Royalty, Friendly Competition Close Honors Institute

Phi Theta Kappa closed its 45th Honors Institute with its own version of “Family Feud,” but not before introducing attendees to a speaker of majestic means.

Members and advisors spent June 18-23 at the University of Denver in Colorado hearing presentations from renowned speakers and taking a closer look at the 2012/2013 Honors Study Topic, The Culture of Competition.

King Peggy and Eleanor Herman

King Peggy and Eleanor Herman speak with seminar groups.

The sixth general session featured Peggielene Bartels, also known as King Peggy, the King of Otuam in Ghana, and New York Times best-selling author and historian Eleanor Herman. The session was sponsored by Dr. Joyce Freeman and Dr. Janice Freeman, Phi Theta Kappa alumna and retired chapter and alumni advisors who currently serve as Phi Theta Kappa Foundation Trustees.

In the early years of Honors Institute, the Freeman twins served as photographers, documenting speakers and events for publications and archives. They have been named Distinguished Alumni and are residents of Texas.

Eleanor Herman introduced King Peggy, recalling how they first met at a party in Washington, D.C. The pair became close friends, co-writing King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village.

Herman stayed with King Peggy in Otuam, a small fishing village in Ghana, for about a month – it was a trip that she said transformed her into an activist for Africa and taught her to be grateful for everything from the food in her refrigerator to the clean water in her toilet.

King Peggy was working as a secretary at the U.S. Embassy in Washington, D.C., when she learned her uncle, the King of Otuam, had died. She was told that she was now king of the 7,000-member village. She took time to think about it – and she said she then started hearing voices.

The crowd was moved as they heard King Peggy tell of sitting in her 1992 Honda Accord on her way to her job as a secretary and deciding to give in to the voices telling her it was not every day that a woman is born to be king. She went to work, made tea for her boss, and told him of her new position in life.

King Peggy found opposition from the village elders – all men – who were taking money from the village and were determined to tell her how to run things.

“I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to war, and I’m going to win,’ ” she said of her will to run the village as she saw fit.

King Peggy first worked to bring clean water to her village. She then began empowering the women to stand up to the domestic abuse they were facing and to take on more active leadership roles within the village. She is currently working to bring a library to the village.

One common theme ran throughout King Peggy’s presentation: the power of prayer. She left the crowd with this simple piece of advice: “Be bold, pray and listen to your elders.” It resonated with the women, in particular.

“I loved the process she started of helping the women help themselves and of demanding respect from people who didn’t think they deserved it,” said Mozell Rollerson, an advisor to the Alpha Epsilon Omicron Chapter at Trident Technical College in South Carolina. “And her message of the power of prayer.”

The Honors Institute wrapped with the first Honors Institute Culture of Competition Feud game show, modeled after the popular “Family Feud” game show. Steve Schroeder, an Honors Program Council member and chapter advisor at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, hosted the game show.

“Families” from seminar groups competed in preliminary rounds throughout the week, with the final four teams playing during the final general session. The family from Seminar 8, “The Risley Bears,” led by Sima Dabir, beat out the competition to win the first Culture of Competition Feud.

The Feud game was sponsored by Dr. Gayle Wyatt, a former member of Phi Theta Kappa Headquarters staff who played a key role in the creation and development of the Honors Study Topic and the Honors Institute. Wyatt is a former college teacher who served as Academic Dean at Navarro College. He lives in Texas.

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