First Homecoming? 1910, Illinois!

It’s Homecoming season. Several schools vie for the claim of being the first to have a homecoming celebration. Although I usually do not quote Wikipedia, I found this citation amusing. “The NCAA, Trivial Pursuit, Jeopardy!, and references from the American TV Drama NCIS give the title to the University of Missouri’s 1911 football game during which alumni were encouraged to attend. It was the first annual homecoming centered around a parade and a football game.” The operative word may be “parade.”

Who am I to contradict Trivial Pursuit, Jeopardy!, and NCIS, but a close examination of  Greek-letter magazines provides evidence that the University of Illinois was home to the first homecoming celebration. I searched 1910 and 1911 issues using variations of the word “Homecoming.” I did this because it is my feeling that the Greek-letter Organization (GLO) journals of the late 1800s and early 1900s helped spread ideas and collegiate traditions among college students. Most of the magazine also included an “Exchanges” section where an editor (or his/her assistant) would offer ideas garnered from the magazines of the other GLOs.

Exhibit 1 – a 1910 issue of the Delta Kappa Epsilon magazine. The University of Illinois chapter letter makes this reference, “The Fall Home-Coming, which is to be the very big University Alumni Reunion of the year, will occur the weekend of the Chicago-Illinois football game, October 15th, at Champaign. A large number of Delta Pi grads will be with us.”

Program from the first Home-coming game at the University of Illinois (Courtesy of University of Illinois Archives)

Program from the first Home-coming game at the University of Illinois (Courtesy of University of Illinois Archives)

Exhibit 2 – the November 1910 Sigma Nu Delta. The Gamma Mu chapter letter included this information, “On October 14, 15, and 16, the University of Illinois celebrated its first fall home-coming, and Gamma Mu took advantage of this opportune occasion to hold a reunion and initiation. All the old men from #1 up were informed of the great home coming and Gamma Mu expected a good many.” A followup letter in the May 1911 Delta noted, “The Fall Home coming which was mentioned in the last letter, proved to be a great success.”

Exhibit 3 – the January 1911 Kappa Alpha Theta, the magazine of the women’s fraternity with the same name. This entry is from a section on College Customs, “Home-coming was instituted at Illinois in the fall of 1910. The Students union should be given the credit as the idea originated with it and its members took a most active part in making the idea a reality.  As the name suggests, it is a time set apart for the alumni, and all actively interested in the university, to come and visit.  During the few days that they are here, we do our best to make them welcome and to show them a good time. Last fall Home-coming was October 14-16. October 15 celebrated the baseball game between the All Star team and last year’s Varsity.  After this interesting game the annual pushball contest between the sophomores and freshmen occurred. October 16 was made famous by the football game with Chicago when we beat them for the first time in nine years. The Home-coming is to be an annual event, the time so chosen probably as to include the date of our biggest football game.”  

The Push ball competiton, 1910. (Courtesy of University of Illinois Archives)

The Push ball competiton, 1910. (Courtesy of University of Illinois Archives)

Exhibit 4 – a 1910 Sigma Alpha Epsilon Record. It was noted, “On October 14th, 15th, and 16th, the University of Illinois held its first annual home-coming, and it was a huge success in every way, even to the long sought for victory over Chicago on our Gridiron. We had a number of old men back with us for the week and everyone seemed to have a good time. The idea has gained such favor that home-coming is an assured event for coming years, and we hope that the SAE house will be filled to the roof with old men every time.”

Exhibit 5 – a 1910 issue of Alpha Tau Omega’s Palm.  The Gamma Zeta chapter letter contains this reference, “Illinois had its first ‘home-coming’ on October 14-15-16, and it was a success beyond expectation. Pushball, a baseball game, and the Chicago-Illinois football game were features. The proud Maroon were humbled, 3-0, to the great satisfaction of every one. Gamma Zeta entertained about 40 brothers and visitors.”  

There was also this mention of the second University of Illinois Homecoming in a 1912 Beta Theta Pi magazine “The second annual home-coming was not well attended as it should have been, due in all probability to the failure of our football team to show great ‘class’ in the early games and the unexpected by Chicago. However all alumni who saw the Minnesota-Illinois game on November 25 felt that they were fully repaid for coming back.”  The Kappa chapter of Alpha Xi Delta in its chapter letter in the March 1912 Quill of Alpha Xi Delta, noted, “The home-coming brought back a number of old girls…during this time we gave a little house dance which was deemed a success.” 

