Lynette Wert, Psi
REAL: “Real” used to be defined by a fancy French word: raison d’être (“reason for being”). Now we sign up for symposiums teaching “Getting to Real” and drop catchphrases such as, “Get real, man!” “Real” simply represents the operating principles that guide one’s life. Everyone develops a philosophy, even if it is never stated in words.
We go through the years improvising, starring in our individual, unscripted, 24/7 reality shows. No rewinds. No retakes. Plenty of bloopers. Normal life? Life as usual? Never happens! Staying true to personal internal principles is the only preparation for tomorrow’s always-surprising segment of our life script.
Some believe machines may improve our reason for being through artificial intelligence, virtual reality and augmented reality. We hope accessing quantum computing, acquiring fancier phones, using faster joysticks and wearing alternative vision glasses will make us smarter and happier. A better reality or just busier? Real gets confused with more. Real becomes obscured in the search for more “likes,” more stuff, more Botox!
The passing years have tuned my internal VCR to fast forward. Focus has shifted from temporary (more) to permanent (real). What time I fold the laundry won’t matter. The basket will just sit there. Visiting my friend in the hospital today will matter. She will feel better and I will feel better. Being real, for me, is now finite: knowing how to give and receive love and remembering when to laugh.
STRONG: First comes feeling safe and secure in one’s own skin, physically and emotionally. With that in place, an individual can proceed to confidence in self, which extends to compassion for others.
Three generations of AXO’s and a Little! (left to right.) Lynette Lemon Wert, Andrea Wert Ebeling, Christine Ebeling, and Jacqueline Hirlinger. Jacque- line was Christine’s “little” at Gamma Tau. Jacqueline is currently Gamma Tau president. Lynette and Andrea lived in the same Psi chapter house 25 years apart.
I was lucky to have strong women as ancestors. My grandmother married at 15 and had seven children—not surprising for 100 years ago. But then she finished high school, went to college, obtained her master’s degree and set up one of the nation’s first special education programs. Both my mother and mother-in-law set examples that strength meant mental toughness rather than physical brawn. Strong did not mean being the loudest or smartest person in the room (although sometimes they were both!).
Throughout my life, from my highest joys to my deepest devastations, those who arrived first, either to pop the champagne cork in celebration or to shed heartfelt tears in grief, were family, Alpha Chi sisters and a poet. My advice for good times and bad: Call your family, call your sisters and call a particularly good poet!
Real, strong qualities were revealed to me in Alpha Chi Omega by my big, Jane Thompson Garrett, and my little, Kay Husky Nida, during my college days in the Psi chapter. In my academic career at the university, I was mentored by Shakespeare scholar Dr. Shelley Rutherford and author and artist-in-residence Marilyn Harris Springer. As we became friends, we discovered the three of us had much in common as working writers, working mothers and Alpha Chi Omegas.
I believe every workplace is enhanced by women’s creativity. In professions from arts to zookeeper, it is invaluable to have like-minded, strong women as friends, colleagues and mutual supporters.
Lynette Lemon Wert with granddaughter Christine Noel Ebeling at Gamma Tau initiation 2013.
Women & Wisdom is not only a great use of alliteration, but also an organic, fortunate pairing of words. All of us are ultimately self-educated, helped partly by institutions and mostly by experience. A trusted guiding hand at home, in college or in our careers is often the crucial nudge forward on the path to our dreams. Mentors post the signs that point the way to success. Alpha Chi Omega’s Women & Wisdom program promises benefits both ways. After all, which brings the greater reward: finding a helping hand or being one?
Supporting the Foundation is an outgrowth of my dad’s forthright financial advice: “Money is a good thing, so spend some, save some and use some to do good.” The Foundation is a way to pass it on by building a bridge linking past knowledge to future endeavors. Those who will join Alpha Chi Omega in coming years will undoubtedly expand the definitions of education, enhancement and empowerment, and the Foundation’s resources will be there to help them.
Besides the thrill of having three generations of Alpha Chi Omegas currently in my family, I trust in the overall Panhellenic concept of fraternity. Finding a community of women with compatible goals allows for expanding opportunities for all, both on campus and in the community. I have been privileged to serve as a chapter recruitment chairman, a member of the alumnae house corporation and president of Oklahoma City Panhellenic. Fraternity life has offered me an opportunity to participate all the way from happy collegian to hurried carpooler to corporate exec to crafty grandma!
In 1956, my goal as a freshman was remarkably shallow. I wanted to join a sorority—any sorority! I was impressed that the Psi chapter had a high grade point average. The house had the same turquoise carpet and Community silver-plate pattern my family used at home, so I felt at ease. How fortunate that I followed the lead of my three best friends and pledged Alpha Chi Omega. Through the years, the chapter GPA varied. The house corporation changed the carpet and silverware many times. But after 60 years, I’m grateful that my best friends are still my best friends and Alpha Chi Omegas—real, strong, loyal, wise women.
