“Slipped the Surly Bonds of Earth” – Apollo 1, Challenger, Columbia and Their GLO Astronauts

Yesterday marked 29 years since the space shuttle Challenger exploded after take off. On January 27, 1967, Apollo 1 was involved in a training accident which killed the three astronauts on board. And February 1 will be the 12th anniversary of the Columbia disaster.

Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chafee were killed in the Apollo 1 cabin fire. White was a member of Phi Kappa Sigma.

Edward H. White, II, Phi Kappa

Edward H. White, II, Phi Kappa Sigma

Lost in the Challenger explosion were: S. Christa McAuliffe, a schoolteacher who was taking part in an innovative program to put teachers into space; Gregory Jarvis; Judith Resnick; Francis R. “Dick” Scobee; Ronald E. McNair; Mike J. Smith; and Ellison S. Onizuka. McNair was a member of Omega Phi Psi. 


Ronald McNair, Omega Psi Phi

Onizuka belonged to Triangle Fraternity.

Ellison S. Onizuka, Triangle Fraternity

Ellison S. Onizuka, Triangle Fraternity

Resnick, the second woman in space, was the first American astronaut to be a member of a National Panhellenic Conference organization. Resnick, an Alpha Epsilon Phi from the Carnegie Mellon University chapter, was also the first Jewish-American in space.  Alpha Epsilon Phi’s Foundation established the Judith Resnick Memorial Scholarship as a tribute to her. Preference is given to members who are pursuing engineering, science or other related degrees. The sorority also presented a portrait of Resnick to her alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University.

Judith Resnick

Judith Resnick. Alpha Epsilon Phi

The seven astronauts killed in the Columbia explosion on February 1, 2003, were: Michael Anderson; David Brown; Ilan Ramon; Rick Husband, Willie McCool; Kalpana Chawla; and Laurel Clark.  

Clark became a member of Gamma Phi Beta while she was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There is a display of her NASA memorabilia on display in the Sorority’s International Headquarters Museum in Centennial, Colorado.. In 2004, the Gamma Phi Beta Foundation established the Laurel Salton Blair Clark MD Memorial Leadership Endowment which  funds Gamma Phi Beta’s LeaderShape Institute, regional leadership conferences, collegiate consultant training and International Convention education programs.

Laurel and her son Sam wrote an article for Scholastic News.

Laurel Clark, Gamma Phi Beta, and her son Iain wrote an article for Scholastic News.

President Ronald Reagan, Tau Kappa Epsilon, was to have delivered the State of the Union address the night of the Challenger explosion. Instead, he gave a tribute to the astronauts. It ended with, “The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of Earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.'” The phrases in quotes are of the last sentence are from a poem High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., an aviator killed in a 1941 plane crash.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2015. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory/

Posted in Alpha Epsilon Phi, Fran Favorite, Gamma Phi Beta, Omega Psi Phi, Tau Kappa Epsilon, Triangle | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The “Mother of Nature Education” on Kappa Alpha Theta’s Founders’ Day

On January 27, 1870, Bettie Locke [Hamilton] stood before a mirror and repeated the words of the Kappa Alpha Theta initiation vow she had written. She then initiated Alice Allen [Brant], Bettie Tipton [Lindsey], and Hannah Fitch [Shaw].

In 1867, 17-year-old Bettie was the first female to enroll in Indiana Asbury College (now DePauw University) in Greencastle, Indiana. During her sophomore year, Bettie received an invitation to wear a Phi Gamma Delta badge. The badge did not come with the relationship arrangement as later tradition would have it, nor did it come with the benefits given to men who were initiated into the fraternity. When she declined the badge because it did not come with full membership rights and responsibilities, the Phi Gamma Delta chapter substituted a silver cake basket, inscribed with the Greek letters “ΦΓΔ.” With encouragement and prodding from her father, a Beta Theta Pi, and her brother William, a Phi Gamma Delta, Locke began plans to start her own fraternity. She and Alice Allen, another female in the first coeducational Asbury class, studied Greek, parliamentary law and heraldry with an eye towards founding a fraternity for women.

Badges larger than the current Kappa Alpha Theta badges were painstakingly designed by the founders and made by Fred Newman, a New York jeweler. The original badge was intended to be “something near enough to the Phi Gamma Delta badge to suit Betty Locke and yet slenderized to give it individually.” The badges were first worn to chapel services by the members of Kappa Alpha Theta on March 14, 1870.

Bettie later said of her time at Indiana Asbury, “We were all refined, good girls from good families, and we realized somehow that we weren’t going to college just for ourselves, but for all the girls who would follow after us – if we could just win out.”

The four Kappa Alpha Theta Founders

The four Kappa Alpha Theta Founders

Anna Botsford, the “Mother of Nature Education” was an early member of the Kappa Alpha Theta chapter at Cornell University. She was born on September 1, 1854 in a small upstate New York town. Cornell University had just started admitting women when she enrolled as a student. She joined a group of 36 women who were outnumbered 13:1 by the men.

