75th anniversary bittersweet for Delta Sigma Theta sorors
By Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell | Published Yesterday | News | Unrated
75th anniversary bittersweet for Delta Sigma Theta sorors
More than a year of preparation and meticulous planning for the Memphis Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority took a tragic turn only days before it was to begin Dec. 3-5.
“I received a call on the phone by one of the sorors,” said Lois J. Gilder. “I couldn’t believe it. I said, ‘It can’t be true.’ We had just spent the previous evening working late on some last-minute anniversary details. She was so vibrant and so full of life. Her death saddened us all.”
Lora G. Sandridge, co-chair of the anniversary celebration along with Gilder, was killed on Friday (Nov. 19) on her way to her seven-year-old grandson’s birthday party. The news stunned Delta Sigma Theta (DST) members throughout the southeast region and beyond.
“It has been difficult getting through these past few days,” said Deborah Harris, Sandridge’s biological and sorority sister. “We received cards and acknowledgments from all over the country. Lora touched so many lives, and so many people loved her. They provided us with some measure of comfort.”
More than 1,000 Delta sorors gathered for the “Omega Omega Service,” the last ceremonial ritual performed for a deceased sister. This week, only days before the anniversary kick-off, Memphis Alumnae Chapter members were still working feverishly toward their momentous celebration.
“Lora was a perfectionist, and she would have wanted everything to be just right,” said Gilder. “We’ll miss her, and we all feel the void she has left. But we are working because we know Lora wouldn’t have it any other way. She loved her family and her sorority. This anniversary is bittersweet.”
A proud and notable history
The scenic expanse of the Hilton Hotel East will be the setting for Friday’s opening gala featuring songstress Jennifer Holliday. Saturday’s Diamond Anniversary Breakfast and hosting of the stage spectacle, “Dreamgirls,” at the Orpheum Theater are featured highlights of the milestone. An ecumenical service on Sunday will close out the highly anticipated weekend.
An important component of the weekend celebration will be the sorority chapter’s history in this city. The Memphis Alumnae Chapter, originally known as the Alpha Gamma Sigma, was chartered in 1935 with five charter members: Radie Broome Clark from Howard University in Washington, D.C.; Cecelia Irwin Story and Wilona Nicholson from Fisk University in Nashville; Juanita Perkins Brinkley from Clark College in Atlanta; and Hilda Carter Smith from Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio.
In 1956, graduate groups became known as “Alumnae Chapters,” and the name was changed to Memphis Alumnae. In its 75-year history, the chapter has grown from five sorors in 1935 to more than 600 active members to date.
Five additional chapters have been established under the watch of Memphis Alumnae: Alpha Upsilon at Lemoyne College (now The Lemoyne-Owen College) in 1937; Epsilon Kappa at the University of Memphis in 1963; Theta Pi at Rust College in Holly Springs, Miss., 1971; Holly Springs-Marshall County Alumnae in 1979; and Rho Gamma at Rhodes College and Christian Brothers University in 1990.
Over the past four years, Memphis Alumnae has donated more than $200,000 in college scholarships to Memphis-area students through its Maggie McDowell Scholarship Fund.
“Service has always been a big part of what we do,” said Alleshia White, Memphis Alumnae president. “On Dec. 11, we are supporting ‘Home for the Holidays,’ at Southwest Tennessee Community College. This effort will allow families to speak face to face with lender and HUD representatives to save their homes from foreclosure.
“It is characteristic of our community service legacy in Memphis and a fitting tribute to Lora who was so involved in so many efforts of service and leadership.”
A life well-lived
Lora Greene Sandridge was born on January 20, 1946 in Memphis to Lora B. Greene and James Lawrence Greene, the second-born of five children. She attended Hamilton elementary, junior high and high schools. In high school, she was a National Honor Society member and a majorette.
After graduating in 1963, she attended LeMoyne College and joined the pep squad. On Nov. 22, 1964, she became a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and served as campus chapter president from 1966-67.
During her senior year, 1967, she was LeMoyne’s Homecoming Queen. And on Dec. 27, 1968, she married the captain of the LeMoyne Magicians basketball team, James “Sweet Pea” Sandridge.
For 39 years, she served Memphis City Schools, beginning as a history teacher at Carver High School. Sandridge continued her education at Memphis State University, earning a Master’s Degree in Guidance Counseling and certification in Administration and Supervision. She was a guidance counselor at Booker T. Washington High School, a guidance supervisor and assistant principal at Coleman Elementary, and for 23 years was the principal of Lauderdale Elementary School.
Areas of community service and memberships included: Leadership Memphis Class of 1989; past president of The Links Incorporated, Memphis Chapter; past president of the Memphis Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
She leaves her husband of 41 years, James Sandridge; two daughters, Marla K. Reddick (James Anthony), and Carmen Sandridge-Hardy (Tracy), her mother, Lora B. Greene; two grandsons, and a host of other relatives and friends.
75th anniversary weekend events:
December 3: Signature Anniversary Gala — 8 p.m. at the Hilton Hotel East featuring Jennifer Holliday. Tickets are $75. (Attire is black-tie.)
December 4: Diamond Anniversary Breakfast – 10 a.m. at the Hilton Hotel East.
December 4: “Dreamgirls” at The Orpheum Theater. Show times are 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Ticket prices range from $35 to $80.
December 5: Ecumenical Service from 10 a.m. to noon at Hilton Hotel East. http://tri-statedefenderonline.com/articlelive/articles/5511/1/75th-anniversary-bittersweet-for-Delta-Sigma-Theta-sorors/Page1.html