Dr. Thomas Wyatt Turner

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Biologist, Educator and Civil Rights Activist
Thomas received his A.B. from Howard University in 1901 and M.A. From Howard University in 1905. He was a founding member of the NAACP. Initiated into Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity in 1915. Thomas Wyatt Turner became the First African American to receive a Ph.D. from Cornell University 1921 followed shortly by Kappa Frater Elbert Cox who earned a doctoral degree (first in Mathematics) from Cornell University in 1925.

While working at Cornell University in 1918, Turner did special work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Maine, where he examined potato fields. The American government consulted Turner throughout his career about agricultural problems. Under the auspices of the United States Secretary of Agriculture.

Turner taught biology in Baltimore, Maryland from 1902 to 1910. Turner taught for a year in the St. Louis High School, but returned to Baltimore in 1911, where he remained for three more years. From 1914 to 1924, he was Professor of Botany at Howard University and also served from 1914 to 1920 as Acting Dean at the Howard’s School of Education. During the summer months from 1916 to 1921. While working at Cornell University in 1918, Turner did special work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Maine, where he examined potato fields. The American government consulted Turner throughout his career about agricultural problems. Under the auspices of the United States Secretary of Agriculture.

Turner studied at Cornell University, where he received in 1921 his Ph.D. in Botany, His dissertation was entitled “Studies of the Mechanism of the Physiological Effects of certain Mineral Salts in Altering the Ratio of Top Growth to Root Growth in Seed Plants.” His thesis was eventually published in the American Journal of Botany.

Hampton Institute (1924-1945) The Department of Chemistry is housed in Turner Hall, which is named after Dr. Thomas W. Turner. He became the head of the Biological Studies Department at Hampton University.

Dr. Turner was active in Catholic organizations and in societies for the advancement of the Negro. He founded in 1925 the Federated Colored Catholics (FCC), an organization, national in scope, composed of catholic Negroes who placed their services at the disposal of the Church for whatever good they were able to effect in the solution of the problems facing the group in Church and country.

In 1976, the Secretariat of Washington, D.C.’s Black Catholics named its highest award for the Thomas Wyatt Turner Award has become an annual honor. Turner was also Supreme Color Bearer of the knights of St. John.

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Congressman John Lewis in San Francisco

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I first met Congressman Bro. John Lewis in the Fall of 2005 at R.O. Sutton’s Gala in Atlanta, GA. I hate to admit it, but I didn’t really know who he was. “He marched with Dr. King” I was told by Brothers in attendance. It was my first trip to the South attending a Sigma event so I was really just trying to be the fly in the wall and take it all in. I recalled Bro. Lewis didn’t stay long. He said a few words to Bro. Sutton then walked right down the middle of the room. On his way out, I seized the brief moment to introduce myself and shake his hand, but no time for pictures.

Fast forward almost a decade and I find out Bro. Lewis is speaking at San Francisco State University. The College of Ethnic Studies hosted the event “Meet the Authors: Congressman John Lewis and co-author Andrew Aydin” to discuss the graphic novels they co-authored March: Book One and March: Book Two. One of the benefits of being fun-employed is the luxury of spontaneous scheduling so off I went to meet up with Bro. Pat McFall (Alpha Nu Sigma chapter by way of Kappa Alpha), who works at SFSU.

By now you can be sure that I’d learned who Bro. John Lewis is. I made sure to point he and Bro. Hosea Williams to my daughters while watching Selma.

Bro. Pat acquires us seats in the VIP section, 3rd row. Much better than the 3rd to the last row in general seating we had previously. We were initially disappointed we were the only Sigmas in attendance, but before long, others from Omicron Zeta (the chapter at SFSU) and Alpha Nu Sigma arrived. This was the first time I’d heard him speak. I mean really speak and I wasn’t disappointed. And yes Pat and I gave him a loud “Blue Phi!” at the end and he threw up the funk.

We worked our way to the stage to say hi as organizers were trying to keep people off. I reintroduced myself again noting we’d met before. Bro. Lewis nodded in agreement. “Oh yeah”, he said. He was so gracious. How could he remember me. I coerced the OZ neos to jump on stage and snapped this pic for them. Later during the book signing, Bro. Pat and I got some more time with Bro. Lewis. “Has the fraternity been good to you?” he asked me. I didn’t really give my response much thought, but thinking back, it’s an interesting question. How might you have answered it?

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Celebrating 101 Cover Photo

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Happy Founders Day

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Happy 101st to the Brothers of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc.

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Carver Day 2015

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