In 1874, prior to becoming a student, she was told by a Cornell male student, “You won’t have a gay time, for the boys won’t pay any attention to the college girls.” Her retort to this message was “Cornell must be a good place for a girl to get an education; it has all the advantages of a university and a convent combined.”

Anna Botsford (Comstock), 1874

Anna Botsford (Comstock), 1874

Kappa Alpha Theta’s Alpha chapter had previously written the registrar of Cornell University asking for the names of women who might be interested in Kappa Alpha Theta. While the registrar did not provide names, he did send the Alpha Chapter a catalog and Alpha selected from the catalog the names of three women whose names must have seemed promising. The New York Alpha chapter at Cornell University was installed on January 29, 1881. The ritual and charter were sent registered mail and the chapter members initiated themselves. The chapter later became known as the Iota Chapter.  Kappa Alpha Theta was the first women’s fraternity on the Cornell campus. Anna Botsford was among the chapter’s early initiates.

At Cornell, she took a zoology course taught by John Comstock. A few years later, she became his wife. In 1888, she became one of the first four women to be a member of Sigma Xi, the scientific honor society.

Without formal training, she illustrated the books her husband wrote. She studied insects under microscopes and drew what she saw. She wrote botany books and learned wood engraving. The Comstocks formed their own publishing company.

She spent a large part of her life at Cornell University as a student, the wife of a professor and a professor herself.  She was the Cornell’s first female assistant professor.

And in a fun twist of Panhellenic cooperation, she helped Cornell’s Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter become established. In 1883, five Cornell University coeds discussed applying for a charter of a national women’s fraternity.  Comstock wrote a letter of recommendation to accompany the group’s letter to Kappa Kappa Gamma. Shortly thereafter, two members of Kappa’s Syracuse University chapter arrived in Ithaca to initiate the charter members.

In 1917, an unnamed Cornell University Kappa Alpha Theta wrote, “To know Mrs. Comstock is one of the rare privileges of being a Cornell student, a privilege always guaranteed Thetas, for whom she keeps a special place in her chimney corner.”

It is said she was a conservationist before the term was even coined. In 1988, 58 years after her death, the National Wildlife Federation named her to its Conservation Hall of Fame and calls her the “Mother of Nature Education.”

Anna Botsford Comstock

Anna Botsford Comstock

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2015. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory/

Posted in Cornell University, DePauw University, Founders' Day, Fran Favorite, Kappa Alpha Theta, Notable Fraternity Women | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Sondheim Letter, Leadership Academies, and Gamma Alpha Omega

I’m a day late for wishing Gamma Alpha Omega a Happy 22nd Birthday.  I will offer my sincere congratulations nonetheless. The sorority was founded at Arizona State University. The sorority is a member of the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations (NALFO).  It was founded by eight young Latina women, Michelle Seanez, Amy Alvarez, Patsy Guardado, Clara Lopez, Annette Escalante, Valerie Mendoza, Roxana Quinones, and Sandra Saenz. The former four are the National Founding Madres and the latter four are the National Founding Charters. The organization’s motto is “Nos Una Crescemus” (United We Will Grow).


If there was an “all Sondheim all the time” station on Sirius radio, I would be there all the time. I am a fan of Stephen Sondheim’s work (the man is a musical genius!). When I saw this go by on the Beta Theta Pi facebook feed, I was extremely impressed and green with envy at the same time. What a treasure! 

Sondheim’s letter is in reference to the new Beta Theta Pi coffee table book Beta Brotherhood – a 175th Anniversary Tribute. It looks like a wonderful book and I will have to buy a copy asap.

Photo courtesy of Beta Theta Pi's Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Beta Theta Pi’s Facebook page.


Since the beginning of the year, my twitter feed has been full of tweets about the various Greek-letter organization (GLO) workshop/seminars/academies which have taken place in early January. The names of these events might be different, but the goal is the same. It’s to educate, inspire, and to offer collegiate chapter members the opportunity to see the bigger picture of GLO life.

The National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), the umbrella organization for 26 women’s fraternities/sororities, debuted its College Panhellenic Academy this past weekend in Indianapolis. It was held in conjunction with the North-American Interfraternity Conference’s IFC Academy. The focus of the College Panhellenic Academy was on Panhellenic operations and campus leadership.

Here’s to hoping that every collegiate leader who was at one of these events can go back to their chapter and campus and inspire others to reach for higher goals and to do great things. Or to at least realize that there is a bigger picture; that the world does not revolve around their chapter and/or campus. I could stand on this soap box for a while, but I know I am preaching to the choir and I have a list a mile long of other things to do. I offer gratitude to those who plan, speak at and inspire those collegians. It is important work.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2015. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory/


Posted in Beta Theta Pi, Fran Favorite, Fraternity meetings, Gamma Alpha Omega, National Panhellenic Conference, NIC, North-American Interfraternity Conference | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

What in the GLO World is a Patroness?