Mary Pat Lambke, Beta Epsilon
Why did you join Alpha Chi Omega?
As a freshman, the Beta Epsilon chapter made me feel welcomed and provided a “home away from home” at Michigan State University.
What makes someone a real, strong woman?
Now, as I enter my second half of life, a real, strong woman is a woman who knows herself, her values and her beliefs, and is willing to live them fully. She does not need to convince everyone that she, or her values and beliefs, are correct, yet she is open to hearing others’ points of view.
How has Alpha Chi Omega empowered you as an alumna?
Throughout my career, I was able to reflect and draw upon the leadership experiences afforded to me by Alpha Chi Omega, specifically the Beta Epsilon chapter. These experiences sent me forward with the confidence to become a successful saleswoman. Additionally, as I have become more personally involved with the organization, I have the ability to empower our younger members and influence their life choices. While their collegiate experiences are vastly different from mine, I truly believe that Alpha Chi Omega is making a positive difference in today’s young women so that they, too, will be successful in their careers and personal lives.
In your opinion, how does the Real. Strong. Women. Fund empower the women in our Fraternity?
Fraternity programs funded by the Real. Strong. Women. Fund address issues that young women are facing on today’s college campuses. These programs are empowering our women to better themselves and prepare for the future.
What’s your favorite memory/story about support from the Real. Strong. Women. Fund?
Actually, this goes back several years. I had been asked to participate in an early sharing of the strategic plan, which the tagline Real. Strong. Women. was a part of. From that conversation, I knew that Alpha Chi Omega was heading in a direction I could fully support. So while I was not an involved alumna, I was definitely willing to support Alpha Chi Omega financially. Through those years, I would simply send a check when I was able. I would get very thoughtful notes, phone calls and requests for visits from Angela Harris, now our National President. I never responded to her, as my career was my first priority. Years later, after I became involved in the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation, I finally met Angela, and we have become friends through our work together on the Vision 2020 Strategic Plan. She is a new sister to me, and I treasure our reconnection!
Why do you support Alpha Chi Omega by giving to the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation?
I support Alpha Chi Omega by giving to the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation because I believe in empowering women. In order to empower women, I need to “walk the talk” through my actions and contributions, be that treasure, talent and/or time…or all of them! Alpha Chi Omega is poised to help young women during a challenging time for women. As an alumna who gained great experiences and a strong foundation from Alpha Chi Omega, I believe it is my responsibility to support Alpha Chi Omega by giving back and enabling others to have similar great experiences.
84 year old, Faythe, at her home on the beautiful Colorado River in Parker, AZ
My best friend’s mother was an Alpha Chi Omega, a fact I did not know when I joined. She laid the groundwork as her daughter Betty and I went through rush together. We both ended up pledging the Alpha Rho chapter of Alpha Chi Omega at the University of Idaho. Pledging Alpha Chi Omega was one of the best decisions I have ever made!
After one year at the University of Idaho, I ended up affiliating with the Chi chapter at Oregon State University. Around that time, Alpha Chi Omega created the traveling secretary position. Burnette Jones, then our national collegiate vice president, named Charlene Moore, Chi chapter, as the first traveling secretary. After Char retired, Burnette Jones (by this time our National President) visited the Chi chapter again and named me the second traveling secretary. It has always made me very proud to be involved in our consultant program since I was hired in 1957, and to watch it grow and prosper over the many years since its inception.
DC-3 Propeller Plan
I worked hard for Alpha Chi during those two years, crisscrossing our United States from coast to coast and border to border, visiting approximately 86 chapters. It is important to remember that at that time, jet airplanes were not yet in service. I traveled on the old DC-3 propeller planes. There were no rental cars, so my ground transportation was either by bus or train, or sometimes by a wonderful trip in an alumna’s car. There were no electric typewriters or cell phones or iPhones, so our reports consisted of one original and five or six carbon copies.
Alpha Chi Omega has empowered me in so many ways. The Fraternity has believed in me from the beginning by offering me the opportunity to serve in many different positions. My ultimate honor was being elected to the National Council in 1976 as the national treasurer. At that time in our nation’s history, interest rates were running at 17-19 percent, and inflation was 14 percent. Our Fraternity’s finances were structured in such a way that our collegians were providing most of our operating capital, and the alumnae participation was very small.
In my mind, we had to do something! I knew our alumnae would help if we informed them of our situation and told them that we needed them. We worked on laying the groundwork for the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation for two years in order to be ready to obtain permission from the 1978 National Convention voting delegates to proceed with the formation of the Foundation. It’s interesting to me to know that in the first week of our first annual mail campaign, the donations totaled about $287. That small beginning has led us to where we are today!
My background as a consultant has been valuable to me over the years. At times it was a tough job. I worked hard, but I enjoyed it very much. Sometimes I saw immediate results from my visit while other times it took longer. Overall, our travelers’ visits have produced wonderful results; results that have made a positive difference in the growth of our Fraternity.
