Louise A. Rice Biography
Educator, community leader
Like many young black women attending college, Louise Rice joined a sorority for social and academic support. She chose Delta Sigma Theta because she felt that the organization's goals and ideals reflected the principals that she thought were important. As she later told reporter Faith Johnson in an article for the Augusta Chronicle, "I observed all of the sororities, and I saw in Delta an extension of myself. I saw the pursuit of scholarship and service, and the members carried themselves as ladies. It has been a lifelong commitment.'"
Rice's lifelong commitment to Delta Sigma Theta has involved serving in the regional and national offices of the sorority and holding several high positions in its administration. As regional director, national secretary, first vice president, and, finally, national president, Rice has demonstrated her commitment not only to the values and goals of Delta Sigma Theta, but to the empowerment of the entire black community throughout the United States.
Louise Allen Rice was born in 1941 in Augusta, Georgia, the daughter of Elnora and Willie Allen. In 1959 she entered college at Tuskegee University in southeastern Alabama. Tuskegee is an historically black university that was founded on July 4, 1881 as a result of the vision of Lewis Adams, a former slave. During the 1870s, a white Alabama politician named W.L. Foster, who was running for a seat in the state Senate, asked Adams to use his influence within the black community to persuade black voters to support Foster's campaign. When he offered Adams a favor in return, the former slave did not ask for any personal reward, but instead requested that a black teacher's college be established in the town of Tuskegee. Adams' wisdom and community spirit led to the creation of one of the most respected and progressive black institutions of learning in the world. Like Lewis Adams, Louise Rice also understood the importance of education to the strength and growth of the black community. She began to study to become a teacher, eventually focusing on reading education.
During the late 1950s, few African Americans entered college and fewer still remained to graduate. Those who did needed the support of other students like them. Many colleges had brotherhood and sisterhood organizations called fraternities and sororities. Because the organizations were named with letters of the Greek alphabet, they were collectively called the "Greek system." Before the end of segregation, most of the groups in the white Greek system did not allow black members. Therefore, black students formed their own Greek organizations, with nine black fraternities and sororities. These African American fraternal organizations continue to offer support to their members even after graduation. The alumni chapters of black fraternities and sororities are often more active than those on college campuses, as members join together to support each other and contribute to their communities.
In 1961, while attending classes at Tuskegee, Rice joined Delta Sigma Theta sorority. She chose Delta Sigma Theta because it seemed to be one of the most effective and constructive women's organizations on campus. Delta Sigma Theta had been established by twenty-two female students at the historically black Howard University in Washington, D.C. They formed the sorority in order to support each other academically and to combine their strengths to help others both at Howard and in the community at large. From the beginning, members of Delta Sigma Theta demonstrated an understanding of the importance of civil rights; their first action as a group was to participate in a march for women's right to vote in March 1913 in the nation's capital. Delta Sigma Theta has continued this tradition of promoting political activism, education, and health within the African American community. In the years since its founding, the sorority has gained over 250,000 members, becoming one of the largest black women's groups in the world.
Rice graduated from Tuskegee in 1963. She returned to her home state and started her teaching career as an English instructor at Washington High School in Cairo, Georgia. After marrying Wilson L. Rice in 1965, she returned to Augusta in 1966 to teach English and reading at Lucy Laney High School. In 1968 she joined the faculty of Augusta's Paine College, continuing to teach English and reading. After over a decade at Paine and several years as a lead teacher at Joseph Lamar Elementary School, she took a job at Augusta College (now Augusta State University) as assistant director of admissions. She remained at Augusta State, teaching reading, education, and learning support, until her retirement in 2003.
While working as a teacher, Rice continued her education, earning her masters at Columbia University Teachers College in 1969, and her doctorate in reading education at the University of Georgia in 1979. She also remained active in her alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta. In 1986 she was chosen to be director of the sorority's Southern region, and in 1992 she entered the national administration of the organization as national secretary, serving two two-year terms. In 2000 Rice was elected to the position of first vice-president of the national organization of Delta Sigma Theta, with the responsibility for scholarships and standards. In 2004, at the sorority's forty-seventh national convention, Rice was chosen to be national president.
Throughout her career as an educator, Rice had been a strong civic leader in Augusta, and her work in Delta Sigma Theta allowed her to expand her community work nationally and internationally. As president of the national office of the sorority, Rice placed great importance on social activism, encouraging members of all chapters to work on such issues as voter registration and education. Rice has stressed that education, particularly in the fields of technology and international politics, is an important step in the empowerment of black Americans. In January 2005 Rice presided over a major testament to Delta Sigma Theta 's commitment to the civil rights of all U.S. citizens. The sorority pledged a $1 million donation to the Legal Defense and Education fund of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Rice's work for Delta Sigma Theta and in her own community in Augusta, has earned her a variety of awards and acknowledgments. In January 2002, while Rice was in Lexington, Kentucky, to address the Lexington alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, she was not only given the keys to the city of Lexington, but also received the rare distinction of being named an honorary Kentucky Colonel by the state's governor. In 2004 the mayor of the city of Augusta honored Rice's ongoing work in the community by naming November 6, 2004, to be Dr. Louise A. Rice Day.
Augusta Chronicle, August 21, 2000.
Jet, September 6, 2004, p.12.
"ASU Professor Commissioned as Kentucky Colonel," ASU Report: News and Events, www.aug.edu/public_information_and_publications/march02/rice.html (August 5, 2005).
Johnson, Faith, "Professor Leads Sorority at National Level," Augusta Chronicle, http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/082100/met_160-5567.000.shtml (August 5, 2005).
"Allen Rice, Louise," Biography Resource Center, www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC (October 11, 2005).