A Toast on Kappa Alpha Theta’s 147th!

Today is Kappa Alpha Theta’s 147th birthday. I’ve told the story of Bettie Locke and her three friends many times. Search “Kappa Alpha Theta” in the search box and you’ll find scores of blog posts about Theta and its founding at Indiana Asbury University (now DePauw University).

In looking for something to write about today, I read through the March 1917 Kappa Alpha Theta. This story about the Alpha Upsilon Chapter at Washburn University caught my eye:

The stunts which impress Alpha Upsilon just now as being the most clever are stunts for raising money. Probably other chapters have tried bazaars, silver teas, selling old paper, tin foil, et cetera; but last winter we had a far more original stunt. Dr. Crumbine asked us one day, if we would like to earn thirty dollars (more than $600 in 2017 dollars) —perhaps you know of Dr. Crumbine. He has several distinctions: besides being prominent in medical circles and secretary of the Kansas state board of health, he is our Violet’s father. Of course, we were only too glad to accept his offer, and immediately divided the fraternity into ‘shifts,’ each girl giving several afternoons when she was least busy.
When the first group went down to the State house, Dr. Crumbine said he wanted us to help him get out the Baby Bulletin. Don’t be misled, we were not to help edit it! He took us down into the basement to a room stacked on all sides with the pamphlets. We were to fold a circular, slip it in the bulletin, place this in an envelope and seal the envelope. The money was what they had figured a man accustomed to the work, would earn. We had lots of fun while we worked, but even with that, they told us we finished in less time than they had figured. Needless to say, we have our application in for any such work as may come up in the future.

Violet Ruth Crumbine was a charter member of the chapter and she went on to serve as the chapter’s President. She helped write a toast  which appears in one of the early songbooks.

Loving Cups and their accompanying toasts were popular when this was written in the early 1900s. Given her father’s stance on common drinking cups, I think the drinking may have been symbolic.

Her father, Dr. Samuel Jay Crumbine, was a public health pioneer. Reducing the spread of tuberculosis was one of Crumbine’s goals. He targeted the use of the common drinking cup and led a campaign to stop spitting in public. He helped make the fly swatter a common household item and encouraged the killing of flies to stop the spread of disease. He also rallied against common towels.  In 1954, the Samuel J. Crumbine Consumer Protection Award was established in his honor.


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@NPCWomen with the Army of Occupation in Coblenz

The photo below is a gathering of National Panhellenic Conference women enjoying lunch in January of 1920. It was taken in Coblenz, Germany. When the French occupied the city after the first World War, they used a “C” in the name. Koblenz is on the banks of the Rhine River where it meets the Moselle River.  

The meeting took place in the YWCA Hostess House, the former Hotel Trierscher Hof. The women were the guests of “Miss Robey, a YWCA secretary and a member of KKΓ.” (“Miss Robey” could have been any of the University of Oklahoma Kappa Kappa Gamma Robey alumnae, as described in a 1919 Key, “Winifred Robey, B.A . 1913, who was schedule clerk in Ordinance Department at Washington, D. C., but is now in service overseas; Roberta Robey, B.A. 1914, who is state executive for women’s work in United War Work Campaign, and Lucille Robey, B.A. 1915, who is in an Army School of Nursing at Camp Jackson, South Carolina.)

3627 - coblez wwI after pan

The article accompanying this picture has the title “Pi Phis with the Army of Occupation.” At that first meeting there were 24 women from 24 different colleges representing eight NPC organizations. Some were wives of military personnel. One was “visiting in the big Base Hospital distributing candy and toilet articles and cheer to the bed ridden patients.” Another, with the Salvation Army, was a “Salvation Lassie in a Recreation Hut and Canteen at Coblenz. Another was a Red Cross worker in a “Recreation Hut for convalescent soldiers at the Base Hospital.”  It was noted “many of our members are giving their whole time to Army Welfare and Rhineland Commission Secretarial work and as nearly all the officers wives are members of the Allied Woman’s Club sewing two afternoons a week for charity and holding occasional sales teas and dances to raise money for materials.” 

