A Dancing Kelly on ΘΦΑ Founders’ Day While GLO Members Lobby in D.C.

Theta Phi Alpha celebrates Founders’ Day on April 30, the Feast Day of Saint Catherine of Siena.* Saint Catherine is the patroness of the organization and her motto, “Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring,” is Theta Phi Alpha’s motto as well. Theta Phi Alpha was founded at the University of Michigan on August 30, 1912.  Its ten founders created it as a sorority for Catholic women in a day when their social opportunities were sometimes limited depending on the campus environment. Today, the organization is open to women of all faiths.

On May 4, 1922, Theta Phi Alpha’s Kappa Chapter at the University of Pittsburgh was installed. Among its early members was a member of the Five Dancing Kellys, a popular vaudeville act. 

Louise Kelly (Bailey) became a member of the Theta Phi Alpha chapter while she was a student at the University of Pittsburgh. Growing up she, her older sister, and three brothers worked together.  Her brother Gene** would become the most well-known of the five siblings. They began performing together beginning in about 1921. At first, the bookings were local, but when the Seven Little Foys had some travel problems getting to a Pittsburgh booking, the Five Dancing Kellys quickly filled in.  That led to national bookings. The family stopped performing as an act before Louise entered high school.

She graduated in 1936 and went on to earn a Master’s degree from Pitt. The Kellys founded a Pittsburgh dance studio, the Kelly School of Dance. She ran the dance studio for nearly 50 years. In 1949, she married Bill Bailey. Louise died in 2008 at the age of 93.

For more info on Theta Phi Alpha’s founding, visit  http://wp.me/p20I1i-lS

* Saint Catherine was canonized in 1461. From 1597 until 1628, the feast of Saint Catherine of Sienna was celebrated on April 29, the date she died. In 1628, due to a conflict with the feast of Saint Peter of Verona, hers was moved to April 30. In 1969, it was changed back to April 29.

** While a student at Pitt, Gene Kelly was a member of Phi Kappa Theta, which was then a fraternity for Catholic men. Yesterday’s post included information about Phi Kappa Theta.

The Five Dancing Kellys - Joan, James, Gene, Louise, and Fred.

The Five Dancing Kellys – Joan, James, Gene, Louise, and Fred.


On April 30, 2014, fraternity and sorority members, collegiate and alumni (of the men’s groups)/alumnae (of the women’s groups) will be in Washington D.C. to lobby on Capitol Hill. The Fraternal Government Relations Coalition (FGRC), is a group bringing together the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), the North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), and the Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee (FSPAC).

You can follow the lobbying effort on twitter using hashtags #passCHIA and #GreekDC. Contributions to the Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee can be made at www.fspac.org.

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

This entry was posted in Founders' Day, Fran Favorite, GLO, Greek-letter Organization, Greek-letter Organization History, National Panhellenic Conference, NIC, North-American Interfraternity Conference, Sorority History, Theta Phi Alpha, Women's Fraternity History and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.