Delta Sigma Theta celebrates 100 years of sisterhood, support at UI

Delta Sigma Theta, a historically African American sorority, is celebrating 100 years at the UI this April, where 100+ alumni will return to Iowa City to commemorate the occasion.


Nick Rohlman

Icicles form on the Old Capitol on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019.

Rylee Wilson, News Reporter

For the sisters of Delta Sigma Theta, sorority life doesn’t end after college — it’s a lifelong commitment.

The Delta chapter of Delta Sigma Theta chapter at the University of Iowa is celebrating its 100th year. The UI chapter of the African American Greek-letter organization was one of the first-ever chapters of the organization at a predominantly white institution.

The Deltas will celebrate their centennial Thursday through April 7 with a variety of events, including community services, campus tours, and a parade. President Alantra Wright said she expects more than 100 alums of Delta Sigma Theta to attend the event.

“I’ve been able to interact and network with people that have been in Delta for 50-plus years,” Wright said. “Just to see their lifelong commitment is amazing and something I strive to do. I hope one day I can give the same input, and work, and passion to girls that follow after me.”

The chapter has eight active members and participates in a variety of service projects, including Habitat for Humanity, literacy initiatives, and Café Delta, a safe space for Deltas and community members to have conversations.

Delta Sigma Theta alumna Mary Howard, a member of the chapter when it was rechartered on the UI campus in 1974, recalled the climate on campus at that time.

“In 1974, since we were at the crossroads at the very end of the Vietnam era, what was about to happen was a transition to having a lot of African-American students in particular coming to school at Iowa,” Howard said. “It was a very vibrant period of time. It was very exciting; it was a time when Iowa was transitioning an beginning to open its doors and really begin to change in terms of demographics.”

For current chapter member Destiny Byrd, Delta Sigma Theta is about sisterhood and support. Coming as a transfer student from Chicago, Delta Sigma Theta helped her to find her place at the UI. 

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“One of my first friends was a Delta here. She got me connected with everything. One of my now sorority sisters — we were in class together — she was helping me and tutoring me. It always goes back to those ties of sisterhood, helping each other, supporting each other while we’re on this campus,” Byrd said.

Howard now lives in Indiana and is an active member of an alumna chapter, as well as an adviser to Delta Sigma Theta at Indiana State University.

“Here’s what’s interesting about black Greek-letter organizations,”Howard said. “Our mantra is that it’s a lifetime commitment. With white students in fraternities and sororities, they tend to celebrate their sisters and brothers as being in the Greek-letter organization while they are matriculating in college. For black students, it’s a lifetime commitment, because this is an opportunity to have networks for the rest of your life.”

Byrd said she often receives support and encouragement from chapter alumni on Facebook. She’s looking forward to welcoming alums back to campus.

“Basically, seeing [sorority sisters’] faces light up, looking at their old stomping grounds, hearing their stories about what it was like when they were on campus — I know the Afro House was a big deal to them back in the day,” Byrd said. “It was such a tight-knit community.” 

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