Alpha Chi Omega - Starting Conversations

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Which Founder Are You Most Like? By: Michelle Critchfield, Omicron Chapter, Baker University

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.

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