Today, Pi Beta Phi turns 150 years old. I wasn’t sure how I was going to celebrate this in a blog post. I was likely going to use the letter I wrote for the commemorative Arrow, but a few days ago Jeff Rankin, Monmouth College Historian, alerted me to some photos he found in the Monmouth College archives. They were taken on June 28, 1967, when the convention attendees travelled from Chicago to Monmouth to celebrate Pi Beta Phi’s Centennial. They ate lunch, toured Holt House where Pi Phi was founded, visited the cemetery where several founders are buried, and viewed the presentation of a special gift to the college. It was billed as a Day of Rededication.
The 700 Centennial Convention delegates were on a journey that took about four hours each way. The 18 busses began loading at 7:00 A.M. “Not everyone looked forward to the trip with enthusiasm because of that inconvenience but with this gap bridged, enthusiasm did return, in fact it bubbled in many instances, as Holt House became a place instead of two words – as Monmouth College became an entity instead of a historical program phrase,” Dr. Duncan Wimpress, Monmouth College president, was a Pi Phi husband and he accepted a $50,000 Pi Phi gift to Monmouth honoring Amy Burnham Onken, Grand President from 1921 to 1952. The gift funded the Pi Beta Phi Athenaeum in the new library which was under construction.
The group gathered in the Student Center Dining room for lunch and a short program. “A delightful surprise for most was the attendance of Harry Onken, Chapin, Illinois merchant, and brother of the late Amy B. Onken.”
Evelyn Peters Kyle, became a member of the chapter shortly after it was reinstalled on May 25, 1928. In 1967, she was a member of Grand Council and she had honored by Monmouth College with an Alumni Distinguished Service award.
Hollis Shoemaker, 12, daughter of Jackie McGinness Shoemaker, Illinois Alpha ’49, and Sharon Reed, 12, daughter of Shirley Morrow Reed , Illinois Alpha ’54, set up a lemonade stand and did a brisk business.
Pi Beta Phi’s “long journey toward greatness began at Monmouth and the Centennial Convention pilgrimage to its shrine was, for many Pi Phis, both capstone to a proud past and cornerstone to a future century,” reported the convention recap article in The Arrow.
To view the full album visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/monmouthcollege/sets/72157679932926543
Happy 150th birthday Pi Beta Phi!