National History–Historic AKA: An Overview

In 1908, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority became America’s first Greek-letter organization established by Black college women. Her roots date back to Howard University, Washington, D.C., where the idea formation was conceived by Ethel Hedgeman Lyle of St. Louis, Missouri. She viewed the Sorority as an instrument for enriching the social and intellectual aspects of college life by providing mental stimulation through interaction with friends and associates. Through the years, however, Alpha Kappa Alpha’s function has become more complex. After her incorporation as a perpetual body in 1913, Alpha Kappa Alpha gradually branched out and became the channel through which selected college-trained women improved the socioeconomic conditions in their city, state, nation, and the world.

In a world in which materialism is pervasive, and technology and competition have decreased the need for collaboration and cooperation, it is critical to have an association that cuts across racial, international, physical, and social barriers to help individuals and communities develop and maintain constructive relationships with others. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. is that vital organization.

Alpha Kappa Alpha is a sisterhood composed of women who have consciously chosen this affiliation as a means of self-fulfillment through volunteer service. Alpha Kappa Alpha cultivates and encourages high scholastic and ethical standards; promotes unity and friendship among college women; alleviates problems concerning girls and women; maintains a progressive interest in college life; and serves all mankind through a nucleus of more than 170,000 women in the United States, the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa.

Candidacy for membership into Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority is open to women of high ethical and scholastic standards who are pursuing or have completed courses leading to a degree at an accredited college or university. Our official headquarters is in Chicago, Illinois.


Alpha Kappa Alpha Founders–Historic AKA: Our Founders

Nine Howard University students were led by Ethel Hedgeman Lyle into a sisterhood in 1908. Nellie Quander and her gallant group contributed the added dimension of a national organization and perpetual membership. Those who have come after them, the never-ending stream of eternally young, hopeful and enthusiastic women, must be remembered.

The Original Group: Marjorie Hill, Lucy D. Slowe, Lillie Burke, Ethel Hedgeman Lyle, Anna E. Brown, Marie Woolfolk Taylor, Beulah E. Burke, Margaret Flagg Holmes, and Lavinia Norman

The Sophomores of 1908: Norma Boyd, Ethel J. Mowbray, Alice P. Murray, Sarah M. Nutter, Joanna B. Shields, Carrie E. Snowden, and Harriett J. Terry

The Incorporators: Norma Boyd, Julia E. Brooks, Ethel Jones Mowbray, Nellie M. Quander, Nellie Pratt Russell, and Minnie B. Smith


Chapter History–Historic Beta Chi Omega Chapter: An Overview

A local group of Alpha Kappa Alpha women realized it was their duty to promote the Sorority’s International mission of service to all mankind to the Roanoke Valley and to extend the privilege of Alpha Kappa Alpha membership to other deserving women of their ilk. Therefore twelve young women having graduated from college, met to discuss forming a chapter. Spearheaded by Eunice Poindexter the other members present were Hattie Witten Austin, Martha Coleman Bolden, Annette Means Cooper, Gwendolyn Johnson Lawrence, Hortense Tonsler Macklin, Helen Ricks Saparo, Gertrude Turner Scott, Elizabeth Taylor Smith, Alice Louise Turner, Sylvia Means Weeks, and Dorothy Dodd Witten.  As a result of their efforts, Beta Chi Omega was chartered on December 3, 1938 .

The first officers of the newly formed chapter were: President, Soror Eunice Poindexter; Vice President, Soror Martha C. Bolden; Recording Secretary, Soror Alice L. Turner; Corresponding Secretary, Soror Sylvia M. Weeks; and Treasurer, Soror Annette M. Cooper. The first Founders’ Day was celebrated January 15, 1939 in a public meeting at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. On October 21, 1939, the chapter had its first initiation, bringing 13 new ladies; Sorors Pearl Branch, Frankie Halsey, Edna Holmes, Mildred Turner, Mary Brown, Clara Seay, Roberta Claytor, Letitia Penn, Lillian Smith, Eulah Vaughan, Lillie Wright, Annie Sykes, and Christine Butler. On October 4, 1939, following the National Sorority’s lead at that time, the chapter soon organized what was known as the Patroness Club. These ladies were the mothers of the charter members and influential women in the community who were mother figures. Sorors Alice Turner, Eunice Poindexter, and Annette Means Cooper were the first delegates to attend the Boule held in Boston, Massachusetts in December 1939.

