Happy #CollegeColorsDay!

Today, September 4, 2015, is #CollegeColors Day. This opportunity to celebrate the day by wearing your favorite college’s colors and apparel was started in 2004 by the College Licensing Company. In all fairness, it should be noted that the College Licensing Company represents 200 collegiate institutions throughout the country.



My undergraduate Alma Mater, Syracuse University, has as its colors orange and white. Those colors were chosen in 1890. Prior to that the colors were rose pink and pea green.  The lore is that the sports teams objected to the rose pink. Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s colors are maroon and white. For a short time prior to the Saluki dog being named SIUC’s mascot, the teams were known as the Maroons. As soons as my husband realizes that it is College Colors Day, I think there will be a maize and blue block M flag hanging from our porch (Our Ohio State neighbor detests that flag! Please no one mention to those UM people that we have several buckeye trees in our yard).

Stephen Crane (front row, center) sits with teammates on the steps on the east side of the Hall of Languages in 1891. Photo courtesy of SU Special Collections Research Center

Syracuse University Athletes, circa 1890s
Photo courtesy of SU Special Collections Research Center

© 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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Fraternity Diversity, 1870s, Greencastle, Indiana

In 1877, four young Japanese men arrived in Greencastle, Indiana. They became students at the alma mater of their teacher, an American missionary. They, too, like their mentor, became fraternity men. Two joined Delta Kappa Epsilon and the other two became Beta Theta Pis.

Sutemi Chinda, Keizo Kawamura, Izumy Nasu, and Aimaro Sato at Indiana Asbury University (Courtesy of DePauw University Archives)

John Ing graduated as valedictorian from Indiana Asbury University in 1868. Founded in 1837, the school became DePauw University in 1884 to honor benefactor Washington C. DePauw. Ing started his studies before he served in the Union Army. After reaching the rank of Captain, he requested and was granted an early discharge to return to school. He also earned a Master’s degree from the same institution. While an undergraduate, he was a founding member of the Psi Phi Chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon.

In 1870, Ing married Lucy Elizabeth Hawley, a Mount Holyoke College alumna. Ing served as a Methodist missionary from 1870-78. The St. Louis Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church first sent the couple to China. After four years, the Ings asked for a recuperative furlough. Lucy Ing had given birth twice and had lost one child and she was in poor health. They made it as far as Yokohama, Japan. A second daughter was born there, and she, too, died. While waiting for suitable transportation to the west coast of the United States, the couple was persuaded to start mission work in Hirosaki, Japan. They stayed in Japan. A church was organized in 1875. Ing introduced to northern Japan the apple tree, with large, sweet apples.

Ing’s mission school in Hirosaki was geared to the samurai class. In 1877, four young men who were educated by Ing traveled to Indiana. Sutemi Chinda, Keizo Kawamura, Izumy Nasu, and Aimaro Sato were professed Christians with little money, but they were ready and willing to work.

Nasu and Chinda became members of Ing’s fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon. Sata and Kawamura became members of the Delta Chapter of Beta Theta Pi. Kawamura died in 1881. Nasu translated Homer’s Iliad into Japanese and became a professor at the Royal College of Tokyo, but he, too, died young. He passed away in 1885.

In 1884, Chinda earned a master’s degree from Indiana Asbury. He served as Japan’s ambassador to Germany, the United States, and England. Since 1935, the Cherry Blossom Festival has been a harbinger of spring in Washington, D.C. The cherry trees were a gift from the people of Japan during Chinda’s tenure as the Japanese ambassador to the United States. First Lady Helen Taft planted the first tree in West Potomac Park on March 27, 1912. Chinda’s wife planted the second tree. Coincidentally, Chinda’s wife was Sato’s sister. Chinda represented his country at the 1918 Paris Peace Conference. He died in 1929.