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I found several mentions of homecoming on other campuses in the Greek-letter magazines of 1910 and 1911, but curiously none from the University of Missouri chapters. Although it was a random sampling of the magazines I could find on the internet, most of the organizations whose magazines I searched had chapters at Missouri in 1910 and 1911. “Georgetown’s ‘home coming celebration’ was the header over an article in the March 1911 Delta Chi Quarterly, “One of the most successful events ever undertaken by the Georgetown chapter was the ‘home coming’ celebration, held at the Chapter House in Washington, from November 16 to 20. A number of the ‘old boys’ responded to the invitation to return and visit old haunts and true friends left behind. Brother Watts of San Fran and Brother Throwbridge of Denver coming the greatest distance.” 

On November 6, 1911, Paul E. Fisher, the Corresponding Secretary for the Beta Theta Pi chapter at Indiana University wrote his chapter’s letter for the magazine. It was published a short time later. His letter read, “The University is making elaborate preparations for the annual home coming which is to be held during the date of the Purdue game, November 25, and in this respect Pi Chapter is cooperating in a most hearty effort to make it a big day for Pi alumni. A mammoth parade is being planned and there are many other interesting features to add ingests and zeal to the men who will return.” 

Beta Theta Pi’s Northwestern chapter announced Northwestern’s Home-coming in a 1911 Beta magazine, “On November 11, 1911 will be celebrated our first annual home-coming Day. The Chicago football game on Northwestern field in the afternoon will be followed in the evening by a big reception to the alumni in the gymnasium.”

© Fran Becque,, 2014. All rights reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest

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Sorority Women Who Are Competing in Miss USA 2015

State competitions for the Miss USA 2015 crown have begun and the following sorority women will be competing in the Miss USA 2015 contest. 

Miss Arkansas, Leah Blefko, Zeta Tau Alpha, University of Arkansas

Miss Florida, Ashleigh Lollie, Kappa Delta, University of Florida

Miss North Carolina, Julia Dalton, Kappa Delta, High Point University

Miss South Dakota, Lexy Schenk, Pi Beta Phi, University of South Dakota

Miss Tennessee, Kiara Young, Delta Sigma Theta

Miss West Virginia, Andrea Mucino, Alpha Omicron Pi, West Virginia University

Miss Wyoming, Caroline Scott, Gamma Phi Beta, Creighton University


Sorority women who have won Miss USA (and Miss Universe):

Miss Universe, Miss USA 1956 – Carol Morris, Kappa Alpha Theta, Miss Iowa USA (second Miss USA to win Miss Universe)

Miss Universe, Miss USA 1967 – Sylvia Hitchcock, Chi Omega, Miss Alabama USA

Miss Universe, Miss USA 1980 – Shawn Weatherly, Delta Delta Delta, Miss South Carolina USA

Miss USA 1982 – Terri Utley [Amos-Britt], Alpha Sigma Tau, Miss Arkansas USA

Miss USA 1988 – Courtney Gibbs, Pi Beta Phi, Miss Texas USA

Miss USA 1991 – Kelli McCarty, Gamma Phi Beta, Miss Kansas USA

Miss USA 1994 – Frances Louise “Lu” Parker, Alpha Delta Pi, Miss South Carolina USA

Miss USA 1996 – Ali Landry, Kappa Delta, Miss Louisiana USA

Miss USA 2003 – Susie Castillo, Kappa Delta, Miss Massachusetts USA

Miss USA 2008  - Crystle Stewart, Delta Sigma Theta, Miss Texas USA


If you know of other sorority women who have won Miss USA, please let me know.


(c) Fran Becque, www,, 2014, All rights reserved.  All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest

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NPC’s Personalities Plus, Indianapolis, 93 Years Ago

From October 26-29, 1921, the 17th National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) meeting took place at the Claypool Hotel in Indianapolis. The venue was located at the corner of Illinois and Washington Streets. The meeting was chaired by Ethel Hayward Weston, Sigma Kappa. She was the first NPC delegate to serve six years on the Executive Council. 