“What is a Patroness?” is a question that is usually asked of me after someone has looked through an old yearbook or chapter scrapbook.

An 1898 Arrow of Pi Beta Phi included a report about the chapter at Boston University, “During the summer our girls have carried with them the memory of the delightful afternoon that we enjoyed with Mrs. Tyndale, our Pi Phi patroness, before college closed. One afternoon, Mr. Tyndale escorted us in a private car to their beautiful home in Weymouth. We spent the time roaming about their fine estate and returned to the house to find a banquet spread there for us. We left our host and hostess with a parting Pi Phi yell and it is easy to imagine how twenty girls made that car resound with our fraternity songs. About a week later, Mr. and Mrs. Tyndale came to college to take us from there to the studio of one of Boston’s most famous artists, a personal friend of theirs. Here we were delightfully entertained by looking at pictures and listening to interesting anecdotes.”

I’ve found mention of the Sigma Nu chapter at the University of Illinois having Patronesses in the early 1900s, just after the chapter was founded, “In the fall (1902) we entertained twice at informal affairs at the house, the first being in the form of a card party and the second in the form of an ‘at home’ for our patronesses and their husbands. Just before the holidays Mrs. Busey, one of our patronesses, entertained the chapter and its lady friends delightfully at an informal party in her beautiful and spacious home. On February 6th, we gave our first annual party, which was considered by everyone a success. Last month Mrs. Baker, another of our patronesses, entertained us at an informal dance.” Mrs. Baker was the wife of the dean of the engineering department and the mother of Cecil and Webb, two of the chapter’s charter members.  

In a 1913 Arrow, the Pi Beta Phi chapter at Simpson College reported that it was “especially glad to introduce Miss Hildegard Jend, Delta Gamma, professor of German, as our new Patroness.” That same year, the Pi Phi chapter at the University of Texas entertained with a tea in honor of their mothers and patronesses. Also invited was L. Pearle Green, Grand Secretary of Kappa Alpha Theta, who was visiting the Theta chapter.  The Pi Phi chapter at Stetson University, in the chapter’s letter in the same Arrow, mentioned a married couple serving as the chapter’s patron and patroness.

The best explanation I’ve found, albeit a very general one was in the January 1902 issue of Kappa Alpha Theta:

Many questions have been asked from time to time in regard to Eta’s custom of having fraternity patronesses. This custom of asking faculty women or other women of prominence to identify themselves with a certain fraternity has been a common one at the University of Michigan for many years. Just when and how it originated, I am not able to say. In regard to Eta chapter when re-established in 1893, there was only one married Theta living in Ann Arbor. She was the wife of a prominent faculty member. The girls felt the need of having more women of influence connected with them so they asked Mrs. Walker, an enthusiastic college woman with whom some of the girls had been identified in League work, to give them the benefit of her name. This constituted a precedent which has been followed whenever we have met a woman who especially appealed to us as being congenial and altogether fine – until now we have six patronesses.

We make a distinction between a patroness and a Theta who is married and living in the town. The latter we call a resident member but speak of them both together and with pride as ‘our ladies.’ Naturally the fraternities of Ann Arbor consider this custom advantageous or it would not have become so popular a one I will point out some of these advantages as they appear to me.

One of the aims of a fraternity girl is to broaden her horizon as much as possible. These women chosen from the most charming and influential women in the college town are non-fraternity women. They have the view point of an outsider and yet have at heart the interests of the fraternity. Hence, their counsel is of double value.

We do not initiate our patronesses, therefore we do not consult with them on purely fraternity questions. We go to them for advice in regard to social affairs or for personal sympathy.

A girl away from home for the first time and indeed always misses the family life. This is especially true if the girl in question lives in rooms and boards out as is often the case with those girls who do not live in the fraternity house. To her a tea, a cozy afternoon chat or a morning in the nursery with one of our ladies and her children is a treat indeed. It is like a glimpse of the home life which one must long for sometimes in spite of the attractions of college.

Our ladies do not rush for us. We are agreed that it is not dignified. However, they do many things indirectly which help our rushing. There are usually one or two of them present at our little affairs in order that they may approve or disapprove of the girls whom we are entertaining.

They often loan us dishes, linen or silver to help out our own meagre supply, and have even taken the whole responsibility for an entertainment off our shoulders during an especially busy time.

During the year although we always have our house chaperon to help us entertain, we often ask one or two of our ladies to chaperone our informal evenings at the house. And at our annual party we are disappointed indeed if we fail to have the whole number to help us receive.

But there is another side that is by far the most important. The average college girl of the present day is young. And the fact that a number of wise womanly women are interested in her personally, even though their interest springs from the fact of her being a member of the fraternity with which they are identified, is of inestimable benefit to her. She unconsciously lives up to their standards.

