April 16, 1891- The Meeting Before the First NPC Meeting in 1902

The National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) celebrates May 24, 1902 as its first meeting date.* However, there was a meeting which took place in Boston more than a decade earlier than the 1902 meeting. The first meeting was called to order 123 years ago today. 

During the summer of 1890, Kappa Kappa Gamma held its tenth Biennial Convention in Bloomington, Illinois.  A resolution was adopted authorizing the extension of an invitation to several women’s fraternities for a meeting in Boston.  The resolution read “That Kappa Kappa Gamma extend an invitation to the different women’s fraternities of the United States to hold a Panhellenic Convention in Boston the coming winter, Phi Chapter (at Boston University) offering to take all responsibility and to entertain such a convention.”

The committee report that was adopted at Kappa’s convention included a proposed program for the conference.  Among the items presented by the committee was a tentative schedule of events for a Wednesday through Friday conference to be held in April of 1891.  The sessions were to include an informal reception to be held on Wednesday, the day the delegates arrived.  Business sessions and committee meetings were to take place on Thursday, which was to be capped by a formal reception.  Business sessions were to follow again on Friday along with an evening Panhellenic banquet.  Three official representatives, preferably officers from each of the fraternities, were to be invited to attend.  Kappa Kappa Gamma’s Phi Chapter would entertain all official delegates.  The Chairman of the Central Committee was Mary M.  Kingsbury [Simkhovitch], who later would became Director of the Greenwich House Settlement and a noted social economist.

Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch

Mary Kingsbury (Simkhovitch), Kappa Kappa Gamma. See http://wp.me/p20I1i-y2 for more information about her.

The invitations to this meeting in Boston were issued by the Kappa Kappa Gamma Grand Secretary Emily H.  Bright.  The invitation read in part:

The proposed work will be that of recommendation only, the reports to be adopted or rejected by the several governing bodies of the fraternities.

a.  Uniformity of interfraternity courtesy.

b.  Cooperation in purchasing fraternity jewelry, stationary [sic], etc., for purpose of increased security and cheapness.

c.  A practical Pan-Hellenic plan for World’s Fair.

d.  Greek journalism.

      Uniformity in date of publications

      Methods of exchange throughout chapters.

      Distribution of interfraternity news.

e.  Inter-chapter cooperation and etiquette.

An editorial in an 1890 issue of Pi Beta Phi’s fraternity magazine noted that the convention “promises to be the precursor of much united and progressive effort among women’s fraternities.” 

Emma Harper Turner, Pi Beta Phi's Grand President. She started her fraternity life as a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter at Franklin College (there is a post about her on this site.)

Emma Harper Turner, Pi Beta Phi’s Grand President. She started her fraternity life as a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter at Franklin College (see http://wp.me/p20I1i.dD for more information).

Emma Harper Turner of Pi Beta Phi attended the Boston meeting.  On Wednesday, April 15, the Kappa Kappa Gamma members at Boston University hosted an informal tea.  According to Turner, “The spirit of the occasion was contagious.  The interest aroused by the arrival of delegates, the desire to inspect strange badges, and the pleasure afforded by the opportunity of meeting fraternity women known long by name through the various magazines having created an enthusiasm that would be neither suppressed nor controlled.”

The first Pan-Hellenic Convention of Women’s Fraternities convened at 10 a.m. on the morning of Thursday, April 16, 1891, at the New England Women’s Club, 5 Park Street, in Boston.  It was called by Kingsbury, Kappa Kappa Gamma’s Chairman of the Executive Committee on Convention.  Bertha Mansfield Freeman of Alpha Phi offered a prayer.

Alpha Phi, Gamma Phi Beta, Delta Delta Delta, Kappa Kappa Gamma and Kappa Alpha Theta each had three delegates in attendance; Delta Gamma and Pi Beta Phi both sent two delegates.  Lucy E. Wright, Kappa Kappa Gamma, was elected president of the organization, Margaret Smith was elected vice-president, and Turner was elected secretary.  Five committees were formed; inter-fraternity courtesy, fraternity jewelry and stationery, World’s Fair, Greek journalism and inter-chapter courtesy.

A luncheon for approximately 60 people, hosted by Gamma Phi Beta, was held at the Parker House after the morning’s sessions were adjourned. The time after lunch was spent in committee work.  A formal reception was held at the Parker House on Thursday evening.  Julia Ward Howe, an 1884 honorary member of Kappa Kappa Gamma’s Boston University chapter, received guests, and was assisted by Kingsbury.

