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Lissa Luton Bradford, Alpha Eta/Vanderbilt, currently serves Theta as chairman of the Sesquicentennial Celebration Committee and the Alpha Eta Chapter as Panhellenic advisor. Her volunteer career is an illustrious one, including eight years on Theta's Grand Council, followed by two terms as Fraternity president and Theta Foundation trustee. She was a member of Theta's delegation to the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) for 25 years; while serving as NPC chairman, she was widely praised for her tireless efforts on behalf of alcohol-free housing. Numerous awards—from organizations as varied as Phi Delta Theta and the Fraternity Executives Association—recognize Lissa's profound effect on the Fraternity movement.
How did you learn about the opportunity to become a Theta volunteer? I was initiated more than 60 years ago, and half of the Vanderbilt student body was from Nashville. Half of my Alpha Eta pledge class consisted of Nashville residents. It had been that way for years. We knew almost all of the Nashville alumnae. They were on the advisory board or the house corporation board, or active with the Nashville alumnae chapter or the Bal d'Hiver, the very successful alumnae fundraising event. As college members, we knew that there were opportunities with the Nashville Alumnae Chapter to serve the Fraternity in a variety of different ways. We knew that we were expected to serve in some capacity, and (this is most important) we were eager to find our niche and become an active, participating alumnae member.
What made you want to become a Theta volunteer? I wanted to become a volunteer because many of the alumnae I knew and admired held volunteer positions. My Theta experience as a college member was a dominant part of my four years in college. I believed, and still believe, that giving to Theta as a volunteer would keep that good feeling about the Fraternity alive. Additionally, I wanted to give back. I wanted the opportunity to influence college members in a positive way. I knew many of the members through teaching school and swim-team coaching and felt that already having established a relationship would be a benefit as an advisor.
How long have you been a Theta volunteer? My first official volunteer position with the Fraternity was in 1967, when I became a college district president. I had been an advisor at Alpha Eta for a few years prior to that. So it looks like I'm closing in on 50 years.
Do you, or did you have, a Theta mentor? I most certainly had a Theta mentor! It was Ellen Bowers Hofstead. Ellen had been Grand President from '52 - '56 and continued her service to Theta as NPC delegate for 21 years. There was not a fact of Theta history that Ellen did not know, nor a story from her 30-plus years of service she could not remember. She was an inspiration, a sounding board, and a cheerleader. I will always remember our relationship with great fondness and gratitude for all she did to ground me in Theta.
Why do you stay involved with Theta? The friends and the occasional opportunities for mentoring! The years of traveling for meetings or visiting chapters or campuses have rewarded me with more friends than anyone should be allowed to have in one lifetime. I look forward to the next Grand Convention the day I get home from the last one. Now, serving on the Alpha Eta Advisory Board provides me with continuing occasions for providing guidance, more friends, and learning opportunities. In addition to the hundreds of Theta friends made, I have garnered even more friendships from my years as NPC delegate. In fact, the four women with whom I served on the Executive Committee (a Delta Gamma, a Gamma Phi Beta, a Kappa Kappa Gamma and a Pi Phi) and I have been taking a trip together each year since we were in office. This year will be our 19th trip.
Do you have a special volunteering moment? This is the hardest question to answer. There have been so many special moments throughout my Theta career, but I will choose one - not necessarily the most special but one from the category of unforgettables. It took place 40 years ago and was celebrated by a large reunion this past fall. The moment was the installation of Epsilon Epsilon Chapter at Baylor University. It was very meaningful for me since I had attended their recruitment as Theta's vice-president college. Having been a local sorority, Delta Alpha Pi (DAP), Epsilon Epsilon was recruiting as Kappa Alpha Theta for the very first time. They were so proud to be almost Thetas, and it showed. Not only did we initiate 53 college members, but we also welcomed all DAP alumnae, and many of them came to Waco for the occasion. The 40-year reunion, which I was unable to attend, was a huge success. And, I got a "play by play" from the chapter president a few weeks later when I was visiting with my daughter in Richardson, Texas. I still have friends that I met 40 years ago at the Epsilon Epsilon installation.
Another moment occurred in 1984; Grand Convention was being held at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. I was finishing up my second and last term as Grand President. Although I was not involved with the decision to hold Convention in Nashville, here it was in my hometown as I was retiring. The Nashville Alumnae Chapter had held nothing back to demonstrate Nashville hospitality at its best. There were a few snags, such as the kite fly that had to be held in the parking lot in 90 degree weather, 90% humidity and zero wind. Making up for that was Amy Grant's appearance at dinner with impromptu songfest at the piano. But, the moment that took my breath away was the banquet processional with close to 100 Nashville alumnae entering the banquet hall where the head table was bedecked with the most beautiful floral display I have ever seen, all from their gardens. I took my place at the front of the room, wearing the wreath of orchids former Grand President Marty White had hand-carried from Hawaii and kept refrigerated for four days. I did my best to hide the tears that were streaming down my face and held it all together until the end of the banquet.
Do you know a Theta who's made a difference in her local Theta chapter? Let us know!