The Poisonous Pi Psi Chapter at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

ΠΨ History

Black Tuesday and Beyond

On October 29, 1929, a day that became known as Black Tuesday, the U.S. marked its most devastating stock market crash in history. On this same day the 40th chapter of Omega Psi Phi, "Poisonous" Pi Psi, was chartered on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign by Bro. A.V. Mercer and Bro. George Sheffey. The Pi Psi Chapter was the only chapter charted in 1929. One of the chapter's earliest notable members was Bro. Birtill Arthur Lloyd, a chemistry major, 1930 graduate and bronze tablet honoree; received for graduating in the top 3% of his class. Lloyd would go on to receive his Master's Degree from the University of Toronto in 1934, afterwards teaching at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas. He also received the Rosenwald Fellowship Grant in 1939. Shortly, thereafter Lloyd would receive his PhD in chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1940.


Bro. Birtill Arthur Lloyd, 1930 graduate and bronze tablet honoree, Chemistry PhD, 1940

Bro. Birtill Arthur Lloyd, 1930 graduate and bronze tablet honoree, Chemistry PhD, 1940

Although, Bro. Ralph Vaughn was initiated into Omega through Alpha chapter in 1924, he became a valued member of Pi Psi in its infancy. Vaughn would transfer to the University of Illinois in the Fall of 1926 to pursue architecture. After taking some time off from classes, he returned to Howard University in the Fall of 1928 to become an apprentice draftsman. Upon returning to Illinois, he would serve as KF in 1930-31, as well as the Basileus of the recently formed Pi Psi chapter in 1932-33. Vaugh was the first African-American set designer employed by MGM Studios, in 1941, and he was the designer of the Benjamin Banneker Memorial ("sundial") a mainstay on Howard's campus since 1929.

Architect, Bro. Ralph A. Vaughn (Alpha chapter, 1924) - Benjamin Banneker Memorial - "Sundial"

Architect, Bro. Ralph A. Vaughn (Alpha chapter, 1924) - Benjamin Banneker Memorial - "Sundial"

On December 8, 1933 on a nationwide "tour" of all fraternity chapters, Bro. William Baugh, who would later be elected the 15th Grand Basileus, visited Pi Psi. Bro. Baugh made his visit to gain first-hand information concerning the establishment of a chapter house. Following the purchase of two chapter houses by Alpha chapter near the campus of Howard University, the third chapter house in the fraternity was purchased by Pi Psi chapter. 12 members of the chapter including 5 undergraduates and 7 graduates, contacted the Grand Chapter to solicit help in purchasing the house located at 1203 W. Stoughton, Champaign, Illinois. In 1934, at the 22nd Conclave in St. Louis the brotherhood voted to aid the brothers of Pi Psi in their efforts to purchase the home with a loan of $600. The Grand Chapter provided an investigative committee to make sure the purchase was proper and sent a favorable recommendation to the Supreme Council.


To date, the brothers of the Pi Psi chapter continue to build upon its legacy of academic excellence and social action involvement on the campus of the University of Illinois. Pi Psi brothers have been strong members of the University community, as well as the Champaign-Urbana community, and have been well-respected in academic and professional fields for almost 90 years, embodying the cardinal principals of Manhood, Scholarship, Perseverance, and Uplift.

Pi Psi Brothers at Frat House, 1934

Pi Psi Brothers at Frat House, 1934