The Panhellenic’s first president was Nellie Kellogg Van Shaick, a Pi Phi alumna of the University of Michigan chapter whose husband was a Colonel. At one of the club’s subsequent meetings,  “it was Mrs. Van Schaick’s turn to entertain. She talked about her recent ten day visit in Berlin as she is the only Army woman who has been fortunate enough to get a pass to go there.” 

Another member of the club, Alpha Chi Omega Ola M. Wyeth, in a letter dated March 10, 1921, noted:

The work here has been most interesting and very well worth while. There are about 15,000 American soldiers on the Rhine and the American colony is further augmented by many wives and families hundreds of civilians connected with the welfare organizations and such. While the library is primarily for the soldiers it has always been free not only to other Americans but to our Allies who are here, British, French, and Belgian representatives connected with the Rhineland Commission. The library has a central collection of about 40,000 volumes with as many again scattered in the Y huts branch libraries, et cetera. Coblenz is the center and contains most of the troops but many small towns in the vicinity are also garrisoned by our troops and must be provided with recreation. I have had a staff of five regular workers, two enlisted men, and seven Germans, so you see we could turn out a good deal of work. Incidentally, we never get caught up. Besides supervising the work in the main library, I have had to make periodic trips of inspection to outlying points to see that the books were being properly cared for that the supply was adequate. You would not believe that books could wear out so quickly. Books a month old which have caught the boys’ fancy look as though they had been through the war. Then too, the boys read so eagerly and so constantly that they are forever calling for an exchange of collections and it has always been great fun to see them gather around the box when a new collection was sent out and opened up. The schools maintained by the Army inspire the men to serious use of the library as do also the examinations for West Point for commissions, etc. I feel I deserve little credit for my work here as it was all organized and in good working order when I arrived and I have simply carried on.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. 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/


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The P.E.O. Sisterhood Turns 148!

P.E.O., the Philanthropic Educational Organization, founded at Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, celebrates its 148th birthday today. It was founded by seven young women. About a month earlier, Libbie Brook, who had previously been enrolled at Monmouth College, across the Mississippi River to the east but transferred to IWU. Her sole purpose was starting another chapter of her women’s fraternity, I.C. Sorosis. She was successful in late December 1868 and she founded the second chapter of what is today known by its original Greek motto, Pi Beta Phi.  According to legend, not all of the seven P.E.O. founders were asked to be part of Brook’s group, so they started a society of their own.

Lulu Corkhill was not one of the seven founders of P.E.O., but she may as well have been. She grew up in Mount Pleasant, the daughter of a Methodist minister. She was initiated in March 1869, several weeks after P.E.O. was founded. She was 14 at the time.

She said of those first meetings in Mount Pleasant, “Everything was of such vast importance, everything was so secret. When and where we held our meetings were of as much secrecy as was our oath. And for revealing an officer’s name – that would have been an offense worthy of expulsion. As I look back I can but smile as I recall how careful we were to go down side streets and double on our tracks, and separate ourselves into groups of one as we neared the place of meeting, lest any idle onlooker should detect more than one girl going into a house on the same afternoon and should guess that the P.E.O.s were having a meeting.”

In 1882, a P.E.O. convention was held in the Methodist parsonage of Corkhill’s father, Dr. Thomas E. Corkhill, in Bloomfield, Iowa. She later reflected on that meeting at which she served as hostess, “As I have tried to recall early days, I have come to realize as never before, how really important our every day life is, and how much it means to those who come after us. We who were early P.E.O.s lived those days and did not think them of enough importance to write them down, and did not try to remember events, and how eagerly those records are sought today. Thus the small events of today may be the great things of tomorrow.”

Lulu Corkhill Williams wearing her star in her hair.