Kappa Delta Elizabeth Corbert Gilbert wrote the Around the Congress Table – Personalities Plus section of the meeting recap. NPC was 19 years old at this point. It is fascinating to read this account of the “personalities” of the women who represented their organizations:

At the head sat the chairman, Mrs. Ethel H. Weston, Sigma Kappa, still the same quiet, retiring little woman with the very appealing smile but showing much more of her New England granite in her firmness in holding the Congress to order. On one side of her sat the secretary. Mrs. N. L. McCausland, Jr., Alpha Omicron Pi, and on the other Miss Alpha Burkart, Zeta Tau Alpha, who served as treasurer for Dr. Hopkins. Mrs. McCausland, always insisted on knowing exactly what was said, so the congress minutes promise to be absolutely correct this year. Her sense of humor was very keen and injected much amusement into otherwise dry business.

Dr, Hopkins,* Zeta Tau Alpha, has so long been a dominant figure in the Congress that her presence was greatly missed. Miss Burkart, Zeta Tau Alpha. though new at the game, did not miss a trick and served as an able substitute.

There were several other new faces about the table. The new delegates are always rather at a disadvantage, not knowing the intimate procedure of years past, but they live and learn quickly. Among these were Delta Gamma’s national vice president, Mrs. Arthur H. Vandenberg, a woman so attractively gowned as she is personally pleasing. She was a former newspaper woman and served on the press committee for the Congress (NPC was then a congress rather than a conference). Alpha Gamma Delta was represented by a former national president who now serves as national treasurer, Mrs. May Willis Slocum. She is a business woman and brought a well-trained mind to bear on the various questions. Miss Irma Tapp, national inspector for Alpha Delta Pi, was one of those who did not say much but who was taking it all in. So also was Mrs. Gertrude McElfresh, Delta Zeta, a tall, dignified, gray-haired young woman, who came to the Congress with the express purpose of taking from it all she could possibly gain for the good of national Delta Zeta.

Mrs. Wm. Hudson, national president of Delta Delta Delta, while not a stranger to N.P.C. served as delegate for the first time. She was about the busiest person at the Congress for some time between the close of the afternoon session and midnight she would have to catch a train to Greencastle, her home, where she has a three year old daughter for whose care she would have to arrange for the next day. Despite all sorts of annoyances she was always smiling. Unfortuantely, Miss Amy Comstock, Alpha Phi’s delegate, was taken ill the second day and so the Congress missed her fair-minded discussions. Mrs. W. H. Ives, Alpha Phi’s national president, was an interesting substitute, however, since she acts as secretary of the Republican women’s executive committee of New York state.

The ‘old faithfuls’ were Dr. May Keller, president emeritus of Pi Beta Phi and the diminutive dean of Westhampton College, Richmond, VA; Miss L. Pearle Green, the capable executive secretary-editor of Kappa Alpha Theta; Mrs. Parke R. Kolbe, former president of Kappa Kappa Gamma and now business manager of The Key, who has known, and has been known in National Panhellenic Congress business for years past; Miss Lillian Thompson, Gamma Phi Beta’s ‘veteran delegate,’ who has known the Congress since its infancy, who, seemingly, has never forgotten anything  that ever happened and who could race an expert stenographer when she gets warmed up to her subject; Mrs. Anna Knote, national president of Alpha Xi Delta, a very lovable, quiet, soft spoke, but withal, positive delegate; Mrs. Frank A. Fall, long the representative of Alpha Chi Omega, who has made a name for herself in 1914 when she successfully managed the Congress meeting in New York; Mrs. Mary C. Love Collins, Chi Omega’s national president, to whom everyone refers nearly every decision and who is practically the legal adviser of National Panhellenic Congress; Miss Nellie Hart, former national president of Phi Mu and delegate for many years, who charms the Congress with her southern accent and who, as long standing chairman of the extension committee pleads anew each year the cause of petitioning groups; and Kappa Delta’s Elizabeth Corbett Gilbert, retired national president, and National Panhellenic Congress delegate for six years.

The Hotel Claypool

The Claypool, Indianapolis

May Lansfield Keller, Ph.D., Pi Beta Phi

May Lansfield Keller, Ph.D., Pi Beta Phi

Lillian Thompson, a member of Gamma Phi Beta's second chapter at the University of Michigan, was Gamma Phi's National Panhellenic Conference Delegate for 34 years. She served as Chairman of the 1913 meeting.

