"You won't believe what we have at headquarters!"
What does an archivist do when she receives an incredible collection of materials related to founder Bettie Locke and her daughters, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter? She immediately makes plans to share it with everyone! With the opening of the special exhibit "Bettie Locke and Her Family: Four Generations of Thetas" which will run through April 30, 2017, I get to do just that.
Since I began to receive photographs and tintypes, clothing and accessories from the family of Carole Cones-Bradfield, great-granddaughter of Bettie Locke, I have been talking about these items with anyone who came through the archive space. I have been sharing with my coworkers here at headquarters (they have been really patient with me), Thetas who have come through headquarters on visits, and friends, and family who have asked what I have been doing lately (True confession: sometimes they didn't even have to ask.) Recently my opening line in many a conversation has been, "You won't believe what we have at headquarters!"
The last few months have been filled with discoveries. Every time we open a box or sort letters still in their envelopes—most likely not opened since they were first read more than 100 years ago (See Fraternity Archivist Lisa McLaughlin's blog about some of her finds.)—I again realize the breadth and depth of this collection. Artifacts that have never been seen outside Bettie's family urge me toward research to find out more about them and how they represent the lives of American women over the last 150 years. (Wait until you see the personalized hanky of Eulalia Hamilton Hartley from 1901!)
So, to share just a few of the treasures related to the Bettie Locke family collection, I, with assistance from fellow staff members, have created a special exhibit at headquarters. Our goal is to provide a glimpse into the lives of Bettie, Edna, Eulalia, Genevieve, and Carole so that you too, can get to know these wonderful leading women. I am thrilled to share with you their lives as collegians, wives and mothers, and active community members ... all with the thread of Theta running throughout.
I encourage you to visit the exhibit in person if you can; please contact me to schedule a tour. If you can't come in person, follow along on social media throughout the run of the exhibit. Believe me: you won't believe what we have at headquarters!
Each year on January 27, Thetas everywhere pause in our busy lives to observe Founders Day. We pause to celebrate the birth of the first Greek-letter fraternity known among women; to celebrate everything that Theta has given, and continues to give, us; to celebrate four young women who walked into the chapel at Asbury College, wearing their Theta badges.
As we near our sesquicentennial in 2020, each Founders Day seems to gain additional significance. In fact, Founders Day 2016 marked the official beginning of our sesquicentennial celebration. On that day, we dedicated each of the next four years to one of our founders, because—while they founded Theta together—each was an individual, with her own character, abilities, and interests.
This year, we honor Alice Allen Brant, whose life helped shape Theta's past and was the inspiration for one of the aims that continue to shape our future: highest scholarship. She also embodied one of the traits—perseverance—that forms Kappa Alpha Theta's motto. Alice herself liked to tell a story that illustrates both her dedication to her studies and her determination. Living about five miles from Greencastle, Alice rode her horse to school every day her freshman year. But she didn't always have a ride home. On occasion, the horse, named Kate, would break her halter and head back to the farm before Alice was ready, leaving her to walk the five miles home.
Despite the obstacles—both amusing and more serious—she faced, Alice graduated from Asbury and became a teacher (earning the highest level of teaching certificate) and a high school principal.
Today, Alice's legacy is reflected in our ideal of supporting each member as she seeks to fully develop her intellectual, cultural, and social potential. Not only is our Fraternity devoted to this commitment. So, too, is our Fraternity Housing Corporation, as it prioritizes dedicated learning environments in the facilities it manages. So, too, is Theta Foundation, leading the Greek community in awarding more than $500,000 each year in undergraduate and graduate scholarships. And this commitment by all three Theta entities resonates strongly nearly 150 years after our founding—as demonstrated by the colleges and universities that are eager to welcome a Theta chapter to their campuses. In fact, between autumn of 2016 and autumn of 2017, we will reestablish three former college chapters and establish four new ones, setting a record for the most chapters chartered during one academic term!
Imagine how pleased Alice—who co-founded Theta to provide support to women in their fight to earn an education equal to those offered to men—would be to know of this expansion. Imagine how pleased she would be by these increased opportunities to provide opportunities for learning and growth. This Founders Day, we celebrate Alice Allen Brant and her commitment to taking risks, to personal growth, and to leading others by example.
On Founders Day, we have the opportunity to tangibly demonstrate Theta's ideals by donating to the Friendship Fund. The Fund provides gifts to Thetas experiencing extreme financial hardship due to serious or terminal illness, job loss, natural disaster, and other devastating occurrences. Gifts to the Friendship Fund—traditionally $1 per year of Theta membership—may be effected by checks made payable to Kappa Alpha Theta, with "Friendship Fund" written on the memo line, and mailed to Kappa Alpha Theta, 8740 Founders Rd., Indianapolis, IN 46268, attn.: Friendship Fund.
I am thrilled to announce that Meghan Grenda is the 5000th member of Kappa Alpha Theta Life Loyal! Meghan is the chief executive officer of Epsilon Zeta at Mississippi, and her mother purchased the membership as a gift because Theta has been such a valuable experience for her daughter.
We officially launched Theta Life Loyal at Grand Convention 2010, and meeting the milestone of 5000 members in just a few years is incredibly exciting!