Both the Pi Phi and P.E.O. histories describe the rivalry between the two groups in the early years. They are described as  “mortal foes,” yet they “respected the steel of the other, for the societies were made up of much of the same type of girls. In Iowa Wesleyan they couldn’t even belong to the same literary societies; they had two societies in later years. The two boys’ fraternities (Beta Theta Pi, founded 1868, Phi Delta Theta, founded 1871 and perhaps Delta Tau Delta active 1875-80) had to be very careful in the way they divided their dates and their attentions.”

Knowing of this rivalry, I was quite surprised to run across a page in a 1914 Arrow of Pi Beta Phi. It was an obituary for Emma Kate Corkhill. Lulu, the P.E.O., had a sister who was a Pi Phi. Both were initiates of the chapters at Iowa Wesleyan. Emma Kate graduated in 1889 and 1892; she earned both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s. She taught at her Alma Mater for a year, at Simpson College for seven years, and at Lawrence University for the remainder of her life.

When Emma Kate died in a Chicago hospital on December 13, 1913, her funeral services were in Mount Pleasant. Her Pi Beta Phi sisters “met the family at the station and opened rank, at the church while the funeral cortege passed through both on entering and leaving the church. Warm tears were on many faces for this gifted woman had an especial place in many hearts among those who had known her from her childhood.” It was noted by one of the members of her chapter that Emma Kate’s “place in the faculty of Lawrence, her place in her sister’s (Lulu’s) home, her place in Pi Beta Phi will long remain a vital tribute to her worth as a woman of heart, of intellect and of true spirituality.” I suspect the rivalry wasn’t that strong if loving sisters could chose to join a “rival” organization.

Emma Kate Corkhill is buried with her parents in a Mount Pleasant, Iowa, cemetery.

Lulu Corkhill married Hemmerle B. Williams, who coined the term B.I.L., the husbands and significant others of P.E.O. members. He is known in P.E.O. circles as “the original B.I.L.” His wife served as Illinois State Chapter President and today her name is carried on in Illinois State Chapter’s Lulu Corkhill Williams Friendship Fund. The fund was created from funds left over from the 1934 convention. More than $1,756,000 has been awarded to 1300+ Illinois women and men facing financial difficulty.

Happy Founders’ Day to my P.E.O. sisters!

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. 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/

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Female Senators and Their Sorority Affiliation – 2017 Edition

A number of female United States senators are members of National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) and National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) women’s fraternities/sororities. I suspect there are a greater number of sorority women who are or have been state senators. This is the list of women who have served in Washington, D.C. and not in the state capitals.

Alpha Kappa Alpha

Kamila Harris, California (D), 1/3/2017-present

Chi Omega

Blanche Lincoln, Arkansas (D), 1/3/1999-1/3/2011

Delta Delta Delta

Elizabeth Dole, North Carolina (R), 1/3/2003-1/3/2009

Delta Gamma

Mary Landrieu, Louisiana (D), 1/3/1997-1/15/2015

Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire (R), 1/3/2011-2017

Delta Phi Epsilon

Barbara Boxer, California (D) 1/3/1993-present

Delta Sigma Theta

Carol Moseley Braun, Illinois (D), 1/3/1993-1/3/1999

Delta Zeta

Maurine Brown Neuberger, Oregon (D), 11/9/1960-1/3/1967

Gamma Phi Beta

Jocelyn Birch Burdick, North Dakota (D), 9/16/1992-12/14/1992

Deb Fischer, Nebraska (R), 1/3/2013-present (She’s a P.E.O., too)

Kappa Alpha Theta

Nancy Landon Kassebaum, Kansas (R), 12/23/1978-1/3/1997

Claire McCaskill, Missouri (D), 1/3/2007-present

Kappa Delta

Jean Carnahan, Missouri (D), 1/3/2001-11/25/2002 (She’s a P.E.O., too)

Kappa Kappa Gamma

Kirsten Gillibrand, New York (D) 1/26/2009-present

Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia (R) 1/3/2015-present

Pi Beta Phi

Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Texas (R), 6/14/1993-2013

Lisa Murkowski, Alaska (R), 12/20/2002-present

Sigma Kappa

Margaret Chase Smith, Maine (R), 1/3/1949-1/3/1973

The unaffiliated women, as far as I can tell, in order of when they first served.