Aimaro Sato as a college student (Courtesy of the DePauw University Archives)

Sato was also a career diplomat. He served as the Japanese Minister to Mexico, chief of staff of the Japanese Peace Commission at the Treaty of Portsmouth, and Japanese ambassador to Austria-Hungary, the United States and the League of Nations. On January 30, 1917, the Beta Theta Pi Club of Washington, D.C. feted Sato at the University Club. Beta President Francis H. Sisson attended. There were 65 Betas from 25 chapters in attendance. The collegians from the Johns Hopkins University chapter sang Beta marching songs and greetings were read from Sato’s chapter. Sato addressed his brothers, “This kind of meeting is agreeable to me because it breathes genuine friendship without any shadow of conventionality. I like it all the more because, banishing all worldly cares, forgetting our ages, politics, creeds, nationalities, varied or conflicting interests, and laying aside even diplomacy, we come here to have a good time together simply as brothers in the bonds of Beta Theta Pi and to recall the sweet associations of the past and to form wider friendships for the future.”

There is evidence that these four were not the only Japanese men to travel halfway around the world to attend college at Greencastle. The Beta Theta Pi catalog lists another member of Delta Chapter, Ogata Sennosuki, who earned an A.B. in 1885 and a D.D. in 1905. He turned down a diplomatic career to serve in the ministry of the Japanese Methodist Church.

© 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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Theta Phi Alpha is 103 Years Old Today!

The World War II work done by sorority women is an interest of mine. Veronica Lucey (Conley), a Boston University Theta Phi Alpha, served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps. She went on to earn a Master’s degree from Yale University and later earned a Ph.D.  In the Fall 1960 Yale Nursing School Newsletter, it was noted that she had served for “the past twelve years secretary of the American Medical Association Committee on Cosmetics, has been named director of the new A. M. A. Department of Nursing, which will be in liason with National Nursing Organizations.” I found a reference to her in a 1962 newspaper article; she spoke out against the dangers of tanning, in a time when precious few were speaking out about the dangers of too much sun on unprotected skin. 



On August 30, 1912, Theta Phi Alpha was founded at the University of Michigan. Although founded on August 30, Theta Phi Alpha celebrates Founders’ Day on April 30, the Feast Day of St. Catherine of Siena.* St. Catherine is the patroness of the organization and her motto, “Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring, ” is Theta Phi Alpha’s motto as well.

At that time Theta Phi Alpha was founded, Catholics were not always welcome in the other fraternal organizations on campus. Moreover, the University of Michigan is likely the only state university which can count a Catholic priest among its founders. In 1817, Father Gabriel Richard was a co-founder of the Catholepistemiad of Michigania which later became known as the University of Michigan. He served as its Vice-President from 1817-21. In 1821 he was appointed to the Board of Trustees and served until his death in 1832. So, it is therefore interesting to note the Catholic connection between the Catholic sorority and the state university founded by a Catholic priest.  When Theta Phi Alpha was founded, the Catholic hierarchy was of the belief that Catholic women should be attending Catholic colleges and universities. Giving Catholic women the opportunity to join a Catholic sorority could provide an opportunity to keep them close to their Catholic roots at a secular institution.

In 1909, Father Edward D. Kelly, a Catholic priest and the pastor of the university’s student chapel organized Omega Upsilon. He believed that the Catholic women at the university should have the opportunity to belong to an organization  that “resembled the Catholic homes from which they came.”

After Father Kelly left campus and became the Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit, Omega Upsilon was struggling.  There were no alumnae to guide the organization. Bishop Kelly’s vision that the Catholic women at Michigan should have a place to call their own was still alive even though he was not on campus. He enlisted the assistance of Amelia McSweeney, a 1898 University of Michigan alumna. Together with seven Omega Upsilon alumnae, plans were made to establish a new organization, Theta Phi Alpha.

Theta Phi Alpha’s ten founders are Amelia McSweeney, Mildred M. Connely, May C. Ryan, Selma Gilday, Camilla Ryan Sutherland, Helen Ryan Quinlan, Katrina Caughey Ward, Dorothy Caughey Phalan, Otilia Leuchtweis O’Hara, and Eva Stroh Bauer.  Seven of them were Omega Upsilon alumnae and two were undergraduate members of Omega Upsilon.

Theta Phi Alpha remained a local organization until 1919 when the Beta Chapter was formed at the University of Illinois. In addition, chapters at Ohio State University, Ohio University and the University of Cincinnati were chartered that year.