The convention was reconvened on Friday morning.  Helen Hope Wadsworth, Kappa Kappa Gamma, was appointed Assistant Secretary.  Committees made reports.  The inter-fraternity courtesy committee report was presented by Lillye Lewis of Alpha Phi.  Among the committee’s recommendations were: the annual publication of an inter-fraternity directory listing the governing boards of each group; that chapters make a formal expression of opposition to lifting (“the extending of overtures by one fraternity to a member in full connection with another”) of members; formal expression of opposition to those having membership in two groups without relinquishing membership in one of them; and the abolition of pledging and initiating prepatory students.

Mary Lamphrey, Gamma Phi Beta, chairman of the fraternity stationery and jewelry committee, presented the committee’s report.  The report was adopted after it had been amended.  The issues discussed were: the obtaining of badges from only seven authorized jewelers, located in Boston, New York, Chicago, Ithaca, Syracuse, Columbus and San Francisco; that seals be adopted by each of the groups and the seals be necessary for the purchasing of badges; and that a committee be appointed to chose jewelers in each of the selected seven cities.  The committee also recommended that there be three stationers chosen who would print steel-plate stationery only.  These were to be located in New York, Boston and Chicago.

Carrie Jones of Alpha Phi gave the World’s Fair committee report.  The report that was adopted included provisions for the charging of a standing committee composed of the fraternities represented at Northwestern University, together with a committee from Pi Beta Phi and Delta Delta Delta to have charge of Pan-Hellenism at the 1893 Worlds’ Fair in Chicago.  It was also noted: that a fraternity excursion be planned if feasible; that a call to convention, banquet and/or reception be planned; and that a place be sought for the registration of fraternity women.  The women’s building was mentioned as a possible location for the guest register. 

The morning meeting was closed and the group adjourned to the Hotel Bellevue for a luncheon hosted by Delta Delta Delta.  When the group met again in the afternoon the committee on Greek journalism reported.  Pi Beta Phi Minnie Howe Newby outlined the group’s initiatives.  It was recommended that: the fraternities exchange copies of their magazines with each other; that the magazines be published on the same schedule of October, January, April and July; and that at the next Pan-Hellenic meeting each fraternity would send one delegate from its magazine staff.  The reasons given for the exchange of magazines was to remedy the “apparent ignorance of individual chapters concerning the strength and work of the various fraternities” that was a matter of “regret, and nothing short of an exchange system under control of the highest authority in the fraternity organizations promised a desired relief.”  The expense involved in this exchange was deemed to be little in comparison to the benefits to be gained by the exchange of information.

The chairman of the committee on inter-chapter courtesy committee, Blanche Seaver of Delta Delta Delta, recommended that: chapters rush with fairness and cautioned against using underhanded or questionable methods; that the fraternities in each college appoint a committee to regulate pledging; that college politics be considered important by the fraternity groups; that all chapters in a college be notified of the election of each chapter’s corresponding secretary; and that all chapters on a campus be notified when a member was dismissed or expelled from the fraternity.  At the close of the meeting another committee, comprised of one member from each fraternity was charged with the business of keeping the other groups notified of the ratification or rejection of these proposals among each of the individual groups.

The committee elected Turner as chairman and Lucy Evelyn Wright as secretary and closed the convention.  Alpha Phi hosted Friday afternoon’s entertainment in the Hotel Huntington.  “Here, as before, the entertainment was delightful, the cordiality sincere, and beauty was everywhere,” stated Turner in a report of the meeting.   A Friday night banquet at the Brunswick ended the festivities.  Ida Davis was toastmistress; there were a series of toasts covering such topics as “twenty-one years of fraternity,” “east and west,” “Greek journalism,” “a flower garden,” “Greek and American,” “war and peace,” and “auf wiedersehen.”  The banquet closed “With college yells, and yells suitable to the occasion only, and with an impromptu entertainment.”  

Those delegates still in Boston on Saturday morning were shown about Harvard University by the members of Kappa Kappa Gamma and were guests at a reception given by Alice Freeman-Palmer, the former President of Wellesley College, “an honor highly appreciated by the young women who have revered her name so long.” Alpha Phi founder Martha Foote Crow had been an Assistant to Freeman-Palmer when Freeman-Palmer was the President of Wellesley College.

