An Accidental Pi Phi, 40 Years Later

When I went through rush at Syracuse University four decades ago, it was on a whim. All I wanted to do was go on house tours and be done with it. I remember walking around Walnut Park on the day I moved into my freshman dormitory. We did not have any sort of orientation back then. Sink or swim might be a good way to describe it. Check in, move in, and have at it is how I remember it. 

The Alpha Chi Omega house (now the residence of Delta Phi Epsilon), high on a hill next to the Phi Delta Theta house (today the DEKEs live there) and two away from the Chancellor’s residence, was one of the houses that intrigued me. The Delta Gamma house with its anchor on the lawn is on the same side of the park as the Alpha Chi house. Between Alpha Chi and Delta Gamma is the Gamma Phi Beta house, with several fraternities mixed in between them. The Chi Omega house, a stone’s throw from the Bird Library, was at the top of the park. On the other side of the park is the Alpha Phi house. Although some liked to quote that the Alpha Phi house was the first sorority house owned by a sorority chapter, there was more to the story, but I did not know that at the time. Yes, the Alpha Phis at Syracuse were the first to own their own home, but I later learned that it was not that home, but another one which was torn down years before. The Kappa Alpha Theta house is next to the Alpha Phi house. I loved its Tudor Revival look and wondered what was behind the front door. The stately Tri Delta house with its columns caught my eye. What did it look like on the inside? I don’t know if I even thought much about the Pi Beta Phi house that day I first saw Walnut Park. When I told my roommate that I wanted to see the insides of the houses, she’s the one who suggested I sign up for rush and drop out after house tours. I had no clue that was even a possibility.

Today this house is the Phi Delta Theta chapter house.

Today this house is the Phi Delta Theta chapter house.

I like to say that I am an accidental Pi Phi. I had no clue about any of it. I remember learning that the organization was founded in Monmouth, Illinois. Frankly, as a New Yorker, Illinois was somewhere “out there” to the west of the Hudson River. Never did I once think that I would be in the very room where the organization was founded, or that I would be entrusted with the care of its history. At that point, I did not think about things like that. I had not yet realized that the more I gave of myself to Pi Beta Phi, the more I would get in return.

Today, on a significant anniversary of becoming a duly initiated member of Pi Beta Phi, I thank those 12 young women in that small prairie town who had the wherewithal and fortitude to start something so much greater than themselves. That I am today, nearly 150 years later, enjoying the fruits of their labor, never ceases to amaze me.

Thank you New York Alpha for extending me an invitation to membership in Pi Beta Phi. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to be one of your number.

© Fran Becque,, 2016. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyedthis post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest

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