In 1921, Pi Lambda Sigma was founded as a Catholic sorority at Boston University. On June 28, 1952, Pi Lambda Sigma merged with Theta Phi Alpha. Its members at Boston University and the University of Cincinnati became members of the Theta Phi Alpha chapters on the two campuses. The chapter at Creighton University became the Chi Chapter of Theta Phi Alpha in the fall of 1952 and the Quincy College chapter became the Psi Chapter of Theta Phi Alpha in 1954.

Today, just as other organizations have accepted Catholic women, Theta Phi Alpha is open to women of all religions. 

Bishop Edward Kelly as a young priest. He was in his 50s when he helped found Theta Phi Alpha.

Bishop Edward Kelly as a young priest. He was in his 50s when he helped found Theta Phi Alpha.

** Saint Catherine was canonized in 1461. From 1597 until 1628, the feast of Saint Catherine of Sienna was celebrated on April 29, the date she died. In 1628, due to a conflict with the feast of Saint Peter of Verona, hers was moved to April 30. In 1969, the Catholic Church reinstated her feast date as April 29. 

© 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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Every Moment Counts – Sympathy and Heartfelt Condolences

It’s Friday. I haven’t accomplished nearly all that I wanted to do this week, but the fact that I keep plugging along should mean something. Life can change on a dime and this week’s Facebook and Twitter posts reflected that.

Just after Wednesday’s post was published, the news came across the internet that WDBJ7 reporter, Alison Parker, and cameraman Adam Ward were killed as they were filming a story. Parker was a member of the Alpha Phi chapter at James Madison University and was serving as an alumnae advisor to the chapter at Virginia Tech. My condolences to both their friends and family. 

The lily of the valley is Alpha Phi's flower

The lily of the valley is Alpha Phi’s flower.

Yesterday, Alpha Tau Omega posted that Amos Burns, a past national officer, had passed away. He was one of three ATOs who were in attendance at the Centennial in 1965 and at the Sesquicentennial in 2015. At the 150th celebration earlier this month, he introduced himself to me and it was an honor and a thrill to meet an alumnus whose devotion to his fraternity was abiding and true. His love and respect for his fraternity and his ATO brothers seems to me to have begun the moment he was pledged to the fraternity and did not stop until he was no longer of this world. ATO’s values and ideals were his own. My heartfelt sympathy to his family, friends, and fraternity. This is from the University of Alabama’s ATO chapter website:

Born on February 13, 1928, in Mississippi, Amos D. Burns served two years in the U.S. Navy, and was initiated into Alpha Tau Omega Epsilon Epsilon (Mississippi State University) in 1949. Amos moved to Tuscaloosa in 1951, and worked as the Manager of Dixie Dairy Products, a central purchasing organization for 53 of the largest independent ice cream manufacturers in 13 states. Retiring from Dixie Diary Products after 40 years, he founded Amos Burns Co., Inc., an ice cream brokerage company. He has served as chapter advisor, mentor, House Corporation President, Board of Trustee Chairman, and friend to every ΑΤΩ at Alabama since the early 1950s. Amos was also involved with ΑΤΩ National as Province Chief (1963-1970), member of the High Council (1970-1978, where he was the chairman for four years), and the ΑΤΩ Foundation (1980-1985). Brother Burns is a “National Officer Emeritus” and “Chairman Emeritus of the Beta Delta Board of Trustees.” Amos received the UA Order of Omega Fraternity Advisor of the Year Award in 2007. He and his wife, Dot, have two sons who are ΑΤΩ Beta Deltas: Keith Burns, initiated 1979, and Barrett A. Burns, initiated 1982. Amos has been an active member of Calvary Baptist Church since 1951, and has held numerous leadership positions and named a Lifetime Deacon. Brother Burns has also served as President and Treasurer of the Board of Directors for Tuscaloosa’s International Friends of The University of Alabama.

The white rose is the flower of Alpha Tau Omega.
The white rose is the flower of Alpha Tau Omega.

