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1974, The Year That Started It All

The Onyx Senior Honor Society was founded in 1974 by seven university students: Claudette Christian, Craig Inge, Sharon Moorer, Linda Walker, Charles Wardlaw, Joseph Watkins and Robert Wilson. These pioneers, with the aid of administrators Provost Elliot, Dean of Students, Alice E. Emerson, and Associate Dean of Students, Harold Haskins, formed the honor society to encourage and provide incentive for high academic achievement and community service at the university. These collaborators sought to recognize and commend outstanding performance within, and outside of, the classroom. The organization has played and continues to play a significant role in promoting academic success and survival for minority students operating in an often competitive environment.


One of the goals of Onyx was to re-establish the Society for African-American Students at the University of Pennsylvania. The society provided an all expenses paid program for black students in the summer before their first year. The program lasted from 1969-72 and concentrated on preparing its participants for the academic mainstream by providing books, room and board, a stipend, and two credited courses. This program later birthed the Pre-Freshman Program. In response to such changes, the goals of Onyx have also changed and developed over time. In the past, Onyx has focused on forums as a means to inform the campus community about black issues. Some topics have included the organization and promotion of networking and support within the black community as well as the provision of mentoring for both the campus and surrounding Philadelphia communities. Onyx hopes to create a positive social experience for blacks at the university and to recognize black achievement past and present.

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