The National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) celebrates International Badge Day on the first Monday in March. NPC asks its members to “Wear Your Letters on Your Heart.” Men’s fraternities and other Greek-letter organizations have joined in on the fun. The more the merrier, I say!
International Badge Day began in 1997. In the spring of 1996, after she wore her Alpha Sigma Alpha pin to work one day, Nora M. Ten Broeck wrote an article about her experience. It appeared her sorority’s magazine, The Phoenix, and was titled “A Simple Solution – Wear Your Membership Badge Today.” The month of March was chosen because it is also National Women’s History Month. International Badge Day is an apt time to reflect on the organizations that once were a part of NPC, but no longer exist.
The first of these organizations admitted to NPC was Beta Phi Alpha; it joined NPC in 1923. Beta Phi Alpha was founded as Bide-a-wee on May 8, 1909 at the University of California – Berkeley. A few months later, the name changed to Aldebaran, In 1919, it became Kappa Phi Alpha. It then changed its name to Beta Phi Alpha. In 1936, chapters of Phi Delta at New York University and George Washington University affiliated with Beta Phi Alpha. On June 22, 1941 Beta Phi Alpha was absorbed by Delta Zeta. At that point, 30 chapters had been installed and there were 3,000 members. Beta Phi Alpha’s “Convention Lights” is still sung at the close of Delta Zeta conventions.
Beta Phi Alpha’s badge was a “Phi outlined in pearls with Beta and Alpha embossed on the black enamel at either side of the stem of the Phi.”*
Alpha Delta Theta was granted associate NPC membership in 1923 and full membership in 1926. It was founded as Alpha Theta in the fall of 1919 at Transylvania College and it took the name Alpha Delta Theta in 1922. That year, a second chapter was founded at the University of Kentucky. Twenty-five chapters had been established when Violet Young Gentry, Alpha Delta Theta, presided at the 26th NPC meeting at the Greenbrier Hotel in 1939. After the meeting, Alpha Delta Theta merged with Phi Mu. The national officers of both organizations then embarked on a trip to Alpha Delta Theta’s Alpha chapter at Transylvania University to install the collegians and alumnae as members of Phi Mu. Visits to the other Alpha Delta Theta chapters followed. Phi Mu affiliated five chapters and gained eight others through campus mergers. Four Alpha Delta Theta alumnae groups were installed as Phi Mu. In the 18 cities were Phi Mu and Alpha Delta Theta both had alumnae groups, Alpha Delta Theta’s alumnae chapters were disbanded and absorbed into Phi Mu. Hazel Falconer Benninghoven, Alpha Delta Theta National President at the time of the merger, served as Phi Mu’s National President, too.
Alpha Delta Theta’s badge was a “yellow gold pin, delta in shape, bordered with 15 pearls and with an emerald at each corner, the Delta superimposed upon a gold key place horizontally. The center of the Delta was of black enamel, bearing the emblems in gold, the Alpha in the lower left corner, the Delta in the apex, the Theta in the lower right corner, a lighted candle in the candlestick between the Alpha and Theta with crossed palm branches above.”
Theta Upsilon was granted associate NPC membership in 1923 and full membership in 1928. Theta Upsilon was founded at the University of California – Berkeley in 1914. Its roots can be traced to 1909 when a group of women rented a house on Walnut Street that they called “Walnut Shell.” On January 1, 1914, they organized as the Mekatina (“Among the Hills”) Club. In September 1933, Lambda Omega became a part of Theta Upsilon. On May 6, 1962, Theta Upsilon became a part of Delta Zeta. Three campuses overlapped, that is, they had both a Theta Upsilon and Delta Zeta chapter on campus. These three were Miami University, the University of Illinois, and Temple University. Delta Zeta gained nine new chapters.
Theta Upsilon’sbadge was a “jeweled Theta superimposed upon a hand-chased Upsilon.”
Sigma Phi Beta was granted associate NPC membership in 1928. It was founded at New York University on November 1, 1920 under the name of Sigma Sigma Omicron. It became Sigma Phi Beta on July 28, 1927. Phi Alpha Chi, with its three chapters, joined Sigma Phi Beta’s five chapters on January 7, 1928. On October 1, 1933, Phi Omega Pi absorbed Sigma Phi Beta; on August 10, 1946, Delta Zeta absorbed Phi Omega Pi.
Sigma Phi Beta’s badge was a circle bearing a Sigma, Phi, and Beta, with six jeweled points on the edge of the circle. The bottom badge is that of Sigma Sigma Omicron, which preceded Sigma Phi Beta.
Beta Sigma Omicron was granted associate NPC membership in 1930 and full membership in 1933. It was founded in 1888 at the University of Missouri. A second chapter was founded in 1891 at the Synodical College in Fulton, Missouri. The Alpha chapter closed in 1892. Although 61 chapters had been established, in 1964 when the organization was absorbed by Zeta Tau Alpha, there were only fifteen active chapters. Seven chapters became Zeta Tau Alpha chapters. These were: Howard College (now Samford University); Millsaps College; William Jewell College; Evansville College (now University); Thiel College; Westminster College; and Youngstown State College (now University). Alpha Phi picked up three chapters from those on campuses where there was already a chapter of Zeta Tau Alpha. The three Beta Sigma Omicron chapters that became Alpha Phi chapters were located at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, Baldwin Wallace College, and Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Beta Sigma Omicron’s badge was “a monogram of the Greek letters Beta Sigma Omicron, the Sigma being superimposed.”