Lillian Thompson, a member of Gamma Phi Beta’s second chapter at the University of Michigan, was Gamma Phi’s National Panhellenic Conference Delegate for 34 years. She served as Chairman of the 1913 meeting.

Mary Love Collins, 1914

Mary Love Collins, 1914

L. Pearle Green, Kappa Alpha Theta

L. Pearle Green, Kappa Alpha Theta

Lydia Voris Kolbe, Kappa Kappa Gamma

Lydia Voris Kolbe, Kappa Kappa Gamma

Nellie Hart

Nellie Hart, Phi Mu

*For more  information on the fascinating May Agness Hopkins, see

© Fran Becque,, 2014. All rights reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest

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The Mysterious 1941 Columbus Convention, Disney, and NPC’s 2014 Meeting

A reader of this blog recently purchased the photo which appears below. She found it at the Covered Bridge Festival which takes place every year in Parke County, Indiana, the “Covered Bridge Capital.”

There is handwriting on the back of the picture. It states “National Convention – 1941, Columbus, Ohio.” The women are wearing badges, but it is hard to discern which badge it is.

I tried to do some sleuthing, but came up with lots of dead-ends. Delta Kappa Gamma, the teachers’ sorority, had a state convention in Columbus in October 1941. Beta Sigma Phi had a meeting in Zanesville in October 1941. Delta Sigma Kappa had a convention in Cleveland in May 1941. A number of my NPC archivist friends weighed in and said their organization did not have a convention in Columbus in 1941.

I think it may have been an organization which  later merged with another National Panhellenic Conference sorority or a women’s honorary society. Any information about this photo is very much appreciated.


The mysterious 1941 convention in Columbus, Ohio.


Sixty years ago, on Oct. 27, 1954, the TV show DISNEYLAND, debuted on ABC. It was named after the theme park which had not yet been completed. In case you are wondering about Walt Disney and GLO connections, here is the scoop.

Walt Disney was not a fraternity man. He did not attend college. Disney’s two daughters, Sharon Disney Lund and Diane Disney Miller are Kappa Alpha Thetas. Sharon was initiated into the Beta Delta Chapter at the University of Arizona and Diane is a member of the Omicron Chapter at the University of Southern California. Some say that the song “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” was written to honor Sharon and Diane. That is only a rumor and not based in fact according to Jane Shepherd Dick in an article, “Kappa Alpha Theta Myths,” that appeared in the organization’s Summer 2011 magazine. Walt Disney’s daughters were initiated in the early 1950s. The song from Mary Poppins, a movie based on an earlier novel by P.L. Travers, was written by the songwriting team of brothers Richard and Robert Sherman. The inspiration for the song seems to have been their father. He was a “fantastic kite maker,” according to his sons. 



This past weekend, the National Panhellenic Conference met in St. Louis, Missouri. Saturday, October 25 was Make a Difference Day, the largest day of national community service. The women who attended the NPC meeting brought with them gently used professional clothing. It was donated to Dress for Success – Midwest, an organization which promotes “the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.”   

Some of the items donated at the 2014 NPC meeting. (from NPC's facebook page)

Some of the items donated at the 2014 NPC meeting. (from NPC’s facebook page)

© Fran Becque,, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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Delta Zeta and Alpha Epsilon Phi Founded on October 24, Seven Years Apart, With a Broadway Twist

Delta Zeta and Alpha Epsilon Phi, both members of the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), were founded on October 24. In 1902, Delta Zeta made its debut at Miami University in Ohio; Alpha Epsilon Phi was founded in 1909 at Barnard College in New York City.

Delta Zeta’s founders are Alfa Lloyd, Mary Collins, Anna Keen, Julia Bishop,* Mabelle Minton, and Ann Simmons. Delta Zeta’s history includes the heritage of several other NPC organizations. Between 1941 and 1962, the members of four other NPC groups became members of Delta Zeta. Delta Zeta absorbed or merged with Beta Phi Alpha, Theta Upsilon, Phi Omega Pi, and Delta Sigma Epsilon. Prior to these groups becoming a part of Delta Zeta, some had themselves merged with other groups.

