This October is filled with exciting Alpha Chi Omega milestones. Not only do Alpha Chi Omegas across the country get to celebrate 132 years since the Fraternity’s founding, but also 25 years of spreading awareness on a variety of domestic violence issues. Being a lover of history, Founders’ Day is quite an exciting event for me. This month, I was introduced to the Flat Founders and learned many fun facts about their lives. This got me thinking – which Founder am I most like?
Anna Allen Smith (1870-1932)
Am I most like Anna, the youngest advanced student in DePauw’s School of Music? She lived in Greencastle her entire life and hosted the first convention in her home. Although Anna had no children of her own, she made it a point to personally know just about all of the 700 women initiated into Alpha chapter until her death. She enjoyed helping others, which is evident in her dedication to the American Red Cross, where she worked during World War I.
Olive Burnett Clark (1867-1957)
Or maybe I’m more like Ollie. Olive, known by her friends as “Ollie,” “found no greater happiness in life than Alpha Chi Omega.” She truly believed in the mission of Fraternity as an influence for good. Ollie began her journey in the DePauw School of Music at age 18, where she played the piano, organ, violin, cello and double bass. She even wrote several songs, which are still preserved in the Alpha Chi Omega Song Book. Olive was active with the Fraternity and in the Beta Beta alumnae chapter throughout her life, due to her avid love for Alpha Chi Omega.
Bertha Deniston Cunningham (1869-1950)
Surely Bertha serves as a great role model for Real. Strong. Women. Bertha’s parents ensured she grew up in a musical household, where she began playing the piano at age 7. Friends knew Bertha as “Denny.” She was a quick-witted, slow-speaking woman filled with laughter and good times. Denny was the first of the seven Founders to purchase a lyre badge after Alpha Chi Omega’s founding. This badge is the only one from the founding seven that the Fraternity has located. Each of the chapter president badges is a replica of the first one, purchased by Bertha in the 19th century.
Amy Dubois Reith (1869-1915)
Was I as active in my youth as Amy? Amy was a spry 15 years of age when she entered DePauw, where she studied voice and piano. She was a tiny woman with a straightforward approach to life, a sunny disposition and an enjoyment for pranking her Fraternity sisters. Some knew Amy as “the little girl with the big voice.” Amy left the university after one year to teach music at Doane College in Nebraska. After leaving DePauw, none of the other Founders ever saw her again.
Nellie Gamble Childe (1867-1950)
Am I as graceful and reliable as Nellie was in her collegiate experience? Nellie grew up with brothers in Illinois, which naturally led her into boyish ways. She studied piano in her youth and planned to attend a different university before a friend influenced her to attend DePauw. She too left DePauw after one year. Although Nellie believed that being a Founder of Alpha Chi Omega was “the event of a lifetime,” she was reluctant to accept special recognition for her extraordinary role within the Fraternity. Olive saw Nellie as one of the loveliest women she had ever seen – tall, slim, graceful and valued for reliable propositions and good judgement.
Bessie Grooms Keenan (1866-1920)
Could I have brought the same social experiences to the founding seven as Bessie? Bessie grew up in Greencastle, Indiana. Her parents were avid supporters of the founding class of the Alpha chapter. Bess enjoyed serving others and hosting parties and social events for the Fraternity. It seems likely that Bessie was Alpha Chi Omega’s first social chair, as the Fraternity’s first large party was held at her family home. She also played the piano throughout her life, until she was no longer able. Bessie’s daughter, Hannah, served as an Alpha chapter president while she attended DePauw.
Estelle Leonard (1860-1955)
Maybe, just maybe, I am a profound leader, like Estelle. Estelle, or “Stella,” was the eldest of the founding seven and helped build a strong foundation for the Fraternity. She was interested in learning music as a means for living and enjoyed playing pranks on those close to her. After leaving DePauw, Stella taught music for a number of years in Indiana. Estelle served as Alpha chapter’s first president and had the responsibility of collecting ribbon samples from Indianapolis to select Alpha Chi Omega’s colors – scarlet red and olive green.
I would like to think that I am similar to Estelle, with her passion for teaching and serving as a leader to those around her. Yet she still knew how to enjoy life and to laugh every once in a while.
Which Founder are you most like?