This morning, there was an instant message from my brother-in-law’s sister. I met her years ago when my husband’s sister married her brother. Later on, when our children were young, our vacations east coincided and a trip to her family’s beach home (“Uncle Brian’s beach,” as we called it) was always a highlight of our visit. She and her family were so good about accommodating the tribe that is her brother’s family by marriage. No one in her family belongs to GLOs, but she took the time to tell me this. It was a link to a fun recruitment video done by an Alpha Xi Delta chapter.

Hi. Thought of you when I saw this posted by the daughter of a good friend of mine who passed away this year from breast cancer. I worry about her daughter but from her posts since her mom’s been gone, I can tell she has so much support from her sorority.

This morning I was looking for some information and stumbled on this account of an incident which took place at Hofstra University, the Alma Mater of my late sister (see http://wp.me/p20I1i-1j4). The reason I ended up on that site does not matter at this point, but I thought that it was an interesting and relevant read, especially given some incidents which have been in the news. http://bit.ly/1NYbZ8G

As a high school friend and P.E.O. sister, who has had a very trying year, says in each of her posts, EMC. Thanks, Doreen, for the reminder that Every Moment Counts!

© 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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Accepted Your Bid? Welcome New GLO Members!

The start of the academic year is upon us again. After having lived in college towns for most of my adult life, it’s the traffic that signals the end of summer, and not the weather. The Becque family lives it life in two sixteen-week semesters with an eight-week summer session between them.

The beginning of the fall semester screams POSSIBILITIES! For entering freshman, it is a new beginning. For returning students, it’s a chance to get it right a second or third time. The 4.0 (or 3.5 or 3.0) that wasn’t achieved the first or second time around is still possible.

For thousands of students who have or will be new members (the preferred term for what was once a pledge) of Greek-letter organizations (fraternities and sororities), it is a time of even more possibility. For those who get caught up in the excitement of recruitment without knowing much about what membership in a GLO entails, it will be a learning opportunity. Fraternity and sorority life, when done correctly, is a great educational experience. When done incorrectly it is a fiasco.

This is one of my new favorite photos. It was taken about 100 years ago. These women are recently initiated members of a college sorority. In fact, as charter members, they are the entire chapter.  

crop wind WY A 1910

All of these women are gone. The National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) organization to which they took an oath of membership is thriving. And it, along with the 25 other NPC groups, continues to provide today’s women with leadership opportunities, philanthropic endeavors, sincere friendship and the chance to be a part of something much greater than themselves. While the 2015 version of this picture includes women in sundresses and t-shirts, with glitter or flowers in their hair, the feelings they show are much the same. Look at the pure joy in the faces of the women standing on the fence in the back row, or at the seriousness of purpose of the women in the middle row, and the happiness of the women in the front. These same emotions can be seen in the photos taken this fall after recruitment.

I implore the 2015 new member classes to remember that there were young men and women who came before them, whose lives were lived in a time few of you could ever envision. The organization you joined needs you, the 2015 new member, to remember that you will graduate and others will follow in your footsteps. Work for your organization, giving of your time, talent, and treasure, for you are but one little link in a very, very long chain of others who have taken the same oath of membership.

The Chi Phi chapter at UC Berkeley, circa 1920s.

The Chi Phi chapter at UC Berkeley, circa 1920s.

Do your part in making your organization proud. Think before you act. Today’s age of instant publicity via social media and a 24-hour news cycle has changed the game. What once would have been a small transgression now becomes a major issue. There is no room for error. If you want to live your life without having to remember that you are a part of something much bigger than yourself, then maybe being a member of a GLO is not for you. If you say your values are something to be admired then your walk must match your talk and vice versa. To say one thing and then do another will not cut it. The men and women who have come before you deserve so much more than that.

© 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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Catching up on GLO News from the Twitterverse

Here’s some of what’s happened in the last week.

Anthony Sadler, Jr., one of the three boyhood friends who thwarted a terrorist attack on a French train is a fraternity man.

We were proud to hear of the heroic act by Anthony Sadler, Jr., a member of Kappa Sigma’s Nu-Lambda chapter at Sacramento State University, while he was traveling in France. The kind of selfless dedication and servant leadership demonstrated in this action reflects the values of Kappa Sigma. An important aspect of our four pillars of Fellowship, Leadership, Scholarship and Service is a focus on making a positive impact in society.

