More than 100 years ago, Vivian Osborne Marsh founded Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Kappa Chapter at UC Berkeley, and from 1935 to 1939 served as national president of this historically Black sorority. An educator and leader who dedicated her life to lifting up her community, Marsh earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in anthropology from Berkeley in 1920 and 1921, respectively. She was also one of the first two Black women to obtain a master’s degree in anthropology at UC Berkeley. Marsh focused her academic work on Black folklore and worked to expand civil rights, education, and cultural opportunities for Black Americans.
For current and alumnae leaders of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Kappa Chapter, Marsh embodied the dedication to the public good and community advancement that are the sorority’s founding tenets. When the Kappa Chapter decided to enhance the impact of UC Berkeley’s African American Initiatives — which provide financial, academic, and community networking support for Black students — by creating a new scholarship, it made sense to the members to name it after Marsh.
“We want to see that the organization that was started over a hundred years ago at UC Berkeley will continue to support our community,” says Andrea Holloway-Lowe ’92, president and CEO of Lowe Consulting and a member of the Delta Sigma Theta community for 30 years. “We’re not just members during our college years, we maintain a lifetime commitment through our alumnae chapters, and we continue to support Kappa Chapter at Berkeley.”
“When I came to Berkeley I saw the impact that this sorority was having here, and I joined because I wanted to be part of something greater than myself.” — Robynne Oliver ’23
For Robynne Oliver ’23, whose mother is in the same sorority, membership in Delta Sigma Theta is a family affair and a connection to a vibrant and steadfast community.
“I’ve had the opportunity to see for myself the impact of this organization — and of the Divine Nine (historically Black fraternities and sororities) — as a whole,” says Oliver. “When I came to Berkeley I saw the impact that this sorority was having here, and I joined because I wanted to be part of something greater than myself.”
Together with their tight-knit community of alumnae members of Kappa Chapter, the centennial celebration committee raised support for the Vivian Osborne Marsh scholarship fund. It will offset the cost of a Berkeley education for Black students in perpetuity, a fact that is very important to the members of the time-honored institution of Delta Sigma Theta. This scholarship is part of the African American Initiative Scholarship program, in partnership with the San Francisco Foundation and the CalAlumni Association.
The scholarship will offset the cost of a Berkeley education for Black students in perpetuity, a fact that is very important to the members of the time-honored institution of Delta Sigma Theta.
“We really wanted to give back to Berkeley,” says Holloway-Lowe, noting how quickly they were able to raise the funds once they decided to create an endowed scholarship. “This place has given us so much, and we want to carry on the legacy of Vivian Osborne Marsh by demonstrating a stronger impact to the African American student community, in perpetuity.”
The inaugural recipient of the Vivian Osborne Marsh scholarship, Tiffany ’26 (last name withheld out of respect for the student’s privacy), who is pursuing a degree in aerospace engineering, represents the kind of drive and dedication that the scholarship seeks to reward.
“When I hear the word initiative I think of motivation,” says Tiffany, reflecting on the value of the scholarship and of the importance of the African American Initiatives. “So, I’m definitely grateful that people who look like me and share my heritage and similar struggles were motivated to extend a financial hand to help me achieve my goals. Once I’m successful, I hope to somehow pay it forward to other students of color.”