The time from a few days before Christmas to after New Year’s Day is a time when the world stands still. Collegians go home to family or spend time with friends away from campus. I can’t imagine a fraternity or sorority chapter being installed during that time in 2013. But a century or more ago, it was truly a different world.
Delta Gamma was founded over the Christmas holiday in 1874 when three young women were stranded at the Lewis School due to inclement weather. Delta Gamma celebrates Founders’ Day on March 15, the date of Eta Chapter’s founding at Akron University. It is Delta Gamma’s oldest continuous chapter. Alpha Omicron Pi began on January 2, 1897. Alpha Omicron Pi celebrates on or around December 8, founder Stella George Stern Perry’s birthday.
Chi Phi traces its history to the Chi Phi Society established on December 24, 1824 by Robert Baird at the College of New Jersey (later known as Princeton University). Phi Delta Theta was founded on December 26, 1848 at Miami University in Miami Ohio. Its Founders’ Day is celebrated on March 15, the birth date of founder Robert Morrison.
Zeta Beta Tau was founded on December 29, 1898 when a group of young men attending several New York universities met at the Jewish Theological Seminary and formed an organization called ZBT. Samuel Eells established Alpha Delta Phi at Hamilton College in upstate New York in January, 1832. Sigma Nu became a Greek-letter organization on January 1, 1869. It was founded at Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in Lexington, Virginia by three young men who were opposed to the hazing that was a part of a cadet’s life at VMI. Delta Tau Delta celebrates its 156th anniversary on January 1. It was founded at Bethany College in 1858.
Not only were organizations founded during this time, but chapters were installed, too. The Chi Omega chapter at the University of Cincinnati was installed 100 years ago, on December 24, 1913. The Tri Delta chapter at St. Lawrence University was founded on Christmas Eve 1891. The Alpha Epsilon Phi chapter at Tulane University was founded on December 24, 1916. The Pi Beta Phi chapter at the University of Arkansas was installed on December 29, 1912, I suspect there are more chapters founded during this week, too.
It is also hard to believe that any organization would plan a convention during the holiday week, but I know of several that occurred at that time. A convention that took place in Troy, New York from December 26-28, 1931, resulted in the creation of Phi Iota Alpha, the oldest Latino fraternity still in existence.
Just after Christmas in 1920, Delta Kappa Epsilon members started on a grand adventure, a Cuban convention, which took place on December 30, 1920. They traveled by train from New York, picking up Dekes in Philadelphia, Savannah and Key West. When they arrived in Key West, the went the rest of the way by ship. It was the first American College Fraternity Convention held off the North American Continent. Cuban President Mario Garcia Menocal was an initiate of the DKE chapter at Cornell University. The Convention souvenir was an inlaid box containing 25 Cuban cigars; 300 of the boxes were made. I had the opportunity to see the cigar box when I was in Ann Arbor. It was quite thrilling to see such an unique part of fraternity history.
One of Pi Beta Phi’s conventions started in 1907 and ended in 1908. It took place in New Orleans over New Year’s Eve (Imagine doing that in 2013, risk management nightmare anyone?). What’s more, on New Year’s Eve, the Kappa Kappa Gammas “gave a royal entertainment” and on New Year’s Day, the Alpha Tau Omegas “gave the delegates a trolley ride to and through Newcomb College grounds, visiting the pottery works, and having New Year’s luncheon on the campus.”
Phi Gamma Delta held an Ekklesia from December 31 through January 3, 1925 in Richmond, Virginia; there were 374 registrants. Another Ekklesia took place from December 29, 1933 through January 1, 1934 in Washington, D.C. Phi Gam held several Ekklesiai in the week between Christmas and New Year’s; these took place in 1916, 1917, 1920 and 1921.
Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year!!
(c) Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2013. All Rights Reserved.