Aside from the fraternity aspect of the question it is a privilege for any young woman to know intimately such women as the fraternity patronesses should be if chosen wisely.

Alpha Sigma Tau Sorority’s first Patronesses: Ada A. Norton, Effie P. Lyman, Abigail Pearce (Photo courtesy of Alpha Sigma Tau)

Alpha Sigma Tau’s first Patronesses – Ada A. Norton, Effie P. Lyman, Abigail Pearce (Photo courtesy of Alpha Sigma Tau)

In 1913, the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) undertook a survey about Patronesses. The results were summed up by Louese Monning, Phi Mu. Here are some of the replies in edited form. (Remember, these are the answers of more than 100 years ago and they might no longer be true.)

Alpha Chi Omega – Patronesses are women of social positions, perhaps professors’ wives, who will take an interest in the activities of the girls, chaperone their parties, and give them a certain local backing.  

Alpha Delta Pi – Has patronesses now where it is the custom of the institution.  Where Patronesses are older women their influence takes the place of older alumnae with a younger chapter.

Alpha Gamma Delta – Patronesses are chosen for social position. Patronesses give chapters strength both socially and morally.

Alpha Omicron Pi – Each chapter is privileged to use its own judgment in selecting own. Undergraduate students derive much pleasure and benefit from contact with older women. Moreover, many of these women are college professors or in some way associated with the college world, and their connection with the sororities forms the bond between the students and the college which is so necessary to their correct attitude to each other.

Alpha Phi – Unless there are few of the older Alpha Phi alumnae in the locality, Patronesses are not selected. When selected, Patronesses are valuable because of their educational and cultural influences on the chapter.

Alpha Xi Delta – Endorses system of Patronesses because it gives the girls the advice of older women and a glimpse of home life when away at school.

Chi Omega – Has Patronesses; use is determined by local conditions.

Delta Gamma – Practice is not in general use and is discouraged except where local conditions seem to make it necessary, for the life and growth of the chapter. Policy of not to generally encourage the practice of having Patronesses. In some cases they may be helpful but they cannot have the same interest in the fraternity that the active members have.

Delta Delta Delta – Patronesses must be women of culture and refinement chosen from among the faculty members or town. Patronesses among faculty and faculty wives have a standard value: the value of Patronesses among town women depend upon the age of the chapter, upon relation of town and gown, general living conditions and the social life of the college. Many chapters find these women of great value, other chapters have never felt the need for them.

Delta Zeta – Each chapter chooses its own Patronesses. We have felt that the faculty women who have acted as Patronesses have helped our girls greatly in many ways mainly as advisers and social helpers.

Gamma Phi Beta – Officially does not have Patronesses.

Kappa Alpha Theta – Does not officially recognize Patronesses. Two chapters alone having Patronesses at the present time. There is no objection to a group of Patronesses if a chapter desires them.

Kappa Delta – Each chapter is privileged to have as many Patronesses or none as desired. They give advice in selecting new material, give prestige with faculty, and add dignity and social prestige to the sorority outside of college, as well as being a steadying influence to the girls.

Kappa Kappa Gamma – Has no national provision for Patronesses hence customs vary for different chapters. Chapters choose their own at their own discretion from prominent town or faculty women. On the whole the custom of having these older women attached to the chapter in an advisory or social capacity is favored, several instances being cited where their usefulness and advice have been of inestimable value to the chapters concerned.

Phi Mu – Chapters have Patronesses where local conditions seem to make it advisable. Must be women of culture and refinement who are faculty members or town residents, who will be helpful to the active chapter in a social or advocatory way. The system of patronesses – if by this is meant the selecting of refined and cultured women who will act in the capacity of social helpers and moral advisers to the active chapter but who are not initiated – is in a general way endorsed, though there is no national provision for them, and the matter therefore largely rests in the hands of the chapters. There is always the possibility of a chapter’s making an unwise choice, and in that case where the purposes of the fraternity are not likely to be appreciated, the wisdom of the system might be questioned; but as this is likely to be the exception rather than the rule, it is the belief of the fraternity that the benefits gained outweigh the probable disadvantages.

Pi Beta Phi – Has patronesses at the present time who are women of prominence in the town where the chapter is located. Influence of refined women who may or may not be college women, is beneficial for the younger girls on the active chapters.

Zeta Tau Alpha – Has Patronesses selected by each chapter.

Elizabeth Allen Clarke Helmick, as a wife of a Military Science faculty member, was a Patroness of the Hillsdale College chapter of Pi Beta Phi. She later enrolled at Hillsdale and was initiated into the chapter. She later served Pi Beta Phi in several capacities, including Historian. She is the author of the 1915 History of Pi Beta Phi.

