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Each year, Theta honors her 75-year members by mailing them a special pansy pin and letter. This year—in honor of Theta’s 150th anniversary—we wanted to begin a new tradition in which these pins are hand-delivered whenever possible. Volunteers and Theta staff made special visits to the Diamond Thetas who indicated they were interested in, and able to have, a visit. We are so happy, but not at all surprised, to learn about the heartwarming conversations and connections that resulted! We hope you enjoy a small sample of the stories, laughs, and love they shared.
On Founders Day 2020, about 290 women celebrated 75 years of Theta membership. We are calling them Diamond Thetas … in honor of their diamond anniversary.
“Jean recalled her initiation story (her initiation was delayed due to Franklin Roosevelt’s death on April 12, 1945) and how there was only ONE boy on campus because of the war. She was a ‘townie,’ but stayed at the facility many nights, sharing a twin bed with her best friend who did live in the house. Jean was a music studies major and still plays the piano regularly. She attended Butler for two years. Her two daughters were present for our visit and were so kind to us. They knew all of her Theta stories. Her great-granddaughter is a Theta at Indiana University and she is very proud of her.” -Laura Kassenbrock Stelsel, Gamma/Butler
Pictured are Lauren Lewis Hearn, Delta/Illinois; Liz Sinnock Drake, Beta/Indiana; Jean Faulconer Phillips, Gamma/Butler; and Laura Kassenbrock Stelsel, Gamma/Butler.
“We met up with Frances and had a lovely time chatting with her! Some of the members of the alumnae chapter have also mentioned writing letters to Francis to celebrate her 75 years.” - Jess Staskal, Beta Kappa/Drake
Pictured are Jess Staskal, Beta Kappa/Drake; Frances Brigham Johnson, Delta/Illinois; and Jessica Ghaffari Markham, Gamma Mu/Maryland.
“She was thrilled with the recognition and so proud. She also wondered what the 80-year pin would look like! She shared with us that she left her hometown of Berkeley, Calif., to attend college at Cornell because it had a superior Home Economics program. She met her future husband, Norm, at Cornell. They are still married 72 years later! When asked, ‘Why Theta?’ she had this to say: ‘Cornell had a deferred rush so we couldn't rush until the second semester. It gave me a chance to meet a lot of women, and I just liked Theta the best.’” - Devon Mishkin Shealy, Gamma Delta/Georgia
Pictured are Devon Mishkin Shealy, Gamma Delta/Georgia, and Lyn King Dawson, Iota/Cornell.
“We had a delightful visit! Pat lives independently in Augusta, Kansas, has nine children, and loves to play games on her computer. She and her twin sister (Peggy Maloney Sinning, also a 75-Year-Theta who resides in Australia) attended University of Kansas. She shared some fond memories of walking up ‘the Hill’ to classes, her pledge class activities, and living in the Theta house. She loved receiving her 75-Year pin, and we loved visiting with such a fun and personable sister.” - Phyllis Robertson, Kappa/Kansas
Pictured are Mary Lynn Kluge Walker, Alpha Upsilon/Washburn; Pat Maloney Grantham, Kappa/Kansas; and Lindsey Fortmeyer Lane, Delta Eta/Kansas State.
“I had the privilege of presenting a 75-year Kappa Alpha Theta pin to this lovely Gamma deuteron member, OWU class of 1948. A delightful time! And by chance, it happened on the 46th anniversary of my initiation.” - Laurie McGregor Connor, Gamma deuteron/Ohio Wesleyan
Pictured are Laurie McGregor Connor and Dorothy Lerch Berner, both Gamma deuteron/Ohio Wesleyan.
Grace Carrington Goodall, Gamma deuteron/Ohio Wesleyan, had recently passed away, but Laurie McGregor Connor, Gamma deuteron/Ohio Wesleyan, connected with her family. She was able to meet with Grace’s family in Indianapolis on January 27; her daughter, Pastor Ann Spahr (she wore black and gold), and granddaughter Alison. It was a very meaningful experience for all of them. Here is a portion of an email Ann wrote to Laurie:
“Kappa Alpha Theta meant so much to her. Through the magazine and letters, she kept up with what was going on in her chapter and the sorority. I can imagine the principles and idealism of Theta were the principles that she lived by the rest of her life. She was very active in recruiting young women to become Thetas (and sadness she must have had when I, and then my daughter, attended colleges that did not have a Theta chapter). I am close to the Kappa Alpha Theta home office in Indianapolis. One memory I cherish is the year mother came and we went to visit the office. She smiled at the pansies and had a wonderful time talking with the women who were there that day.”