Stone, Skarlata, Sadler

Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlata, Anthony Sadler, Jr.


Lenny Robinson was known as the Route 29 Batman. Driving a Batmobile and dressed as the Caped Crusader, Robinson would visit children in local hospitals. He was struck by a car last week as he attempted to see what was wrong with his stalled car.

Condolences to Justin Robinson, Emory ’13, after the passing of his father, Lenny, who was the famous Route 29 Batman.

Kappa Delta Chi Natalia Anciso, an artist and teacher, was recently featured in Elle magazine.

Kappa Delta Chi alumna Natalia Anciso is featured in ‪#‎ElleMagazine‬ September edition for their 30th Anniversary special featuring ladies who are 30 and doing extraordinary things! Way to go sister, you are amazing for creating and sharing your works of culturally, inspired art!


And these two pictures caught my eye. Didn’t mean for this to be a commercial, but they are too unique to pass by.

No matter where you find yourself, know Pi Phi will always share with you.

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It’s time to toast to brotherhood at the family picnic with Nupes at .

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The #40Answers Campaign sponsored by Sigma Nu Fraternity and HazingPrevention.Org leads up to National Hazing Prevention Week. Here are some of the past week’s best answers to the 40 excuses presented each day.

 David Westol ‏@Limberlost1 

@SigmaNuHQ Excuse 8: Popular name for people who haze: “Defendants”. And yes–their new addresses are the grey bar motel. #40Answers


Zeta Tau Alpha ‏@ZTAFraternity 

Our real traditions are in our rituals, and you won’t find hazing among them. #40Answers

Curator of Archives ‏@PhiGamArchives
Curator of Archives retweeted Ken Blanchard
Relevant to #40Answers, from #PhiGam @kenblanchard (Cornell 1963)

Ken Blanchard @kenblanchard
Life is really interesting to say the least. Integrity is all about walking your talk so be who you say you are and find consistency.


A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. As it turns out, Phi Kappa Theta, the honor society at two-year colleges, has been doing some fund-raising for #RelayForLife.

Aug 17

Let’s Top $4 Million ! Report yr events for by 9/15.

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 © 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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A Bouquet of NPC Flowers on Bid Day

Bid Day isn’t a set day, but it is the last event in sorority recruitment. With today’s social media, it’s easy and fun to look at Bid Day pictures. Once upon a time, Bid Day was a time for business attire. Today, Bid Days are a day for t-shirts and shorts. But the joy is the same. In honor of Bid Day, wherever it may be taking place, here is a list of the flowers of the 26 National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) groups. For it is my belief that while flowers, colors, songs, badges, etc. set the organizations apart, in the end, the things the NPC groups stand for and believe in are essentially the same.

The official founding date of NPC is May 24, 1902. Eleven of the first twelve NPC meetings took place in Chicago. The 1911 NPC meeting took place on November 3-4 in nearby Evanston on the Northwestern University campus. A Panhellenic luncheon was held in Northwestern’s Patten Gymnasium. There were 350 women in attendance. The table decorations were the flowers of the different fraternities, each delegation being seated near its special flower.

The composition of NPC in 1911 was a little different than it is today. The members in rotation order were: Pi Beta Phi, Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Delta Gamma, Alpha Phi, Gamma Phi Beta, Alpha Chi Omega, Delta Delta Delta, Alpha Xi Delta, Chi Omega, Zeta Tau Alpha, Alpha Gamma Delta, Alpha Delta Pi, and Delta Zeta. It is interesting, however, to note that all of the groups which were members in 1911 are still in existence. In the ensuing years, a number of national organizations would become members of NPC; some of those organizations no longer exist. The defunct organizations, for the most part, were absorbed or merged with current NPC members (to learn more about the former NPC organizations, see http://wp.me/p20I1i-23I).