Don’t forget to participate in Alpha Chi Omega’s Founders’ Day Challenge. You can donate to support Real. Strong. Women. across the country, Domestic Violence Awareness initiatives or educational programming like Let’s Talk Love. This link will allow you to donate today and partner with Alpha Chi Omega to continue shedding the light of love and friendship to all.
As a volunteer for the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation and a strong supporter of domestic violence awareness, I was honored when Alpha Chi Omega gave me the opportunity to share my personal story about becoming a survivor of domestic violence. My story was released on the Starting Conversations blog in October 2013. I was so grateful that they chose me to share my experience, but also very thankful and proud to be a part of a women’s organization that seeks to empower women by allowing them to be authentic.
In October 2016, the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation asked me to share my story during the Founders’ Day Challenge and speak out about the Alpha Chi Omega domestic violence initiatives. Again, by exposing my hurt and my heart, it was my hope that my authenticity would help a sister open her eyes and escape an abusive relationship. In that post, I wrote these exact words, “If I could just save 1 life, all of the trails and pain that I experienced would be worth it” – not knowing that those words would actually come to fruition.
About seven months after I shared that story, my husband and I were in the process of moving into our new home, so I joined our neighborhood’s Facebook furniture sales group. I download the Facebook Messenger app so neighbors could direct message me if they were interested in buying our furniture. To my surprise, I had a message from a woman I didn’t know that had been in my filtered messages inbox from October 2016. That message was from my abuser’s most recent victim.
She said that she had suffered verbal and extreme physical abuse from the same man who once abused me. She told me, “I found you on Facebook and then Googled your name. When I found your blog post about being a survivor of domestic violence, it’s like I woke up…“ It was the last line of her message that will stick with me forever, and it reminded me of why it is so important for survivors to tell their personal stories. The last line of her message was this: “Thank you so much for speaking out about him, you probably saved my life.”
I sat at my computer, speechless, and tears rolled down my face. When I decided to volunteer for the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation, I had no idea all of this would transpire. Words are not enough to express how much the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation means to me. Since writing that first blog post, I have spoken to thousands of women and to many nonprofit organizations, telling my story of survival, hoping that other lives will be saved. Alpha Chi Omega gave me a voice when others told me to be quiet and allowed me to be the real, strong woman who I am called to be. The Alpha Chi Omega Foundation is saving lives, raising domestic violence awareness and empowering women, and for those reasons and so many more, I will forever be proud to be an Alpha Chi Omega.
This October will mark 132 years since seven strong, young women founded Alpha Chi Omega. So much has happened within the almost century and half that our sorority has existed. Much has changed in the global, political and social landscapes of the world. But one thing has remained the same: the bond of Alpha Chi Omega. We have grown nationally to more than 140 collegiate chapters and 220,000 members across the globe. Each of these women has had her life changed because of our seven original sisters.
Bertha, Estelle, Anna, Nellie, Bessie, Olive and Amy founded Alpha Chi Omega because there was no fraternity for them to join as music students at DePauw University. They took it upon themselves to create one of their own. I often wonder if they ever thought their small musical fraternity would grow to level that it has, or if they knew just how many lives they would touch. Several times I have been asked in job interviews, “If you could have lunch with anyone from history, who would it be and why?” This often causes my mind to wander to our Founders. I would love the opportunity to meet with them and tell them all that they have inspired and to see their faces light up as they hear what their fraternity has been busy doing over the last 132 years.
I would tell them that we are working to redefine the sorority experience. That we are women empowering women, creating change across campuses by educating our peers about healthy relationships and helping those impacted by domestic violence. And I would assure them that although we no longer have a membership requirement related to music ability, we do hold our musical heritage in the highest regard and wear our lyre badge proudly.
But most of all, I would like to tell them thank you. Their legacy has shaped me into the woman I always wanted to be. I would thank them for our beautiful symbols that first made me fall in love with Alpha Chi when I went through recruitment. I would thank them for our Ritual that binds me with sisters across the country and with sisters of different generations. I would thank them for being real, strong women.
Olive once said, “All I have ventured to give toward the upbuilding and uplifiting of our fraternity has been from the depths of my heart, and has been repaid in thousandfold by my girls.” It is because of her and the other six Founders’ selfless attitudes that we have our sisterhood. Today and every day, may our members across the globe remember the legacy of our Founders and send a silent “thank you” for all they have done. Happy Founders’ Day!
