In 1954, a group of women met in Northern Virginia to discuss the need for a new chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated® for their rapidly expanding area. (The closest graduate chapter was Xi Omega in Washington, D.C.).
Evelyn Syphax of Arlington, Virginia organized the group. She and her other Sorority sisters met frequently and followed the various rules and requirements for the granting of a charter. Since the group was located at the southern boundary of the North Atlantic Region and the northern boundary of the Mid-Atlantic Region of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated®, there were those who felt that the new chapter should be in the North Atlantic Region; while others believed that since the chapter would be physically located in Virginia, it should be with the other Virginia chapters in the Mid-Atlantic Region. After much deliberation with both regions, the request for a new chapter was presented to the Directorate at the 35th Conference in San Francisco, CA (1955) by Marjorie H. Parker, North Atlantic Regional Director. The Directorate ruled that the group receive a charter to become a chapter in the Mid-Atlantic Region. The interest group, as it was known, was officially notified of the Directorate’s actions by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated®
The Executive Director of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated®, Carey B. Preston, sent the appropriate documents and information to be completed before the group’s chartering as a chapter.
In the interim, before the chartering, the group continued to be involved in community service. It was during this period that the group sponsored a program called Reine des Mois (Queen of the Months). Through the group’s contact and cooperation with the area Black schools, 16 high school girls were selected and presented to society. The event was held at Hoffman-Boston High School in Arlington, Virginia. From this event evolved the annual Debutante Cotillion which was conceived as a non-fundraising activity.
On May 25, 1956, the interest group was chartered as Zeta Chi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated®. Its location was designated as Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax, Virginia. Grace Matthews Pleasant, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director, conducted the chartering. Assisting Pleasant was Marjorie Parker. Arnetta McKamey Wallace was the international president during that time. The ceremony was held at Dun’ Movin’, a privately owned dining facility. Evelyn Syphax was elected the first president of Zeta Chi Omega.
The Charter Members of Zeta Chi Omega were: Elora F. Brotherton, Catherine Butler, Helen Cauthorne, Ann Marie Cooley, Regina Duncan, Beatrice Gilkes, Carrie James, Hermeles Jones, Ella O. Lewis, Hilda Lucy, Emma Moore, Suellis Muse, Ophelia Pinkard, Margery Robinson, Helen M. Smith, Nellie Stewart, Evelyn Syphax, Marjorie Weeks, Lauretta Whitney, Frances Williams, and Mary L. Witten.
In 1958, two years after chartering, Zeta Chi Omega Chapter hosted a breakfast for the directorate at the 37th annual Conference and the 50th anniversary of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated® Zeta Chi Omega Chapter also hosted the 1965, 1975, and 1988 regional conferences. During the regional conference in 1975, then President Gerald Ford made a brief appearance at one of the planned activities, “Night at Las Vegas.” Mr. Ford posed for a photograph with International President Bernice Sumlin and Evelyn Syphax, chairman of the activity. The photograph is housed in a special area at Howard University. Another noteworthy chapter activity was in 1981 when the chapter hosted the directorate. The chapter co-sponsored the 1996 regional conference and the 1994 Conference. In addition, since the early 1970s, the chapter has hosted its own Founders’ Day celebrations in the even-numbered years and has co-hosted the Metropolitan D.C. Founders’ Day celebrations in the odd-numbered years.