Mary McLeod Bethune
Mary Jane McLeod Bethune (July 10, 1875 – May 18, 1955) was an American educator and civil rights leader best known for starting a school for black students in Daytona Beach, Florida which eventually became Bethune Cookman College, and for being an advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Born in South Carolina to parents who had been slaves, and having to work in fields at age 5, she took an early interest in her own education. With the help of benefactors, Bethune attended college hoping to become a missionary in Africa. When that did not materialize, she started a school for black girls in Daytona Beach. From six students it grew and merged with an institute for black boys and eventually became the Bethune-Cookman School. The school’s quality far surpassed the standards of education for black students, and rivaled those of white schools. Bethune worked tirelessly to ensure funding for the school, and used it as a showcase for tourists and donors, and to exhibit what educated black people could do. She was president of the college from 1923 to 1942 and 1946 to 1947, one of the few women in the world who served as a college president at that time.
In those years Marjorie Stewart Joyner was the National Supervisor of The Madam Walker Schools, and traveled throughout the country selling the products manufactured by the Walker Company. It was during this time that the two women met and became great friends. Over the years they became like mother and daughter. In the many letters that she wrote to Dr. Joyner, Dr. Bethune referred to her as, “my daughter.”
Dr. Joyner expressed to Dr. Bethune her desire to lift up the cosmetology profession, and to make it as respected as that of other professions. Dr. Bethune encouraged Dr. Joyner and helped helped her to organize Alpha Chi Pi Omega Sorority and Fraternity, Incorporated. Segregation was prevelant in the late 1940’s and blacks were not allowed to rent rooms at hotels during that time. Dr. Bethune opened up the Bethune –Cookman College to Dr. Joyner, and the sorors and brothers attended conventions sessions and classes on that campus which earned them college credits. Consequently, Dr. Joyner promised Dr. Bethune that Alpha Chi Pi Omega would always financially support her home. Over the years Alpha Chi Pi Omega has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to help maintain the home of Dr. Mary Bethune, which is now named The Bethune Foundation. The Bethune Foundation was the first National Projects of Alpha Chi Pi Omega.
Upon launching “ The Renaissance Pathway” in 2007, Alpha Chi Pi Omega has named as its 2nd National Project, “Joyner Hall”, the dormitory located on the Bethune Cookman University that bears the name of Dr Marjorie Joyner.
How befitting it is that Alpha Chi Pi Omega will forever link these two great monarchs together. Their journey together began years ago. Their legacy will forever live.