Remembering an Extraordinary Ram

Phi Beta Sigma alumni group
Phi Beta Sigma alumni gather to remember Michael Corke and support current student athletes.

Michael Corke (B.A., ’88; M.S., ’03) passed away in June of 2020 after a valiant decades-long struggle with sickle cell anemia. His fraternity brothers have ensured that this wonderful man will be remembered by creating the Michael Corke Phi Beta Sigma Memorial Award, which will be given to individuals who participate in the student athlete internship program at Colorado State University.

Michael Corke in CR baseball cap
Michael Corke

During his years as a CSU student, Michael was active in what was then Black Student Services, now the Black/African American Cultural Center (B/AACC). He worked with their student athlete internship program. Current B/AACC director Duan Ruff (B.A., ’03) explains that “this award mimics Michael’s life. He supported student athletes, showed them other ways to be successful. This award celebrates the great spirit of Michael.” Duan added that the first recipient of the award will be named this year.

A driving force behind the idea and fundraising for the memorial award were two of Michael’s fraternity brothers – Morris Price, Jr. (B.A., ’87) and Mitch George (B.A., ’86). Morris currently serves as vice president for grants at Colorado Trust in Denver, and Mitch lives and works in Houston, selling software to enterprise businesses in the western U.S. While students, they and Michael were deeply engaged in building teamwork, discipline, and brotherhood at the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.

Four black students pose in front of Warner College
From left: Morris Price, Charles Moss, Gerald Hawkins, and Sean Murphy on campus in 1984.

After leaving CSU, Michael held positions in student athlete support at universities in other states, including Arizona and Texas. He was passionate about helping student athletes develop professional skills in addition to their sport. Michael later returned to CSU, serving as an academic adviser for CSU Athletics. While on campus, he helped reinvigorate the CSU chapter of Phi Beta Sigma, according to one of its members, and he encouraged football players to pledge. Michael also served as executive director of Corke Consulting Group and as an independent academic consultant during his career.

The previous director of B/AACC, Bridgette Johnson, had proposed an on-campus celebration for the 40th anniversary of the founding of Phi Beta Sigma’s CSU chapter in 1981. It was the first traditionally African American fraternity to establish a chapter at CSU. After Michael passed, fraternity members were in contact by Zoom and other means, expressing their sorrow and remembering how Michael touched, guided, and helped them. These conversations led to the idea of the memorial award in conjunction with the celebration of the 40th anniversary of their chapter.

Phi Beta Sigma alumni at the Smith Alumni Center
From left: Miles Murphy, Sherri Murphy, Ron Fugett, Charles Moss, Morris Price, Ranya Wallace, Keith Wallace, and Gerald Hawkins at the Iris & Michael Smith Alumni Center.

The juxtaposition of these two ideas turned out to be a wonderful and reinvigorating time. When the Phi Beta Sigma members gathered, they were given a tour of campus and were extremely impressed by all the new and revitalized buildings. Also, seeing the buildings and spaces that had not changed but were part of their CSU experience brought back many wonderful memories of their college days. It also brought back fond memories of Michael and the time they had spent with him.

Mitch calls the gathering “an incredible weekend.” Morris adds that combining this return to campus with fundraising for the memorial award “made everything come together.”  These alumni were able to raise not only the minimum amount required to create an endowment account at the CSU Foundation but exceeded that amount by almost 50 percent. Mitch cites CSU’s wonderful vice president for student affairs, Blanche Hughes, for her help in reaching out to local philanthropists to contribute.

The fraternity brothers have committed to return to campus this fall for Homecoming and Family Weekend, the start of what they intend to be an annual gathering for Black alumni on campus. They also have committed this group of alumni to become connected with current students. That process has begun with Morris meeting with the leadership of United Men of Color as well as with commitments from the fraternity brothers to give financial support to the B/AACC office.

If you would like to contribute to the Michael Corke Phi Beta Sigma Memorial Award, please visit this page.