If you’re like me, you’ve been anxiously awaiting the start of October. Pumpkin picking, the fall scents at Bath & Body Works, crisp fall weather and the changing colors of leaves exponentially lift my mood and make every place I visit remind me of home. However, October has come to mean so much more to me over the past few years and, through Alpha Chi Omega, has given me something else to celebrate and be thankful for – Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
There are many things I love about this job and the work I do each day, and some of my favorite moments revolve around our philanthropy events and chatting about chapters’ plans for DVA Month. Seeing how passionate our members are about spreading awareness for domestic violence makes me so proud and thankful we selected DVA as our philanthropy 25 years ago. From coast to coast, our women get excited for DVA Month and go all-in – tabling on campus, bringing in speakers, hosting philanthropy events and doing hands-on community service.
If you are wondering how to get involved this month, here are some ideas of great ways to give back:
Participate in the Founders’ Day Challenge: Join us in celebrating 25 years of supporting domestic violence awareness as Alpha Chi Omega’s national philanthropy. You can choose to direct your donation to the Real. Strong. Women. Fund, domestic violence awareness initiatives or Let’s Talk Love. The challenge began October 3 and will end on October 25. More information can be found here.
Raise awareness through social media: Alpha Chi Omega has created DVA Month profile pictures and cover photos! Adding these to your social media profiles can spread awareness to family and friends throughout the world.
Connect with your chapter of initiation: Reach out to your chapter and see how you can get involved with any philanthropy events or awareness campaigns they have on their calendar.
Wear a purple ribbon: Wearing a purple ribbon to class or work can help start the conversation between peers and across multiple generations.
No matter where you are in your Alpha Chi Omega experience, I encourage you to spend some time this October getting involved in DVA Month and being a part of the real, strong impact our sisters are making across the country.
Founders’ Day reminds us of our commitment to our sisterhood regardless of school rivalries, hometowns, or age.
October 15 brings to light each one of the thousands of Alpha Chi Omegas that represent our letters all over the country. From 1885 to 2017, sisters across the country continue to share the same values of friendship, leadership, learning, and service.
Remember to emphasize these values as you bring together your chapter to celebrate another year of a sisterhood full of Real Strong Women.
I hope the following suggestions for activities bring you and your chapter a little bit closer to our history, values, and each other.
Rededication of the Bond
Perform the ceremony at the chapter meeting that takes place closest to Founders’ Day.
This ceremony is in the green ceremonies binder.
25/50/75 Year Ceremonies
Read over the anniversary ceremonies and remind your chapter of the generations that came before you.
You can find these in the green ceremonies binder.
Host a luncheon for your local alumnae chapters as a way to introduce your sisters to sisters who have graduated. This is a good time to ask alumnae their Alpha Chi Omega stories, favorite ceremonies, and maybe learn some new chants! Alumni events show us that being an Alpha Chi last beyond our time as collegians.
Have the event catered or pick up some items for a sundae bar!
$50-$1,000 (if you want to get fancy!)
Color Me Mine
Appreciate Alpha Chi Omega’s fine arts heritage by bringing together your sisters to paint! You can all make your own Alpha Chi/Big Little craft or you can ask a more talented sister to guide you in painting one thing à la Bob Ross. This is a good way to spend some time appreciating your sisters and our history. It’s also a good study break!
Go to your local craft store and purchase small canvases, paint, and paintbrushes (BYOCrafts is also an option). If your budget allows, you can also organize a Color Me Mine rep to come to your chapter or take your sisters to a Color Me Mine location.
A Carnation pass is a fun way to promote our sisterhood on campus while celebrating our heritage! Buy 7 carnations (representing each founder), tie a card on each one with some fun facts about the Founders or Alpha Chi and distribute to seven sisters that morning. These women will then hand them off to another sister they see around campus, and so on. Each woman can sign her name on the back of the card. By the end of the day, everyone can come back to your house and you can all see how many sisters shared the carnations.
If you’re in a larger chapter, you can send out more than seven carnations to share the love with more sisters!