The flowers of today’s 26 NPC organizations  NPC are:

Alpha Chi Omega – Red carnation

Alpha Delta Pi – Woodland violet

Alpha Epsilon Phi – Lily of the valley

Alpha Gamma Delta – Red and buff roses

Alpha Omicron Pi – Jacqueminot rose

Alpha Phi – Lily of the valley and the blue and gold forget-me-not

Alpha Sigma Alpha – Narcissus and aster

Alpha Sigma Tau – Yellow rose


Alpha Xi Delta – Pink rose

Chi Omega – White carnation


Delta Delta Delta – Pansy

Delta Gamma – Cream colored rose

Delta Phi Epsilon – Lovely purple irisiris

Delta Zeta – Pink Killarney rose

Gamma Phi Beta – Pink carnation

pink carnation

Kappa Alpha Theta – Black and gold pansy

Kappa Delta – White rose

Kappa Kappa Gamma – Fleur-de-lis (iris)

A quick trip to Monmouth, Illinois happened to be when iris was in bloom. An iris from Stewart House, where it all began for Kappa Kappa Gamma.
An iris from Stewart House, where it all began for Kappa Kappa Gamma.

Phi Mu – Rose colored carnation

Phi Sigma Sigma – American Beauty rose

Pi Beta Phi – Wine carnation

Sigma Delta Tau – Golden tea rose

Sigma Kappa – Wild purple violet

Violets, Sigma Kappa's flower

Sigma Sigma Sigma – Purple violet

Theta Phi Alpha – White rose


Zeta Tau Alpha – White violet

Lunch at the 1911 NPC Conference. The flowers of each group served as a centerpiece for each delegation.


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The Fraternity and Sorority Mural – Painted with the Same Brush

Yesterday, I made the mistake of getting caught up in the responses to several facebook and blog posts. NEVER A GOOD IDEA! It’s a big rabbit hole and there is a goodly amount of hate out there.

A quick history of women’s fraternities/sororities:

Between 1867 and 1881, when Alpha Phi’s second chapter was founded at Northwestern University, only four of today’s National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) organizations – Pi Beta Phi, Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Kappa Gamma, and Delta Gamma – were expanding beyond the original campus. Most of that growth was taking place in what we call today the midwest. Indiana was a hotbed of early women’s fraternity growth. These are the groups which were forming early versions of today’s Panhellenic Councils (albeit not very successfully), trying to work together in recruiting women to become members of the organizations. That effort culminated in the creation of NPC in 1902.

rush 1910

Upper crust women, those women from very rich families, were not the ones forming and joining women’s fraternities/sororities. Unfortunately, this is a misconception which has found its way into the lore of GLO history, especially from those who know little about the history of NPC groups. During the late 1800s, these were not the women who were attending college. They may have been doing tours of Europe and or spending a year or two in a “finishing school.” They had to know the world of fine arts, and how to plan a superb dinner party, and how to run a household with the help of a full staff, but they did not have to worry about having a career to fall back on. That was not the life they were destined to lead. Their main goal was to “marry well,” at least once, and more, if need be. 

One of my favorite stories to tell, one that you will not likely find in her biographies, is that a young Iowa State student named Carrie Lane became a member of Pi Beta Phi (which was then known as I.C. Sorosis) at Iowa State University. Her family did not value education for women and she paid her own way through school working for pennies an hour. Some of the funds she earned went to pay her fraternity dues. She remained a loyal member of the organization her entire life. The fact that noted suffragist Carrie Lane Chapman Catt was a proud fraternity woman is a hard one for many people to reconcile. (A few weeks ago, I wrote about Catt and E. Jean Penfield Nelson, a Kappa Kappa Gamma member who was as equally ardent a suffragist. Catt and Nelson were good friends. Scroll back a few posts to find it.)

A graduate student contacted me last month for advice on a project she was doing. She was looking at early NPC women and their suffragist views. Because Alpha Delta Pi and Phi Mu have founding dates of 1851 and 1852, respectively, she was looking for information about these chapter members. She was also looking at the women who joined some of the other growing organizations and what they did in the years leading up to 1900. Neither Alpha Delta Pi or Phi Mu had any expansion until after 1900, so she was essentially looking at only the members of the Wesleyan Female College chapter and not at members of many chapters all across the country, as she was with some of the other NPC organizations. It was something she hadn’t thought of when she began her paper and it certainly skewed her results.

