Farewell to an Astronaut and a Policewoman

On December 14, 1972, Apollo 17 lifted off from the moon. Its mission commander Gene Cernan, Phi Gamma Delta, was the last astronaut to walk on the moon’s surface. The initiate of Phi Gam’s chapter at Purdue University took his Phi Gam badges on his missions . The items now reside at the fraternity’s international headquarters in Lexington, Kentucky. Captain Cernan died on January 16, 2017 at age 82.

A Pi Phi friend who is a pilot has a grandson who is also a pilot. That young man was encouraged by Captain Cernan and has his signature in his logbook. Before the young pilot began his first solo cross country flight, Captain Cernan told him,”If I can do it, so can you!” As the young pilot’s mother said, “Great heroes don’t just do great things; they encourage others to do great things, too. Thanks for encouraging my young pilot! You will always be our hero.”  

***

Sadly, we mourn one of those brave people who went to work and never came home. They are those who promise to keep the public safe, often putting themselves in harm’s way to protect the rest of us. Debra Clayton, an Orlando, Florida, policewoman, was killed in the line of duty on January 9, 2017. She was a member of the Psi Theta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. My condolences to her family, friends, co-workers and sorority sisters.

Master Sergeant Debra Clayton

***

A new semester begins, incoming chapter officers take on leadership duties, and some attend GLO leadership workshops. To those beginning a new adventure as a chapter officer, I give this unsolicited advice – soak up the knowledge, get buy in from fellow exec board members, roll up your sleeves and get to work. 

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. 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. Deborah Cannon Wolfe on Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.’s Founding Day

From 1953 until 1965,  Dr. Deborah Cannon P. Wolfe, served as Grand Basileus (President) of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. Born in Cranford, New Jersey, in 1916, Wolfe attended Cranford Schools. Although she wanted to attend Oberlin College, Jersey City State College was more affordable. After graduating in 1937, she continued her studies at Columbia University. She was hired by Tuskegee Institute when she was 22 years old with a newly minted master’s degree. She headed to Alabama where she directed the elementary education program. supervised student teachers and served as principal of two rural labatory schools. From 1943-45, she was  back at Columbia working on a doctorate. Her dissertation, Her dissertation was titled  A Plan for Redesigning the Curriculum of the Rural Laboratory Schools of Tuskegee Institute.

Dr. Deborah Cannon P. WolfeShe

When she returned to the faculty at Tuskegee, she was the only faculty member besides the President to have an earned doctoral degree. She supervised the Insititute’s graduate program in education.  In 1950, she headed to the University of Pennsylvania to do advanced postdoctoral study in methods and statistical analysis. She was also a visiting professor at New York University and Queens College, City University of New York. In 1951, when she was hired by Queens College, she became the first African-American professor on the College’s faculty. In 1962, she took a leave of absence to work for the United States House of Representatives. Her title was Education Chief of the Committee on Education and Labor and she worked with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.

Wolfe was active in the Civil Rights Movement, too, marching with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Alpha Phi Alpha) up Consitution Avenue. She also served as vice president of the National Council for Negro Women. According to an article by Stephanie van Hover published in Kappa Delta Pi’s Educational Forum:

Wolfe continued her lifelong involvement in numerous organizations after her retirement and achieved many firsts as an African-American female. She was the first African-American woman to be named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to become a member of and later chair the New Jersey State Board of Higher Education, and to serve as a member of the Educational Foundation of Kappa Delta Pi. She was the only African-American member on the Seton Hall University Board of Regents, the advisory board to Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College, the Coordinating Council on Education for New Jersey, and the board of the American Association of University Women. In recognition of her lifelong commitment to education, she was awarded more than 26 honorary doctorates. A high school in Macon County, Alabama, and a dormitory at Trenton State College in New Jersey were named in her honor.

New Jersey City University is home to the Deborah Cannon Wolfe College of Education. When Wolfe died on September 3, 2004, her family requested memorials to the National Education Foundation for Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. Wolfe is another example of the group I call #amazingsororitywomen. 

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. was founded by Arizona Cleaver and four friends, Pearl Neal, Myrtle Tyler, Viola Tyler, and Fannie Pettie; they 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.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. 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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Hidden Figures on Alpha Kappa Alpha Founders’ Day

Today is the anniversary of the founding of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Incorporated, the first Greek-letter organization for African-American women. In the fall of 2016, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, a book by Margot Lee Shetterly, was published. A movie based on the book opened in early 2017 to rave reviews.