Alpha Epsilon Phi was founded in Helen Phillips’ room. She had the inspiration for the group as a way to stay in closer contact with her friends. The other founders are Ida Beck, Rose Gerstein, Augustina “Tina” Hess, Lee Reiss, Stella Strauss and Rose Salmowitz.

The seven shared their Jewish heritage. A second chapter was quickly founded two months later at nearby Hunter College. The founding chapter at Barnard was closed when the college banned Greek-letter organizations in 1913.

Actress Barbara Barrie is a member of Alpha Epsilon Phi. She was initiated into the University of Texas chapter as Barbara Ann Berman. While at UT she was awarded the Kappa Kappa Gamma Donna Dellinger annual scholarship. (It was established in 1952 in memory of Donna Dellinger, a Kappa Kappa Gamma member, who was killed in an automobile accident. Those eligible for the award were seniors or graduate students who showed “definite drama interest and ability.”)

Barrie has performed on Broadway, in movies and on television. She spent nearly two years in Company, one of my favorite Stephen Sondheim shows. She received a Tony Award nomination for her performance. Barrie also played the mother in Breaking Away, the 1979 film about Indiana University’s Little 500 race. She was nominated for an Academy Award for that performance. She has appeared in many television shows, including a 1975-78 stint as Elizabeth Miller, fictional detective Barney Miller’s wife. Most recently, she played Brooke Shield’s grandmother in Suddently Susan.

Barbara Barrie, Alpha Epsilon Phi

Barbara Barrie,           Alpha Epsilon Phi

Florence Henderson, who began her career on Broadway, has a place in 1970s sitcom history for her role as Carol Brady in The Brady Bunch. She is an alumna initiate of Delta Zeta. On the FAQ (frequently asked questions) part of her website, she includes this question and answer:

Are you really a member of the Delta Zeta Sorority?
I am an honorary member of Delta Zeta. They do a lot of work for the House Ear institute and the hearing impaired and so do I, so it was a good match. I was never an officer or an active member of the sorority.


To read more about Princess Martha of Norway, a Delta Zeta, see

* For a post about Julia Bishop Coleman, Delta Zeta Founder and P.E.O. State President see

© Fran Becque,, 2014. All Right Reserved.

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About Jenn Coltrane on Kappa Delta’s Founders’ Day

Kappa Delta was founded on October 23, 1897 at the State Female Normal School (now Longwood University) in Farmville, Virginia. Its founders are Lenora Ashmore Blackiston, Julia Gardiner Tyler Wilson, Sara Turner White and Mary Sommerville Sparks Hendrick.

Kappa Delta is likely the only National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) organization which can claim a U.S. President’s granddaughter as a founder. Julia Gardiner Tyler Wilson’s grandfather was John Tyler. Her father was the President of the College of William and Mary. She designed Kappa Delta’s badge. Wilson spent an additional year in Farmville and then transferred to Dana Hall in Massachusetts. There she prepared to enter Wellesley College. She graduated from Wellesley in 1904.

Jenn Winslow Coltrane was initiated into the Randolph-Macon Woman’s College chapter of Kappa Delta on October 27, 1903, The chapter was founded earlier that year on January 28. Although she was born in Marshall, Missouri and she died in Bellevue Hospital in New York City, she spent most of her life in Concord, North Carolina.

Jenn Winslow Coltrane

Jenn Winslow Coltrane

She served as her chapter’s president. After graduation in 1906, Coltrane served as Kappa Delta first Inspector. She spent five years as National Treasurer before becoming National President in 1912. She served until 1915 and was present at the meeting when Kappa Delta joined NPC in 1912. She also served as Business Manager of and a contributor to The Angelos.

Coltrane served on the state board of the Federated Women’s Club. From 1920-23, she was Historian General of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She qualified for membership by descent from her great-great-grandfather, Colonel Beverly Winslow of Virginia.

During World War I she worked in the War Risk Insurance Bureau and helped organize a Red Cross chapter in her county. In 1930, she founded the Junior Charity League in Concord. Its original focus was to provide soup, crackers, and milk to hungry schoolchildren. The Junior Charity League continues to this day.

