Kappa Alpha Psi North Central Province Fall
From Student to Leader
|North Central Province Polemarch Byron Thornton (l-r), Madison Alumni
Chapter members Derrick Smith and Dr. Benjamin Atkinson and Kappa Alpha
Psi Grand Polemarch Thomas L. Battles Jr.
Among those in attendance were Grand Polemarch Thomas L. Battles Jr., the head of the national organization and North Central Province
Polemarch Byron Thornton. Both men have grown up as Kappas, each of them starting out as college-aged young men with the typical interests
of college students and growing into leaders of the organization.
“I’m from Miami,” Battles said who attended Florida A & M University. “I was going to go to Iowa State to play football, but the boys were a little
bit too big and I was 120 LBs wet. So I went to Florida A & M to play football. My counselor was a member of the Omega Psi Phi, another
member of the Divine Nine. He said, ‘We’re sending you to FAMU.’ I went to Florida A & M University. I decided not to play football because
again I was a little too small. I thought the next best thing for me to do was to look at fraternities. I saw the Kappas, Omegas, Iotas and the
Alphas. The Kappas were a better fit for me because I was cool and sharp and I liked the fact that the ladies migrated to the brothers. I said,
‘That’s for me.’ I met this young lady on campus. She said, ‘If you’re going to date me, you have to be a Kappa.’ I said, ‘Lead me to Kappa then.’
Her brother was the president of the chapter. And her daddy was a Kappa. Her uncle was my counselor from high school.”
It wasn’t just dating that Battles was concerned about. He saw who the Kappas were on campus.
“One of the things about us and how I actually got involved was the FAMU Kappas were all achievers,” Battles said. “The SGA president was
a Kappa. The president of the university was a Kappa. The president of the learning school was a Kappa. The drum major was a Kappa. The
head of ROTC was a Kappa. I wanted to be a part of the group because they were going some places doing some things.”
And while Battles was interested in all things college, he was also interested in leadership. He was fortunate that the Kappas had a fraternity
house on the FAMU campus. And so he was able to learn about leadership from the older Kappas who also lived in the house.
“During those times, I would come as an undergraduate,” Battles recalled. “Our mentors in the fraternity must have seen something in us and
they pulled me aside and said, ‘You hang out with us for a little while and let’s see what happens down the road.’ I was mentored and I was
always on a leadership track. Even when I wasn’t an elected leader, I was in the room with all of the leaders. Some of that rubbed off on me.
And so when I graduated and went to graduate school and then when I finished graduate school, I joined the alumni chapter and paid my dues.
That means you have a voice. I was elected the vice-polemarch of the alumni chapter for a couple of years. At the same time, I was working on
my professional career. And then I was elected to the province seat as a board member and then I went to the province four and was the
senior polemarch, who is the vice-president of the region. And then I was appointed by the grand polemarch to be the province polemarch. I
stayed there for 6-7 years and then when I finished that service to the fraternity, I guess they liked something that they saw in me in leadership.
I was elected to the Grand Board. I served on the Grand Board and when I left the Grand Board, I went in as the senior polemarch, the vice-
president of the fraternity. I did that for four years. And then the brothers elected me as grand polemarch in 2015. We are elected for two-year
terms. I’m in my second term now as grand polemarch. I will leave office in 2019.”
And the grand polemarch appoints all of the province polemarchs and so Battles appointed Thornton as the North Central polemarch. Thornton
grew up on the southside of Chicago and somehow made his way to Western Illinois University in tiny Macomb in the middle of nowhere.
“I’m a first generation college student,” Thornton. “I went to college for my family. What I found out about college was through my own devices.
I ended up at Western Illinois. One of the gentlemen who was here today became an acquaintance my freshman year. In my sophomore year, he
told me about these guys who had these canes and they spin them and they step and they are called ‘The Pretty Boys’ and they have the
Playboy bunny, which we no longer promote. The women liked them and they were going to have this thing called The Smoker, which is an
informational meeting. On the strength of that — I didn’t know anything about fraternities other than Animal House — and my buddy saying I
should go, I said, ‘Okay.’ What happened to me was I got bit by the bug. I went there and some of the members on campus, called ‘The Yard,’
were iconic figures and they commanded attention. They commanded respect from everyone. They commanded the ladies. And so, there was
an immediate attraction. ‘I think I want to do this.’ I was a relatively quiet and soft spoken and reserved individual. I was confident in my skills.
But again, I didn’t know anything about it. But when I got there, I thought, ‘I can see myself engaged with this organization.’”
Thornton was hooked and entered a brave new world.
Next issues: Contemporary Greek challenges
Part 1 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling
Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity is unique among the Divine Nine
African American Greek organizations. It was founded on a
predominantly white university, Indiana University, back in
1911 and has grown to 800 chapters with approximately
30,000 active members and over 150,000 members over
the course of its history. And Madison has two Kappa Alpha
Psi chapters in Madison, Beta Omricon, the undergraduate
chapter at UW-Madison, and the Madison Alumni Chapter.
On October 27-29, Madison hosted the Fall Leadership
Training Conference of the North Central Province
comprised of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and
Indiana. The Kappas always believe in academic excellence
And so they proactively work to ensure that their current and
future leaders are prepared to run the fraternity and its