I could find no sorority membership information on the following senators. I’ve included their educational institutions, in case someone has additional informatiion.

Rebecca Latimer Felton, Georgia (D), 11/21/1922-11/22/1922, Methodist Female College

Hattie Wyatt Caraway, Arkansas (D), 12/9/1931 – 1/3/1945, Dickson Normal College

Rose McConnell Long, Louisiana (D), 1/31/1936-1/2/1937

Dixie Bibb Grave, Alabama (D), 8/20/1937-1/10/1938

Gladys Pyle, South Dakota (R), 11/9/1938-1/3/1939, Huron College

Vera Cahalan Bushfield, South Dakota (R), 10/6/1948-12/26/1948. Stout Institute, University of Minnesota, Dakota Wesleyan College

Eva Kelly Bowring, Nebraska (R), 4/16/1954-11/7/1954

Hazel Hempel Abel, Nebraska (R), 11/8/1954-12/31/1954

Elaine Schwartzenburg Edwards, Louisiana (D), 8/1/1972-11/13/1972

Muriel Buck Humphrey Brown, Minnesota (D), 1/25/1978-11/7/1978, Huron College

Maryon Pittman Allen, Alabama (D), 6/8/1978-11/7/1978, University of Alabama

Paula Hawkins, Florida (R), 1/1/1981-1/3/1987, Utah State University

Barbara Mikulski, Maryland (D), 1/3/1987-present, St. Agnes College

Dianne Feinstein, California (D), 11/10/1992-present, Stanford University (when no sororities were there)

Patty Murray, Washington (D), 1/3/1993-present

Olympia Snowe, Maine (R), 1/3/1995-2013, University of Maine

Sheila Frahm, Kansas (R), 6/11/1996-11/6/1996, Fort Hays State University, University of Texas

Susan Collins, Maine (R), 1/3/1997-present, St. Lawrence University (Phi Beta Kappa)

Maria Cantwell, Washington (D), 1/3/2001-present, Miami University

Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York (D), 1/3/2001-1/2/2009, Wellesley College

Debbie Stabenow, Michigan (D), 1/3/2001-present, Michigan State University

Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota (D), 1/3/2007-present, Yale University (when no sororities were there)

Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire (D), 1/3/2009-present, Shippensburg University

Kay Hagan, North Carolina (D), 1/3/2009-2015, Florida State University (although she may appear on several lists, my sources tell me she is no longer a member)

Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts (D), George Washington University, 1/3/2013-present

Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin (D), 1/3/2013-present

Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota (D), 1/3/2013-present

Mazie Hirono, Hawaii (D), University of Hawaii at Manoa (Phi Beta Kappa), 1/3/2013-present

Joni Ernst, Iowa (R), Iowa State University, 1/3/2015 -present (She’s a P.E.O.)

Maggie Hassan, New Hampshire (D), Brown University, 1/2017-present

Tammy Duckworth, Illinois (D), University of Hawaii, 1/3/2017-present

Catherine Cortez-Masto, Nevada (D), University of Nevada-Reno, 1/3/2017-present

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com. 2017. 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/

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Orville Redenbacher, Alpha Gamma Rho, on #NationalPopcornDay

It’s National Popcorn Day. Who better to recognize than Orville Redenbacher? (Looking over my shoulder, my husband was surprised that Orville Redenbacher was a real person. He thought he was more like Betty Crocker.) Redenbacher was indeed a real person and what’s more he was a fraternity man. In fact, on a visit to the former Alpha Gamma Rho house at SIUC, I spied a framed picture of him in the dining room.

