50 looks good on you: TU fraternity celebrates golden milestone

First Black national organization on campus continues to change lives

By Matt Wright ’22 on May 16, 2023

Men pose in suits
Iota Phi Theta brothers, left to right, Frank Clay, Chuck Myer, Craig Gray, Robert Robinson and Jerome Murphy at the fraternity’s 50th anniversary celebration May 5. (Photo by Frank Clay)

The Rho chapter of the Iota Phi Theta fraternity celebrated its 50th anniversary at Towson University May 5. 

The first Black national organization on campus, the chapter was formed in 1973 by Jerome Murphy, Robert Robinson, Craig Gray, Chuck Myer and Francis Clay. 

Its mission from the beginning was for Black students to connect, enjoy fellowship, gain leadership experience and introduce change to the university.

“For the past 50 years, the members of the Rho chapter of Iota Phi Theta have served as trailblazers and role models for students—past, present and future," says Interim President Melanie Perreault. "We are incredibly proud to celebrate their decades of impactful leadership at Towson University, and we thank them for their continued support of diversity and inclusion at TU."

Rho chapter is heavily invested in giving back, locally and nationally. Its members have partnered with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as well as many local community organizations.

They were the first members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) to make a financial commitment supporting TU’s efforts to build physical tribute to the NPHC on campus. The university celebrated the grand opening of the NPHC Tribute walkway during 2022 Homecoming weekend, making TU the first school in Maryland with a physical NPHC tribute on campus.

More than $17,000 has been raised for the Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Inc. Rho Chapter Student Scholarship Fund. The scholarship provides at least two $500 awards annually to students who need assistance.  

They conduct financial literacy events, professional development workshops and incoming student forums. 

Brother Montrell Cade said the fraternity’s founding during the Civil Rights Movement says a lot about the type of men the fraternity put together. 

“I pledged Iota because I felt as though it offered something different,” he says. “Iota provided me the opportunity to be part of something bigger than myself and something I could carry with me after I graduated.”

The fraternity asks all its members to strive for excellence academically, professionally and personally. Even after 50 years, it still lives by its motto, “building a tradition, not resting upon one.”