Pictured are Alison Spahr, Pastor Ann Spahr and Laurie McGregor Connor, Gamma deuteron/Ohio Wesleyan.
“Like many Thetas of that day, Betty married before she graduated…She was active for many years in the Pasadena Alumnae Chapter as well as the local Panhellenic. She assisted with the early years of Eta Mu/Occidental, when they got their first house. I loved how she said she was a pledge ‘forever and ever,’ as she pledged in spring semester, then summer passed, then had to make grades in the fall to initiate. She remembered some of the things that pledges had to do (“empty the wastebaskets”) and that they had a curfew until they made grades.” - Jane Palmer Horlings, Rho/Nebraska
Pictured are (back) Janet Paine Peters, Beta Omega/Colorado College, and Cathie Waters Cardelucci, Beta Xi/UCLA, and (front) Betty Goodman Giles, Omicron/USC.
“Willa was thrilled with her pin and certificate and very appreciative of the extra effort taken this year to recognize the 75-year Thetas. She could not believe she was reaching this milestone but was very proud to be doing so. We had a lovely visit, and I enjoyed the opportunity to meet her.” - Morgan Demmel Goethel, Rho/Nebraska
Pictured is Willa Davis Seemann, Rho/Nebraska.
“Maryanna was initiated into Theta in 1945. With World War II coming to an end, housing was needed for the young men and women who were returning, so local students were asked to live at home. The Chi Chapter house had a "city girls room" where Maryanna once stayed for about three weeks, otherwise she walked from home to attend class (about a mile)—once after a snowstorm only to find that classes had been cancelled because professors couldn't get there! Maryanna and her husband (who had been in the Navy) were married after her junior year. They lived in married student housing, which was a trailer consisting of a bedroom and a small kitchen/living room area. The bathroom/shower was in ANOTHER trailer! She graduated with a major in cartography and geography. Maryanna's mom was also a member of Chi/Syracuse, initiated 2/6/1914.” - Ginnie Allen Russo, Chi/Syracuse
Pictured are Ginnie Allen Russo, Sandy Smeltzer, Maryanna Blanchard Robinson, and Linda Deck LeMessurier, all Chi/Syracuse.
The Houston Alumnae Chapter honored two 75-year members at its Founders Day Celebration, Joanne Paterson Hodges, Alpha Mu/Missouri, and Kathleen Tyler Nitschke, Alpha Theta/Texas. “Kathleen's three daughters were all in attendance: Mary Kay Nitschke Mraz, Gamma Psi/TCU; Lucy Nitschke Biggs, Gamma Psi/TCU; and Beth Nitschke Stevener, Alpha Theta/Texas. I had a lovely phone message from Kathleen waiting for me…she was so appreciative of the special honor and our spectacular Founders Day.” - Dinah Hamptons McClymonds. Alpha Omicron/Oklahoma
Pictured are Lisa Lowry Schwartz, Epsilon Epsilon/Baylor; Kathleen Tyler Nitschke, Alpha Theta/Texas; and Mary Kay Nitschke Mraz, Gamma Psi/TCU.
“We had a lovely morning chatting with her in her apartment and hearing some of her stories in college. She remembers how, when she was initiated, all the fraternities on campus were being used for military housing, (noting with a smirk "the sailors in uniform frequenting the area made walks to class very enjoyable") and life was very different. She transferred from University of Washington to Stanford after two years and completed a general studies degree. She returned back to the Seattle area after graduating and met her husband there. She greatly enjoyed her time as an active Theta, staying involved as an alumna, and notes that there are several Thetas in her building today that she keeps close with.” - Alexa Koch Neynaber, Rho/Nebraska
Pictured is Barbara Bowden Pringle, Alpha Lambda/Washington, and Katie Breece, Delta Iota/Puget Sound.
The Houston Alumnae Chapter honored two 75-year members at its Founders Day Celebration, Joanne Paterson Hodges, Alpha Mu/Missouri, and Kathleen Tyler Nitschke, Alpha Theta/Texas. “Joanne is really a LOVELY and very savvy Theta.” - Dinah Hamptons McClymonds, Alpha Omicron/Oklahoma
Pictured Dinah Hamptons McClymonds, Alpha Omicron/Oklahoma, pins the 75-year member pin on Joanne Paterson Hodges, Alpha Mu/Missouri.
