Decorating with Candy Day? Yes, it is a very real thing and it happens to fall on February 1. And if I told you that I could link this dubious celebration to GLO history, would you even believe me? Well, of course I can and it ties into how I spent my weekend.
More than 650 Pi Phis collegians, alumnae advisors, fraternity officers, and staff members gathered in St. Louis for College Weekend. Among the activities, after dinner on Saturday, was a Cookie Shine. It wasn’t a good old fashioned Pi Phi Cookie Shine for that would require pickles, olives, and oysters, among other foods which have gone out of fashion. The thing I find most amazing about a Cookie Shine is that the tradition’s long history, back to 1873, ties almost every Pi Phi together.
Six years after Pi Beta Phi was founded as I.C. Sorosis at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois on April 28, 1867, the Kansas Alpha chapter at the University of Kansas was chartered. Between the two dates, there were several other chapters founded. Among them was the chapter at Lombard College in Galesburg, Illinois, which was founded on June 22, 1872. It was founded by Mary Brook, sister of Pi Phi founder Libbie Brook,* who founded the second Pi Phi chapter at Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.
Among the charter members of the Lombard chapter was Sara Richardson. Sara grew up in Wisconsin, but her family moved to Lawrence, Kansas. Sara’s sister, Flora, attended Lombard for a short while, until she enrolled at Kansas University.
When Sara Richardson heard that a chapter of Beta Theta Pi was being formed at Kansas, she encouraged Flora, along with her other sisters, Alma and May, to form a chapter of Pi Beta Phi. That they did and on April 1, 1873, the Kansas Alpha chapter was established. Among the other charter members was Gertrude Boughton Blackwelder who spoke at the 1893 Fraternity Day at the Chicago Exposition.
That June, when Sara returned home from Galesburg, the chapter had a little spread to honor her efforts in establishing the chapter at Kansas. John Fraser, Chancellor of the University of Kansas was invited to attend. Fraser was born and educated in Scotland. Prior to his tenure at Kansas, he taught at Jefferson College (now Washington and Jefferson College) in western Pennsylvania and served as the third President of Pennsylvania State University. He also served in the Civil War and was a prisoner of war. Fraser Hall at Kansas is named for him. (For more information about Fraser see https://journals.psu.edu/wph/article/viewFile/4363/4180.)
“Cookie Shine” was Fraser’s name for any kind of informal social gathering brought together by accident or design, and it is likely tied to his Scottish upbringing, where the term was often used. The women loved the name “Cookie Shine” and it caught on and spread quickly throughout the Pi Phi world. Cookie Shines have been a main stay at chapter events, regional Pi Phi gatherings, chapter installations, anniversary celebrations, and at convention.
Cookie Shines vary from chapter to chapter and event to event. My chapter used a large cookie, often cut in an arrow design. It would be passed from sister to sister, with each member cutting off a piece, circling it under the pan, three times, making a wish, and passing it along to the next sister. Sometimes, each member would share a brief story or comment when it was her turn with the cookie. Other chapter have other traditions. Sometimes there are cookies and sometimes there’s candy. There’s a Cookie Shine song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvehdPFg0VY).
*Pi Phi’s travelling car, in honor of the upcoming 150th, is named Libbie after Libbie Brook (Gaddis) who left Monmouth College and enrolled at Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant, Iowa with the intention of starting another chapter.
© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2016. 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/