Historian presentation about your chapter
Whether your chapter was established in the last 10 years or you’ve celebrated your centennial, learning your chapter’s history will make you better appreciate your chapter and the sisters by your side.
Your historian should have access to old photo albums and composites, maybe even alumni letters and bid cards! If you need more information on your chapter’s founding, you can always contact Vicky Harrison.
Founders’ Day Skit
The skits give your chapter the opportunity to see themselves and their sisters in our seven founders, since they were students our age when they decided to come together to create a bond. Little did they know that their creation would go on to change women’s lives for the next 100+ years!
You can find PDFs of the skits in the Ritual and Ceremonies tab of the Resource Center.
Throw a “birthday” party to celebrate our Founding.
Balloons, party hats, confetti poppers, need I say more?
Party City and the 99 cent store are your best friends!
Kendra Swanson was a resident consultant at the Lambda chapter at Syracuse University for their reestablishment in 2016. Here are her reflections on how she emulated Ritual and saw Ritual in others through her experience.
The values of Alpha Chi Omega have resonated with me throughout my experience both as a collegiate member of the organization and as a staff member.
I had the privilege of serving as the resident consultant for the reestablishment of the Lambda chapter at Syracuse University last year and found that our values shine throughout the entire recruitment and establishment process. I was constantly reminded of the importance of wisdom, devotion and achievement through numerous experiences.
Wisdom was prevalent as I was constantly learning from the dedicated staff, volunteers and establishment team, further enhancing my knowledge of what it means to be an Alpha Chi Omega and how I can serve others in my daily life.
When I think of devotion, I think of the constant and consistent love, loyalty and passion that is given to every event and every aspect of working toward a common goal of welcoming women to membership in Alpha Chi Omega and creating lifelong bonds.
At the end of the semester, I had the opportunity to assist in planning and executing the installation banquet for the members, and this event embodied achievement in every sense of the word. This moment was when all of the puzzle pieces came together, the Lambda chapter of Alpha Chi Omega was officially installed and the values molded into one remarkable experience.
Lambda Chapter, Bid Day Fall 2016
Monica Hiller is vice president recruitment at the Gamma Tau chapter at Oklahoma City University. Monica injected Ritual into Gamma Tau’s recruitment experience by making sure lifetime members thought of others before themselves. She challenged her chapter to think of potential new members’ feelings and experiences while they were going through the recruitment process instead of dwelling on the long days and busyness that is recruitment.
Ritual is the very essence of what makes an Alpha Chi Omega, an Alpha Chi Omega. Without the Ritual, there would be no sisterhood, but without the sisterhood, there would be no need for Ritual. This is where recruitment comes in.
As vice president recruitment this year, it was my job to combine our sacred and secret Ritual with the very public affair that is recruitment – a seemingly impossible task. So how did I do it?
The most important part of recruitment is the week-long preparation for recruitment. Gamma Tau calls this Sisterhood Week. This is a time of sisterhood growth, greater understanding of Alpha Chi Omega and training on the best way to recruit new sisters into the house. I made sure the Ritual was a part of our Sisterhood Week.
Alpha Chi Omega’s Ritual encourages leading a good life of kindness and loyalty. It asks sisters to go beyond themselves and think of others. That is how I led recruitment. We focused on being good people before we focused on being good recruiters. We focused on the thoughts and feelings of potential new members before we focused on our long evenings and sore feet.
The way I interpret Alpha Chi Omega’s Ritual is this: If you’re leading the kind of life that makes the people around you proud, you’re doing a good job. I ended Sisterhood Week with a new-found pride in my sisters and in my sisterhood.
Recruitment is the “what” and Ritual is the “why.” Recruitment and Ritual go hand in hand. One cannot exist without the other.
MacDowell Month is my favorite time of year! The performance art has a special place in my heart: I grew up dancing, singing, and performing in school plays from age 3 to age 18. Although I am no longer as involved in the arts (does Zumba count?) I still love going to art museums, the opera, or seeing a new play.
I wanted to get to know some of our sisters who are involved in dance, theatre, art, and music so, to celebrate MacDowell Month on the blog this year, I’ll be profiling sisters in the arts. This first post features dancer/singer/actress Sarah Fagan and graphic designer/hand-letterer Gillian Tracey.