Born in Brazil, Indiana, on July 16, 1907, Redenbacher grew up on a small corn farm. As a child, he peddled corn and used those earning to attend college. He graduated from Purdue University and was a member of Alpha Gamma Rho. In 1988, he was inducted into his fraternity’s Hall of Fame. Although he hit it rich in fertilizer, it was popping corn that was his passion and ultimately led to greater fame and fortune.

The city of Valparaiso, Indiana, where he spent much of his professional life, honored him with a statue  near the gateway to Lincoln Park on the south side of Highway 130. The statue was created by artist Lou Cella. It was unveiled at the 2012 Valparaiso Popcorn Festival. The city’s first Popcorn Festival took place in 1979 and Redenbacher often served as Grand Marshall for the accompanying parades. In 1988, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from his alma mater.

Although Redenbacher died in 1995, his iconic image and name is owned by ConAgra Foods, so he lives on in grocery store shelves and in commercials.

Statue of Orville Redenbacher in Valparaiso, Indiana by Lou Cella (image courtesy of Rotblatt-Amrany Studio)

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. 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/


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Farewell to an Astronaut and a Policewoman

On December 14, 1972, Apollo 17 lifted off from the moon. Its mission commander Gene Cernan, Phi Gamma Delta, was the last astronaut to walk on the moon’s surface. The initiate of Phi Gam’s chapter at Purdue University took his Phi Gam badges on his missions . The items now reside at the fraternity’s international headquarters in Lexington, Kentucky. Captain Cernan died on January 16, 2017 at age 82.

A Pi Phi friend who is a pilot has a grandson who is also a pilot. That young man was encouraged by Captain Cernan and has his signature in his logbook. Before the young pilot began his first solo cross country flight, Captain Cernan told him,”If I can do it, so can you!” As the young pilot’s mother said, “Great heroes don’t just do great things; they encourage others to do great things, too. Thanks for encouraging my young pilot! You will always be our hero.”  


Sadly, we mourn one of those brave people who went to work and never came home. They are those who promise to keep the public safe, often putting themselves in harm’s way to protect the rest of us. Debra Clayton, an Orlando, Florida, policewoman, was killed in the line of duty on January 9, 2017. She was a member of the Psi Theta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. My condolences to her family, friends, co-workers and sorority sisters.

Master Sergeant Debra Clayton


A new semester begins, incoming chapter officers take on leadership duties, and some attend GLO leadership workshops. To those beginning a new adventure as a chapter officer, I give this unsolicited advice – soak up the knowledge, get buy in from fellow exec board members, roll up your sleeves and get to work. 

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. 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/

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Dr. Deborah Cannon Wolfe on Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.’s Founding Day

From 1953 until 1965,  Dr. Deborah Cannon P. Wolfe, served as Grand Basileus (President) of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. Born in Cranford, New Jersey, in 1916, Wolfe attended Cranford Schools. Although she wanted to attend Oberlin College, Jersey City State College was more affordable. After graduating in 1937, she continued her studies at Columbia University. She was hired by Tuskegee Institute when she was 22 years old with a newly minted master’s degree. She headed to Alabama where she directed the elementary education program. supervised student teachers and served as principal of two rural labatory schools. From 1943-45, she was  back at Columbia working on a doctorate. Her dissertation, Her dissertation was titled  A Plan for Redesigning the Curriculum of the Rural Laboratory Schools of Tuskegee Institute.

Dr. Deborah Cannon P. WolfeShe

When she returned to the faculty at Tuskegee, she was the only faculty member besides the President to have an earned doctoral degree. She supervised the Insititute’s graduate program in education.  In 1950, she headed to the University of Pennsylvania to do advanced postdoctoral study in methods and statistical analysis. She was also a visiting professor at New York University and Queens College, City University of New York. In 1951, when she was hired by Queens College, she became the first African-American professor on the College’s faculty. In 1962, she took a leave of absence to work for the United States House of Representatives. Her title was Education Chief of the Committee on Education and Labor and she worked with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.

