“A Happy Find in Champaign” on Alpha Gamma Delta’s Founding Day

Alpha Gamma Delta was founded on May 30, 1904 at Syracuse University, when Syracuse was still in session at the end of May. As academic calendars changed, it became difficult celebrating a Founders’ Day when school was not in session. In 1936, Alpha Gamma Delta made Founder’s Day an historic term. Founders’ Day was replaced with International Reunion Day (IRD), which is celebrated on the third Saturday of April.

The Alpha Gamma Delta Founders

Nonetheless, I went looking for something to write about as I try to commemorate Founders’ Days whenever possible. As usual, I fell into a rabbit hole. “A Happy Find in Champaign” on the contents page of the February 1917 Alpha Gamma Delta Quarterly caught my eye. I took a look at the entry by Marguerite Keck, an alumna of the Xi Chapter at Illinois Wesleyan University. It read:

The other night I was over at the University practising with the Choral Society and I had started to leave the hall when a young lady came up to me and began to talk about school work, etc. She said she was from Decatur, Illinois, so I (having my AΓΔ directory memorized) immediately asked if she knew Bertha Trautman there. She said ‘Why yes, she’s married and living here in Champaign.’ ‘Oh, she is surely not the girl I mean—this Miss Trautman is not married. Do you know if she is a member of Alpha Gamma Delta sorority?’ I said. The girl said ‘Well, really, I can’t say, but this Miss Trautman was here tonight playing in the orchestra. Why! there she is over there, now, talking to her husband.’ I was ‘all eyes’ and fate brought us together and surely enough, it was Beta’s own Bertha Trautman, now Mrs. W. H. Hyslop. Of course, we were very glad to meet and the fact that I remembered her name and address surprised her greatly. I said ‘You surely do not read your Quarterly or you’d have known that you had three sisters right here in Champaign.’ She said she got her Quarterly but confessed she didn’t read it from ‘back to back’ as I did. Then, she told me that she had not told any of the Alpha Gam girls that she was married and I said ‘Well, here’s where I announce it.’ She was married in Sheridan, Wyoming, a year ago last summer to Mr. Hyslop. He is now instructor of Physics at the U. of I. and also studying for his doctor’s degree. She informed me that Elizabeth Gaynor, B, was teaching here in the high school. My goodness, why are people so busy that they can’t even read their Quarterlies and find out about their sisters! If our ranks at U. of I. could be increased by one—whoop la! we’d have a Champaign Association. Bertha seems very enthusiastic and is thinking of going with me to Xi’s initiation services in January. I haven’t met Elizabeth yet, but hope to soon after holidays. I hope the five of us in Champaign can do something here.

This story doesn’t end there. Keck had been a driving force behind the establishment of her own chapter at Illinois Wesleyan University and she had a hand in the founding of the chapter at the University of Illinois.

According to a history of the chapter written for the Society for the Preservation of Greek Housing:

In February 1917, a conversation sparked by a piece of jewelry set in motion the process which would eventually lead to the founding of Sigma Chapter at the University of Illinois. Florence Downend, a sophomore music student, admired the pin worn by her classmate Marguerite Keck, who had recently transferred to the University of Illinois from Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington. Marguerite explained that the pin was a sign of her membership in Alpha Gamma Delta’s Xi Chapter, and her ensuing conversation with her classmate convinced her that Florence ‘had the desire and spirit to start a new organization,’ so she encouraged her to gather other friends, recruit new ones, and begin the process of founding a new chapter for Alpha Gamma Delta. An initially small but enthusiastic group of women met at the home of Viña Freitag and discussed ideas and plans for the organization, where Florence Downend served as moderator and passed on the knowledge about general fraternity life that she had gained from her conversation with Marguerite Keck.

The group began the process to become a local organization. At Keck’s suggestion, they chose Delta Epsilon Phi as the local’s name. Keck also designed a pin, a small arrow with the letters ∆ΕΦ superimposed on it. The first initiation ceremony of Delta Epsilon Phi took place on April 23, 1917. Keck also created the initiation ceremony and she was helped by several Alpha Gamma Delta alumnae in the Urbana-Campaign area including Bertha Trautman Hyslop.

Marguerite Keck (Koehler)

Alpha Gam’s 1917 Convention took place in Louisville in June and the Delta Epsilon Phi members wasted no time in getting a formal petition book together. The petition was accepted at the convention and the local organization began a one-year trial period before its formal installation as the Sigma Chapter on June 12, 1918.

In December 1920, when the Alpha Gamma Delta chapter initiated its pledges, Hyslop was one of the alumnae at the dinner which followed initiation. In 1922, Hyslop’s husband took at job University of Denver.  Bertha Trautman (also spelled Troutman) Hyslop was a teacher in the Denver schools and played viola in the Denver Civic Symphony Orchestra. She died in 1948.

Keck, who was also known as Marjorie, Margie and Marg, married Jesse Newton Koehler. An entry in a 1921 Quarterly noted “A delightful letter was received from Mrs. Newton Koehler formerly known as Margie Keck. Marg is living in Ashland, Ky., and is as happy as any bride could possibly be.” The couple had two daughters and Marguerite Koehler died in 1962.


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