The movie features three National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) mathematicians – Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson, Dorothy Johnson Vaughan, and Mary Winston Jackson. All three are members of Alpha Kappa Alpha. In the days before 3×5 size calculators, these women were “computers who wore skirts,” using slide rules with pencil and paper calculations. During the era of Jim Crow laws, they worked in segregated conditions at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. They had a front seat at the start of the Space Race and they contributed greatly to the success of the early missions including Alan Shepard’s trip into space and launch into orbit of John Glenn. Their calculations had to be perfect; there was no room for error. 

Of the three women, Johnson is the only one able to bask in the glory afforded by the film. She is 98 years old. Johnson is portrayed by Taraji P. Henson. Johnson is a Diamond member of the Lambda Omega Chapter (Newport News, VA) of Alpha Kappa Alpha. She was born on August 26, 1918 and she graduated summa cum laude from West Virginia State College in 1937. A year later, in 1938, she was one of three black graduate students admitted to West Virginia University, and the only female among the three. She taught math for several years, one of the only career paths open to her, until 1953 when she was hired by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (today it is NASA). She retired in 1983.  In 2015, she was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom. On May 5, 2016, the 55th anniversary of Shepard’s quick trip into space, the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility was dedicated at Langley Research Center. 

Katherine Johnson

 

Shetterly, the author of the book, in an interview on Jezebel.com, remembered being about 12 years old when she attended an event for young community women, sponsored by Alpha Kappa Alpha. Shetterly’s mother belonged to Johnson’s AKA chapter. Shetterly said of Johnson, “I believe she was the president of the sorority of the time. I have image of her that’s this very impressive woman in a pantsuit.”

Katherine Johnson on November 24, 2015 after she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor. Note the Alpha Kappa Alpha blanket on her lap. Photo by NASA/Bill Ingalls.

Dorothy Johnson Vaughan, who is portrayed by Octavia Spencer, became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha in 1926 while she was a student at Wilberforce University. She graduated in 1929 and taught high school mathematics until 1943, when she was hired as a mathematician at Langley Field. She retired in 1971. Vaughn died in 2008 at the age of 98.

Dorothy Johnson Vaughan

Mary Winston Jackson graduated from Hampton Institute in 1942 and taught mathematics before being hired by National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in 1943. In the film she is portrayed by Janelle Monáe. Jackson retired from NASA in 1985. She, too, was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha. In 2005, she died at the age of 83.

Mary Winston Jackson

Alpha Kappa Alpha was founded on January 15, 1908 by nine young female Howard University students. They were led by the vision of Ethel Hedgeman (Lyle); she had spent several months sharing her idea with her friends. During this time, she was dating her future husband, George Lyle, a charter member of the Beta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha. 

After choosing a name for their sorority, the nine women wrote a constitution and a motto. Additionally, they chose salmon pink and apple green as the sorority’s colors and ivy as its symbol. A group of seven sophomore women were invited to become members. They did not partake in an initiation ceremony and all 16 women are considered founders. The first “Ivy Week” took place in May 1909 and ivy was planted at Howard University’s Miner Hall. On January 29, 1913, Alpha Kappa Alpha was incorporated.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. 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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Happy 104th, Delta Sigma Theta!

On January 13, 1913, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. was founded at Howard University. All 22 founders – Winona Cargile (Alexander), Madree Penn (White), Wertie Blackwell (Weaver), Vashti Turley (Murphy), Ethel Cuff (Black), Frederica Chase (Dodd), Osceola Macarthy (Adams), Pauline Oberdorfer (Minor), Edna Brown (Coleman), Edith Mott (Young), Marguerite Young (Alexander), Naomi Sewell (Richardson), Eliza P. Shippen,  Zephyr Chisom (Carter), Myra Davis (Hemmings), Mamie Reddy (Rose), Bertha Pitts (Campbell), Florence Letcher (Toms), Olive Jones, Jessie McGuire (Dent), Jimmie Bugg (Middleton), and Ethel Carr (Watson) – had been members of Alpha Kappa Alpha, which was founded at Howard University on January 16, 1908. When a disagreement about the future of the organization arose between the active chapter and the alumnae, an ultimatum was given, decisions were made, and in the end, the active members left Alpha Kappa Alpha and became Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Myra Davis went from being the president of the Alpha Kappa Alpha chapter to being president of the Delta Sigma Theta chapter. Many of the first meetings were held in Edna Brown’s living room. The 1913 Valedictorian and Class President, she married Frank Coleman, a founder of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Florence Letcher’s hobby of collecting elephant figurines led to the animal becoming the sorority’s symbol.

