Dr. Judy E. Graham (Oklahoma)
Why did you join Gamma Phi Beta, and what keeps you connected?
When I went through recruitment, Gamma Phi Beta stood out to me as a group with interests beyond the college party scene. My future sisters were proud of the Sorority’s philanthropy and showcased that pride during recruitment. At the time, our philanthropic efforts were camping for girls in need. My chapter, Psi (Oklahoma), had a long history of women volunteering to work at our Camp Sechelt in British Columbia. It was a source of pride for Psi Chapter to have a sister volunteering there every year. My 18-year-old self thought, “These women are different, they care about others and are making an impact in the world.” I went on to become a Camp Sechelt camp counselor and camp director. That experience provided me the opportunity to become involved at the international level of Gamma Phi Beta. The rest is history, as they say. My volunteer roles have kept me connected to sisters across the U.S. and Canada ever since. Through Gamma Phi Beta, I have an extended intergenerational family that has supported me throughout my lifetime and challenges me to be more than I thought possible. I am a better person because I am a Gamma Phi Beta.
Can you share your experiences as a counselor and director for Gamma Phi Beta’s camp?
Camp Sechelt was a beautiful beachfront property with access to hills overlooking the ocean. We did not have any fancy equipment or resources at the camp. An old costume closet, some handheld puppets, a small library of children’s books and a roped off area for swimming were the tools available. One day I looked around and saw one counselor teaching fencing with sticks and another teaching an art class with crayons and yet another leading a sing-along with an out-of-tune small manual pump organ. My first thought was, “This is pitiful.” Then I stopped and said to myself, “This is beautiful. This is amazing!” We took whatever skills the counselors had and developed a program around them. If a counselor knew about plants, she would take the campers on a nature walk. If another counselor was creative, she would raid the costume closet and make up a play with the campers. We had Christmas in July and celebrated Canada Day! I recall singing “Remember Gamma Phi Beta” with the campers on the beach and holding their hands as they entered the ocean for the first time in their lives. We used ourselves as resources and built relationships with the campers to create memories that still linger today.
You recently celebrated 50 years of Gamma Phi Beta membership and you’ve been a Foundation supporter for most of those years. Why is continued support to the Foundation important to you?
Love, Labor, Learning and Loyalty are the values outlined in the Gamma Phi Beta Creed. Our Creed has guided me throughout the past 50 years of membership. I seek to live out those four values as a sorority sister, volunteer and leader. Each Gamma Phi can show Love by donating to the Foundation to help others. A sister may exemplify Labor through volunteering for the Foundation or supporting our philanthropic partner, Girls on the Run (GOTR). The Foundation provides Learning through member educational programs and trainings. And, to the Foundation, Loyalty means the many benefits provided to our members will continue. Beyond just words on a page, the Foundation is the vehicle where Love, Labor, Learning and Loyalty thrive!
Why did you decide to become a Gamma Phi Gives Day ambassador?
The Foundation is personal for me. I was a recipient of the Founders Fellowship while working on my doctorate. The financial support helped me to buy my first personal computer, which facilitated my research and dissertation efforts. Later, I donated the same amount to the Founders Fellowship fund. That was a full circle moment, knowing the gift would be passed on to another sister.
I also served as a Foundation Trustee and saw firsthand how the Foundation made an impact. Members know about the Foundation scholarships and fellowships and GOTR. But many sisters are unaware that the Foundation also supports our collegiate leadership consultant program, REAL Leadership events, Convention, volunteer training and the Gamma Phi Beta Museum. Loyalty Grants is one effort close to my heart, as these grants help sisters who experience an unexpected need, such as a collegian who experiences the death of a parent. By being an ambassador, if I can help support all these impactful programs, then I am all in!
What would you say to encourage others to become Gamma Phi Gives Day ambassadors?
There are many worthy organizations competing for your charitable dollars. And of course, continue to support those you believe add value and are responsible stewards. What differentiates the Gamma Phi Beta Foundation from others is your proximity to the impact. The Foundation is a high-touch charity you can experience for yourself. You will meet and be influenced by women who are or were international or local Sorority leaders who used the leadership skills and education they gained through the Foundation to help Gamma Phi Beta and their larger communities. Or you may attend a Convention workshop, or an online program sponsored by the Foundation. If you want to see what your dollars are doing and know the impact you are having, the Gamma Phi Beta Foundation is the place to be! By being an ambassador, you will be a part of all of this! You don’t want to miss out on this opportunity. I hope to see your name on the ambassador list!