Wolfe was active in the Civil Rights Movement, too, marching with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Alpha Phi Alpha) up Consitution Avenue. She also served as vice president of the National Council for Negro Women. According to an article by Stephanie van Hover published in Kappa Delta Pi’s Educational Forum:

Wolfe continued her lifelong involvement in numerous organizations after her retirement and achieved many firsts as an African-American female. She was the first African-American woman to be named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to become a member of and later chair the New Jersey State Board of Higher Education, and to serve as a member of the Educational Foundation of Kappa Delta Pi. She was the only African-American member on the Seton Hall University Board of Regents, the advisory board to Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College, the Coordinating Council on Education for New Jersey, and the board of the American Association of University Women. In recognition of her lifelong commitment to education, she was awarded more than 26 honorary doctorates. A high school in Macon County, Alabama, and a dormitory at Trenton State College in New Jersey were named in her honor.

New Jersey City University is home to the Deborah Cannon Wolfe College of Education. When Wolfe died on September 3, 2004, her family requested memorials to the National Education Foundation for Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. Wolfe is another example of the group I call #amazingsororitywomen. 

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. was founded by Arizona Cleaver and four friends, Pearl Neal, Myrtle Tyler, Viola Tyler, and Fannie Pettie; they are the five pearls (founders) of Zeta Phi Beta. The idea for the organization happened several months earlier when Cleaver was walking with Charles Robert Samuel Taylor, a Phi Beta Sigma at Howard University. Taylor suggested that Cleaver consider starting a sister organization to Phi Beta Sigma.

Although there were already two sororities on the Howard University campus, Cleaver and her four friends were interested and started the process. They sought and were granted approval from university administrators. The five met for the first time as a sanctioned organization on January 16, 1920. They named their organization Zeta Phi Beta. It is the only National Pan-Hellenic Council sorority constitutionally bound to a fraternity; that fraternity is Phi Beta Sigma.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. 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/

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Hidden Figures on Alpha Kappa Alpha Founders’ Day

Today is the anniversary of the founding of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Incorporated, the first Greek-letter organization for African-American women. In the fall of 2016, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, a book by Margot Lee Shetterly, was published. A movie based on the book opened in early 2017 to rave reviews.

The movie features three National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) mathematicians – Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson, Dorothy Johnson Vaughan, and Mary Winston Jackson. All three are members of Alpha Kappa Alpha. In the days before 3×5 size calculators, these women were “computers who wore skirts,” using slide rules with pencil and paper calculations. During the era of Jim Crow laws, they worked in segregated conditions at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. They had a front seat at the start of the Space Race and they contributed greatly to the success of the early missions including Alan Shepard’s trip into space and launch into orbit of John Glenn. Their calculations had to be perfect; there was no room for error. 

Of the three women, Johnson is the only one able to bask in the glory afforded by the film. She is 98 years old. Johnson is portrayed by Taraji P. Henson. Johnson is a Diamond member of the Lambda Omega Chapter (Newport News, VA) of Alpha Kappa Alpha. She was born on August 26, 1918 and she graduated summa cum laude from West Virginia State College in 1937. A year later, in 1938, she was one of three black graduate students admitted to West Virginia University, and the only female among the three. She taught math for several years, one of the only career paths open to her, until 1953 when she was hired by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (today it is NASA). She retired in 1983.  In 2015, she was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom. On May 5, 2016, the 55th anniversary of Shepard’s quick trip into space, the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility was dedicated at Langley Research Center. 

Katherine Johnson


Shetterly, the author of the book, in an interview on Jezebel.com, remembered being about 12 years old when she attended an event for young community women, sponsored by Alpha Kappa Alpha. Shetterly’s mother belonged to Johnson’s AKA chapter. Shetterly said of Johnson, “I believe she was the president of the sorority of the time. I have image of her that’s this very impressive woman in a pantsuit.”

Katherine Johnson on November 24, 2015 after she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor. Note the Alpha Kappa Alpha blanket on her lap. Photo by NASA/Bill Ingalls.