Elizabeth Allen Clarke Helmick, as the wife of a Military Science faculty member, was a Patroness of the Hillsdale College chapter of Pi Beta Phi.  The January 1895 Arrow announced that she, along with another faculty wife, had become a Patroness. The chapter encouraged “all chapters who have not done so, to secure patronesses.” She later enrolled at Hillsdale and was initiated into the chapter. She went on to serve Pi Beta Phi in several capacities, including Historian. She is the author of the 1915 History of Pi Beta Phi.

 © Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2015. All Rights Reserved.

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Helping Women Reach for the Stars – The P.E.O. Sisterhood Turns 146!

My P.E.O. chapter met on Monday night. The reminder e-mail which the President sent a few days before the meeting was a double reminder. No only did it refresh my mind about the meeting, but it also told me that I signed up to do the program.

Each of our meetings is followed by a program, where a member or guest talks about something of interest. One of our members travels the world on mission trips and tells us about her journeys to other places. One member’s mother had a fabulous collection of hats; when she died, her daughter couldn’t bear to discard them so she brought them to a meeting and we played “dress-up” with Betty Lou’s hats. Another sister did a program about her favorite things, a la Oprah. She even had samples to give away.

Each year, I usually sign up to do the program for the January meeting. That’s because P.E.O., a “philanthropic organization where women celebrate the advancement of women; educate women though scholarships, grants, awards, loans and stewardship of Cottey College; and motivate women to achieve their highest aspirations” was founded as a collegiate organization on January 21, 1869. The seven founders – Franc Roads [Elliott], Hattie Briggs [Bousquet], Mary Allen [Stafford], Alice Coffin, Ella Stewart, Alice Bird [Babb] and Suela Pearson [Penfield] – were students at Iowa Wesleyan College, in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, one of the oldest institutions of higher education west of the Mississippi River.

It was a meeting filled with laughter. It had been a month and a half since our last meeting, so there was a lot of catching up to do. Our newest member, who was initiated at the December meeting, was at the door greeting people (a registered dietitian and a friend of the hostess, she had confided to her that one of her goals was to be a Wal-Mart greeter and that this would be good practice). Another member’s husband had died after Christmas. It was the first meeting she attended in a while because she was his main caretaker as he fought a long battle against Multiple Sclerosis. We welcomed her with hugs. The snowbirds, our members who head to southern points, were missed. Our hostess, one of the most gracious southern women I’ve ever met, took over the duties at the last minute when the original hostess had to bow out because of a family emergency. I am grateful to my chapter and I love being a part of it. I am confident that my P.E.O. sisters across the country have chapter meetings like mine, and that they feel the same way, too.

And so I did what I usually do at the January meeting. I talked about those seven young women, teenagers actually, who were students at Iowa Wesleyan in a time when they were a distinct minority – women enrolled in higher education. Could they, in their wildest dreams, have ever envisioned what P.E.O. is today? Could they have imagined us laughing together in a living room in a time and day far from the lives they knew? Could they fathom the amount of lives that would be changed by their simple little act of coming together and creating P.E.O.?

Although it began as a collegiate organization, in 1902 it became a community-based one. The collegiate chapter at Iowa Wesleyan became Alpha Xi Delta’s second chapter. P.E.O. chapters spread across the country from Midwestern roots. In 1911, P.E.O. established its first Canadian chapter in Vancouver, British Columbia. P.E.O. existed in quiet splendor and kept a very low profile in communities all over North America. Chapters did not toot their own horns about the good works they were doing. That changed in 2005, with a new logo and the introduction of an “It’s OK to Talk About P.E.O.” campaign. On January 21, Founders’ Day, P.E.O.s are encouraged to wear their P.E.O. emblems, the star shaped pins members receive.

1914 P.E.O. Emblem

1914 P.E.O. Emblem

To learn more about P.E.O., visit  http://www.peointernational.org/. In a short video Maria Bassegio, P.E.O.’s International President, explains what P.E.O. is and does. Maria’s Aunt Shirley was initiated into my chapter when she lived in Carbondale. By the time I joined the chapter, Shirley had moved to Pennsylvania, where she later served on the state board. Maria has told me that her Aunt Shirley is the reason she is a P.E.O., and my chapter feels this is a special connection to our International President. 

Happy Founders’ Day, P.E.O. Sisters! (And you might enjoy my P.E.O. History pinterest board at https://www.pinterest.com/glohistory/peo-sisterhood/).

7 daisies

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2015. All Rights Reserved.

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Belated Greetings to Robert E. Lee, Washington & Lee University, and Kappa Alpha Order

Robert E. Lee was born on January 19, 1807. In 1749, Augusta Academy, a small classical school, opened a little north of Lexington, Virginia. In 1776, the school’s trustees changed the name to Liberty Academy. In 1782, the Virginia legislature granted a charter to the school, which by then had moved a little closer to Lexington and changed its name to Liberty Hall Academy.

