About Gamma Kappa Omega Chapter
The Glorious Moment
The first initiation of Gamma Kappa Omega Chapter was conducted in the Attucks Grade School on Jackson Street in Carbondale, IL on March 15, 1941. In addition to Ms. Roberts of Gamma Omega Chapter in St. Louis, were three other women who participated in the initiation: Marianna Beck, Alice McGehee Smart, and Blanche Patterson McWilliams.
First Chapter Officers
Lovia B. Penn, President
Gwendolyn Chambliss, Vice President
Versa L. Hayes, Recording Secretary
Lucille Walker, Corresponding
Velma C. Woods, Treasurer
Mildred Kedley, Sergeant-at-Arms
Jenolar F. Hillsman, Ivy Leaf Reporter
Mrs. Lovia Penn, while attending an Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. regional meeting with her husband, met Ms. Evelyn Roberts of Gamma Omega Chapter in St. Louis, Missouri. After having expressed interest in organizing a chapter in Carbondale, Mrs. Penn conferred with Ms. Roberts in 1941 and made arrangements for members of Gamma Omega Chapter to come to Carbondale to guide eleven women in establishing their graduate chapter.
Gwendolyn Chambliss* Luella McCall Davis*
Mildred Kedley* Grace Perkins Kelley*
Jenolar Hillsman McBride* Lovia Bell Penn*
Derenda Wood Taylor * Lucille Walker*
Thelma Gibbs Walker*
Versa Hayes White*
*Ivy Beyond the Wall
In keeping with the tradition of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., several service projects were undertaken. One of the original service projects was a scholarship, which was awarded to a deserving high school student. Another was the Mother’s Day Scholarship Brunch, which served as a fundraiser. This activity was accomplished by holding a brunch following church services on Mother’s Day, at which time donations were solicited.
In 1952, Soror Lucille Walker and Soror Jenolar (Hillsman) McBride organized Delta Beta, the undergraduate chapter located on the campus of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. These two sorors convinced Central Regional Director Evelyn Roberts that an SIU chapter could be viable and maintain a presence on campus. Delta Beta held their chapter meetings at the home of Soror Lucille Walker. Gamma Kappa Omega serves as the advising chapter for Delta Beta.
In April of 1955, Gamma Kappa Omega Chapter served as co-hostess of the 1955 Regional Convention held at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. The men of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. provided support by sponsoring a “Moonlight Picnic” for all conference participants.
Service to Southern Illinois
Through the years, Gamma Kappa Omega Chapter has sponsored health fairs, women’s forums, community appreciation receptions, dinner dances, jazz shows, public meetings, tutorial reading sessions, and math and science fairs for 8-11 year-olds. Entertainment was brought to southern Illinois by the Chapter’s sponsoring the Ebony Fashion Fair. This fundraiser replenished Gamma Kappa Omega’s scholarship fund from 1980 to 1995.
Other activities of Gamma Kappa Omega have included: providing scholarship assistance to women attending SIUC, holding Fashionettas at SIUC, sponsoring “Game Fests” at Thomas School, sponsoring a Christmas child and Easter child who received savings bonds, and contributing to the J.Q. Clark Scholarship Fund.
In 1997, the acclaimed Boys Choir of Harlem was brought to Carbondale by Gamma Kappa Omega for the same purpose. Presently, the scholarship fund is worth $1,000 per year. Gamma Kappa Omega partnered with Shryock Auditorium to bring “Having Our Say,” the story of the Delany Sisters, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and the Urban Bush Women to the area. In 2002, Gamma Kappa Omega Chapter was featured as WSIL-News TV3’s “Unsung Hero” for the work with the young Ladies of Elegance, a group of young African American girls.
At Gamma Kappa Omega’s 55th Founders’ Day celebration
on April 14, 1996, in the Old Main Room of Southern Illinois
University, Carbondale, Soror Thelma Gibbs Walker was
honored for being the only charter member still active
with the Chapter. Mayor Neill Dillard proclaimed the day
“Thelma Gibbs Walker Day” for her service to the community
as a religious and civic leader, educator, and entrepreneur.
On April 16, 2016, Gamma Kappa Omega celebrated 75 years of service to Southern Illinois. Held at the Garden Grove Event Center in Carbondale, Illinois, the Jubilee Anniversary Celebration was an awesome showcase of the Chapter’s history and legacy of service and sisterhood. Guest included Carbondale area National Pan-Hellenic Council sororities and fraternities. In addition to sorority members travelling across the state to join in the celebration, then Central Regional Director, Kathy Walker Steele, along with former Regional Directors Pamela Bates Porch, Peggy Lewis LeCompte, Nadine Celeste Bonds, and *Johnetta R. Haley.
In keeping with the international program theme, Launching New Dimensions of
Service members of the Carbondale community were recognized for their
support and contributions in the areas of education enrichment, health
promotion, family strengthening, environmental ownership, and global
impact. The honorees were: Michael Haywood (Global Impact); Collette Gail
Ross (Health Promotion); Randy Osborn (Family Strengthening); Daniel Booth
(Educational Enrichment); Jackson Funeral Home (Environmental Ownership); Pastors Doug and Lisa Cherry of Frontline Family Ministries (Family Strengthening); and Marilynn Ross (Educational Enrichment).
Currently, the local chapter is focused on Program Initiatives for the Soaring to Greater Heights of Sisterhood and Service Administration under the leadership of Danette Anthony Reed for 2022-2026.