From left to right: Charlene Moore Simpson, Mary Kacmarcik Baker, and Faythe Vorderstrasse at Chi chapter centennial celebration.
It has been interesting to me to watch Alpha Chi Omega grow over the years. We have implemented many new programs that have not survived the test of time, but our consultant program has grown and prospered and proven its value over and over again.
Having this opportunity to support both the consultant program and the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation is very special to me. I knew from the beginning that we had to do something to provide our Alpha Chi Omega chapters with the programs needed to enable our members to grow and to prosper.
I guess from reading this, you know that I am very proud of my participation in the consultant program AND in laying the groundwork involved in the formation of the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation, allowing me the opportunity to work closely with real, strong women endowed with tremendous skills and dedication in leading our Fraternity. Put this together with the fact that many of these women have become wonderful, close, lifetime friends, and it makes all of this even more special. We’ve had lots of laughs and lots of fun times over the years, and these friendships have made it all even more worthwhile!
Why did you join Alpha Chi Omega?
I was the first person in both of my parents’ families to attend college. It was never a “Will you go to college?” discussion, but always a “Someday, when you go to college…” discussion. My parents were enthusiastic and encouraging, and they wanted me to have the full experience. Pledging a sorority at UT Austin was a part of that experience. Why Alpha Chi Omega? Cheryl Holt! Cheryl was my high school friend and someone I trusted and loved being around. I knew that if Cheryl had found her home in Alpha Chi Omega, I could do the same. I essentially pledged for friendship, but little did I know that Alpha Chi would provide me with the opportunity to learn to work collaboratively, provide a safe place to take risks as I planned my future, and teach me to make a difference in my community as a leader and philanthropist.
What makes someone a real, strong woman?
Alpha Chi Omega’s brand holds a special place in my heart. Our brand and tagline were launched at our 2008 National Convention, where I presided as National President. After months of research and focus groups, along with robust conversation amongst the National Council, executive director and marketing staff, we realized Real. Strong. Women. was the perfect definition of Alpha Chi Omegas everywhere. Real means genuine. It means being who you are and taking aim for who you WANT to be no matter where or when you were born! Real is being the best you can be, a “true original.” Strong is living with a purpose in your heart. It is being strong in body, mind and character. A strong woman dreams big, isn’t afraid, looks for opportunities and accepts challenges. It is seeking to reach the heights today, tomorrow and always. It is who we are!
How has Alpha Chi Omega empowered you as an alumna?
Past National Presidents in Indianapolis, IN. Front row, left to right: Karen Aunan Miley (1976-1980), Ellen Little Vanden Brink (1988-1992), Judy Evans Anderson (1992-96). Back row, left to right: Marsha King Grady (2008-2012), Donna Smith Chereck (2004-08), Diane Wilson Blackwelder (2012-16), Julie Cain Burkhard (2000-04), Angela Costley Harris (2016-)
Alpha Chi Omega gives me amazing opportunities in so many ways! As an educator, I’ve had the opportunity to model and mentor young women in my recruitment advisor and chapter advisor roles. As an NPC delegation member who works with our collegiate chapters and many college campus Panhellenics and as National President, I had the opportunity to be the ultimate brand ambassador for Alpha Chi Omega. This amazing organization has given me the self-confidence to be brave and to look at challenges as opportunities. I am empowered to be solution oriented. I’m also empowered to ask for help when I know I can’t go on a tough road alone. I have sisters who will always have my back and be at my side. I am empowered to partner with our NPC sisters and NIC brothers to advocate for and work to preserve this amazing experience called sorority for generations of young women who will come after me!
In your opinion, how does Social Excellence Training empower the women in our Fraternity?
Social Excellence Training is all about how to be on your best game! It is about learning how to market and sell the Alpha Chi Omega experience. How to engage in meaningful conversations where the potential new member is encouraged to share her interests and dreams. Social Excellence Training takes the focus off of “I” and turns the focus to “YOU.” It is about learning and appreciating what Alpha Chi Omega looks for in a member: academic interest, personal development, character and financial responsibility. All the membership standards that have ensured Alpha Chi Omega is a premier organization for women!
Why do you support our sisterhood by giving to Alpha Chi Omega?
Quite simply, to ensure that this experience that has been transformational in my life continues on and on for current collegians, alumnae and all those young women who are yet to wear our lyre badge. I strongly believe that if all our members are educated to understand the “why” of raising Foundation dollars, they will understand and support the Foundation. The Foundation was created to support educational programming for our members. The reason it continues is the same: to provide educational programs and support initiatives for domestic violence awareness. Supporting Alpha Chi Omega with my time and my financial donations makes me feel good! Supporting my sisters gives me a deep personal satisfaction of having contributed to the greater good of Alpha Chi Omega.