“Kay was thrilled with her pin and her certificate. She is so adorable and I have a new Theta friend! she was going to meet with two of her other Theta friends after I left her because they wanted to see everything that I had brought. Thank you for this opportunity it was amazing!” - Nancy Schmidt Brunson, Alpha Mu/Missouri
Pictured is Kay Morris Lorenz, Alpha Nu/Montana.
“Anna pledged Theta to follow in the steps of a high school friend, whom she admired, and wanted her to be her big sister. She remembers that the Theta house had more than 30 sleeping beds on the top floor in an large unheated room (think Montana in the winter), so they all brought their own hot water bottles to bed to sleep in “Siberia,” as this top floor was nicknamed. She also remembers women had to wear skirts to class even in winter, but they wore jeans on the weekends. It’s obvious that her participation in Theta meant a lot to her as she reflects on the photos she has saved for more than 75 years of those chapter events and her Theta friendships.” -Jennifer Holiman Alexander, Omega/UC Berkeley
Pictured are Anna McGee Moody, Alpha Nu/Montana, and Jennifer Holiman Alexander, Omega/UC Berkeley.
“We had a great visit. Angharad (Angharad Grimes Stock) and I are both Alpha Omega's from the University of Pittsburgh, as is Annabel, so we had a great chat. She was the Panhellenic vice president her senior year and graduated with honors (but she didn't tell us those things!). We had a great time.” – LeeAnn Wagner Cica, Alpha Omega/Pittsburgh
Pictured are LeeAnn Wagner Cica and Annabel Montgomery Clinton, both Alpha Omega/Pittsburgh.
“We presented Virginia with her 75-year pin and a giant hanging basket of pansies. Virginia is an amazing woman. At over 90 years old, she can keep up in every way better than someone half her age. She was very disappointed Alpha Omega/Pittsburgh is no longer and was quite certain, had she chosen to stay in Pittsburgh, she would have found a way to keep it going.” - Rebecca Doerr Schell, Phi/Pacific
Pictured is Virginia Barker Moore, Alpha Omega/Pittsburgh.
“We had a nice time with Polly, she is gracious and has a memory that is amazing. Polly said that Theta sisters helped her to become more studious. We all agreed that academics were most important in each of our chapters. The 'small world story' is that Polly, from Casper, Wyoming, was a Theta sister with MY mother-in-law from Pueblo, CO!” - Sally Schwartz Belcher, Rho/Nebraska
Pictured are Karen Zaback, Rho/Nebraska; Kim Lisco Fedore, Delta Iota/Puget Sound; Pauline (Polly) Marinick, Beta Gamma/Colorado State; and Kelly Lisco Taubert, Delta Iota/Puget Sound.
“It was truly a pleasure to see Jane again after many years. She was very happy with our visit!” - Mary Sipprell Pool, Alpha Xi/Oregon.
Pictured are Betsy Lewis Bennett, Alpha Chi/Purdue; Jane Findley Brown, Beta Epsilon/Oregon State; and Mary Sipprell Pool, Alpha Xi/Oregon.
The Providence Alumnae Chapter welcomed Jackie at their Founders Day Celebration. “We had the BEST time! Jackie is LOVELY. Everyone was enthralled and I do believe Jackie realized how special she is. We are thrilled to welcome her to Rhode Island.” -Carrie Helmke Haner, Delta Eta/Kansas State
Pictured are Carissa Lord Mills, Epsilon Lambda/Dickinson; Joan (Jackie) Wendel Wiegand, Beta Eta/Pennsylvania; and Kim Lucas Churchill, Delta Phi/Clemson.
“Helen was pleased to be asked to join Beta Beta Chapter at Randolph-Macon Women’s College. Thetas at Randolph-Macon lived in dorms but enjoyed Theta meetings in a cottage in the woods where there were cottages for other sororities as well. In the fall of 1946, Helen transferred to the University of Colorado and affiliated with Beta Iota Chapter. She enjoyed living in Beta Iota’s beautiful chapter house and made many lifelong Theta friends who she has kept in touch with through the years. Helen has enjoyed being an active alumna in Kansas City. She attended meetings for years, served as catering and programs chair, and enjoyed meeting once a month with Thetas for lunch at The Forum Retirement Home, where she lives. Helen still enjoys calling together a group of senior Thetas for lunch each month at The Forum and enjoys playing bridge.”
