Indiana University, Home of Impressive GLO Chapter Houses!

Saturday was spent in Bloomington, Indiana, attending the Bloomington Alumnae Panhellenic Council’s Serving Up Sisterhood fundraiser. It was held at the Pi Beta Phi house on the Indiana University campus. My friend Mary Jane Hall served as chair of the event. It was such a fun day!

Indiana University was established by the State of Indiana on January 20, 1820. In 1867, IU became coeducational. A Fort Wayne newspaperman had suggested that equality could be reached by admitting women to the university. Sarah Parke Morrison, the daughter of the president of the Indiana University Board of Trustees, applied for admission in 1867. A 1857 graduate of Mount Holyoke College, she was told she had to correct deficiencies in her preparation in order to be admitted with the incoming students of 1867. In 1868, 12 more women were admitted. According to Clark (1970, p. 125): “The traditional social order took considerable readjusting before women could be made to feel welcome in the university. For instance, in planning for the commencement of 1869 professors were perhaps more worried about Miss Morrison’s graduation than they had been about her admission to classes. They were afraid she would be subjected to the curious and hostile stares of the audience. Even worse, she would have to walk across the stage to receive her diploma and her ankles might be exposed to immodest views.”

The Pi Chapter of Beta Theta Pi, founded in 1845, was the first men’s fraternity on campus. Phi Delta Theta (1849), Sigma Chi (1858) Phi Kappa Psi (1869), Delta Tau Delta (1870), Phi Gamma Delta (1871), Kappa Sigma (1887), and Sigma Nu (1892) were founded before 1900.

Kappa Alpha Theta was founded in Greencastle at Indiana Asbury College (now DePauw University) in 1870. IU became home to Theta’s second chapter. Correspondence took place between one of the Theta founders and the daughter of one of her father’s friends. On May 18, 1870, Kappa Alpha Theta was installed at Indiana University with the initiation of three charter members.

Two and a half years later, on October 12, 1873, Kappa Kappa Gamma made its appearance. A male student at Monmouth College, where Kappa was founded, had a female cousin attending Indiana University. Correspondence ensued and the chapter was installed.

A Pi Beta Phi member from the Franklin College chapter arrived to study at Indiana University and saw what she considered to be material for a Pi Beta Phi chapter. A charter was issued on March 30, 1893.

On December 10, 1898, the Delta Gamma chapter was the last women’s fraternity to be installed on the Indiana University campus prior to 1900.

These early chapters provided members an opportunity to live together in a chapter house. In the 1800s, most of the chapters rented homes. Owing a home took a considerable amount of capital which young chapters rarely had. This was in the day before colleges and universities offered students the opportunity to live in dormitories/residence halls, so living together in a home was a benefit of membership. As Greek-letter Organizations (GLOs) grew and developed an alumni/ae base, they seized the opportunity to purchase homes when it was feasible.

1936 newspaper article about the modernization of an IU sorority house.

1936 newspaper article about the modernization of an IU sorority house.

Today, the GLO homes at Indiana University are exceptionally impressive. I would pay good money to take a tour of any, or more ideally, all of the structures. I wonder if such a fundraiser has ever taken place.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the name of Herman B Wells (the lack of a period after his middle initial B is correct. He had no middle name, just the initial). Indiana University was his life for most of his very long life and his fingerprints can be found all over campus. Well’s belief in the American fraternity system cannot be doubted. As an undergraduate, he was an active member of Sigma Nu’s Beta Eta Chapter. While working on his Masters degree at Indiana, he was an active alumnus. From what I have read about him, he had a deep and abiding love for his fraternity;  he served as Regent of its High Council, as well as a member of the Sigma Nu Educational Foundation Board of Trustees. He helped found the Interfraternity Institute (IFI). The first IFI session for  fraternity and sorority professionals took place at Indiana University in 1970. Wells deserves a post of his own, and I hope to get to it in the near future.

For a post about David Starr Jordan, who served as IU President and for whom Jordan Avenue is name, see

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© Fran Becque,, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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