The University of Tennessee at Martin officially broke ground on the creation of a dedicated space to be known as “The NPHC Greek Garden at Unity Circle” during a ceremony April 24. This tribute area will honor the “Divine Nine” traditionally African American fraternities and sororities, all of which are represented at UT Martin.
“This is not just a great day for our students and not just a great day for our Greek-letter organizations and for our alums. This is a historic and important day for UT Martin,” said Chancellor Keith Carver. “With the construction of the Greek Garden, we celebrate the Divine Nine. We also celebrate our students and our diversity and our commitment to the future.”
John Abel, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs, remarked on the legacy of the Divine Nine organizations.
“The University of Tennessee at Martin welcomed its first black Greek-letter organization way back in 1970 with the arrival of Delta Sigma Theta. Many more would follow, and collectively they would leave a legacy that continues to impact our campus and community even to this very day. We are gathered here to commemorate these contributions and celebrate their legacies,” he said.
Ashton Sawyer, a senior from Gallatin, addressed the crowd as the current president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council at UT Martin. He noted that UT Martin’s first African American president and vice-president of the Student Government Association, homecoming queen, homecoming king and many other campus leaders have all been part of the council and have contributed to the legacies left by the Divine Nine in recent years.
“This moment here today captures a commitment by the University of Tennessee at Martin to celebrate our NPHC members and our diverse backgrounds and accomplishments to the campus. We established a culture that positively influences the campus experience at UT Martin, and our presence is felt in the surrounding communities,” he said. “We hope that this place serves as a reminder of our legacy, of our commitment to service and our impact on the campus here at UT Martin – past, present and for many years to come.”
The ceremony ended with remarks from Monice Hagler, a partner in The Hagler Law Group, PLLC, in Memphis and member of the UT Martin Advisory Board. Hagler is a 1975 UT Martin graduate and an alumna of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.
“It is my extreme pleasure to be here today to be excited along with the Divine Nine and all of you who have participated in making this day happen,” she said. “As an alumna to the UT Martin campus, this dedication represents a salute to the values and mission of all of the Divine Nine. As an advisory board member, I am pleased that there is such a strong commitment to the support of the Divine Nine, and this Greek Garden is a visible sign of that dedication because gardens speak life.”
The new garden area will feature individual plaques with information on the founding and purpose of each of the National Pan-Hellenic Council chapters on the UT Martin campus. An official dedication ceremony is scheduled to take place at 11:30 a.m., Nov. 2, during UT Martin’s homecoming festivities.
The nine National Pan-Hellenic Council organizations represented at UT Martin are Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., Sigma Gamma Phi Sorority Inc. and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Inc.
For more information, contact the UT Martin Office of Student Life and Multicultural Affairs at 731-881-7525.