Pictured is Betsy Linder Graverson, Gamma Omega/Auburn; Helen Griffith Minteer, Beta Iota/Colorado; and Leah Eaton Logan, Epsilon Iota/Westminster.
“We had a great visit with Marty Spotts Watson! Dressed in gold and black and wearing her badge, she was excited to meet the five members of the Columbus Alumnae chapter who came to celebrate the occasion with her. Her son and daughter-in-law were also in attendance to mark the occasion. In college she was a journalism major (and was the editor of the school newspaper!). She said due to it being during the war, there weren't a lot of men on campus and she had fond memories of doing things with her Theta sisters. She remembered her days being involved in the Columbus alumnae group after moving to the area and going to lunches regularly with other alumnae. She has a radiant smile, and when complimented on it, said it was a ‘Theta smile.’” - Jessica Rannow, Psi/Wisconsin
Pictured are Monica Gacka, Alpha Gamma/Ohio State; Marty Spotts Watson, Beta Kappa/Drake; Felicity Hillmer, Beta Tau/Denison; and Jessica Mossman Vanaman, Zeta Sigma/Ohio Northern.
The Fort Myers Alumnae Chapter honored 75-year member Nora Spann Chandler at its Founders Day event.
Pictured are Cecelia Thranhardt Mattingly, Delta Zeta/Emory; Nora Spann Chandler, Beta Lambda/William & Mary; and Fran Turner Allison, Beta Eta/Pennsylvania (who was celebrating 79 years!).
“At nearly 94, Mary is bright and cheerful, full of fond memories and hilarious stories of her time at the UCLA Theta house. She was the rush chairman and loved every minute of that job. She lived at home in Bel Air, so was considered a "Town Girl." She married during her sophomore year and never graduated. She and her husband raised five children, four daughters and a son, in the same house she has lived in for 75 years. Her daughter says she talks endlessly about her love for Theta! Mary's brother is Robert Wagner of Hollywood fame.” - Cathie Waters Cardelucci, Beta Xi/UCLA
Pictured are (back) Cathie Waters Cardelucci, Beta Xi/UCLA, and Janet Paine Peters, Beta Omega/Colorado College, and (front) Mary Wagner Scott, Beta Xi/UCLA.
Members of the Calgary Alumnae Chapter visited with 75-year member Lorna Wilson Guild to celebrate her milestone and deliver her pin.
Pictured are Jane Martin Downing, Beta Chi/Alberta; Martina Walsh, Beta Chi/Alberta; Lorna Wilson Guild, Beta Upsilon/British Columbia; Margaret Laidlaw, Beta Chi/Alberta; and Susanne Wheatley Martin, Beta Chi/Alberta.
“We had the privilege of meeting with Diamond Theta Joyce Rudes Jenusaitis, Gamma Zeta/Connecticut. She was an absolute joy and thoroughly enjoyed our visit. She said that Theta and being at UConn was the best time of her life. Her favorite memories were all the balls and dances she got to attend. Her scrapbook had all the dance cards she had collected with notes about the evening and who she danced with.
“At the time, the rooms in the house were too small for bedrooms—they were more for meetings or studying—so everyone slept on the enclosed porch all year, winter and spring/summer! She said it would get so cold in the winter that they would go to bed with handkerchiefs tied around their heads and multiple layers on, including robes, to stay warm throughout the night. Even though it wasn't that glamorous, she loved everyone being together in one large room.
“She met her husband through a Theta sister. She went with a Theta sister to visit her home and the sister's brother was up on the porch when they arrived. It was love at first sight! They got married and had six children together.” - Meaghan Hartney, Alpha Phi/Tulane
Pictured are Jennifer Finley, Eta Xi/Quinnipiac; Rhianna Moriarty, Eta Xi/Quinnipiac; Joyce Rudes Jenusaitis, Gamma Zeta/Connecticut; Meaghan Hartney, Alpha Phi/Tulane; Gretchen Mack, Eta Xi/Quinnipiac; and Maya Narvekar, Eta Xi/Quinnipiac.