The December 4, 1932 edition of The Tuscaloosa News reported, “Miss Jenn Coltrane, former national president of Kappa Delta Sorority, has returned to her home in Concord, North Carolina, after a short visit at the Kappa Delta House in Colonial Place.” She died on September 4 1934. In 1997, she was inducted posthumously into the Kappa Delta Hall of Fame.

© Fran Becque,, 2014. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest

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The Search for a Grand President

Yesterday, I traveled from southern Illinois to western Illinois for the Holt House Committee meeting in Monmouth. I was a woman on a mission. That mission meant I had to leave home at about 6 a.m. I made my way to Illinois College in Jacksonville where I was the first public researcher to use the new Illinois College Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives. Jacksonville Female Academy was home to a short-lived Pi Beta Phi chapter back in the 1880s and I was searching for information about it. 

After I was done, I met up with a Pi Phi I had never met in person. We “met” two weeks ago in the comment section of a Pi Beta Phi Facebook post. She and I had one Facebook friend in common, and on the power of that friend, I contacted her and she responded. Turns out she moved to Jacksonville about 11 years ago and discovered that Amy Burnham Onken, Pi Phi’s Grand President for 31 years, had lived in nearby Chapin and was buried in the family plot in Jacksonville. We greeted each other like long lost friends and then visited the cemetery.


The Onken family plot

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She gave me instructions on finding the home in which Miss Onken, as she was called, lived. “How will I know which home it is?” I asked. She said it was the biggest home in town and I couldn’t miss it, but she also gave me a page of pictures.


The home from the front.

She was right. It was very easy to find. The side view below is what you first see on the way into Chapin.

The side view of the old Onken home. The second floor turret room was where Miss Onken had her Pi Phi office.

The side view of the old Onken home. The second floor turret room was where Miss Onken had her Pi Phi office.

Then I followed the road around to the “Business District.” The John Onken and Brother General Store was right there. It had operated as an old-time general store well into the 1970s and was written up in several newspapers and magazines.

The General Store as it looked four years ago.

The General Store as it looked four years ago. At that time, the sign was still up.

The old Onken General Store. Currently, an antique store is open on weekends, with an everything must go sale.

The old Onken General Store in 2014. Currently, an antique store is using the space. It is open on weekends, with “an everything must go sale” taking place.

The back part of the Onken Store.

The back part of the Onken Store.

The old Chapin Train Station where Amy Burnham Onken departed and arrived when she took her trips on beha

The old Chapin Train Station where Amy Burnham Onken departed and arrived when she took her trips on behalf of Pi Beta Phi. The station is no longer there.

© Fran Becque,, 2014. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest


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Celebrating a 100 Years – Indianapolis Alumnae Panhellenic

On Sunday, October 12, 2014, the Indianapolis Alumnae Panhellenic celebrated a century of service, scholarship, and sisterhood. What a fabulous time it was! Centennial Co-Chairs, Sally Belknap, Alpha Sigma Tau, and Ilene Garrett, Sigma Sigma Sigma, and their committee did an absolutely wonderful job of coordinating every aspect of the day’s events. An added bonus was meeting Ilene’s daughter, a new member of the Bucknell University chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta, who was home on fall break.

The venue was the historic Indiana Landmarks Center. It was built in 1891 for the congregation of the Central Avenue Methodist Church. For many years, it was home to Indiana’s largest Methodist congregation. I heard one attendee say that her parents had been married there. Another asked for a picture in the front of the building as she had been baptized there.

The Indiana Landmarks Center.

The Indiana Landmarks Center.

The dome of the Indiana Landmarks Center.

The dome of the Indiana Landmarks Center.

By the 2000s, the building had become a community center and it was in deplorable condition. It closed in 2008 after a section of the domed sanctuary fell on the pews. Luckily, the Indiana Landmarks Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to historically significant and architecturally unique  properties, came to its rescue. Bill, Gayle, and Carl Cook of Bloomington, Indiana, directed the restoration and funded $16 million of the $20 million cost. (The Cooks also spearheaded and funded the renovation of the West Baden Springs Hotel, see Thank you Cook family for your dedication and generosity!).

Each member organization of the Indianapolis Alumnae Panhellenic had its own display. The high tea began with a procession of flags, one for each member of the National Panhellenic Conference.

The displays before the attendees arrived.

The displays before the attendees arrived.