During those years, many members have shared their stories and the reasons they joined Life Loyal. Looking back, I'm amazed to see the love, support, and appreciation for Theta in these stories:
"When I joined Theta, it was a lifetime commitment for me. Life Loyal is just the next step in my promise to be an earnest, faithful, and enthusiastic worker for Theta!" Cathie Waters Cardelucci, Beta Xi/UCLA
"It seemed like a lot of money, but the Life Loyal program is an investment that pays off. I won't have to worry about paying (alumnae per capita) dues each year. I can stay informed via The Kappa Alpha Theta Magazine." June Kendall, Beta Kappa/Drake
"To me, being Life Loyal is an opportunity to give back to Theta and to say 'Thank you' for the meaningful years of membership that influenced my life while in college and as an alumna in my journey as a Theta for a Lifetime." Lou Wetstein Simpson, Beta Tau/Denison
"I am proud to become a Life Loyal member after having been a Theta for 50 years. I believe that being Life Loyal shows a lifetime commitment to saying connected to Kappa Alpha Theta and makes me feel an even closer bond to my sorority by showing my support this way." Linda Hewson Edmondson, Gamma Iota/Kentucky
Thank you to all our Life Loyal members for your support and commitment!
December - the season of giving! Each year, Theta is pleased to honor our 50- and 75-year members with the gift of anniversary pins. We also recognize our 25-year members with a letter or email. This year, we will recognize 3,700 25-year members, 1,650 50-year members, and about 250 75-year members!
The Fraternity officially starting recognizing 50-year members in 1954 with a Golden Link certificate. These certificates were hand-made on shiny gold foil paper and sent to anniversary members. We only have a few of these in the archive ... and one is Bettie Locke Hamilton's daughter's certificate! Sometime later, Theta began sending black and gold pansy stick pins to 50-year members, and then the pins we send today.
In 1963, the decision was made to add 75-year members to the recognition list, and Grand Council selected a pansy pin with a gold coat-of-arms in the center.
Many members look forward to receiving these gifts, while others are surprised to see one in their mailbox!
From the archive, a letter from 1987 states: "Dear Theta Sisters, I was amazed, surprised, delighted, and horrified to receive my 50-year Theta pansy pin. Delighted you remembered me, amazed it was 50 years! Horrified the years have passed so swiftly by and surprised I feel and am the same Theta who was so happily pledged at Cal in '37. I shall wear it with pride and great gratitude for the fun, friendships, and high standards Theta has always meant." Polly Peters Hutchins Omega/UC Berkeley 1938.
Congratulations to all our members celebrating a milestone anniversary in 2017! We hope these pins and letters invoke many wonderful Theta memories and inspire you to create many more.
We may or may not remember their names, but we remember their faces, what they said, what they didn't say, how they could make class enjoyable and learning invigorating. The special ones separated themselves from the others by going the extra mile, creating an engaging classroom experience, challenging us to grow in ways we didn't think were possible, and believing in us—when maybe we didn't. Not everyone has this type of experience with a faculty member in college, but when we do, it is special.
The professor has power, not only to assign and submit grades, but also to impact a student in a profound and personal manner: to stir a passion for a particular subject, research topic, or learning experience. To inspire a young person to select a major and ultimately impact a career path and her future. This is the power of influence. During my undergraduate years, I experienced two such professors, but they never knew the true impact they had on me.
I wish we had a formal way to say thank you to those professors back then, the faculty members everyone had heard of, recommended, or who impacted their story so powerfully. We would've recommended them for an honor had there been one. We would have collectively let them know how they made a difference in our lives. I wish I could do that today; with hindsight and wisdom that comes through the years, I would like them to know they made a difference to me.
The power of the professor is strong...in so many ways. I hope you'll spend a few moments reflecting on your college experience and about which faculty members had an impact in your life. If you are still able to, I hope you will extend them a thank you. Each year, Kappa Alpha Theta chapters have the opportunity to do this very thing: to recognize faculty members who have influenced students and made a difference on campus. Our Outstanding Faculty Award is a wonderful way to highlight those who go the extra mile, light a spark of interest, or challenge growth. Chapter members recommend a professor based on the four points of the Theta kite: intellectual curiosity, leadership potential, commitment to service, and personal excellence.
It is a treat to read the nominations, to learn how gifted teachers truly inspire and change our members. Join me in congratulating the faculty selected for this year's honor. Not only are they making a difference in the lives of our members, they are a now a special part of these chapter's stories.
"My best friends to this day are women I met because of Theta," Jessica Lee, Phi deuteron/Stanford
"Theta's tagline is about more than sisterhood; it's about enabling, mentoring, and fostering growth in women," Gretchen Wherry West, Epsilon Psi/Richmond
"True leaders keep adapting and improving in this world of unending change," Joelle Jay, Beta Mu/Nevada
In each issue of the Theta magazine, we're delighted to introduce you to sisters who personify Theta's ideals of individual achievement and work for the common good, as well as our shared experiences of service, scholarship, and sisterhood. You can meet Jessica, Gretchen, and Joelle in the Autumn 2016 issue, as well as many other Theta collegians and alumnae from across the globe.
During this season of thanks and giving, let us be grateful for one another and for the first Greek-letter fraternity for women.
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