An endowment from George Washington helped the struggling school get on its feet. The $20,000 of James River Canal stock Washington gave the school in 1796 prompted the trustees to change the school’s name. It became Washington Academy and in 1813, Washington College.

In 1865, after the Civil War was over, General Robert E. Lee accepted the presidency of the college. It was not a decision he took lightly. While he was concerned that he might bring upon the college some negative feelings, he said  “I think it the duty of every citizen in the present condition of the Country, to do all in his power to aid in the restoration of peace and harmony.”

Although President Lee served only about five years, until his death in 1870, he had a significant impact on the institution. He added programs, he raised funds for new buildings, and he created an honor system, much like that of his Alma Mater, West Point. He also made an effort to recruit northern students to the school and made it his goal that they be treated well. After Lee’s death, the trustees changed the name of the school to Washington and Lee University. It is the country’s ninth oldest institution of higher education.

obert E. Lee was installed in the Lee Chapel of Washington and Lee University in 1883.  Sculptor Edward Valentine of Richmond created the statue.  Lee is buried in the family crypt on the lower level of the chapel.

The Recumbent Lee, by Edward Valentine, was installed in W&L’s Lee Chapel in 1883.

Women were first admitted to the law school in 1972, but it was not until 1985 that the undergraduate population included women.

Kappa Alpha Order was founded at W&L on December 21, 1865. Its founders are James Ward Wood, William Archibald Walsh, William Nelson Scott and Stanhope McClelland Scott. Robert E. Lee was named a “Spiritual Founder” at the 1923 convention. Its original name was Phi Kappa Chi. Phi Kappa Psi was the first fraternity to have a chapter at W&L and that organization protested the similar sounding name. It took on the name Kappa Alpha in April 1866.

Kappa Alpha Order celebrates its founding on or near Lee’s birthday. This year’s celebration marks the beginning of its Sesquicentennial year and Conviviums are planned to showcase and celebrate the Order.


Washington and Lee University celebrates Founders’ Day on or near Lee’s birthday. The celebration took place yesterday. James C. Cobb, University of Georgia professor and an award winning historian of the American South, was the keynote speaker at the Founders’ Day – Omicron Delta Kappa (OKD) Convocation. 

ODK was founded in 1914 at W&L. Four honorary members, 23 undergraduates and nine law students were inducted into the honorary after Cobb’s talk. 

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2015. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory/


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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and #MLKDayofService for a Proud Alpha Phi Alpha

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. The King Holiday bill signed by President Reagan, Tau Kappa Epsilon, in 1983 designated the third Monday in January as a federal holiday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Since the 1990s, there has been a challenge to turn the day into one of volunteer service (#MLKDayofService). “Make it a day on, not a day off” is the theme of the day. From my twitter feed at 6 a.m. CST and I suspect there will be many others throughout the day, from GLO groups across the country:

Up and at em’ early for Greek Day of Service. Coastal Greeks are packaging 35,000 meals today. What are you doing?

He did his undergraduate work at Morehouse College and in 1951, he earned his divinity degree from Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania.  On June 2, 1952, Martin Luther King, Jr. became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha’s Sigma Chapter while he was a doctoral student at Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts. When he moved to Montgomery, Alabama, he joined the Alpha Upsilon Chapter. His fraternity was a part of his life.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is on the right in the front row.

Martin Luther King, Jr., pictured with his Alpha Phi Alpha brothers, is on the right in the front row.

His Alpha Phi Alpha brothers supported him in his civil rights movement work. He networked with chapters. During the Montgomery bus boycott trial, Alpha Phi Alpha’s National President was with him at the courthouse. Fraternity brothers donated funds to his Montgomery Improvement Association.

At Alpha Phi Alpha’s 50th Anniversary celebration in 1956, he was honored with the Fraternity’s highest honor, the Alpha Award of Merit. 


In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the King Holiday bill which made Dr. King’s birthday a federal holiday. Shortly thereafter, a grass-roots campaign began to honor Dr. King with a memorial on the National Mall. In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed congressional legislation authorizing the memorial. It would take another 10 years before the ground was broken on the project. The project cost $120 million. Alpha Phi Alpha members donated $3 million. Those funds joined with schoolchildren’s donations of coins, contributions from individuals, large checks from 100 corporate sponsors, and $10 million in funds from the federal government.

The unveiling and dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial was to take place on August 28, 2011, coinciding with the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. The Fraternity’s private dedication on August 26, 2011 took place as planned with more than 5,000 Alpha Phi Alphas and their families and friends in attendance. Hurricane Irene caused the dedication to be postponed until October 16, 2011.



© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2015. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory/

Posted in Alpha Phi Alpha, Morehouse College, National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Zeta Phi Beta’s 95th Birthday, Its 1923 Expansion to Texas, and Violette Anderson

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. turns 95 years old today. Arizona Cleaver, along with her four friends, Pearl Neal, Myrtle Tyler, Viola Tyler, and Fannie Pettie, are the five pearls (founders) of Zeta Phi Beta. The idea for the organization happened several months earlier when Cleaver was walking with Charles Robert Samuel Taylor, a Phi Beta Sigma at Howard University. Taylor suggested that Cleaver consider starting a sister organization to Phi Beta Sigma.

Although there were already two sororities on the Howard University campus, Cleaver and her four friends were interested and started the process. They sought and were granted approval from university administrators. The five met for the first time as a sanctioned organization on January 16, 1920. They named their organization Zeta Phi Beta. It is the only National Pan-Hellenic Council sorority constitutionally bound to a fraternity; that fraternity is Phi Beta Sigma.

In 1923, Zeta Phi Beta was the first of the NPHC sororities to establish a chapter in Texas. Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, was the chapter’s home. The college was founded in 1873 by the Freedman’s Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. It was the first black college west of the Mississippi River. West Texas was a challenging site for the college, given the overt racism and Jim Crow laws of the time. The 2007 film, The Great Debaters, starring Denzel Washington, is based on a true story about the Wiley College Debating Team which was coached  by Melvin Beavnorus Tolson. In 1935, the Wiley team debated and beat the national champion team from the University of Southern California (the film changed the team to that of Harvard University).

Zeta Phi Beta made history with its 1937 Grand Boule’ (national convention). About three years earlier, Lambda Zeta, a graduate chapter based in Houston, was chartered. Violette Anderson, the 8th Grand Basileus (national president), asked Lambda Zeta to host the convention. It was the first time any black GLO held a convention below the Mason-Dixon line. The meetings took place in Houston’s black business area. The Y.W.C.A. cafeteria provided the meals because downtown Houston had no restaurants available to blacks. The delegates were housed with members and friends in their black neighborhoods.

Violette Anderson

Violette Anderson

Although she had sought the locale and made the connections, Anderson was unable to preside at that Houston Boule’. An article in the January 29, 1938 Pittsburgh Courier with the subtitles “SPIRIT OF LATE BASILEUS INSPIRES SORORS TO ACTION” and “Progress Under Leadership of the Late Attorney Violette Anderson Is Recalled” offers some insight:

CHICAGO, Jan. 27—When Attorney Violette N. Anderson passed just before the 1937 Boule, the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority lost a most conscientious, industrious and outstanding Soror and Grand Basileus.

During the four years that Soror Anderson was the grand basileus it was evident that she had not only stressed and worked for the development of finer womanhood for Zeta, but had done so for all humanity.

It was Soror Attorney Anderson who made the personal contacts which made Zeta alive in some of our leading colleges, universities and cities. Her guidance as a Zeta, a Christian, a lawyer (the first race woman attorney to practice before the Supreme Court), a club woman, and a good citizen, kept all Zetas alive and living up to their ideal of ‘Finer Womanhood.’

Under her administrative leadership, the sorority carried on its wide-awake recreational project for the handicapped in Coatesville, Pa. That project was directed by Soror Gertrude Hamm, of Washington, DC , and her assistants. The project received nation-wide favorable comment.

Although at the Boule in Houston, Texas, during the holidays, all Zetas were saddened by the death of their grand basileus, Attorney Violette N. Anderson, they were happy to know that her last year for Zeta closed with over one hundred active Zeta Phi Beta Chapters, and an incomparable published book of Zeta’a accomplishments. ‘Time Marches On,’ thus a new grand basileus, Soror Nellie B. Rogers, was elected for 1938. Mrs. Rogers is a native of Indianapolis, Ind., and other than being a teacher in the public schools there, she is a singer and an active worker in religious, civic, social and educational circles. She has her A. B. degree, is working on her master’s degree, and studies with the Musical College of Indianapolis.

The 15th Boule took place in Washington, D.C. in 1935. (Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution)

The 15th Boule took place in Washington, D.C. in 1935. (Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution)

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2015. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory/


Posted in Founders' Day, Fran Favorite, Howard University, National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), Zeta Phi Beta | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

Alpha Kappa Alpha’s New Dimensions of Service and Eleanor Roosevelt on Founders’ Day

Alpha Kappa Alpha, Incorporated, the first Greek-letter organization for African-American women, was founded on January 15, 1908 by nine young female Howard University students. 

At its convention in June 2014, the sorority announced “Launching New Dimensions of Service” with five target programming areas: Educational Enrichment; Health Promotion; Family Strengthening; Environmental Ownership; and Global Impact. Among the initiatives are the ASCENDSM  (Achievement, Self-Awareness, Communication, Engagement, Networking, and Development Skills) program for male and female high school students. The goal of the program is to help the students achieve their maximum potential. The AKA One Million BackpacksSM initiative will supply 250,000 backpacks and school supplies a year to students. The Think HBCUSM  campaign will highlight the Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the contributions made by their graduates. Health awareness programs will focus on Alzheimer’s Disease, stroke, and mental health and wellness. Family Strengthening initiatives include childhood hunger awareness, fiscal responsibility programming, and the Family Seasonal WrapsSM program, to collect and distribute coats, gloves and other clothing to keep people warm in cold temperatures.

