Founders and the First Initiates
The Trailblazers of
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority would be remiss not to pay homage to the first women who
believed in the need for a new and different type of Greek-lettered organization
and acted upon that need. To these women, Zeta was more than an organization-it
was a movement, a belief system that reflected, at its core, the desire to
provide true Service, to embrace Scholarship, to set a standard for Sisterly
Love and to define the noble concept of Finer Womanhood. This belief has
sustained and encouraged Zetas around the world to hold fast to the ideals
initiated and developed by its earliest members.
The Founders of Zeta were strong, principled coeds who possessed a great deal of
modesty, strength of character and pride in academic achievement. They are
indeed a worthy foundation upon which to base our illustrious Sorority.
Arizona Cleaver (Stemons): Arizona Cleaver was the first president of
Alpha chapter and the first national president of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. She
completed her graduate and post-graduate studies in the field of social work
and was responsible for chartering numerous undergraduate and graduate chapters
throughout the United States.
Myrtle Tyler (Faithful): Myrtle Tyler was the second national president
of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and blood sister to Viola Tyler. A high school
mathematics and English teacher, Founder Tyler was an active member of Alpha
Zeta chapter in Baltimore, Maryland.
Viola Tyler (Goings): Viola Tyler graduated from Howard University with a
teaching degree and a major in math. She taught school in Ohio for many years
and was always very active in community affairs.
Fannie Pettie (Watts): Fannie Pettie graduated from Howard with a
Bachelor of Arts degree in education and taught junior and senior high schools
in Savannah, Georgia. She was credited with organizing two additional Zeta
chapters and had active membership in Delta Alpha Zeta chapter.
Pearl Neal: After graduating from Howard University's Conservatory of
Music, Founder Neal continued her studies at the Julliard School of Music. In
1938, she was the first black woman in New York to earn a master's degree in
music from Columbia University. An extremely accomplished musician, Founder Neal
taught music in North Carolina public schools and served as a director of
seniors majoring in music at Teachers College in Winston Salem, NC.
Although there were five Founders of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., there were
many women who were initially interested but did not become a part of the
founding group. Many feared the high academic standards they would need to meet
to become a part of this new organization, others could not afford the
initiation fee that appears nominal by today's standards. However, soon after
the light of Zeta shone clearly through our Five Pearls, there were twenty-five
women eager to join the Zeta movement. Of these twenty-five, only four - Gladys
Warrington, Harriet Dorsey, Pauline Philips and Nellie Singfield - went on to be
initiated as a part of the second pledge class. Zeta Phi Beta took top
scholastic honors on the Howard University campus when a member of this second
pledge class, Pauline Phillips, graduated summa cum laude, thus setting a
precedent of academic excellence still expected of Zeta members to this day.