On September 19, 1963, at Morgan State College (now Morgan State University), 12 students founded what is now the nation’s fifth largest, predominately African-American social service fraternity, Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc.
The founders of Iota Phi Theta were: Albert Hicks, Lonnie Spruill, Jr., Charles Briscoe, Frank Coakley, John Slade, Barron Willis, Webster Lewis, Charles Brown, Louis Hudnell, Charles Gregory, Elias Dorsey, Jr., and Michael Williams.
This group of men was unique for several reasons. First of all, many were long-time friends. Spruill, Coakley, Dorsey, and Gregory had known one another since grade school, and Spruill and Coakley’s friendship extended to when the two were pre-schoolers.
Even more uniquely, many of these men were what are now referred to as “Non-Traditional Students” and were 3-5 years older than the average college student. Gregory, Willis, and Brown were all service veterans, and Brown, Hicks, and Briscoe were married with small children. Of this group of 12, several were also working full-time jobs and all were full-time students.
Based upon their ages, heightened responsibilities, and increased level of maturity, this group had a slightly different perspective than the norm for college students. It was this perspective from which they established the Fraternity’s purpose, “The development and perpetuation of Scholarship, Leadership, Citizenship, Fidelity, and Brotherhood among Men.” Additionally, they conceived the Fraternity’s motto, “Building a Tradition, Not Resting Upon One!”