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Kappa Alpha Psi Provides Leadership Lessons to Last a Lifetime

Rob Richardson Jr., chair of UC's Board of Trustees, shares a unique bond with student trustee Kamree Maull and student representative Mitchell Phelps. All are connected via UC’s Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, a organization they credit for providing leadership lessons.

Date: 6/20/2016
By: Melanie Schefft
Phone: (513) 556-5213
Photos By: UC Creative Services/Joseph Fuqua II. & Provided
Recently elected chairman of the University of Cincinnati’s Board of Trustees, Rob Richardson Jr. –– who has served on the board since 2008 –– shares other ties with a student trustee and a student representative to the board.
Two men, Rob Richardson Jr. and Mitchell Phelps stand in front of photos of past presidents of the University of Cincinnati
Rob Richardson, chair of UC's Board of Trustees and Mitchell Phelps, undergraduate student body president

Richardson and student trustee Kamree Maull and student representative to the board Mitchell Phelps, who serves as UC's student body president, are all members of UC’s Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. It is one of the nation’s first fraternities that, even in the early 20th century, recruited college men as members, regardless of race, creed or national origin.  

Phelps and Maull –– who will graduate with bachelor’s degrees from the Carl H. Lindner College of Business in 2017 and 2018 respectively –– are recent inductees into the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.

“It’s one thing to be able to speak across the table to the chair of the board, but to chat openly with Rob Richardson on campus and candidly at our fraternity meetings has been especially meaningful,” says Phelps, third-year business student and undergraduate student body president. “As a former student member, and now lifelong Kappa, Richardson comes to our frat meetings on campus and continually inspires us all, especially for how to look outside of ourselves and instead focus on what we can do for the community.”

Boards, Bonds and Brotherhood
Richardson, 37, Eng ‘02, JD ‘05,  is the youngest person to ever serve as chairman of UC’s Board of Trustees, as well as the youngest currently serving board chair among the nation’s research-intensive public universities.

And as a UC student in 2001, Richardson –– like Phelps –– was elected undergraduate student body president. At graduation, Richardson was awarded the UC Presidential Leadership Medal of Excellence, the university’s highest honor for undergraduates.

In his service to the university, Richardson stated, “I believe the greatest power we have as leaders is to empower others to fulfill their potential. My hope is that I’m doing my part to mentor and empower Mitchell and Kamree.”
Portrait of UC student Kamree Maull, UC Board of Trystees 2016 student member
Kamree Maull, 2016 student member of UC's Board of Trustees

Kappa Alpha Psi’s history at UC spans more than three quarters of a century, but the core motto is still as strong today as it was when it began at UC in 1939, which is to build a strong commitment to altruism and a tradition of giving back to the community through service.

“I was inspired to join by my great uncle who was a member of the Alpha Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi at Indiana University in the 1960s,” says Maull. “UC’s fraternity leaders really helped ease my transition into college and connected me with resources, not only for academics, but also for networking with members of the community inside and outside UC.”

Both Phelps and Maull point out that Richardson is a role model for them. 

“My business co-op experiences and the bonds I am forming within my fraternity brotherhood have really helped change my perspectives for what is truly important from a professional, as well as a personal standpoint,” says Phelps. “After graduation in 2018, I plan to work in the private sector at Procter and Gamble in their brand management division, but hope to eventually follow in Rob Richardson’s footsteps and serve my UC alma mater in a similar leadership role.”

105 Years of Achievement

The original Kappa Alpha Psi chapter was founded in 1911 at Indiana University Bloomington, during a time when African Americans were excluded from fraternities on campuses that were particularly hostile to them, says Richardson.
UC Kappa Alpha Psi members standing in front of a tree in the mid-1970s.
Members of UC's Kappa Alpha Psi posing on campus in the mid-1970s

By 1939, UC had established its own Kappa Alpha Psi chapter founded by Donald Spencer,
a UC business student who, reportedly, later became the first African-American millionaire in Ohio by means of work in real estate.

Former Bearcat basketball three-time pick for National Player of the Year and 12-time NBA All-Star Oscar Robertson was also a member of Kappa Alpha Psi as a UC student.

Part of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, Kappa Alpha Psi is also part of the Divine Nine, which are historically African-American fraternities and sororities, but open to students of any race, creed or national origin.

“Black fraternities played an instrumental role in the 20th century by providing a network for  African Americans in college,” says Richardson. “I was inspired to join Kappa Alpha Psi early on by my great-uncle Charles Freeman, a member himself.”

In addition to Richardson and Maull’s influence by their great-uncles, Phelps also knew he wanted to follow in his mother’s footsteps who was a member of a sorority in college that was part of the Divine Nine.

Because of their ties to such role models and mentors, both students long looked forward to becoming members, and they are especially grateful for Richardson and Kappa Alpha Psi for developing their sense for being more “other oriented,” focusing on the needs of the campus and wider community.

Three members of UC
Mitchell Phelps, Rob Richardson and Kamree Maull express Kappa Alpha Psi hand signal after a fraternity meeting

Legacy of Leadership

In turn, they plan to some day serve as mentors and role models for others when they are UC alumni and committed lifelong Kappa Alpha Psi members themselves, just as others have done before them.

“I appreciate the bond of Kappa Alpha Psi more and more every year, and my experience with the students really helps me realize the importance of passing the torch on to others,” says Richardson.

Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. is an international organization founded on the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana on January 5, 1911. Since its inception, it has trained over 150,000 men, particularly undergraduates, for leadership roles in their communities and toward the attainment of a high degree of excellence in their academic pursuits. The International Headquarters is currently located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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