Spotlight Member: Sarah Fagan, Gamma Tau
How are you involved in the arts?
I am a professional dancer, singer, and actress in musical theatre. (Sarah is currently in the national tour of 42nd Street!)
How did you first get interested in your art form? I took dance lessons from a very young age. I have always loved movie musicals and was lucky to see live theatre many times while I was growing up. As a dance major in college I saw even more shows and learned about dance in theatre, and realized I had a passion for musical theatre. I am lucky that I’m able to successfully apply my dance background to the musical theatre business, and that I enjoy singing and acting equally as much as dancing!
How do you “Strike on the lyre of the universe, only the notes of happiness, of joy, of peace”?
I try to be focused, kind, calm, and supportive so I can spread positivity through any cast of performers I am a part of. When a cast is happy, unified, and having fun backstage it shows onstage. In turn when we give an inspired performance we have the chance to change someone for the better. At every performance, it’s exciting to think that I could turn someone’s bad day into a great day, or inspire someone to find and follow their passion.
What’s your favorite Alpha Chi moment/memory? Definitely senior year Bid Day. I was VP recruitment two years in a row, and the feelings of accomplishment, satisfaction, and relief that washed over me when the new members ran to us that day really sums up my experience in Alpha Chi. There are so many moments I can think back to where my overwhelming feeling was “I have no idea how, but we did it, and did it well!” The exhilarating feeling of triumph runs through a majority of my most memorable Alpha Chi experiences, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. We often worked together to pull off big events that required huge amounts of time, energy, and willpower. The proud feeling I had when I got to watch or participate in the successful results of our hard work was my favorite part of Greek life.
Spotlight Member: Gillian Tracey, Delta Chi
How are you involved in the arts?
I’m a freelance graphic designer and hand-letterer.
How did you first get interested in your art form?
I’ve always loved art since I was a little kid, but when I started college I wanted to take my passion for creating and learn how to apply it in a practical way, which is how I came to study graphic design! After working for a few years at a magazine, I decided to take the leap into freelancing full-time where I could work one-on-one with small business owners.
How do you “Strike on the lyre of the universe, only the notes of happiness, of joy, of peace”? This line of the symphony acts like a thermostat for my business. Just as a thermostat maintains a particular temperature, this portion of the symphony helps me maintain the right mindset and approach situations in the best way possible.
While running a business is extremely gratifying and exciting, there’s a lot of unknown factors, major competition, and crippling comparison that can happen every single day. The symphony is an anthem for treating others with respect, encouraging and uplifting fellow creatives, and for reminding me that the hard work is worth the joy found in creating what I’m passionate about.
What’s your favorite Alpha Chi moment/memory? There are so many incredible memories it’s hard to choose just one! While I was a collegiate member of Delta Chi, we all lived in the same house the whole time we were in school. Living across the hall from your best friends for years made for a lot of memories of piling on the sofa to watch rom-coms in pajamas, writing papers together, and getting ready for formals. It’s the simple everyday moments that make up my favorite and fondest memories.
By: Haleigh Robers Delta Zeta, Central Michigan University Resident Consultant – Loyola Marymount University
With one of the most beloved American holidays, Thanksgiving, right around the corner, there’s no doubt that our minds are filled with anxious thoughts. Whether it’s anticipating a much-needed break or already tasting the Thanksgiving Day menu, I can see the urgency in everyone’s faces for the holiday to arrive.
As a chapter consultant, being on a college schedule comes with the territory, so I still mirror this anticipation felt by students all across the country. Although I can cook for myself, I’m ready for a home-cooked meal. Although I call my Mom almost every day, I’m ready to fly those 2,032 miles and be surrounded by family again. And yes, although I love my job, like anyone, I’m ready for a relaxing break!
As it is with many holidays, we tend to get preoccupied with the hustle and bustle of life. Sometimes, we forget what the holidays are truly about amidst the agendas, the planning, the food and the parties.
Thanksgiving sometimes gets overlooked as that one holiday that falls between Halloween and Christmas, but the beauty of Thanksgiving is that, in its simplest form, it’s a day devoted to giving thanks, gratitude and appreciation.
I have always been grateful for Alpha Chi Omega. During my collegiate years, my chapter gave me a home away from home, some of my best friends, personal development, leadership opportunities and endless experiences and memories that I will forever refer to as the best four years of my life.