Nearly two months after its founding, on March 3, 1913, the women took part in the historic suffrage march in Washington, D.C. They were the only African-American women’s group to participate. Honorary member Mary Church Terrell joined them in their march.

In many states, Delta Sigma Theta undergraduates and alumnae have the opportunity to purchase specialized Delta Sigma Theta license plates. I give kudos to the Delta Sigma Theta members (and other NPHC groups) who undertake campaigns to make the special license plates available to members.

Delta Sigma Thetas who reside in South Carolina also have the opportunity to purchase a license plate honoring Mary McLeod Bethune, In 1923, at the fifth national convention, Bethune, a prominent educator, became an Honorary Member of Delta Sigma Theta. The daughter of former slaves, Bethune worked in the fields at age five. Due to the generosity of a benefactor, she graduated from Scotia Seminary (now Barber-Scotia College). Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida can trace its history to 1904, when Bethune opened a school for African-American girls. There were five girls in the first class.  In 1923, the school merged with the Cookman Institute of Jacksonville, Florida to become a high school. In 1931, it became a junior college. Ten years later Bethune-Cookman became a four-year college. Bethune served as the college president from 1923-42 and 1946-47.  She was also a leader in the National Association of Colored Women and served as its national president. In addition, she founded the National Council of Negro Women and served as a Cabinet member in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration.  Her push to upgrade the libraries at historically black institutions during her tenure as Director of the Negro Division of the National Youth Administration, and her firm belief that these libraries needed to be improved, played a part in Delta’s first national project. She died in 1955. In 1993, Bethune was inducted posthumously into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Mary McLeod Bethune and some of her students during the early years of her school. Photo courtesy of Bethune-Cookman University.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. 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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Leland F. Leland on the Founding Day of TKE

Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) was founded on January 10, 1899 at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois. In a meeting at 504 East Locust Street, Charles Roy Atkinson, Clarence Arthur Mayer, James Carson McNutt, Joseph Lorenzo Settles, and Owen Ison Truitt formulated plans for a fraternity they first called the Knights of Classic Lore. The name was changed to Tau Kappa Epsilon when, in 1902, the men rented the Wilder Mansion, a home which formerly belonged to the College’s president. It was the first men’s fraternity house on the campus.

Leland F. Leland

Some of its most famous members include an initiate of the Eureka College chapter the 40th President of the United States – Ronald Reagan (see http://wp.me/s20I1i-9523), Charles R. Walgreen, Jr. (see http://wp.me/p20I1i-1YY), and Elvis Aaron Presley, an honorary initiate of the Arkansas State University chapter (see http://wp.me/s20I1i-9499).

Banta’s Greek Exchange and Fraternity Month are some of my favorite magazines to read. Both ended publication in the early 1970s. Tau Kappa Epsilon Leland F. Leland, along with his then wife Wilma Smith Leland, Alpha Omicron Pi, began the Fraternity Press and published Fraternity Month from 1933 until 1971.

Leland F. Leland was the 72nd initiate of TKE’s Theta Chapter at the University of Minnesota. He spent several years employed by the George Banta Company before striking out on his own. 

The October 1933 edition of Fraternity Month included this introduction:

Fraternity Month and its staff greet you. To tell you what kind of a magazine it is would be to be trite, for you may see for yourselves. We hope you find it all that you may expect of a new, interfraternity publication. Many of you have asked for one which will be read by undergraduates as well as by more mature members. This is the type of magazine we want to produce. Coming with regular frequency, our news will be current and vital. Our articles will be by persons prominent in their field. We will follow a policy of liberalism. Our articles will not reflect our own opinion for this is your magazine and each of you may direct the thought of it so long as you may direct the thought of it so long as  you keep within the bounds of good tatse. We welcome your contributions, your suggestions and, about all, your criticisms.

