Chi Omega was founded on April 5, 1895 at the University of Arkansas. Ina May Boles, Jean Vincenheller, Jobelle Holcombe, and Alice Simonds, with guidance from Fayetteville dentist, Dr. Charles Richardson, a Kappa Sigma, created the organization. Dr. Richardson was known as “Sis Doc” to generations of Psi Chapter members (the founding chapter at Arkansas is known as the Psi Chapter) and he is counted as a founder. He crafted Chi Omega’s first badge out of dental gold. I think it’s a safe bet to say that Chi Omega is the only National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) organization to have its first badge crafted out of dental gold.
Within the past few weeks, I posted an article from O, The Oprah Magazine. It was about the March 26, 1987 tragedy that happened to the women of the Chi Omega University of Mississippi chapter as they were participating in a chapter philanthropy. As I was compiling that post, my mind went to two other Chi Omega tragedies. One took place at Florida State University while I was living in the Pi Phi chapter house at Syracuse. The other took place in Amherst, Massachusetts when we were living there.
The Florida State murders involved serial killer Ted Bundy and the tragedy received national press. Granted that was before we were a society with news available 24/7. I remember my chapter sisters reading the newspaper and watching the six o’clock news to get information about the murders. After all, we were living in a chapter house much like the one at Florida State. We were carefree college students and we did not want to think about the tragedies that happened to others. Signs about keeping the house locked at all times began appearing on the doors and bathroom mirrors.
January 15, 1978, is a divider page in the memories of the Chi Omegas who were members of the Florida State chapter at that time. It was in the early morning hours that Bundy, a cunning and deeply troubled serial killer, entered the chapter house. Without anyone hearing anything out of the ordinary, he killed two women, Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy, and nearly killed two others who were left with serious injuries.
In the aftermath, during the month when Bundy was on the loose, and while the chapter was grieving and trying to support the women who were nearly murdered, Diane McCain’s plan for her life changed. She would spend the rest of her life being an advocate for victim’s rights. She had not entered FSU with that goal. She comes from a long-line of Pi Phis, but she felt at home with the Chi Omegas. That decision shaped and defined her life. The friends she made and the situations she experience could not have been imagined when she signed her bid card.
When the case came to trial, Bundy acted as his own attorney and he took great delight in intimidating the witnesses. McCain refused to play his game and was steadfast in her resolve to see justice done. She is truly an #amazingsororitywoman. Please read the Tallahassee Woman article about her. It starts on page 29.
I would be remiss if I did not mention Sharon Galligan, the University of Massachusetts Chi Omega who was murdered when we lived in Amherst. She was a junior majoring in psychology and minoring in Spanish. She went to the local mall on December 18, 1989, just before the stores closed. She was stabbed a dozen times as she returned to her car and her body was stuffed into the car so that her legs were visible near the headrest. It took the better part of the next day for someone to realize that there was something horribly wrong. No one was ever brought to trial for the murder. Four years after the murder, the prime suspect took his own life in a motel as police were closing in on him. He admitted to the murder early on to his then wife, and he confessed in his suicide note. I was a young mother then and I can still remember how absolutely awful I felt for her parents and sorority sisters. I recall that she had a frozen yogurt in the car that she had bought for one of her sorority sisters and it was still there frozen in the car. Had we been a cell phone society back then she might still be alive. Likely no one out of the New England area even heard of her murder. But I am sure that for all the Chi Omegas who were in the chapter at that time, Sharon Galligan’s murder is a divider page in their memories.