Scholarships were awarded to sorority women from the Indianapolis area attending Indiana colleges. From its beginnings in 1914, supporting local sorority women was an important part of the Indianapolis Alumnae Panhellenic’s efforts. At that time, Butler College (now University) was located in Irvington. Over time, the organization added altruistic projects of its own, but the scholarship component has remained.

A toast of sparking cider was raised to the memories of those women who gathered in 1914 with the express intention of assisting the women who wore the badges of the National Panhellenic Conference organizations. Hope Davis (Mecklin) Gordon, Kappa Alpha Theta, was the first president. The president for the 1919-20 year was Icy Frost Bridge, Alpha Chi Omega, a 1917 graduate of DePauw University (in 1973, her husband, Don U. Bridge created the Icy Frost Bridge Scholarship at DePauw in her memory. Sorry folks but I could not help but mention her name!).

The women who began the organization in 1914 could not yet vote for the President of the United States, the men who represented them in Congress, or their local officials. Those women attended college in a time when most women did not do so. And as with all efforts celebrating the centennial of anything, the ones who celebrate the milestone are not the ones who were in on the ground floor, building the foundation that would last 100 years and laying the cornerstone for future excellence without a real blueprint to guide them. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of the celebration. Congratulations Indianapolis Alumnae Panhellenic and best wishes for an even greater 100 years to come!

The logo and materials were created by Willow Marketing. Herff Jones created a special pin for the occasion upper right corner)

The logo and materials were created by Willow Marketing. Herff Jones created a special pin for the occasion.

P.S. A great big thank you to all my Pi Phi friends for making my trip to Indiana one I will never forget!

© Fran Becque,, 2014. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest


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Founders’ Day! From A to Z (AXΩ and ZTA) With a Touch of Ida Shaw Martin’s “The Sorority Handbook”

October 15 is the day on which both Alpha Chi Omega and Zeta Tau Alpha celebrate Founders’ Day. In 1885, Alpha Chi Omega was founded at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. Thirteen years later, in 1898, Zeta Tau Alpha was founded at the State Female Normal School (now Longwood University) in Farmville, Virginia.

Alpha Chi Omega’s  seven founders, Anna Allen, Olive Burnett, Bertha Deniston, Amy DuBois, Nellie Gamble, Bessie Grooms and Estelle Leonard, were students in the DePauw School of Music. With the guidance and support of James Hamilton Howe, Dean of the School of Music, they created an organization that at its beginning insisted its members possess some musical culture. The first appearance of Alpha Chi Omega was in Meharry Hall of East College. The seven women wore scarlet and olive ribbon streamers.

Alpha Chi Omega entry from the 1907 edition of The Sorority Handbook.

Alpha Chi Omega’s entry from the 1907 edition of The Sorority Handbook (My apologies for the fuzziness of the photo.)

1907 entry, part 2

1907 entry, part 2

The entry below is from the 11th edition (1931). The 3rd edition (1909) noted that the flag “is in preparation,”  the Open Motto was “Together let us seek the Heights,” and the call was “Hi! Hi! Hi! Alpha Chi! Chi-O! Chi-O! Alpha Chi Omega!”

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Alpha Chi Omega entry fro the eleventh edition of The Sorority Handbook.

Alpha Chi Omega’s entry from the 11th edition (1931) of The Sorority Handbook.

Zeta Tau Alpha‘s founders are Alice Maud Jones Horner, Frances Yancey Smith, Alice Bland Coleman, Ethel Coleman Van Name, Ruby Bland Leigh Orgain, Mary Campbell Jones Batte, Helen May Crafford, Della Lewis Hundley, and Alice Grey Welsh.

1907 First edition

Zeta Tau Alpha’s entry from the first edition (1907) of The Sorority Handbook.

Zeta Tau Alpha entry from the first edition of Ida Shaw Martins Sorority Handbook.

Zeta Tau Alpha’s entry from the 11th edition of Ida Shaw Martin’s The Sorority Handbook.

Ida Shaw Martin was the married name of Delta Delta Delta founder Sarah Ida Shaw. She was an authority on women’s fraternities/sororities and edited The Sorority Handbook.

