May 7 is National Teacher Appreciation Day. In honor of Southern Illinois University’s beginnings as a teaching training institution (a/k/a normal school), I am including this segment of the history of SIUC’s fraternity system.
There were three mergers which affected the women’s fraternities at SIU. The first and most important was the 1947 merger of the Association of Education Sororities and the National Panhellenic Conference. The most painful merger affecting SIU was that of the national organizations of Delta Sigma Epsilon and Delta Zeta (this really is a fascinating read – the alumnae were finally released from the terms of the merger). The easiest merger for the SIU campus was the one between Pi Kappa Sigma and Sigma Kappa’s national organizations.
Merger of National Coordinating Organizations
The Association of Education Sororities [AES] was founded in 1915 as the Association of Pedagogical Sororities. In 1946, six national organizations, Sigma Sigma Sigma, Delta Sigma Epsilon, Pi Kappa Sigma, Alpha Sigma Alpha, Alpha Sigma Tau, and Theta Sigma Upsilon, comprised the Association of Education Sororities. Its members had chapters at teacher training institutions (Stintson, 1956). The National Panhellenic Conference [NPC] began in 1902 as an umbrella organization of seven women’s fraternities. These groups sanctioned only chapters at senior colleges and universities (Leonard, 1958).
Mrs. Edward A. Beidler, Delta Sigma Epsilon’s National Secretary, wrote President Lay regarding the merger: “Certain details are to be worked out before full participation is granted in National Panhellenic Conference activities. One of the stipulations for National Panhellenic Conference membership is that: It (Delta Sigma Epsilon) must have all of its chapters established in senior colleges and universities which are authorized to confer a Bachelor’s Degree, and which are given satisfactory rating by the Association of American Universities and/or the pertinent recognized Regional Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. We are pleased with this new affiliation and feel it will bring added prestige to our sorority and to the colleges where we have chapters. (Mrs. E. A. Beidler, personal communication, November 22, 1947)
The merger of AES and NPC was a significant one in the history of women’s fraternities. Teacher training institutions were evolving into more comprehensive institutions. SIU was a prime example of this trend. The AES and NPC merger was meant to strengthen the entire women’s fraternity system by dissolving unnecessary lines of demarcation. Had this merger not taken place, many institutions would have encountered problems in regards to women’s fraternities. Helen Shuman, Dean of Women at SIU, echoed these thoughts in her congratulatory statement on the merger, “I was pleased to learn that the sororities belonging to the Association of Education Sororities have been accepted as members of National Panhellenic Conference. It will solve some of the problems potential on our campus” (Stintson, 1956, p. 299).
Shuman’s private comments to President Lay showed a larger concern and a sense of relief that the merger put to rest some of the dilemmas SIU could have faced had the merger not taken place: “As the teachers colleges over the country have received a greater degree of accreditation, some unpleasant situations have arisen on some campuses. I had ‘prayed’ that these situations would not come into the picture at Southern, and I am pleased that the situation is no longer potentially full of problems.” (H. A. Shuman, personal communication, December 15, 1947)
The former AES organizations had two years before they would be faced with competition from the NPC groups. Marie S. Dunham, Sigma Sigma Sigma Executive Secretary, told President Lay of an NPC ruling which stated that not until January 1, 1949 would any NPC member make overtures leading to future chapters on campuses then occupied by AES organizations. Dunham felt that the merger would strengthen the women’s fraternity system and would, “result in wider opportunity for service in every way. You may be sure that Tri Sigma’s best efforts are pledged to that end” (M. S. Dunham, personal communication, December 12, 1947).
Shuman had received a letter from a Delta Zeta national officer regarding the number of women’s groups on campus. Shuman answered the Delta Zeta letter in November, 1948. She also kept President Morris apprised of the situation: “Since the college field is no longer to be divided into two territories open to the different kinds of sororities but open to all sororities, and since we are one of the ‘coming’ universities, I expect a number of the sororities belonging to the NPC to solicit the opportunity of establishing groups at Southern. Recently I have had a letter from a group other than the Delta Zetas.” (H. A. Shuman, personal communication, November 30, 1948)
Delta Zeta was the first of the older NPC groups to establish a chapter at SIU. Its Gamma Omega chapter was installed in 1953. The founding of the Delta Zeta chapter was followed by the Kappa Gamma chapter of Sigma Kappa in 1955. The Beta Eta chapter of Alpha Gamma Delta was chartered in 1957 after the former Delta Sigma Epsilon chapter was released from the terms of Delta Sigma Epsilon’s national merger with Delta Zeta.
In 1926, three years after it was founded, Epsilon Beta, a local organization at Southern Illinois Normal University, gave this bench to the University. It sits in front of Wheeler Hall. At the time it was given, Wheeler Hall served as the library.
Epsilon Beta became part of a national organization, Delta Sigma Epsilon,in 1928. Delta Sigma Epsilon was a member of the Association of Education Sororities. When the national organization merged with Delta Zeta in 1956, the SIUC chapter did not go along with the merger. Instead it became a local organization, Nu Delta Sigma, until a release from the merger was granted from the Delta Zeta national organization. The organization that started out as Epsilon Beta became the Beta Eta Chapter of Alpha Gamma Delta on September 29, 1957.
From A HISTORY OF THE FRATERNITY SYSTEM AT SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY FROM 1948 THROUGH 1960 by Frances DeSimone Becque, Pages 63-65.
© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2013.