Arizona Cleaver Stemons, Viola Tyler Goings, Pearl Anna Neal, Myrtle Tyler Faithful & Fannie Pettie Watts
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority would be remiss not to pay homage to the first women who believed in the need for a new and different type of Greek-lettered organization and acted upon that need. To these women, Zeta was more than an organization-it was a movement, a belief system that reflected, at its core, the desire to provide true Service, to embrace Scholarship, to set a standard for Sisterly Love and to define the noble concept of Finer Womanhood. This belief has sustained and encouraged Zetas around the world to hold fast to the ideals initiated and developed by its earliest members.
The Founders of Zeta were strong, principled coeds who possessed a great deal of modesty, strength of character and pride in academic achievement. They are indeed a worthy foundation upon which to base our illustrious Sorority.
Arizona Cleaver Stemons: Arizona Cleaver was the first president of Alpha chapter and the first national president of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. She completed her graduate and post-graduate studies in the field of social work and was responsible for chartering numerous undergraduate and graduate chapters throughout the United States.
Pearl Anna Neal: After graduating from Howard University’s Conservatory of Music, Founder Neal continued her studies at the Julliard School of Music. In 1938, she was the first black woman in New York to earn a master’s degree in music from Columbia University. An extremely accomplished musician, Founder Neal taught music in North Carolina public schools and served as a director of seniors majoring in music at Teachers College in Winston Salem, NC.
Myrtle Tyler Faithful: Myrtle Tyler was the second national president of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and blood sister to Viola Tyler. A high school mathematics and English teacher, Founder Tyler was an active member of Alpha Zeta chapter in Baltimore, Maryland.
Viola Tyler Goings: Viola Tyler graduated from Howard University with a teaching degree and a major in math. She taught school in Ohio for many years and was always very active in community affairs.
Fannie Pettie Watts: Fannie Pettie graduated from Howard with a Bachelor of Arts degree in education and taught junior and senior high schools in Savannah, Georgia. She was credited with organizing two additional Zeta chapters and had active membership in Delta Alpha Zeta chapter.
Although there were five Founders of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., there were many women who were initially interested but did not become a part of the founding group. Many feared the high academic standards they would need to meet to become a part of this new organization, others could not afford the initiation fee that appears nominal by today’s standards. However, soon after the light of Zeta shone clearly through our Five Pearls, there were twenty-five women eager to join the Zeta movement. Of these twenty-five, only four – Gladys Warrington, Harriet Dorsey, Pauline Phillips and Nellie Singfield – went on to be initiated as a part of the second pledge class. Zeta Phi Beta took top scholastic honors on the Howard University campus when a member of this second pledge class, Pauline Phillips, graduated summa cum laude, thus setting a precedent of academic excellence still expected of Zeta members to this day.
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