NPC Women and Fraternity Men in the White House
(Congratulations to Mike Pence, a Phi Gamma Delta who was initiated into the Hanover College chapter and served as his chapter’s president. Pence’s daughter, Charlotte, is a Chi Omega. Tiffany Trump, the daughter of Marla Maples and Donald Trump, is a Kappa Alpha Theta from the University of Pennsylvania. Her half-brother Donald, Jr., is also a Penn alumnus. He is a Phi Gamma Delta.)
Ever wonder which Presidents belonged to fraternities? Or which First Ladies were in women’s fraternities/sororities? Or which Presidential offspring belong to these organizations? (For information about the children of Presidents, see http://wp.me/p20I1i-2Fg).
National Panhellenic Conference women who have served as First Lady
Lucy B. Hayes, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Ohio Wesleyan College, Honorary member
Grace Goodhue Coolidge, Pi Beta Phi, University of Vermont, charter member (the chapter was installed in her family’s home)
Lou Henry Hoover, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Stanford University
Barbara Pierce Bush, Pi Beta Phi, Texas A&M, Alumna initiate (post-White House years)
Laura Welch Bush, Kappa Alpha Theta, Southern Methodist University
National Pan-Hellenic Council women who have served as First Lady
Eleanor Roosevelt, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Honorary member
Fraternity men who have served as President of the United States (You can also take a look at a similar post at http://wp.me/p20I1i-Vb)
Thomas Jefferson, Flat Hat Club (F.H.C. Society), College of William and Mary*
Rutherford B. Hayes, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Honorary member
James Garfield, Delta Upsilon, Williams College
Chester Arthur, Psi Upsilon, Union College
Grover Cleveland, Sigma Chi, Honorary member
Benjamin Harrison, Phi Delta Theta, Miami University and Delta Chi, University of Michigan
William McKinley, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Mount Union College
Theodore Roosevelt, Delta Kappa Epsilon and Alpha Delta Phi, Harvard University
William Howard Taft, Psi Upsilon, Yale University
Woodrow Wilson, Phi Kappa Psi, University of Virginia
Calvin Coolidge, Phi Gamma Delta, Amherst College
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Alpha Delta Phi, Harvard University**
Harry S Truman, Lambda Chi Alpha and Alpha Delta Gamma, Honorary member
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Tau Epsilon Phi, Honorary member
John F. Kennedy, Phi Kappa Theta, Honorary member
Gerald R. Ford, Delta Kappa Epsilon, University of Michigan
Ronald Reagan, Tau Kappa Epsilon, Eureka College
George H.W. Bush, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Yale University
Bill Clinton, Phi Beta Sigma, Honorary member***
George W. Bush, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Yale University
For the list of Vice Presidents visit http://wp.me/p20I1i-11G
You probably made your way to this page because you saw a facebook or twitter post with this random, and thoroughly incorrect, statement “Every U.S. President and Vice President, except two in each office, born since the first social fraternity was founded in 1825, have been members of a fraternity.”
To be fair, there may have been a grain of truth in that statistic at one time. Rutherford B. Hayes, born in 1822, was initiated as an honorary member of Delta Kappa Epsilon. Every President from Hayes through Calvin Coolidge, a Phi Gamma Delta initiated as a student at Amherst College, belonged to a Greek-letter organization either as a collegiate member or an honorary member. Herbert Hoover was the first to break that long streak. The next to break it was Lyndon Johnson. Up until this point, the statement would have been true. Unfortunately, after Johnson, the statistic becomes not so true. Neither Richard Nixon nor Jimmy Carter belonged to Greek-letter organizations. Current President Barack Obama is not a fraternity man.
While I would love it if the above statement was true, the fact is that it is not. I suspect someone saw it on something written in the 1960s when it was true and used it in a poster or webpage. It then spread like wildfire. It appears on countless websites as a given fact. Don’t believe me? Do a quick search and you will get pages and pages of results. A quick look at the North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) web-site points out the truth that “At this date 44% of U.S. Presidents have held fraternity membership.”
It is my opinion that we – those of us who advocate for and believe in the fraternity system when it works as it was meant to – shoot ourselves in the foot when we spout clearly false information simply because we assume that it is true, because it once was true, and/or because we want it to be true. If you have connections to one of the web-sites that is using that “all but two” information, please bring it to the webmaster’s attention. It hasn’t been true since the late 1960s. It’s also a good example of that old adage about a falsehood traveling around the world before the truth has a chance to tie its shoelaces. And as my Pi Phi friend Ashley Dye said, “the real stats are impressive enough.”
Grace Goodhue Coolidge, a charter member of the Vermont Beta chapter of Pi Beta Phi at the University of Vermont, was the first wife of a President to have been initiated in a women’s fraternity while in college. Her husband became an initiated member of Phi Gamma Delta while a student at Amherst College. Together the Coolidges were the first couple initiated into Greek-letter societies during their college years.****
Phi Gamma Delta has President Coolidge’s badge and during the fraternity’s 164th Ekkelsia, it was presented to the Archon President to wear. Pi Beta Phi has Mrs. Coolidge’s badges and there is one in the Smithsonian’s collection.
Mrs. Coolidge was not the first First Lady to be a member of a National Panhellenic Conference organization. That honor goes to Lucy Webb Hayes, wife of Rutherford B. Hayes. On December 1, 1880, she accepted the invitation of the Rho Chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma at Ohio Wesleyan College to become an honorary member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. Her husband was an honorary member of Delta Kappa Epsilon and the first fraternity man to be President.
Mrs. Coolidge’s successor, Lou Henry Hoover, was also a Kappa Kappa Gamma. She became a member when she was a Stanford University student.
Laura Welch Bush is a Kappa Alpha Theta, having been initiated while a student at Southern Methodist University. Her husband, George W. Bush, is a member of Yale University chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon. Together they are the second couple initiated into Greek-letter organizations while college students. Another interesting note is that Lynne Ann Vincent Cheney, wife of President Bush’s Vice President, is also a Kappa Alpha Theta. She was initiated into the Colorado College chapter.
In her post-White House years, Barbara Pierce Bush, who had attended Smith College, became an alumna initiate of Pi Beta Phi. Her chapter of initiation is Texas Eta at Texas A&M University. Her husband, George Herbert Walker Bush, is also a member of the Yale University Chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon. His Vice President, Dan Quayle, is also a Delta Kappa Epsilon member. He was initiated into the DePauw University chapter.
* The Flat Hat Club was founded at the College of William and Mary in 1750. It is believed to be the precursor of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, which was established at the same institution in 1776. The modern F.H.C. Society was revived at the College of William and Mary in May, 1972. The Flat Hat is also the name of the college’s student newspaper.
** Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon at Harvard University, also known as the “Dickey Club.” However, the national organization did not recognize the chapter because of the chapter’s stance on dual membership.
*** Bill Clinton became a member of Phi Beta Sigma in 2009, in his post White House years. He became a member of Alpha Phi Omega, a now co-ed service fraternity while at Georgetown University. It was an all-male fraternity when he joined as a college student.
****For more information about the Coolidges, see:
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© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2012. All Rights Reserved.