The Tiny Settlement of Gatlinburg in Deep Shadow…

As time was passing rapidly, and we had that 17 mile drive still before us, I said goodbye, promising to think it over, and report favorably on Gatlinburg if I could. As we drove along the road, looking back I saw the sun shining on the top of Mount LeConte and the tiny settlement of Gatlinburg in deep shadow nestled in what seemed a cup in the hills. From that moment I knew what my report was to be. Education had to be brought to these people of the hills.

A view of Gatlinburg as it looked to May Lansfield Keller in the early 1910s.

A view of Gatlinburg as it looked to May Lansfield Keller in the early 1910s.


When I saw that quote on the Facebook post of a friend, I knew who said it and when and I knew where my friend was. The Gatlinburg of 2016 is vastly different than the sleepy little burg that Pi Beta Phi Grand President May Lansfield Keller saw upon her first visit after the 1910 Convention voted to establish a Settlement School in Tennessee.

May Lansfield Keller was a woman well ahead of her time. She was the first initiate of the Pi Phi chapter at Goucher College. She went to Germany to earn a doctorate, which was no easy feat for a woman in the early 1900s. She served 10 years as Grand President, most of them at the same time as she was serving as Dean of Westhampton College, now part of the University of Richmond.

May Lansfield Keller, Ph.D., Pi Beta Phi

May Lansfield Keller, Ph.D., Pi Beta Phi


The Facebook post belonged to my friend Daphney, who is the driver of Libbie, the Ring Ching Roadshow car. Libbie, the car, is named for Libbie Brook Gaddis, the Pi Beta Phi founder who, in 1868, left Monmouth College for a year to establish a second chapter at Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, about 60 miles across the Mississippi River from Monmouth. 

Libbie, the car, and Daphney, her driver, have been making their way across the continental US and Canada, visiting Pi Phi chapters and alumnae clubs. They’ve also been visiting our interfraternal friends. Along the way, Daphney has been documenting her experiences and telling the stories of the people she meets (see

This week, Libbie has been in Virginia and Tennessee. In Virginia, she toured the Virginia Military Institute, where Alpha Tau Omega and Sigma Nu were founded, and Washington and Lee University where Kappa Alpha Order was founded. She saw the plaque commemorating the founding of the Lexington Fraternity Triad.

lex triad

She had a Thanksgiving dinner with the Pi Phis at W&L. And I know she made new friends at each and every stop along the way!


The stop in Tennessee had her visiting Gatlinburg and the Pi Beta Phi Elementary School, named to honor of the school’s history and its founding as the Pi Beta Phi Settlement School. She visited Arrowmont, the arts and crafts school that is adjacent to the elementary school. Arrowmont was the fraternity’s Centennial project and in the last few years, it has become an independent entity. I encourage one and all to take classes at Arrowmont; it is a life-changing experience (see


Libbie is heading to Clemson, South Carolina to take part in the reinstallation of the South Carolina Beta chapter. Have a wonderful weekend friends!

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

This entry was posted in Alpha Tau Omega, Fran Favorite, Kappa Alpha Order, Monmouth College, Pi Beta Phi, Sigma Nu, University of Richmond (Westhampton College) and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.