.
Emma, President of the newly inactive chapter, went to Nashville to attend the Eleventh Annual Boule of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. On her arrival, she was able to gain the sympathy and interest of members Ethel Hedgeman Lyle, Pearl Mitchell, Maude Brown and others. Through the help of these Alpha Kappa Alpha women, Emma was given the opportunity to appeal to the Boule for aid. The appeal was met positively and Pi Omega returned to active status.
The years of determination and hard work paid off when, in 1929, Pi Omega Chapter was able to meet all obligations to the Boule, render service in the community and initiate four young women: Lucille H. Wood, Autherine Scott Collins, Gladys Howse and Fannie Scott.
In 1933, at the graduation exercises of Howard High School, the chapter presented its first annual scholarship award. Since then, scholarships to young women graduates in the Chattanooga area have increased in number and amount.
Pi Omega Chapter has continued to be a beacon in the Chattanooga community, sponsoring signature projects such as Fashionetta and Summer Enrichment Programs; supporting “A Night to Remember” and many other community scholarship endeavors.
Pi Omega Chapter has a rich history of service and sisterhood and has provided outstanding leadership to its members and community. We are united and committed to fulfilling our mission: “Service to all Mankind.”