Although much was discussed in 1891, little was ultimately accomplished.  This was due in part to the delegates having to bring the work of the convention back to their individual groups for ratification.  According to this account from the History of Kappa Kappa Gamma: “Kappa Alpha Theta accepted all the recommendations except those regarding jewelers and stationers; Gamma Phi Beta refused ratification of any of the report and ‘withdrew entirely from all Panhellenic cooperation;’ to date Alpha Phi reported only on magazine exchanges, which ‘it left to the discretion of the editorial board;’ Kappa Kappa Gamma too reported only on matter of exchanges, refusing to make such ‘on the ground of expense;’ Delta Gamma and Delta Delta Delta approved exchanges and failed to report on other matters; Pi Beta Phi ratified the entire report.”

*See http://wp.me/p20I1i-d7 for more information about the 1902 meeting.

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© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Posted in Alpha Phi, Boston University, Delta Delta Delta, Delta Gamma, Fran Favorite, Fraternity History, Gamma Phi Beta, GLO, Greek-letter Organization, Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Kappa Gamma, National Panhellenic Conference, Pi Beta Phi, Sorority History, Women's Fraternity History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We Need a Fourth for Bridge,” a Phrase No Longer Heard on a College Campus

“Playing bridge in the sorority house any time of day or night,” is what a sorority alumna friend told me she remembered about living in a University of Missouri sorority house during the 1940s.

Card parties were used as fundraisers when sorority women were raising funds for their early philanthropic endeavors during the World War I years. During the Depression, card games were a cheap form of entertainment. Couples could play together so it made for a cheap date. Games were organized between fraternities and sororities. There was also the mental challenge of playing bridge.

Until the late 1960s/early 1970s, female students also had curfews and playing bridge (and singing songs) were two activities which took place after the women were safely ensconced behind locked doors. Ask any sorority alumna from the 1940s or 1950s and she will likely tell you stories of singing and playing bridge after hours.

A Princeton alumnus remembered December 7, 1941 and what was happening that day on campus, when Princeton was an all-male institution, “Some of us were studying, some of us were nursing hangovers and others were playing bridge.”

In looking at obituaries of Mount Holyoke College alumnae from the classes of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, the phrase “enjoyed playing bridge” appears over and over.

 ”You don’t see girls sitting in the parlor playing bridge anymore,” said a Northwestern University House Director who was interviewed in the early 2000s. 

Playing bridge in a sorority house, circa 1942.

Playing bridge in a sorority house, circa 1942.

Playing bridge in the sorority suite, circa 1955.

Playing bridge in the sorority suite, circa 1955.

 I’d love to add some personal reflections to this post. (Can you tell I liked these two photos and tried to create a post for them?)

© Fran Becque, www.franbecque.com, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Posted in Fran Favorite, Mount Holyoke College, Northwestern University, University of Missouri | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again

Being sicker than I have ever been has given me considerable time to do nothing but surf the internet. Anything else took too much brain power. Here are some of the gems I found. “Main School, when it was built, was the only school for the town serving grades K-10 (older students were sent to Babylon High School). The famed poet and writer Walt Whitman was a temporary teacher. By the mid-1950s, the building had been expanded, and became an elementary school. It was demolished in June 1982.” A high school friend copied and pasted this item from wikipedia onto her facebook page with a picture of the school. 

The school was once the focal point of  my hometown. Whoever added the sentence about Walt Whitman to the wikipedia post was no doubt proud of the town’s association with the poet, even if it places him squarely in the mid 1900s. Whitman taught in what would become the town during the 1836-37 school year. Main School did not exist in 1836 and neither did the school district. The Walt Whitman archives includes this information, “some of the unhappiest times of his life were these five years when he taught school in at least ten different Long Island towns, rooming in the homes of his students, teaching three-month terms to large and heterogeneous classes (some with over eighty students, ranging in age from five to fifteen, for up to nine hours a day), getting very little pay, and having to put up with some very unenlightened people.” I’m not sure the Walt Whitman connection to my former school district is a positive one.

