Elon NPHC rededicates garden celebrating history of ‘Divine 9’

Members of Elon's National Pan-Hellenic Council fraternities and sororities gathered for a rededication of the NPHC Garden located in the Loy Center Neighborhood.

A beautiful Sunday afternoon in the Loy Center Neighborhood offered the perfect setting for a celebration of Elon’s historically Black fraternities and sororities and their meaningful role in the history of the university.

Members of the Elon community gathered for a rededication of the National Pan-Hellenic Council Garden, located behind Moseley Center. The rededication allowed Elon NPHC to unveil a set of upgrades to the garden meant to commemorate Black Greek-lettered organizations at Elon and educate the broader community on their stories.

“The monuments are no longer just a backdrop for Elon’s campus, but a cultural space to build a more unified community for years to come,” said Elon NPHC President Chandler Vaughan ’21 to an audience of students, faculty, staff and administrators on Sunday.

Each monument in the NPHC Garden represents one of the nine historically Black fraternities and sororities, commonly known as the “Divine 9.” The plots are meant to educate and remind the community of each organization’s presence and endurance on campus and serve as a gathering place for students and alumni to reflect and celebrate their chapters.

A monument to the Xi Omicron Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., sits in the newly renovated NPHC Garden at Elon.

The garden renovation began with ongoing discussions between NPHC students and campus leaders in 2019. Sunday, Elon NPHC revealed each of the upgrades to come from those conversations. The beautification project included cleaned and repainted monuments with newly engraved Greek letters on the back of each plot. Physical Plant also installed new irrigation, flowers and shrubbery, along with new or widened sidewalks. Other additions include three new benches, a brick-paved walkway outside the garden and an informational sign detailing the history of the Divine 9 at Elon.

NPHC Director of Administration Abdul-Malik Harrison ’21 said he hopes the garden and its themes of family, cultivation and visibility, will offer current and future Elon NPHC members a place to call their own.

“This garden should be a safe space for each and every one of us where we can regroup, reflect and, most importantly, reconnect with each other,” he said.

The upgraded garden was made possible through a collaboration between NPHC, the Office of Student Life, the Student Government Association and Physical Plant. Thanks to the efforts of each person involved, the project was completed a year ahead of schedule.

Members of the Omicron Iota chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., pose for a photo with the Delta Sigma Theta monument at Elon’s NPHC Garden.

“I’m really proud of this space, I’m really appreciative of the community effort and the leadership of the NPHC, the SGA, our Student Life team, and our Physical Plant all working together to make a thoughtful space that celebrates the rich traditions and the outstanding work of our NPHC community,” said Elon University President Connie Ledoux Book.

During Sunday’s ceremony Paige Wilson ’22, NPHC director of finance, recounted the history of the NPHC Garden, which was first dreamed up in 2001 and established in 2005. The audience also heard from Student Body President Jack Corby, who touched on the SGA’s commitment to supporting the university’s NPHC community.

Jarrod Rudd, assistant director of student involvement for fraternity and sorority leadership development, highlighted the storied history of the Divine 9, dating back to the founding of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. at Cornell University in 1906. Rudd highlighted the opportunities these organizations offer for the development of self-identity while promoting service to the community and the betterment of Black men and women at Elon and beyond.

Jarrod Rudd, assistant director of student involvement for fraternity and sorority leadership development, speaks to an audience about the history of the “Divine 9” during Sunday’s NPHC Garden ceremony.

“Black Greek letter organizations were founded to create safe spaces for African Americans, helping them to resist and overcome isolation and oppression at universities and to provide a means of achieving academic success,” Rudd said.

Aliana Harrison ’08, a member of the Xi Omicron chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., channeled the history of the NPHC organizations when discussing the significance of the newly renovated garden at Elon. Harrison called on the community to use the garden as a place for education and reflection but also as an inspiring reminder of the perseverance of the founders who came before them.

“When we have those times where we feel like we can’t make it, they made it,” she said. “They made it through, they joined together, they gave of their time, their efforts, their passion and advocated, and we are that legacy.”

A monument to the Alpha Beta Beta chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., sits in the NPHC Garden at Elon.

The NPHC Garden will continue to stand as a physical representation of the endurance and rich history of historically Black Greek-lettered organizations at Elon. While speaking on the value that these organizations have brought to the Elon community, Vice President for Student Life Jon Dooley emphasized the university’s commitment to its NPHC organizations and the NPHC Garden.

“These granite monuments aren’t going anywhere, and neither is NPHC,” Dooley said. “I am very proud to support this project and, more important, I am so pleased to support your leadership on this campus and in our community every single day.”