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Black Fraternity, Packed With Past Greats, Looks To Build Future Leaders

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

During this Black History Month, we'd like to take a look at a group that's helping to shape what Black history will become tomorrow. Delta Eta Boule is the Denver chapter of Sigma Pi Phi fraternity. That is the oldest Black fraternity in the U.S. and a professional one, meaning Black men must have reached the highest level of power and prestige in their field to be invited to join. W.E.B. Du Bois, James Weldon Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., Eric Holder and Kenneth Chenault have all been members of Sigma Pi Phi.

Delta Eta Boule has a foundation that provides leadership training to Black males who are pursuing a higher education. Greg Moore is the chairman of this foundation. He joins us now. So does Caleb Randolph, senior at CU Boulder and who's in the leadership training program. Thanks both for being with us.

GREG MOORE: Great to be with you.

CALEB RANDOLPH: Of course. Glad to be with you guys today.

SIMON: Mr. Moore, tell us a bit about the leadership training program and what challenges you think it addresses.

MOORE: So we started the Leadership Training Institute about five years ago. And the idea was to provide our scholars with training that would help them learn how to comport themselves in the workplace so that they would be on a path to success. The instructors are all Boule members - CEOs, former CEOs, entrepreneurs who've been through the wars of corporate America. And they really know the skills and the talents that these young scholars really need to have on display so that they can be successful in climbing the career ladder.

SIMON: And there are four pillars, Mr. Moore?

MOORE: Yeah, there are four pillars. In addition to the Professional Development Institute, we've given more than 100 scholarships over the last 20 years. We have a mentorship program where each one of our scholars is linked up with one of our Boule members that works with them the entire four years of their college career and beyond. And then in addition to that, we provide internships. Those four legs are the keys to success and creating the next generation of Black leadership in this country.

SIMON: Mr. Randolph, could you tell us about your mentor and how he's helped?

RANDOLPH: Absolutely. So my mentor's name is Jim Kaiser. He was the senior vice president of Corning's Glassware Manufacturing. He's had an illustrious career. Right now, he actually works for the Executive Leadership Council, which is among the top professionals in many industries in America. And he actually found me in a time of need and desperation. Unfortunately, both my parents didn't really have a traditional college experience, so I wasn't really sure how to do the research. And I kind of had a lot of fear about the future that caused me to be caught off guard by the college experience. And so when I went to Florida International University, they had offered me a $36,000 scholarship. But when I got there, I actually found out it wasn't yearly. But instead, that $36,000 was to be divvied up over the four years.

SIMON: That's a big difference, isn't it?

RANDOLPH: Yeah. It's a huge difference. And so, you know, I was panicked. And I was running between the registrar's office and the scholarship office. That's when Jim Kaiser found me. He - you know, one of the first things he told me was, first of all, you need to relax. And I'm going to tell you something that you need to do. And it is, let's make a simple Excel budget having the sources of income and the uses of income, so you know exactly how much money you need and when you need it by. And if your sources of income are less than your uses, that means you either need to get a job or get some scholarships or grants.

After that, I actually transferred back to CU because of the financial reasons - him teaching me how to do something as simple as making a budget. I'm actually going to be able to graduate debt-free because of my increased ability to manage my money. And that's completely changed my outlook and my future.

SIMON: That's wonderful.

I understand that a lot of the mentors - well, they're much older. They can be in their 60s or 70s. Are there any generational differences that sometimes need to be worked? Let me get your response, Mr. Randolph.

RANDOLPH: Yes, there is a bit of an age difference. But I would say, you know, with age comes wisdom. For my mentor, Jim Kaiser, he's given me a lot of wisdom. You know, him being a man who, when he was getting into corporate life in America, was pretty much the only, you know, African American in, like, his branch, you know? And so he's kind of revealed to me the path of history of how we've progressed as a country but how there are still obstacles to face as an African American in corporate life and how he's overcome them.

SIMON: Greg Moore, I don't want to put you on the spot in any personal way, but do you have stories of corporate life that young Black men ought to hear?

MOORE: You know, I tell these stories all the time. I've been in meetings where we'd go around the table. I offer an idea. Nobody acknowledges it. A couple of seconds later, a white guy at the table offers the exact same idea, and everybody thinks it's brilliant. That lack of validation has been something that happened to me many times. And one of the things I tell young people is, I try to stay out of bars because, you know, drinking is where (laughter) really crazy things happen, where, you know, people trying to reassure you that you're the exception end up making racist remarks. And I think as young Black professional men, I tried to explain this to them, that they don't want to put themselves in a position where they have to overreact because somebody does something dumb.

SIMON: It strikes me this isn't just a fraternity where you spend four years having a good time. This is a lifelong affiliation that you carry.

MOORE: We're making a lifelong commitment to create an elite group of leaders that are going to make a huge difference in the communities and in the lives of the people that they love.

SIMON: Caleb Randolph, do you hope to be a mentor someday?

RANDOLPH: I definitely want to be a mentor. And what my mentor, what the organization have given me is something to shoot for. And they've given me perspective, you know, opened my eyes to what's possible as an African American man. And what I've learned is that anything is possible for an African American man. And when I become that successful mentor, I would absolutely want to open as many doors as I can for people in my community.

SIMON: Greg Moore is chairman of the Delta Eta Boule Foundation. Caleb Randolph is a senior at CU Boulder. Gentlemen, thank you both very much for being with us.

MOORE: Thank you.

RANDOLPH: Thanks for having us. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.