The second instance of muddled facts involved a large midwestern university’s tweeting campaign for Panhellenic Pride Day. I admired their enthusiasm, but I cringed at their incorrect facts. For instance, this one makes no sense, ”Both female senators elected to be in the supreme court are greek.” This one makes more sense, but it is wrong on several counts, “Both females elects to the U.S. Supreme Court are sorority women.” Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman Supreme Court Justice is not a sorority woman. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an Alpha Epsilon Phi; she is the only one of the four who is a sorority woman. Sonia Sotomayor was appointed in 2009 and Elana Kagan in 2010. I would imagine that some of the sorority women tweeting the incorrect information would have been in high school  when these last two women were appointed and I would have hoped that they would have remembered these milestones. Another tweet “Since 1910, 40 of 47 Supreme Court Justices have been Greek, and both female Justices were in a sorority!” goes with that 2 females Justices misconception; I also have a feeling that there are more than 47 Supreme Court Justices who have been appointed since 1910. It’s unfortunate that the women did not double check their tweets;  they just kept shooting themselves in the foot with their incorrect facts. And these selections I presented were just the tip of the iceberg. I truly felt sorry for their ignorance of history.

And my favorite incorrect fact of the week comes from a list of “Famous People in Fraternity and Sorority Life.” I am also certain the author compiled the list from wikipedia and random chapter web-sites. Tommy Hilfinger, it is noted on this list, was a Delta Upsilon at Elmira Free Academy. Elmira Free Academy is a high school and I am certain Delta Upsilon has not had a chapter there. There were several other questionable affiliations on that list. To you proud collegians out there, my advice is to never take a wikipedia entry at face value. Never take a individual chapter’s lists of “Famous ABCs” at face value either. Check with the international organization’s website, and/or the lists put out by NIC and NPC and other reputable sources.


© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2014. All Rights Reserved.


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Van Lingle Mungo to Start the Baseball Season

Jazz pianist Dave Frishberg wrote one of my favorite baseball songs. Frishberg first wrote a melody, but was having a hard time coming up with lyrics. While looking though a baseball encyclopedia, he happened on the name of Van Lingle Mungo, a major league player. He found his lyrics by incorporating the names of other baseball players. The song was released in 1969. Can you guess how many of these baseball players were members of a fraternity?








Two is the number I come up with. Johnny Gee, Phi Kappa Sigma, University of Michigan, and Lou Boudreau, Phi Sigma Kappa, University of Illinois. In 1937, Gee won the Big Ten Medal of Honor as the graduating Michigan student who had best demonstrated proficiency in both scholarship and athletics. Gee won six varsity letters in basketball and baseball, and was a member of the Sphinx society.

Lou Boudreau

Lou Boudreau

To hear Frishberg singing his song, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOvvJTv_E_w

Johnny Gee

Johnny Gee

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Posted in Fran Favorite, Phi Sigma Kappa, University of Illinois, University of Michigan | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Founders’ Day, Chi Omega!

Chi Omega was founded on April 5, 1895 at the University of Arkansas. Ina May Boles, Jean Vincenheller, Jobelle Holcombe, and Alice Simonds, with guidance from Fayetteville dentist, Dr. Charles Richardson, a Kappa Sigma, created the organization. Dr. Richardson was known as “Sis Doc” to generations of Psi Chapter members (the founding chapter at Arkansas is known as the Psi Chapter) and he is counted as a founder. He crafted Chi Omega’s first badge out of dental gold. I think it’s a safe bet to say that Chi Omega is the only National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) organization to have its first badge crafted out of dental gold.

Original Chi Omega badge crafted in dental gold by "Doc Sis."

Original Chi Omega badge crafted in dental gold by “Doc Sis.”

My apologies to my Chi Omega friends. I had another post planned for Founders’ Day, but some nasty bug has me down for the count. Here are links to a few Chi Omega posts.

About “Sis Doc” http://wp.me/p20I1i-1m2

About Chi Omega’s National Achievement Award (written by my friend Lyn Harris) http://wp.me/p20I1i-mw

About Mary Love Collins http://wp.me/p20I1i-7a

About the Greek Theater at the University of Arkansas http://wp.me/p20I1i-JM

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© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Posted in Chi Omega, Founders' Day, Fran Favorite, University of Arkansas | Tagged , | Leave a comment

10 Sorority Women From the Golden Age of Television

To close out Women’s History Month, 10 sorority women from television’s earlier years are spotlighted.

Today’s college students cannot possibly fathom what life was like in those days when there were only a handful of channels on the television – ABC, NBC, and CBS and maybe a local channel or two. In the metro NY area we had a couple of independents channels WNET (the PBS station), WOR, WNEW, WPIX. Broadcasting stations shut down for the night and there was sign-off at night and sign-in at dawn when the programming started up. In between there would be a test pattern. In the ‘50s, ‘60s, and early ‘70s, video recorders were not readily available, so if you missed a show when it was on TV, you did not have the opportunity to view it until it was rerun, usually during the summer. These sorority women were on the air during those pre-cable television years.