There are 26 NPC groups, four National Pan-Hellenic Council sororities, and a myriad of Latina and multicultural sororities. Not every chapter of these organizations is exactly the same. This week’s brouhaha was a recruitment video produced by a southern GLO chapter. I have not watched the video. I’ve only read about it and people’s reaction to it. There are real problems in the world and a video produced for sorority recruitment purposes is not one of them. Are there some aspects of the video the women might do differently now that they’ve seen the reaction to it? Probably. Has it been a good learning experience for them? Probably. Is it a matter of life and death? Definitely not.

While I would love it if every fraternity and sorority chapter was perfect 100% of the time, that is not going to happen. Are any of us 100% perfect in all that we do, day in and day out? Do we learn anything from being perfect? I wouldn’t know, because I am not perfect. But I do know that I’ve learned the most from the times when I fell flat on my face, the times when I had to work through an issue. Learning those things in a nurturing environment – like that of a GLO – is one of those priceless intangibles afforded by membership in a GLO.

Being a member of a GLO entails many responsibilities. For one, GLO members are always wearing theirs letters, whether or not they are on physically on one’s garments. The world at large will think the worst about any news story involving GLO members. If it’s about something good, there will be ulterior motives assigned to the deed. If it’s bad, it will try to paint every GLO with the same brush. If it is downright false (the UVA Rolling Stone story), it won’t matter.

This is a response that was on a friend’s (non-GLO member) facebook feed:

Actually, I wish they would get rid of the entire system. They laud all the good works they do. People who want to do good works will find ways to do so without membership in a fraternity or sorority. The damage they do cannot be replaced by a few good deeds.

My advice to incoming students is to approach GLO membership with an open mind. I was the last person anyone in my high school graduating class could have ever imagined joining a sorority. And here I am decades later, still believing in the positive aspects of GLO membership. But in searching for a home in a GLO, please note that you will be held to a higher standard, more will be expected of you, and you will be but one tiny little link in one very long chain of men or women who came before you. 

© 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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The Best Fraternity? The Best Sorority?

I dislike all those “the five sororities that everyone wants to join” or the “top ten fraternities to join if you want to be President of the United States” posts on the internet. They are bogus in my book and serve no purpose other than to drive traffic to a website and make some people feel that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. That being said, it’s the start of the academic year on college campuses across the country. On some campuses, that means that fraternity and sorority recruitment time is near. Best wishes to the young men and women making decisions as to which organization they will join. My advice is to make your own decision, free from the internet hype and rank.


Students have been making those same decisions for centuries. The world was much different in 1922, when the following paragraphs were written. Only a handful of college students had access to an automobile, few had grown up having their own room and/or their own bathroom. There were no portable phones, televisions, and the things that today’s college students consider necessities. And yet, the sentiments expressed by George Banta* in the July, 1922 issue of Banta’s Greek Exchange ring as true today as they did nearly 100 years ago.

“One of the questions most frequently asked of us is as to which is the best fraternity. This most naive question is most often propounded to us by non-fraternity folks who are debating the choice of a fraternity. Rushing season also brings us such inquiries and these latter often take the form of asking us to decide definitely between two different fraternities or sororities. It is no uncommon thing in the autumn for us to receive telegrams which have manifestly found their inspiration in the fierce rushing on the campus.

“It is not merely a question of the impropriety of our undertaking to decide such questions. Any opinion that the editor might harbor would be only his personal opinion. We have long ago learned that choice of a fraternity is a state of mind. There are those to whom the question of size is important; another prefers limitations and exclusiveness; one prefers that which is ancient; another that which is new and plastic and gives opportunity for individual activity, and, it may be for a fight. So, there is with us a great deal bigger reason for not trying to make such distinctions than mere impropriety. It is simply impossible. We do not know which is the best, and we have long ago come to doubt whether there is any ‘best.’ We feel that we might as well undertake to decide between the relative value to the community of the two neighbors who live beside us, one to the north and one to the south. We ourselves prefer our own family simply because it is our own. And we find that each of our two neighbors prefers his family for exactly the same reason. And there you are.”