Dorothy Johnson Vaughan, who is portrayed by Octavia Spencer, became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha in 1926 while she was a student at Wilberforce University. She graduated in 1929 and taught high school mathematics until 1943, when she was hired as a mathematician at Langley Field. She retired in 1971. Vaughn died in 2008 at the age of 98.

Dorothy Johnson Vaughan

Mary Winston Jackson graduated from Hampton Institute in 1942 and taught mathematics before being hired by National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in 1943. In the film she is portrayed by Janelle Monáe. Jackson retired from NASA in 1985. She, too, was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha. In 2005, she died at the age of 83.

Mary Winston Jackson

Alpha Kappa Alpha was founded on January 15, 1908 by nine young female Howard University students. They were led by the vision of Ethel Hedgeman (Lyle); she had spent several months sharing her idea with her friends. During this time, she was dating her future husband, George Lyle, a charter member of the Beta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha. 

After choosing a name for their sorority, the nine women wrote a constitution and a motto. Additionally, they chose salmon pink and apple green as the sorority’s colors and ivy as its symbol. A group of seven sophomore women were invited to become members. They did not partake in an initiation ceremony and all 16 women are considered founders. The first “Ivy Week” took place in May 1909 and ivy was planted at Howard University’s Miner Hall. On January 29, 1913, Alpha Kappa Alpha was incorporated.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. 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/

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Happy 104th, Delta Sigma Theta!

On January 13, 1913, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. was founded at Howard University. All 22 founders – Winona Cargile (Alexander), Madree Penn (White), Wertie Blackwell (Weaver), Vashti Turley (Murphy), Ethel Cuff (Black), Frederica Chase (Dodd), Osceola Macarthy (Adams), Pauline Oberdorfer (Minor), Edna Brown (Coleman), Edith Mott (Young), Marguerite Young (Alexander), Naomi Sewell (Richardson), Eliza P. Shippen,  Zephyr Chisom (Carter), Myra Davis (Hemmings), Mamie Reddy (Rose), Bertha Pitts (Campbell), Florence Letcher (Toms), Olive Jones, Jessie McGuire (Dent), Jimmie Bugg (Middleton), and Ethel Carr (Watson) – had been members of Alpha Kappa Alpha, which was founded at Howard University on January 16, 1908. When a disagreement about the future of the organization arose between the active chapter and the alumnae, an ultimatum was given, decisions were made, and in the end, the active members left Alpha Kappa Alpha and became Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Myra Davis went from being the president of the Alpha Kappa Alpha chapter to being president of the Delta Sigma Theta chapter. Many of the first meetings were held in Edna Brown’s living room. The 1913 Valedictorian and Class President, she married Frank Coleman, a founder of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Florence Letcher’s hobby of collecting elephant figurines led to the animal becoming the sorority’s symbol.

Nearly two months after its founding, on March 3, 1913, the women took part in the historic suffrage march in Washington, D.C. They were the only African-American women’s group to participate. Honorary member Mary Church Terrell joined them in their march.

In many states, Delta Sigma Theta undergraduates and alumnae have the opportunity to purchase specialized Delta Sigma Theta license plates. I give kudos to the Delta Sigma Theta members (and other NPHC groups) who undertake campaigns to make the special license plates available to members.

Delta Sigma Thetas who reside in South Carolina also have the opportunity to purchase a license plate honoring Mary McLeod Bethune, In 1923, at the fifth national convention, Bethune, a prominent educator, became an Honorary Member of Delta Sigma Theta. The daughter of former slaves, Bethune worked in the fields at age five. Due to the generosity of a benefactor, she graduated from Scotia Seminary (now Barber-Scotia College). Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida can trace its history to 1904, when Bethune opened a school for African-American girls. There were five girls in the first class.  In 1923, the school merged with the Cookman Institute of Jacksonville, Florida to become a high school. In 1931, it became a junior college. Ten years later Bethune-Cookman became a four-year college. Bethune served as the college president from 1923-42 and 1946-47.  She was also a leader in the National Association of Colored Women and served as its national president. In addition, she founded the National Council of Negro Women and served as a Cabinet member in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration.  Her push to upgrade the libraries at historically black institutions during her tenure as Director of the Negro Division of the National Youth Administration, and her firm belief that these libraries needed to be improved, played a part in Delta’s first national project. She died in 1955. In 1993, Bethune was inducted posthumously into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Mary McLeod Bethune and some of her students during the early years of her school. Photo courtesy of Bethune-Cookman University.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. 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/