Fran Allison (1907-1989), Alpha Gamma Delta. Allison was a comedian and singer who appeared on radio and television. She is best known for her role in NBC’s weekday puppet show, Kukla, Fran, and Ollie. It was on the air from 1947-57. The link is to an amusing commercial. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPAq1_FJjw8

Fran Allison with Kukla and Ollie

Fran Allison with Kukla and Ollie

Barbara Feldon, Kappa Kappa Gamma. Feldon played Agent 99 on the 1960s show Get Smart. She was also a model and did commercials including this one that may have seemed racy for the time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DMxoGdR71k

Aneta Corsaut (1933-95), Alpha Omicron Pi. You can still catch Corsaut on the air as Helen Crump, Andy Taylor’s love interest in The Andy Griffith Show. She later played Andy Taylor’s wife in the spinoff Mayberry R.F.D. The link is to the trailer for the The Blob, the 1958 independent film in which she and Steve McQueen made their acting debuts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bc-x4BB_esw

Nancy Kulp (1921-1991), Pi Beta Phi. Kulp worked as a journalist and did service in the U.S. Navy during World War II before entering the acting field. Kulp’s ability to play slightly odd characters kept her busy. She is best known for her role as Jane Hathaway, Mr. Drysdale’s secretary in The Beverly Hillbillies. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p58NveKCHRU

Carol Lawrence, Alpha Xi Delta. Primarily a Broadway actress, Lawrence was Maria in the original Broadway production of West Side Story. She also appeared in guest roles on many television shows. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjT5AYFRT7A

Pat Priest, Delta Zeta. Priest’s mother Ivy Baker Priest, the United States Treasurer from 1953-61, was also a Delta Zeta. Priest was the second actress to play Marilyn Munster in The Munsters. She appeared from 1964-66.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cR5X6jRk8b4 (she comes in at about 4:20 and 5:20. And who knew that the pilot’s Lily Munster bore s striking resemblance to Morticia Gomez?) 

Dinah Shore (1916-94), Alpha Epsilon Phi. Shore was multi-talented; she was a singer, actress, and television personality. She hosted several television shows, including a variety show and later, in the 1970s, a lifestyle show, before that was an everyday genre of television show. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdeCjOre2R0&list=RDPdeCjOre2R0 (with Frank Sinatra cooking spaghetti sauce.)  With Pearl Bailey https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaxBVUOkyLs#t=20

Dawn Wells, Alpha Chi Omega. From 1964-67, Wells played Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan’s Island (“a three-hour tour”).  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kITTN0k4u9k

Mary Wickes (1910-95), Phi Mu. In 1934, Wickes made her Broadway debut. She worked in radio with Orson Welles, appeared in films and then began appearing on television in 1949. She played a variety of characters. Lucille Ball was a good friend of hers and she played a variety of guest roles on I Love Lucy, The Lucy Show, and Here’s Lucy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zt2TMDL-WU0

Mary Wickes

Mary Wickes

Leigh Taylor Young, Kappa Alpha Theta. In 1966, Taylor-Young played Rachel Welles on Peyton Place, a prime time soap opera. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-Kd9pRwR-Q

To read about the other sorority women highlighted during Women’s History Month, see http://wp.me/p20I1i-1wp And if you enjoy these posts, subscribe and get updates when new material is posted. Also take a look at my pinterest page, www.pinterest.com/glohistory/.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Posted in Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Delta Pi, Alpha Epsilon Phi, Alpha Gamma Delta, Alpha Omicron Pi, Alpha Xi Delta, Delta Zeta, Fran Favorite, GLO, Greek-letter Organization, Greek-letter Organization History, Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Notable Fraternity Women, Pi Beta Phi, Women's Fraternity History | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Today Marks 135 Years of Greek Life in Canada!

Today, March 27, 2014, marks 135 years of Greek life in Canada. Zeta Psi became the first fraternity in Canada when its chapter at the University of Toronto was chartered on March 27, 1879. Zeta Psi’s Grand Chapter met in 1877 and it was agreed that the fraternity should venture into Canada. The Xi Chapter at the University of Michigan was given the task of founding a chapter at the University of Toronto. It was a challenging task given what travel and communications were like in the 1870s, but the Michigan Zeta Psi’s were successful. The chapter designation, Theta Xi, honored the efforts of the Michigan chapter by incorporating the “Xi” into its name.