Lambda Omega was granted Associate NPC membership in 1930. Lambda Omega was founded on May 5, 1923 at the University of California – Berkeley. It began as the Norroena Club founded in November 1915. It existed as a local house club for more than seven years until the house burned. Norroena “meaning ‘breath of the North,’ developed its ritual around an Indiana legend and had a Norse motif emphasizing the hardihood of the Norse people, their hospitality, economy, and friendship.” Other chapters were founded shortly after the organization became Lambda Omega. The Iaqua Club was founded at Berkeley in 1919, and it later became Alpha Sigma Delta; it merged with Lambda Omega in 1932. In 1933, Lambda Omega merged with Theta Upsilon. In 1962, Theta Upsilon merged with Delta Zeta.
Lambda Omega’s badge was a monogram of the Greek letters.
Phi Omega Pi was granted associate NPC membership in 1930 and full membership in 1933. It was founded at the University of Nebraska on March 5, 1910. In its early years, membership was limited to those belonging to the Order of the Eastern Star. In 1931, this restriction was eliminated. In 1933, Sigma Phi Beta was amalgamated with Phi Omega Pi. Phi Omega Pi disbanded in 1946. Four chapters were inactive. Other chapters were taken over by Alpha Omicron Pi, Alpha Gamma Delta, Sigma Kappa, and Kappa Alpha Theta. Delta Zeta was asked to consider the alumnae and a few chapters that remained. On August 10, 1946, Delta Zeta absorbed Phi Omega Pi.
Phi Omega Pi’s badge was an “irregular pentagon of black enamel surrounded by a gold band, had a five pointed star set with a sapphire above the Greek letters Phi Omega Pi engraved in gold.”
Pi Sigma Gamma was sponsored by NPC in 1930. It was founded in 1919 at the University of California – Berkeley. There were four chapters. The other three were at the University of Washington, Hunter College. and the University of California – Los Angeles. The UCLA chapter closed in 1930. That same year, the three remaining chapters affiliated with Beta Sigma Omicron.
I could find no description of the Pi Sigma Gamma badge, but above is a picture of it.
Delta Sigma Epsilon, an Association of Education Sororities member, became a member of NPC in 1947. Delta Sigma Epsilon was founded on September 23, 1914 at Miami University. It became a member of the Association of Pedagogical Sororities, an organization that then became the Association of Education Sororities. In the fall of 1940, Pi Delta Theta, another Association of Education Sororities member, merged with Delta Sigma Epsilon. It was the only merger within the Association of Education Sororities. In 1941, Delta Sigma Epsilon alumnae donated an outdoor drinking fountain and patio to Miami University. In 1956, Delta Sigma Epsilon was absorbed by Delta Zeta. At the time of the merger more than 13,000 women had been initiated as members in its 52 chapters. The chapter at Southern Illinois University Carbondale became an Alpha Gamma Delta chapter; both its collegians and alumnae were released from obligations to Delta Zeta (there is a chapter on this episode in my master’s thesis).
Delta Sigma Epsilon’s badge was a “shield-shaped, having seven point, the background of enamel, bordered with pearls, and displaying the fraternity letters, a circle, and a cornucopias. There was a plain badge in black and gold.”
Pi Kappa Sigma, an Association of Education Sororities member, became a member of NPC in 1947. It was founded on November 17, 1894 at the Michigan State Normal School (now Eastern Michigan University). At first it was known as J.P.N. In 1897, it reorganized and the name was changed to Pi Kappa Sigma. It was absorbed by Sigma Kappa on May 15, 1959.
Pi Kappa Sigma’s badge was “a modified triangular shield of black enamel displaying the letters Pi Sigma Kappa and a lamp and carrying a diamond surrounded by thirteen gold rays.”
Theta Sigma Upsilon, an Association of Education Sororities member, became a member of NPC in 1947. It was founded on March 25, 1921 at Kansas State Teachers College in Emporia. Its roots can be traced to 1909 when it was known as the Sigma Society. Theta Sigma Upsilon united with Alpha Gamma Delta on June 29, 1959.
Theta Sigma Upsilon’splain badge was “a five pointed shield of black enamel, displaying a torch and the Greek letters and mounted upon a beveled shield of gold similarly shaped.” The jeweled badge was “shield similar to the plain badge, but jeweled with pearls and turquoises.”
Iota Alpha Pi was granted associate NPC membership in 1953 and full membership in 1957. The oldest national sorority for Jewish women, it was founded in 1903 at the New York Normal College (now Hunter College). A second chapter was founded in 1913. The first six chapters were all in the metro New York area. The organization disbanded in 1971.
Iota Alpha Pi’s badge was a “diamond shaped pin, with two full-blown gold roses on each of the horizontal points, consisting of a scarlet field surrounded by a border of twenty pearls.” The roses were added to the corners after Iota Alpha Phi joined NPC, perhaps because it was so similar to Alpha Delta Pi’s badge.
*Quoted descriptions of badges are taken from the 19th edition of Baird’s Manual of American College Fraternities.
My thanks to Christopher Walters for providing pictures of the badges.
© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2013. All Rights Reserved.