Founded on April 17 in “I” States – Alpha Xi Delta, Beta Sigma Psi, and Gamma Phi Omega

When it was time for my husband to find an academic job, I told him I did not want to live in any of the “I” states – Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, or Idaho. And that is how I ended up in Illinois. Three GLOs celebrate Founders’ Day today. All were founded in “I’ states. Two of the organizations Alpha Xi Delta and Beta Sigma Psi were founded in Illinois, in 1893 and 1925, respectively. Gamma Phi Omega was founded in 1991 at Indiana University.

Gamma Phi Omega‘s founders are Veronica Montemayor, Monica Guzman, Cristina Rodela, Margaret Escabalzeta, Laura Garcia, and Barbara Graves. Montemayor had the dream of a sisterhood which celebrated the diversity of the Latino culture. Its motto is “Unity and Sisterhood, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable.” Two years later, the Beta chapter was established at the University of Illinois at Chicago. More chapters followed in Illinois and Indiana. The Pi Chapter at the University of North Texas was the first chapter outside of Indiana and Illinois; it was installed in 2013.

On April 17, 1925, Beta Sigma Psi National Lutheran Fraternity was founded at the University of Illinois. In 1911, the Rev. Frederick William Gustav Stiegemeyer was serving at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Champaign, Illinois. Serving the Lutheran students at the University was part of his duties. He organized ten students into the Lutheran Illini League in 1919. They met for religious instruction and discussion. In the fall of 1920, when the university did not have much on-campus housing, the Lutheran Illini League rented a house. A year later, they reorganized as the Concordia Club. The club regularly participated in campus activities and became known as the “Concordia Fraternity.”

Rev. Stiegemeyer, along with eight students – Harold Ahlbrand, Wilbur E. Augustine, Norbert W. Behrens, Herman H. Gilster, Arden F. Henry, Russell Henry, Julius J. Seidel, and William H. Welge – are Beta Sigma Psi’s founders. No doubt, the fraternity had the blessing of Thomas Arkle Clark, the Dean of Men at the University of Illinois.  The Mission of Beta Sigma Psi is “To provide the ideal environment for the Lutheran college man where he will grow Spiritually, Scholastically, and Socially.” The organization’s website has answers to these questions:

ARE YOU A CHURCH?

No. A Christian church is recognized by the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments. Although the Gospel is conveyed by word and deed among the brothers of Beta Sigma Psi, the sacraments rightly have their place among the whole people of God, of which Beta Sigma Psi is only a section. Therefore, Beta Sigma Psi is not a church.

DO YOU DRINK?

Many Beta Sigma Psi chapters are dry, meaning alcohol is prohibited on the premises.  Beta Sigma Psi men sign a promise to adhere to a National Risk Management Policy that includes abiding by state laws regarding alcohol.  Finally our oath, reaffirmed at each chapter meeting, binds men to conduct themselves at all times as Christian gentlemen.

ARE YOU ACTIVE IN THE GREEK COMMUNITY?

Beta Sigma Psi is a member of the North-American Interfraternity Conference, a trade association that governs and represents Greek organizations nationally.  On campus our men participate in all aspects of Greek life: homecoming celebrations, philanthropies, intramural athletics, and group social functions.

Alpha Xi Delta was founded at Lombard College in Galesburg, Illinois on April 17, 1893. Its founders are Cora Bollinger Block, Alice Bartlett Bruner, Bertha Cook Evans, Harriett Luella McCollum, Lucy W. Gilmer, Lewie Strong Taylor, Almira Lowry Cheney, Frances Elisabeth Cheney, Eliza Drake Curtis Everton, and Julia Maude Foster. At age 15, Alice Barlett Bruner was the youngest of Alpha Xi Delta’s founders; Eliza Curtis Everton, a 25-year-old widow, was the oldest founder.

Coeducational from its beginning, Lombard College was founded in 1853 by the Universalist Church. Originally called the Illinois Liberal Institute, its name was changed in 1855, after a fire damaged much of the college. Businessman and farmer Benjamin Lombard gave the college a large gift to build a new building and the institution was named in his honor. Among Lombard’s students was Carl Sandburg.

The book Alpha Xi Delta, A 100-Year History recounts an interesting story which Jessie Brown Robson recalled many years after it happened. Early in its history, the chapter opened a bank account in preparation for the organization’s desired expansion to other campuses. Founder Frances Cheney, whom Robson called “a saint,” wanted to lend some of the savings to the boy who mowed the Lombard College lawn for him to use for his tuition. “Cora (Bollinger Block) was indignant and said the money was for expansion,” wrote Jessie. “She said, ‘Can’t you see when Alpha Xi Delta will be in every first-rate college? How can we do that if we give money to Carl, who would probably hop a freight train to Heaven knows where?’” Robson added, “If Cora had known that the same Carl Sandburg would be known all over the world as one of America’s greatest writers, maybe she would not have been so stingy with the money.”

In 1902, Iowa Wesleyan College’s Chapter S of the P.E.O. Sisterhood became the Beta Chapter of Alpha Xi Delta. With this move, Alpha Xi Delta became a national organization, rather than just a local on the Lombard campus, and the P.E.O. Sisterhood became an organization of community adult women. (See http://wp.me/p20I1i-1EP and http://wp.me/p20I1i-9L)

The 1929 stock market crash and the onset of the Great Depression hit Lombard College extremely hard and the college closed its doors. The last class graduated in 1930. Knox College invited the Lombard students to transfer to Knox, with the same tuition cost as Lombard, and without loss of academic standing. Knox also incorporated the Lombard alumni into the Knox Alumni Association.

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Next week, a ground breaking ceremony will take place in Galesburg, Illinois for the installation of a statue of Carl Sandburg. I’d like to think that the Alpha Xi Delta founders would be very pleased to see their classmate honored in such a way.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2015. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory/

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