It will be our earnest endeavor to publish all the worthwhile news of all fraternities and all sororities all the time. You may help us by calling our attention to items which you wish to emphasize.

We want timely news, but we are alert to the splendid history and background that Greek-letter organizations have a right to claim. So there will be articles concerning the heritage of fraternities.

We expect our magazine to be read by prominent people who do not wear a badge, and we will feel it a privilege as well as an obligation to interpret the fraternity system to the outside world in a manner fair and honest.

Controversial articles will present both sides of the question. We do not strive to be smart, but to be intelligent with enough levity to be appealing to a public whose tastes are varied. Our magazine is, first of all, a fraternal and educational journal and we expect to keep it so. It is published without profit by the Fraternity Press in a desire to be of real service to the fraternity system.

Small convention favor for the 1936 Pi Beta Phi Convention. The cover of this small (3×5) notebook mimicked the covers of the larger magazine. The graphic may have even been used as the cover of an edition of the magazine.

He was elected his fraternity’s Grand Histor in 1924 and spent 25 years, 1924-49, as editor and manager of THE TEKE magazine. Leland edited a 50-year TEKE history. He was named Grand Histor Emeritus. In addition, he served the fraternity as Grand Prytanis (President) from 1949-51. He died in 1972 at the age of 73.


 

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. 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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January 9 and a Look Back to January 8

Yesterday, January 8, was spent in a car driving from Florida to Illinois. I sat in the back seat between our two dogs. For one day, they had my undivided presence and attention. Yesterday was also my birthday. It’s a day I share with honorary Tau Kappa Epsilon Elvis Presley, Kappa Sigma Dr. Charles Richardson, who is also a Chi Omega founder, and Kappa Sigma founder Frank Courtney Nicodemus.

Dr. Charles Richardson, Kappa Sigma, and a founder of Chi Omega

Today, January 9, is Phi Beta Sigma’s Founders’ Day and Pi Beta Phi’s Chapter Loyalty Day.

 On January 9, 1914, A. Langston Taylor, Leonard F. Morse, and Charles I. Brown, students at at Howard University in Washington, D.C, founded Phi Beta Sigma. In 2009, William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States, became an honorary member of Phi Beta Sigma.

The fraternity also sponsors the Phi Beta Sigma Federal Credit Union. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. was founded January 16, 1920, at Howard University, Washington, D.C. and it is constitutionally linked to Phi Beta Sigma. The Phi Beta Sigma Federal Credit Union is open to members of both organizations, their families, and chapters. 

Why would Pi Beta Phi choose January 9 for Chapter Loyalty Day when many chapters are not yet back in school? It’s to honor one of its most influential members, Carrie Lane Chapman Catt, an initiate of the chapter at Iowa State University. She was born on January 9, 1859. To read more about her, search for “Carrie Chapman Catt” in the search book at the top right of this page. 

Pi Beta Phi’s 1890 convention took place in Galesburg, Illinois. Among the attendees was Carrie Chapman Catt, in the black shirt and bow tieto the left of the center.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. 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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Calvin Coolidge and Teddy Roosevelt, a Phi Gam and DEKE, January Deaths

I realized this morning that the two U.S. Presidents whose homes I visited died on January 5 and January 6, in different years. The Calvin Coolidge homestead is in Plymouth Notch, Vermont. It is the boyhood home of the 30th President, an initiate of the Phi Gamma Delta chapter at Amherst College.

On the morning of January 5, 1933, 60-year-old President Coolidge left for his office at 25 Main Street in Northampton. The chauffeur brought the President and his secretary, Harry Ross, back to the house a short time later. The January 6, 1933 New York Times gave details of the President’s death. In the article,  Ross recounted the morning’s events:

We drove out to The Beeches, and went into his study on the ground floor. Mrs. Coolidge was getting ready to go downtown for her regular morning shopping. She came into the study and chatted with us awhile. As she got up to go out the door without calling the car, Mr. Coolidge said: ‘Don’t you want the car?’ 

‘No,’ she replied, ‘It’s such a nice day, I’d rather walk than ride.’ These were their last words together.

When the First Lady returned from her trip to town, she went upstairs to call her husband to lunch. That is when she found him dead on the floor.