© Fran Becque,, 2014. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest

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Irvington, Indiana, and the Sad Story of Madge Oberholtzer

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to meet a fellow Pi Phi with whom I have shared e-mail conversations. She loves history, too. She lives in Irvington, Indiana. From 1875-1928, Irvington was the home of Butler College (now University). Today, the only Butler University school building which survives on the Irvington campus is the former Bona Thompson Memorial Library, now known as a center rather than a library. The Center has a model of the former Butler campus as well as pictures of the campus buildings and a map of where they were located.

The first e-mail I received from my  history buff friend years ago was about verifying the membership of Madge Oberholtzer, a former resident of Irvington. She is listed in a Butler yearbook as a pledge of the Indiana Gamma chapter of Pi Beta Phi. I confirmed that she was initiated in 1916.


Madge Oberholtzer

Oberholtzer’s story is a sad one, but through her death, she played a role in the rapid decline of the Ku Klux Klan which took place in the 1920s. We drove by the Stevenson mansion and the home a few blocks away where Oberholtzer lived with her parents. When she and David Curtiss Stephenson crossed paths, Oberholtzer was manager of the Indiana Young People’s Reading Circle, a special section of the Indiana Department of Public Instruction.

Stephenson, who was Grand Dragon of the Indiana Branch of the Ku Klux Klan, and Oberholtzer met in 1925 at a gala honoring Indiana Governor Edward L. Jackson. She was helping with the distribution of name tags. Stephenson hired her to help write a book, One Hundred Years of Health. His plan was for it to be the book that would be used when the legislature required that a course in diet and health be taught in the public schools. He would make sure that the only text which filled the requirements set forth in the bill would be his book.

Some say he lured Oberholtzer to meet with him late in the evening on March 15, 1925 by saying he needed to talk about the book. Others say he told her they needed to discuss the Reading Circle program and her job, which she thought was about to be eliminated. Sometime after 10 p.m., Stephenson sent a bodyguard to Oberholtzer’s home to escort her to Stephenson’s home. After being forced to drink alcohol, she was kidnapped and put on Stephenson’s private train to Chicago. 

The Graham Stevenson House as it appears today.

The Graham Stevenson House as it appears today.

While on the train she was raped repeatedly and Stephenson bit her all over her body. There were many deep wounds from her face and neck down to her ankles. The alcohol she was forced to drink affected her ability to fight back. They never made it to Chicago. They got as far as Hammond, Indiana, where they checked into a hotel.

Oberholtzer ingested poison which she was able to purchase while being chaperoned by Stephenson’s henchmen. She became violently ill and the group headed back to Irvington. After hiding her for a short time in an apartment above Stephenson’s garage, she was taken to her family home and deposited in a bedroom. Two days had elapsed since the rape.

Her family was told she had been in a car accident. The Oberholtzers summoned a doctor. On March 28, 1925, she recounted her ordeal and signed a statement attesting to its truth so that it could be used in future legal actions. The statement of her ordeal was ultimately used to convict Stephenson. 

She died on April 14, 1925. The cause of death was a staph infection attributable to the bites. There was also kidney failure from the mercury poisoning.

During the trial her Pi Phi sisters sat in the courtroom, making the trek from Irvington to Noblesville, where the trial was held. Stephenson was convicted of second-degree murder on November 14, 1925. He was sentenced to life in prison. He was paroled in 1950 but spent a little more time in prison for violating parole. His accomplices, Earl Klinck and Earl Gentry, were acquitted.

Stephenson’s home was built in 1889 for William H. H. Graham. Before Stephenson purchased it in 1923, it was rented by the members of the Butler chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma for use as the chapter house. Stephenson added the the Ionic portico after he purchased it. After his conviction, the home was rented to Chi Rho Zeta fraternity and Phi Delta Theta fraternity.  Soon afterwards, the chapters moved along with the rest of the University to the new location.

The Graham-Stevenson home when it was the chapter house of the Butler Unversity chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma. (Photo courtesy of vintageirvington)

The Graham-Stevenson home when it was the chapter house of the Butler Unversity chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma. (Photo courtesy of vintageirvington)


Happy Founders’ Day, Kappa Kappa Gamma. Sorry not to have a Kappa post. The above picture will have to suffice for now. I promise a Kappa post in the near future, my Monmouth Duo friends.

(c) Fran Becque,, 2014. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest


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