banta sugnature

*George Banta was a Phi Delta Theta and a Delta Gamma. Yes, he was an initiated member of Delta Gamma and he brought Delta Gamma to the northern states. He was also a wonderful proponent of fraternity life. For more information about him, see http://wp.me/p20I1i-AS

© 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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#40Answers On the Way to Hazing Prevention Week

This week began the 6th annual #40Answers twitter campaign for the 40 days leading to Hazing Prevention Week which will take place from September 21-25. Each day, HazingPrevention.Org (@PreventHazing) and Sigma Nu Fraternity (@SigmaNuHQ) will post a commonly heard excuse for hazing using the hashtag #40Answers.

Hazing, according to the definition on HazingPrevention.org, is “any action taken or any situation created intentionally that causes embarrassment, harassment or ridicule and risks emotional and/or physical harm to members of a group or team, whether new or not, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate.”

HazingPrevention.Org was founded in  2007 by Tracy Maxwell. Her goal was to “turn the conversation about hazing from how to punish those who haze to how to prevent it from happening in the first place.” Sigma Nu, co-sponsor of the #40Answers campaign, was founded by three cadets at the Virginia Military Institute after the Civil War. Hazing was rampant in the institution, “the system of physical abuse and hazing of underclassmen at VMI led to James Frank Hopkins, Greenfield Quarles, and James McIlvaine Riley to form the ‘Legion of Honor’ which soon became Sigma Nu Fraternity.”

While hazing has been known to take place in Greek-Letter Organizations, it has no place in any of the organizations. It is against all the values and beliefs of GLOs. Hazing can be found in other places, too. Yesterday’s twitter feed had a picture of a rookie NFL player being hazed. Hazing happens on sports teams, in the military, in academia, in the workplace, among other places. And it needs to stop.

I came across this quote in Roger Ebert’s Life Itself about his experience as a member of the Phi Delta Theta chapter at the University of Illinois. It resonated with me because it is a prime example of how a hazing experience changed the way a member felt about the organization.

I made the rounds during Pledge Week, deciding on Phi Delta Theta and its handsome stone house on Chalmers. This was the top house on campus at the time….The house plunged me into undergraduate life. I memorized the names and years of all the upperclassmen, the names of their girlfriends, the names of the Founders, and much more arcana, and during Hell Week, desperately sleep deprived, I earned myself a night of sleep by winning the raw egg eating contest, with twenty-six. Some years later, when I saw it, the egg scene in Cool Hand Luke rang a bell.

Hell Week was an abomination, a bonding ritual in which pledges were worn down with a mental and physical sadism I believe has now been outlawed. All led up to the last night of the week, in which each candidate was led for the first time into the Chapter Room in the basement, now candlelit and with a medieval theme. I’m not certain that active members wore dark hoods, but that’s how I remember them, like medieval torturers. The final test, which had been darkly hinted at for days, was called ‘Nails.’ We were place barefoot on a tabletop and looked down in the dim light to see a plank with nails driven through it, facing up. There was about enough space for your two feet. Then we were blindfolded. The idea was to jump down to the plank and miss the nails. I believed this absolutely. The members chanted ‘Nails…nails.’ One of the members had reportedly been taken to an emergency room the year before after not missing a nail. I couldn’t do it. I hesitated. I was terrified. I hadn’t had two hours a night of sleep in days. How could I do it? If I didn’t I would never become a Phi Delt. I was eighteen years old. Becoming a Phi Delt had become the most important goal in my life. I jumped. The nails were rubber.

The ritual struck me then as cruel, and strikes me now as bullshit….Nails created an anger toward the house. I didn’t express it. When I stopped going to the house it was for other reasons. But that’s why I only attended one homecoming event at Phi Delt.

Robert Ebert as a high school senior

Robert Ebert as a high school senior

Today’s #40Answers quote is “This is just part of becoming a member of a fraternity.” Nope, it isn’t. Hazing has no place in any GLO, plain and simple, now or ever.

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

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