 

The funeral services took place at the Edwards Congregational Church on Main Street, in Northampton, Massachusetts, where the Coolidges were faithful members. The President was buried in the family plot in the small cemetery in Plymouth, Vermont. 

cal cool grave

 

As a child growing up on Long Island, I often visited Sagamore Hill, the summer White House during Theodore Roosevelt’s administration. A Harvard alumnus, he was an initiate of the Alpha Chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon. The 26th President died in his sleep on January 6, 1919. He died at age 60 of a coronary embolism.

 

Sagamore Hill is in Oyster Bay on Long Island’s north shore overlooking the Long Island Sound. As I toured Sagamore Hill during my childhood and later when I took my own children there, it was easy to envision President Roosevelt walking the property or carrying on business in the house.

After a simple church service at Christ Church in Oyster Bay on January 8, the President was laid to rest at Youngs Memorial Cemetery, near Sagamore Hill. According to the Youngs Memorial Cemetery’s website, “Family members and dignitaries made their way up the steep snow-dusted hill, and a bugler blew taps. When the ceremony ended, one mourner stayed behind. Former President William Howard Taft—by turns a political ally and a foe—stood by the grave weeping. As he later wrote to Edith Roosevelt, ‘I loved him always and cherish his memory.’ America felt the same.”

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. 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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Happy 120th Alpha Omicron Pi!

Alpha Omicron Pi was founded on January 2, 1897 at the home of Helen St. Clair (Mullan). She and three of her Barnard College friends, Stella George Stern (Perry), Jessie Wallace Hughan, and Elizabeth Heywood Wyman had pledged themselves to the organization on December 23, 1896. That first pledging ceremony took place in a small rarely used upstairs room in the old Columbia College Library.

Alpha Omicron Pi's Founders

Alpha Omicron Pi’s Founders

Celebrating a Founders’ Day on the second day of the new year proved to be a challenge for the organization, so Alpha Omicron Pi now celebrates Founders’ Day on December 8, Stella’s birthday through January 2 and beyond.

Florence Lucas Sanville, Wyman’s classmate at Bloomfield High School in New Jersey, became an early member of the Alpha Chapter. Before enrolling at Barnard in 1899, she attended  the Ethical Culture School of Felix Adler in New York. She took a two-year course in kindergarten teaching. 

One of the first issues of To Dragma noted that she “spent the summer at a philosophical camp in the Adirondacks.” She also served as sponsor for Alpha Omicron Pi’s Omicron Chapter at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville when it as installed on April 14, 1902.

screenshot-178

In another issue of To Dragma, there was an announcement that since August, 1903, she had been “studying housing conditions in New York. As the result of a competitive examination, she was appointed one of the Tenement House Inspectors of the New York Tenement House Department.” She served in that capacity for two years.

Sanville relocated to Philadelphia where she served as Secretary of the Consumers’ League of Eastern Pennsylvania. There, along with a colleague, she began a research project, living among and working with the women who toiled in the silk mills of Pennsylvania’s coal mining towns. She used her experiences to write magazine articles which were also published as pamphlets. 

Florence

The first page of the article that appeared in Harper’s Monthly Magazine

In 1916 the Bryn Mawr College alumnae of the Classes of 1889-92, helped fund a study of fire prevention in industrial plants employing women in Pennsylvania. The gift to the State Department of Labor and Industry was unusual as it may have been  the first time that college women “contributed a fund to a governmental agency for the purpose of protecting women against fire in industrial plants. The field work in this fire prevention study was performed by Miss Fannie Travis Cochran of the class of 1902, Bryn Mawr, and Miss Florence Lucas Sanville, Barnard College class of 1901. Their work under the direction of Commissioner John Price Jackson of the Department of Labor and Industry and the results of their study which extended through several months is published herewith as prepared by the Bryn Mawr committee.”

Sanville was involved in the suffrage movement and she served on a number of social action committees. According to a bio on the Chester County Historical Society’s website, she “served on the Pennsylvania Child Labor Committee, Women’s Trade Union League of Philadelphia, and Friends’ Social Order and Race Relations.  She was also Chairman of the Committee on Labor for the Conservation and Welfare of Workers, secretary of the Pennsylvania Committee on Penal Affairs, and member of the board of the Prison Society of Pennsylvania.  She served on the board of directors at Mancy Prison for Women.”

As an unmarried woman, she adopted a daughter, in a time and place when that was not a commonplace occurrence. At the age of 91, she published a memoir, The Opening Door. Sanville died in 1971 at the age of 95.