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Leland F. Leland on the Founding Day of TKE

Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) was founded on January 10, 1899 at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois. In a meeting at 504 East Locust Street, Charles Roy Atkinson, Clarence Arthur Mayer, James Carson McNutt, Joseph Lorenzo Settles, and Owen Ison Truitt formulated plans for a fraternity they first called the Knights of Classic Lore. The name was changed to Tau Kappa Epsilon when, in 1902, the men rented the Wilder Mansion, a home which formerly belonged to the College’s president. It was the first men’s fraternity house on the campus.

Leland F. Leland

Some of its most famous members include an initiate of the Eureka College chapter the 40th President of the United States – Ronald Reagan (see http://wp.me/s20I1i-9523), Charles R. Walgreen, Jr. (see http://wp.me/p20I1i-1YY), and Elvis Aaron Presley, an honorary initiate of the Arkansas State University chapter (see http://wp.me/s20I1i-9499).

Banta’s Greek Exchange and Fraternity Month are some of my favorite magazines to read. Both ended publication in the early 1970s. Tau Kappa Epsilon Leland F. Leland, along with his then wife Wilma Smith Leland, Alpha Omicron Pi, began the Fraternity Press and published Fraternity Month from 1933 until 1971.

Leland F. Leland was the 72nd initiate of TKE’s Theta Chapter at the University of Minnesota. He spent several years employed by the George Banta Company before striking out on his own. 

The October 1933 edition of Fraternity Month included this introduction:

Fraternity Month and its staff greet you. To tell you what kind of a magazine it is would be to be trite, for you may see for yourselves. We hope you find it all that you may expect of a new, interfraternity publication. Many of you have asked for one which will be read by undergraduates as well as by more mature members. This is the type of magazine we want to produce. Coming with regular frequency, our news will be current and vital. Our articles will be by persons prominent in their field. We will follow a policy of liberalism. Our articles will not reflect our own opinion for this is your magazine and each of you may direct the thought of it so long as you may direct the thought of it so long as  you keep within the bounds of good tatse. We welcome your contributions, your suggestions and, about all, your criticisms.

It will be our earnest endeavor to publish all the worthwhile news of all fraternities and all sororities all the time. You may help us by calling our attention to items which you wish to emphasize.

We want timely news, but we are alert to the splendid history and background that Greek-letter organizations have a right to claim. So there will be articles concerning the heritage of fraternities.

We expect our magazine to be read by prominent people who do not wear a badge, and we will feel it a privilege as well as an obligation to interpret the fraternity system to the outside world in a manner fair and honest.

Controversial articles will present both sides of the question. We do not strive to be smart, but to be intelligent with enough levity to be appealing to a public whose tastes are varied. Our magazine is, first of all, a fraternal and educational journal and we expect to keep it so. It is published without profit by the Fraternity Press in a desire to be of real service to the fraternity system.

Small convention favor for the 1936 Pi Beta Phi Convention. The cover of this small (3×5) notebook mimicked the covers of the larger magazine. The graphic may have even been used as the cover of an edition of the magazine.

He was elected his fraternity’s Grand Histor in 1924 and spent 25 years, 1924-49, as editor and manager of THE TEKE magazine. Leland edited a 50-year TEKE history. He was named Grand Histor Emeritus. In addition, he served the fraternity as Grand Prytanis (President) from 1949-51. He died in 1972 at the age of 73.


© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. 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/

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