The chapter remained the sole fraternity on the University of Toronto campus until the 1890s when they were joined by Kappa Alpha Society, Alpha Delta Phi, Phi Kappa Sigma, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Delta Upsilon, and Delta Chi.

The first National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) women’s organization at the University of Toronto was Kappa Alpha Theta. According to Theta’s 1956 history, We Who Wear Kites,  ”A letter from M.R Robertson of the University of Toronto explained that ‘one of the Zetas’ had given the seven girls of a local group ‘information about society matters and also your address.’ After favorable action by the Convention in 1887, Anna Louis Benham of Iota (Cornell University) was sent to Toronto to initiate the seven.”

The Sigma Chapter was chartered in 1887 giving Theta the distinction of being the first women’s fraternity in Canada. The faculty had a strong feeling against the Greek-letter organizations and the seven women who were initiated kept their membership a secret. By 1899, the chapter became dormant.  In 1905, Sigma Chapter was revived. It was was soon followed by Alpha Phi in 1906 and Pi Beta Phi in 1908.

In 1883, McGill University’s fraternity system came to life when Zeta Psi chartered a second Canadian chapter.  Again, as in the case of the University of Toronto, Zeta Psi was the only sole fraternity there in the 1880s. In the 1890s, it was joined by Alpha Phi Delta, Delta Upsilon, and Kappa Alpha Society. In 1922, Delta Phi Epsilon became the first NPC group to establish a chapter at McGill.

Today, there have been more than 150 chapters of North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) men’s fraternities and more than 75 NPC organization chapters at Canadian institutions. About three-quarters of those chapters are currently active. There are also many local fraternities and sororities.


(Today’s post is dedicated to my Pi Phi friend, Oriana Bertucci, an initiate of the Pi Phi chapter at the University of Guelph. She has served Pi Phi in many capacities and is currently on Pi Phi’s NPC delegation. She is a true Pi Phi angel!)

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Posted in Alpha Delta Phi, Alpha Phi, Delta Phi Epsilon, Delta Upsilon, Fran Favorite, Kappa Alpha Theta, McGill University, Pi Beta Phi, University of Toronto, Zeta Psi | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off

About Dr. Joyce Brothers on Sigma Delta Tau’s Founders’ Day

March 25, 1917 is the date on which seven female Cornell University students founded Sigma Delta Tau. Their organization was originally called Sigma Delta Phi, but when the group discovered the name belonged to another Greek-letter organization they changed the “Phi” to “Tau.”

Sigma Delta Tau’s founders are Dora Bloom (Turteltaub), Inez Dane Ross, Amy Apfel (Tishman), Regene Freund (Cohane), Marian Gerber (Greenberg), Lenore Blanche Rubinow, and Grace Srenco (Grossman). Nathan Caleb House was the Ritualist.

One of Sigma Delta Tau’s most famous members was an initiate of the Alpha Chapter. On March 27, 1944, Joyce Bauer pledged Sigma Delta Tau. She was one of five pledges that spring, according to the April 7, 1944 Cornell Bulletin. She majored in home economics and psychology, graduating with honors in 1947. She started graduate school at Columbia University and earned a Master’sdegree in 1949, the same year she married Milton Brothers.  In 1952, an American Fellowship from the American Association of University Women helped fund her as she wrote her doctoral dissertation. She graduated in 1953, the same year her only child was born. As a stay-at-home mom with a husband in medical residency, their finances were tight.

Dr. Joyce Brothers, 1950s

Dr. Joyce Brothers, 1950s

In 1955, the television quiz show, The $64,000 Question was popular. Brothers saw this as an opportunity to supplement the family’s meager income. Television personality Sonny Fox, on the PBS American Experience website, tells this story. “She went down originally and presented herself as a psychologist, and she had an expertise in something and, I’m not sure I remember what it was, but it certainly wasn’t boxing. And they said to her, ‘Well you’re wonderful as a personality but we’re looking for those dramatic juxtapositions.’ The marine officer who is an expert cook. The shoemaker who knows about opera. Those kinds of anomalies. That’s what we’re looking for. For instance, if you knew about boxing we’d…. She went home and — one thing you have to know about Joyce is she’s absolutely, she’s purposeful in her life. I mean, if she wants something she goes after it. And she wanted to be on this show and she started studying about boxing and she made herself into a boxing expert and she did not come on it as a boxing expert. She invented herself as a boxing expert. And she came on, she came back and said I’m a boxing expert. I’m a psychologist who knows about boxing. And they tested her and she did, and they put her on. Now the story that I understand, I’m not sure whether I got this from a prime source or a secondary source so I can’t be absolutely a hundred percent certain that I’m telling you the truth, but I think it is. At about $16,000 they thought they would knock her off. They didn’t think Joyce Brothers was building. So they asked her a particularly tough question, and she got it. 