After becoming a consultant, however, I have exponentially added to my gratitude list. In this position, I’ve learned a few things. I am lucky enough to have a job that allows me to work for an organization that I love and meet other women who love it too. I am lucky enough to work with some of the best women I have ever met, and even luckier that they are my sisters and my support system. I am lucky enough to have a job that allows me to give back to an organization that changed my life in amazing ways. Alpha Chi Omega has provided me a world of opportunity, and none of it would be possible without the women who came before me and the women today who work so hard to see Alpha Chi live up to everything it is meant to be.
So this Thanksgiving I ask you to do one thing; when you start to feel that anxious feeling to get home and away from it all, pause and reflect on everything you have to be thankful for. We waste so much time wanting to get to the next place instead of taking a moment to send some gratitude into the world.
“To appreciate every little service rendered; to see and appreciate all that is noble in another…” – words of wisdom from our very own symphony. If there are sisters you are thankful for, let them know. I know I’ll be doing just that this Thanksgiving holiday.
Thank you, Alpha Chi Omega, for all the wonderful things you’ve given so many women over the years to be thankful for.
By: Jennifer Daurora Delta, Allegheny College
National Vice President; Foundation Trustee
On a cold January day in 1996, I celebrated with 22 of the most amazing young women I could have ever hoped to know as a freshman at Allegheny College. We didn’t realize it at the time, but each of us was destined to do amazing things to make this world a better place.
It’s funny now when I think back to our lives during college. Whether it was studying to pass organic chemistry or trying to finish that 25-page paper, did we have any inkling of the women we were about to become? The clues were all around us. It’s that spark you see in someone that you can’t quite put into words, but you know her and you know that she is someone special. This is how I felt then about the women I joined Alpha Chi Omega with back in 1996. To this day I am still amazed by the women we have become.
From Beth, who is working in the cardiac unit of Children’s Hospital, and Erin, working in neurosurgery, to Amie, who is fighting for justice at the U.S. Attorney’s office, and Kim, who took a teaching job right out of school in one of the poorest schools in a Baltimore just to make a difference in a child’s life. Allison set her vision and now runs a successful chiropractic practice in New York. Lisa is so committed to her community that she runs a soccer association giving more than 500 kids a safe place to develop learning skills on and off the field. Kathy, the doctor of physical therapy, is also a crusader for children, and Paula is now the executive director of the Metropolitan Ballet in Maryland. These sisters followed their dreams and are models for the real, strong woman within each Alpha Chi Omega.
This spring we will celebrate 20 years of membership in Alpha Chi Omega. I knew them when they were dreaming, and I will support their future dreams wherever they may lead. But I know they will lead to us someday seeking the heights.
By: Elizabeth Donaldson Alpha, DePauw University
Associate Director of Operations, Alpha Chi Omega Foundation
If you had told me as a high school freshman from Dallas, Texas, that I would end up going to college in a tiny town in the middle of Indiana corn fields, and that it would change my life in ways I could never anticipate, I would have thought it unlikely.
And if you had told me I would meet friends who would become not only college roommates, but sisters who would make me laugh like never before and help introduce me to my husband, it would have seemed too good to be true.
But all that happened, and more. The “more” is the part I least anticipated. I never imagined meeting women who would inspire and support me for more than 18 years now. We have shared our dreams with each other and, better yet, are watching those dreams become reality together.
Paula Frederick Hoage and Jenny Breck Kovach have always been special Alpha Chi Omega friends. We enjoyed ridiculous college adventures, were post-college roommates navigating the trials of first jobs and have stood by each other’s sides at our weddings. But over the course of the past year, we have all shared one very important experience. We have all become mothers.
Paula and Jenny were a few months ahead of me in bringing their bundles of joy into the world. And although we may be thousands of miles apart, they have provided such great advice and support through the first year. Whether it be something silly like a teething toy recommendation or a more serious parenting moment, I can count on them for input. They are real, strong women who I am confident are raising real, strong little people.
When I met Paula and Jenny on the Alpha chapter lawn on bid day, I had no idea the years that lay ahead and the dreams we would watch unfold. And it brings me such joy to know that one of those dreams we are sharing together, the journey of motherhood.