On Thursday November 5th, the Delta Beta Executive Alumni Chapter Foundation hosted its inaugural speaker series featuring Mark Tatum, Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer of the National Basketball Association. Tatum is a Spring 1988 initiate of the Iota Phi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., one of the Devine Nine historically Black Greek letter organizations (BGLOs) that make up the National Pan-Hellenic Council. The Iota Phi chapter was chartered in the Spring of 1978 on the campus of Cornell University with the help of brothers from the Delta Beta chapter of Syracuse University. With a distance of no more than fifty-five miles apart, the two chapters have spent decades supporting and collaborating amongst one another. At the heart of this close-knit bond has always been achievement and Tatum is one of the many shining stars of this union. As of 2014, he’s the highest-ranking executive of color in a professional sports league, according to The Root.
Tatum’s resume includes several top Fortune 500 companies: Clorox, Pepsi-Cola, Procter & Gamble and another preeminent sports organization, Major League Baseball. It’s a mouthful to say, but it just begins to skim the surface for all the success he has had in his career. In 16 years with the NBA Tatum has transformed the league inside and out. He has expanded the NBA’s relationships with long-time partners like Nike and Gatorade, and has been a key driver of new partnerships. Tatum was also responsible for the NBA’s media sales, including sales of NBA TV, NBA.com, and other NBA-controlled media. On a daily basis Mark embodies the Kappa motto, Achievement in every field of human endeavor, and this is what drew the board of the Delta Beta Executive Alumni Foundation to invite Tatum as the inaugural speaker of the series. “We chose Mark to speak at the first event because of his relationship with both chapters,” said Maurice Etheredge, one of the event’s lead organizers. “Also, his success on the NBA level is undeniable, he was a perfect fit.”
On the evening of Mark’s keynote speech brothers packed the “Kappa Kastle” in Harlem, NY–home to the New York Alumni chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi– to fellowship over food and libations. The room was filled with stories of brothers as they reminisced of their golden days as college students in the fold, and brothers were elated to reconnect with other brothers they had not seen in years.
Mark’s address began with praise for brothers packing the house to support the DBEAF’s first event supporting collegiate scholarship. He continued by explaining the strong-rooted relationship between Iota Phi and Delta Beta, recalling the time he first met brothers from Delta Beta. Tatum touched upon stories of his undergraduate career at Cornell and his time as an MBA student at Harvard. Each experience shaped him into a young man and diligent worker. He met influential people along the way, including one man who became a mentor for him who worked at the NBA. It was this mentor that opened Tatum’s eyes up to the possibilities of what his future could look like.
Tatum went on to discuss the highs and lows of climbing the ranks at one of the most successful companies in the world as a man of color. He also shared what the league is doing now to support player health, the NBA’s current initiatives in the United States and globally, and how local non-profits can engage and collaborate with their local teams. One motif throughout the night was how the lessons Tatum learned through the bond of Kappa helped him conquer the success he has earned in his career. “It’s the lessons I learned through Kappa at Cornell that continue to help me in my career today,” Tatum said. The main takeaway from his speech was through hard work and consistent relationship building Tatum has been able to see an enormous amount of success. “Nothing has been handed to me,” he said. “But I am sure to remember each and every one of the people along the way who have helped me get to where I am right now.”