“So at $32,000 they decided really to get rid of Joyce, and this time instead of asking her questions about boxers they asked her a question about referees, which they knew she didn’t know anything about. But they underestimated Miss Brothers because she had been studying every week in-between and she knew about referees by the time they asked her about referees. And she got $32,064. And they said what the heck let her go. They went back to her strength and she hit. You know she hit $64,000 and she became quite famous as a result and she still is. She’s still writing her columns and everybody knows the name Joyce Brothers. So she really rode that one to stardom and fame.”

Brothers became the second person, and the only female, to win the top prize. Two years later, she appeared on The $64,000 Challenge, and won that top prize, too. She parlayed her experiences on the quiz shows into a life-long career. The October 1, 1958 Cornell Alumni News reported on her activities, “Joyce Bauer Brothers, who did such a grand job on the $64,000 Question, now has her own television show. She is analyzing topics of interest to adults in a daily series on WRAC-TV.”

Her afternoon talk show, The Dr. Joyce Brothers Show, started as a local show and went into national syndication. Soon a late night show was added as well as a call-in radio show. A syndicated newspaper column and monthly magazine column followed as did several books.

When Milton Brothers died in 1989, his wife’s world was shattered. She wrote about her grief in what became her most popular book, Widowed; it was published in 1990. Brothers died on May 13, 2013.

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© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2014. All Rights Reserved.


Posted in Columbia University, Cornell University, Founders' Day, Fran Favorite, Fraternity History, GLO, Greek-letter Organization, Greek-letter Organization History, Notable Sorority Women, Sigma Delta Tau | Tagged , , | Comments Off

About the Salt Rush; Happy 144th Birthday Syracuse University!

Happy 144th Birthday to Syracuse University! The university celebrates its anniversary on March 24, the date the Board of Trustees signed the University charter and certificate of incorporation.

If it was possible to time travel, I’d like to go back to Syracuse in the late 1890s – maybe around the time my Pi Beta Phi chapter was founded in 1896 or maybe five years later when the chapter hosted the 1901 convention. A University of Vermont Pi Phi attended as her chapter’s delegate. Wouldn’t it have been fun to meet the future First Lady, Grace Goodhue Coolidge when she was a college student? I would love to have seen what the campus looked like back then. And to have the opportunity to meet Wellesley P. Coddington and Frank Smalley (he of the word “sorority” fame) would be intriguing, to say the least. However, I am certain that I would not enjoy the activities of which I write today.

From the founding of the institution up until the pre-World War II years, inter-class “rushes” between the Syracuse freshmen and sophomore men were yearly events. The first of these activities was the Salt Rush. The tradition began when sophomores sprinkled salt on the Chapel benches where the freshmen sat. The purpose was to “take the freshness out of the first year men.” When the college moved to a hill in Syracuse, the “salting” as it was first called, turned into something more raucous. Sophomores would throw salt at and on the freshmen, sometimes rubbing it in their hair. The female students were spectators.

According to the Syracuse University Archives website, “There were many Rushes known to this campus (Cane, Flour, Orange, Salt, and Snow – to name a few), but the most popular two were the Salt Rush and the Flour Rush.”

The flour rush debuted in 1904. It usually took place before the Salt Rush. The December 1905 Delta Upsilon Quarterly contained a report on the Syracuse chapter’s activities, “The Flour rush and Salt rush were held as usual and furnished the same amusement to the spectators and the same exhibition of class spirit as heretofore, the former being won by the freshmen and the latter by the sophomores.”

Salt Rush 1903

Salt Rush 1903, One Section of the Spectators (From the  Onondagan yearbook)


Salt Rush 1903

Salt Rush 1903, the melee (from the Onondagan yearbook)

College customs were much discussed in the Greek-letter organization magazines of the early 1900s. Gamma Phi Beta’s Alpha Chapter outlined some of Syracuse’s traditions in the November 1906 Crescent of Gamma Phi Beta, “Class distinction is impressed upon the ‘Freshie’ by a flour rush and a salt rush; in the Spring he retorts by an extraordinary ‘parade’ and a moving ceremony, in which the ‘Freshies’ bury their hated green caps which they have been forced to wear all the year.”