Through the years, Beta Chi Omega has grown. The chapter has a membership of 72 Sorors and is fortunate to still have within its active ranks one charter member, Dorothy Dodd Witten. Beta Chi Omega Chapter serves the Roanoke Valley through five target areas that include Education, The Arts, Health, The Black Family and Economic Empowerment. From these targets many programs have been implemented. Among them are: On Track, a mentoring program for young ladies (high school, middle school and elementary school) which seeks to provide learning experiences that promote communication skills and build character; the Ivy Reading AKAdemy, a reading tutoring program offered to 3rd grade girls at Forest Park Elementary; Living Legends which seeks to recognize the contributions of African American Trailblazers in the Roanoke community and the Beta Chi Omega Chapter Scholarship Program which awards thousands of dollars to graduating high school students each year. Beta Chi Omega Chapter has been a vital part of the Roanoke Valley for 68 years. The chapter looks forward to many more years of providing service through innovative programs in the community.


Beta Chi Omega Charter Members

Beta Chi Omega Charter Members — Posed for a group picture (circa 1938). 
(*Denotes deceased)

Chartering Members L-R-seated: Sorors Gwendolyn Johnson Lawrence, Dorothy Dodd Witten Viola Chaplain*, Regional Director (center), Eunice R. Poindexter*, Hattie Whitten Austin*, Standing L-R: Helen Ricks Saparo*, Alice Louise Turner*, Hortense T. Macklin*, Martha Coleman Bolden*, Annette Means Cooper*, Gertrude Turner Scott*, Sylvia Means Weeks*, Unknown Visitor* and Elizabeth Taylor Smith*


The Current Beta Chi Omega Chapter



Current Chapter President: Pam Edwards
Address: P.O. Box 13891, Roanoke, Virginia 24038-3891
Date Chartered: December 3, 1938
Chartering International President: Soror Margaret Davis Bowen
Chartering Regional Director–South Atlantic: Soror Viola Chapman
Cluster: Northern Western Virginia

Past Chapter Presidents (List): Sorors Eunice R. Poindexter*, Martha Coleman Bolden*, Gertrude Scott, Pearl Fears*, Alice Turner*, Talma Dowe Perry, Marionette Sprauve*, Mary Allen*, Maxine Nicholas Hunt, A. Lorraine Johnson*, Nina B. Medley*, Elizabeth Gillis, Debbie Payton, Rose Hackley-Hale*, Brenda A. Powell, Cynthia D. Coles, Demetria R. Tucker, Benecia Hale-Hilton, Carla L. James and Tamara Futrell.

Chapter Sorors Who Have Held National Office: Sorors Eunice R. Poindexter*, served as Regional Director for the National Non-Partisan Council on Public Affairs, under the leadership of Soror Norma Boyd a Founder.

Chapter Programs of Service (National and Local Community) – Highway Clean-Up, Black Family I and Black Family II, Health, Henry Street Festival Children’s Activity, AKA Reading AKAdemy- Forest Park Elementary School, Economic Empowerment, AKA On Track Program for Girls- William Fleming High School, Lucy Addison Aerospace Middle School and Forest Park Elementary School, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service and the Annual Scholarship Awards to area graduating high school seniors..

Other Significant Facts about the Chapter or Individual Sorors:

  • Beta Chi Omega Chapter sponsored the first after school tutorial program in the City of Roanoke for African American students. The Roanoke City School Board was so impressed with the chapter’s program that they approved implementation of the program at the newest elementary school (Lincoln Terrace).
  • 1940-1950, The chapter hosted a Costume Ball annually.
  • 1958-1980’s, The chapter hosted the popular Cinderella Ball fundraising event annually.
  • 1960’s, The chapter hosted numerous plays directed and produced by members of the local chapter. Hosted an annual basketball classic between North Carolina A&T State College (Greensboro, NC) and Virginia State College (Petersburg, VA) which became one of the chapter’s biggest fund raiser. Sponsored two graduate chapters, Kappa Delta Omega (Martinsville, VA) and Tau Mu Omega (Christiansburg, VA).
  • May 4, 1974 sponsored two undergraduate chapters, Theta Chi (Radford University) and Theta Phi (VPI & SU, Blacksburg, VA).
  • 1983 30th Mid Atlantic Conference (Virginia Beach, Virginia)– Mayor Noel C. Taylor, the first African-American to serve as Roanoke City’s Mayor, was selected the Citizen of the Year.
  • January 26, 1985– Project Respect was organized in conjunction with Planned Parenthood. The purpose of the project was to make teenage girls aware of the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy.
  • 1986 -1999-Chapter hosted in alternate years a gala night for the “Celebration of Presidents” (honoring presidents or other officers of local organizations) and the Junior/Senior Talent Revue. Additionally, the Chapter hosted an annual “Motherhood Breakfast.”
  • 2001 to present, Chapter has hosted annually the UNSUNG HEROES PINK ICE BALL.
  • 2002 to present, Chapter has hosted annually the AKA Man of Distinction Contest.
  • December 8, 2006 -Chapter hosted celebrity comedian Rickey Smiley Benefit Performance at Shaft Man Hall Jefferson Center.
  • August 24, 2013 – Chapter and DST hosted author/activist Kemba Smith Pradia for joint sisterhood brunch standing against domestic violence (Past Supreme Grammateus Susan Simms Marsh attended). 

National Awards:
Soror Marylen Harmon received the prestigious Graduate Soror Award at the 1998 Boule in Chicago, IL.

Hosted Conferences, Clusters, Founders Day Celebrations and Regional Conferences:
Founders’ Day featured speakers- Past International President, Soror Dorothy Boulding Ferebee and Past International President, Soror Edna Over Campbell (then Grady). Founders’ Day 1970-Past International President Loraine Green was the keynote speaker.1987 (five living charter members present- Sorors Eunice R. Poindexter*, Gertrude Scott*, Helen Ricks Saparo*, Dorothy Dodd Witten* and Gwendolyn Johnson Lawrence*. Founder’s Day 2008 – Featured Speaker Rev. Dr. Cynthia L. Hale (one living charter member present – Dorothy Dodd Witten*).

Hosted in 1941 (May 9-11) the South Atlantic Regional Conference-theme “Seeking and Securing National Defense through Organization and Cooperation.”

Hosted the 1969 Mid Atlantic Regional Conference at Hotel Roanoke– Regional Director Pauline C. Morton.

Hosted the 1989 Mid Atlantic Regional Conference in Crystal City, Virginia- Regional Director Marye Jeffries.

2006 Regional ConferenceNorthern/Western Virginia Cluster Clusters (3) Holiday Inn and Scarlett’s Restaurant October 23, 1999-Northern/WesternVA at the Clarion/Sheraton Hotel. Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration, 1987 (five living charter members present – Sorors Eunice R. Poindexter*, Gertrude Scott*, Helen Ricks Saparo*, Dorothy Dodd Witten and Gwendolyn Johnson Lawrence.

October 23, 1999-Northern/WesternVA at the Clarion/Sheraton Hotel.
Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration, 1987 (five living charter members present – Sorors Eunice R. Poindexter*, Gertrude Scott*, Helen Ricks Saparo*, Dorothy Dodd Witten and Gwendolyn Johnson Lawrence.

Golden Sorors: Mary Allen*, Viola Cash, Alma Deane*, Thelma Holland *, Delois Broady, Janice Hale, Laurie Peery, Betty Waldron, Edna Prunty*, Imogene Trapp.

Silver Star Sorors: Renee Jones-Bethel,  Joyce Bolden, Cynthia Coles, Beulah Dabney, Mollie DeBerry, Lucy Harmon*, Marylen Harmon, Helen Harris, Dana Lee, Caralene Lewis, Wanda Peery-Alston*, Brenda Powell, Joyce D. Sherman, Demetria R. Tucker, Mia Webb-Fittz, and Mildred White*.

Life Member Sorors: Delois Broady, Viola Cash, Beulah Dabney, Elizabeth Bell Gillis, Lucy Harmon*, Marylen Harmon, Thelma Holland*, Veron Holland, Laura Peery, Eunice R. Poindexter*, Brenda Powell, Edna Prunty*, Laura Spurlock*, Imogene Trapp, Cassie Wade*, Betty Waldron, Mildred S. White*


Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated is not responsible for the design and content of these web pages. They are the sole property and responsibility of the Beta Chi Omega Chapter, who hosts and maintains this web site.

Contact Us

Beta Chi Omega
P.O. Box 13891
Roanoke, VA 24038