Last night after deciding that Sanville was an intriguing subject for an #amazingsororitywomen hashtag, I discovered that she was recently profiled in a To Dragma article and I encourage you to read it, too. It’s at http://anyflip.com/qzpj/zrck page 22.

screenshot-179

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. 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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Sigma Nu, First Founders’ Day of 2017, and “Chic” Sale

Sigma Nu official Founders’ Day is January 1 for it was on that date in 1869 that the fraternity was publicly announced at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia. In October 1868, three VMI cadets who were opposed to the physical abuse and hazing of  VMI underclassmen discussed the situation.  James Frank Hopkins, Greenfield Quarles, and James McIlvaine Riley formed the “Legion of Honor.” When the new society was announced on that New Year’s Day, it was known as Sigma Nu. 

A sweatshirt design from Sigma Nu’s Mu Kappa Chapter at SEMO for Winter social 1994, courtesy of WSIL news anchor Kevin Hunsperger, a charter member of the chapter st Southeastern Missouri University.

The Gamma Mu Chapter was founded at the University of Illinois in 1902. Charles “Chic” Sale grew up in Champaign, Illinois. As a high school student, he hung out with his friends, some of whom were Sigma Nus, at the chapter house on the University of Illinois campus. In those early days of the 1900s, fraternities sometimes pledged men before they enrolled at the institution. Sale was pledged to the Gamma Mu chapter in 1906. The Sigma Nus gave him the nickname “Chic” when he entertained them at the chapter house. He had a way of making the chapter members laugh while entertaining them, and they encouraged to make his way as a performer. He left Champaign and tried his hand at vaudeville. He became one of America’s best-loved character actors and comedian on both stage and screen. During his travels, he frequently visited Sigma Nu chapter houses or attended alumni association meetings. One of his close friends was University of Wisconsin Sigma Nu alumnus Nick Grinde, who became his publicity man and later a renowned movie director.

Sale was an instant success in the film The Star Witness and his popularity grew with the publication of his humorous book, The Specialist. The book was published in 1929 and was a best seller (and this was before books of this type were published – vaudeville was rife with plagarism). It was a play about an outhouse builder. Sale, at a luncheon of the Sigma Nu Alumni Association, dined with a few lawyers who encouraged him to copyright and publish as a book the tale that he told them, the funny story about Lem Putt and his outhouses. He did just that. 

Chic

Sale was initiated into the Gamma Mu chapter in 1927 by an act of the Sigma Nu High Council. He was named to the Sigma Nu Hall of Fame in 1986. Sale died in 1936 at age 51. Milton Supman, better known as Soupy Sales, is said to have chosen his stage name as a nod to Sale.

© 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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On the Last Day of the Year, I Give Gratitude

As the year winds down, I would be remiss if I didn’t give gratitude to those of you who read this blog, who tell others about it, who send me ideas and items, who message or email me when I make an error, and who generally keep me writing more posts. Thank you so very much.

I also thank the founders of the Greek-Letter Organizations who founded societies of their own. I thank the founders of GLOs that are no longer in existence. Some merged or were absorbed by other groups. Some simply ceased to exist. Those founders are all but forgotten, yet their efforts were important.

I thank the men and women who became members of the organizations. Looking at chapter pictures, one sees eager, hopeful, young faces. We cannot tell what the future holds for them or their chapter.

The charter members of a chapter that closed a little more than 100 years after it was founded. 

 

Will those who are entrusted with the care of the chapters, those young faced college students, know the seriousness of the oath they took upon becoming a member? Will they work for the betterment of their GLO or will they contribute to its demise? Will they make their membership life-long or will they consider it a childish decision?

How are organizations who seem to be in competition with each other, in intramural games, in those pesky “firsts,” in fundraising competitions and in number of chapters, members, and houses, going to be able to work together for the betterment of GLOs as a whole? Can we expect our collegiate members to understand that when a goodly number of alumni/ae members haven’t a clue?

I write these posts because I think it is important to know the history of GLOs not our own. It goes without saying that it is imperative that members know their own GLO’s history, but time constraints and programming requirements, both GLO and college mandated, chip away at the time devoted to history. I am preaching to the choir. And dear choir, thank you for providing the music to these stories I tell. May you all have a wonderful 2017!

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