International Community Service Days to highlight the program target areas are: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service (January); Pink Goes Red for Heart Health Day (February); 1908 Playgrounds Mobilization Day (May); The Longest Day™ Alzheimer’s Support Activities (June); Mental Health Awareness Day (July): and Childhood Hunger Awareness Day (October).

Alpha Kappa Alpha @akasorority1908  ·  Jan 4 This weekend kicked-off the unveiling of 'Launching New Dimensions of Service' Check out a few pics #AKA1908 #AKALNDS

From twitter: Alpha Kappa Alpha @akasorority1908 · Jan 4
This weekend kicked-off the unveiling of ‘Launching New Dimensions of Service’ Check out a few pics #AKA1908 #AKALNDS (Photo courtesy of Alpha Kappa Alpha) On a personal  note, I LOVE the scarf!


On a different note, one of the questions that bring people to this blog is “Was Eleanor Roosevelt an AKA?” Yes! First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha. Her membership grew out of an incident involving another honorary member, the famed contralto Marian Anderson, the first African-American woman to sing with the Metropolitan Opera and perform at the White House.

In the 1930s, Miss Anderson had performed in Europe and was the third highest box office concert draw in the United States. Sol Hurok, her manager, and Howard University tried to schedule a performance to benefit Howard’s School of Music at Constitution Hall in January 1939. They were told the hall was unavailable due to a prior engagement. Another date was requested and it was again denied. It became clear that the hall’s owners, the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.), had a policy against allowing African-American entertainers on the stage. (In 1932, Washington, D.C. had segregated facilities. Following protests over “mixed seating,” the D.A.R. adopted a rule excluding African-American artists from performing at the hall.)

In 1932, after her husband became President, Mrs. Roosevelt was given a D.A.R. membership card. She resigned her membership on February 26, 1939. She also wrote about her resignation in the “My Day” column she wrote for the following day. “But, in this case, I belong to an organization in which I can do no active work. They have taken an action which has been widely talked of in the press. To remain as a member implies approval of that action, and therefore I am resigning.”

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Marian Anderson, both Honorary Members of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Incorporated.

Instead of Constitution Hall, Miss Anderson sang at the base of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939. There were 75,000 people in attendance. In 1943, she finally performed at Constitution Hall for a war relief concert.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2015. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory/

Posted in Alpha Kappa Alpha, First Ladies, Founders' Day, Fran Favorite, Howard University, National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

Delta Sigma Theta, Miss Golden Globe, DGs on TV, and Condolences to Sig Ep

Today marks 102 years for Delta Sigma Theta. Happy Founders’ Day! To find out more about the sorority’s fascinating history see http://wp.me/p20I1i-1n8 and http://wp.me/p20I1i-vY.



In yesterday’s column about the Golden Globe Awards, I failed to mention that Miss Golden Globe 2015 was Greer Grammer, a University of Southern California Kappa Kappa Gamma alumna. She the daughter of Kelsey Grammer and Barrie Buckner.


Sometimes writing a letter to a daytime show host can have unexpected and fun consequences. The Delta Gammas at Butler University can attest to this fact. For an explanation of this cryptic sentence see http://ellentube.com/videos/0-a3nlj1s1/.

The Butler University Delta Gammas viewing party for the chapter's appearance on television.

The Butler University Delta Gammas viewing party for the chapter’s appearance on television as posted on the chapter’s twitter account.


Sig Ep Badge black

On a much sadder and heartbreaking note, I offer my condolences to the men of Sigma Phi Epsilon, especially the members of the chapter at Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO). Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where SEMO is located, is about 45 minutes from my home. My heart breaks for Bobby Christman’s family, friends and his Sig Ep brothers. This post is from the SEMO Sigma Phi Epsilon Alumni page:

It saddens me to have to notify you that last night one of our undergraduate brothers, Bobby Christman, was shot in a robbery attempt in downtown St. Louis. The gunman entered a vehicle that he and two other teenagers were seated in an attempt to rob a girl of her purse in the backseat. A scuffle took place and Bobby was shot directly in the head. It is a critical brain injury. Our undergraduates have been by his parent’s side at SLU hospital throughout today. This is a tragic event that our undergraduates are having to cope with and endure in Bobby’s darkest hour. The deepest sympathy of our Missouri Zeta Alumni are with his family and our undergraduate brothers. Our thoughts and devotion are with Brother Christman. Please keep him in your prayers.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2015. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory/

Posted in Butler University, Delta Gamma, Delta Sigma Theta, Fran Favorite, Howard University, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Sigma Phi Epsilon | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off