According to a chapter report in the January 1911 Alpha Phi Quarterly, “At the beginning of each college year the men have a series of rushes which include the salt rush, flour rush, the football rush, and later the snow rush. Only the underclassmen participate in these and everyone is glad to see the freshmen win as they usually do. The freshmen form at the foot of Crouse Hill, and the sophomores at the top. Then they rush at each other, throwing bags of salt or flour as the case may be, and the sophomores try to prevent the freshmen from reaching the top of the hill. Wrestling matches follow the rushes. The men usually escape with a few cuts and bruises but these, of course, are marks of honor.”

Snow Rush

1927 Snow Rush (Photo from the Onondagan Yearbook)

This excerpt from a 1930 Onondagan yearbook gives more details,  “The Flour Rush, which took place on September 28 (1929), was a victory for the freshmen who stormed the Irving Avenue side of Crouse College with bags of flour and completely routed the sophomores with their fire hose. Boxing and Wrestling matches followed. A tie rush was scheduled between the halves of the St. Lawrence game, but this was called because of the mud. The Salt rush which followed soon after was a chance for revenge for the men of ‘32, and they took advantage of it.”

These traditions died out by the early 1940s. Inter-class rushes were not confined to Syracuse; they were part of campus life on many other campuses. Salt Rushes took place at other upstate New York schools including St. Lawrence University and Colgate University. This may have been because, Syracuse supplied much of the country’s salt.  Cane Rushes in which freshmen and sophomores sparred over possession of a cane were commonplace at schools all over the country. That topic is a post for another day.

The Hall of Languages, 2010

The Hall of Languages, 2010

To read last year’s post on Syracuse’s mascot, From the Saltine Warrior to Otto the Orange – Happy Birthday Syracuse University! see  http://wp.me/p20I1i-Ia .

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Posted in Alpha Phi, Delta Upsilon, Fran Favorite, Gamma Phi Beta, GLO, Greek-letter Organization, Phi Delta Theta, Pi Beta Phi, Syracuse University, The Crescent of Gamma Phi Beta, Women's Fraternity History | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off

“Curtain Up, Light the Lights” With Links to Musical Sites on Sondheim’s Birthday

Today is Stephen Sondheim’s 84th birthday and I offer my heartiest birthday greetings. He is one of my favorites composers. I mentioned this in yesterday’s post, but something on my facebook feed this morning prompted me to write this post. It offers me an opportunity to spread the word about something which has brought me such joy since it debuted in November.

After Dan and I married, we lived in Connecticut for a couple of years. On weekends, we listened to Jonathan Schwartz on WNEW radio. We would tape his show on cassette tapes and after we moved away we would play the tapes whenever we felt homesick. His “Salutes to Baseball” on Super Bowl Sunday wore out from play. 

In November 1, 2013, the Jonathan Channel debuted. It is an internet radio station available on WNYC’s website. It’s on around the clock. I am always amazed by Schwartz’s encyclopedic knowledge of baseball, Frank Sinatra, Sondheim, and other erstwhile denizens of the Apple (a line from a Dave Frischberg song, Do You Miss New York?, which we first heard on Jonathan’s Saturday Show many, many years ago).

This morning, I just listened to a snippet from the 2005 celebration of Sondheim’s 75th birthday. Schwartz interviewed Sondheim, James Lapine, and John Weidman. It is available at http://www.wnyc.org/story/wall-wall-sondheim/. His show later today will be a tribute to Sondheim. The Jonathan Channel is available at http://www.wnyc.org/series/jonathan-channel/. Several radio shows, including Radio Deluxe with John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey and Michael Feinstein’s Song Travels are also part of the Jonathan Channel’s line-up.

Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim

Here is the link to the post I did last year about Sondheim, a member of the Beta Theta Pi chapter at Williams College  http://wp.me/p20I1i-be. Sondheim’s mentor was Oscar Hammerstein, II, was a member of Pi Lambda Phi at Columbia University. Yesterday, March 21, was Pi Lambda Phi’s Founders’ Day; the fraternity was founded in 1895 at Yale University. I was remiss not to mention it in yesterday’s post.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2014.


Posted in Beta Theta Pi, Columbia University, Fran Favorite, Pi Lambda Phi, Williams College | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off