TJ Condon 415x260

Celebrating Theta Friendships

Category: Fraternity

Tara (TJ) Condon

Epsilon Lambda, Dickinson

Tara shared the following at Epsilon Lambda Chapter's 40th anniversary celebration where she was honored to serve as speaker.

The date was Sept. 29, 1995. The location was a house on Hanover Street. [In the house] was a room absolutely stuffed with 60 college women. Someone whose name I couldn’t quite remember handed me a flower. I wasn’t sure what to do with it. So, I held on to it. We were asked to stand in a circle. One by one, pair by pair, one woman (who was slightly more confident) read to the other (who was slightly more nervous) from something written on the back of a kite.

We were told to step forward and put our flowers in a vase at the front - person by person, flower by flower, ultimately making one big, colorful bouquet. President Deana then shared the thing that stuck with me the most: Each flower is unique and special on its own… but together? They are spectacular.

At that point, on Pref Night, it was Theta or nothing for me.

What impressed me then and what warms my heart today—in a way that is difficult to put to words—is just what an exceptional chapter Epsilon Lambda is. [It is] a chapter fully committed to the beauty of belonging, while also inspiring each and every sister to be her dazzling, personal best.

L-R: TJ Flynn Condon, featured speaker; Kaileigh McNellis, outgoing chapter president; Emily Angelucci, current chapter president; Molly Banks Talley, chapter advisor; Jennifer DeBalko, featured speaker.

While I am certainly biased, I can still say with confidence: No other National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) group does this like Theta. And it does this for a lifetime.

It’s true! As the special lady during that thing told us: The earnest hope is we all will receive only good from this association.

And there is a whole lot of good to be had:

  • We all remember our Big/Little Reveal, which I am now told involves both Sheetz and slushies—a fine tradition!
  • We remember standing on the steps in the academic quad, taking a few hundred pictures, and giving more hugs than can be counted.
  • We remember walking over to Denny together for the weekly chapter meeting…and then commiserating at the Theta house when it was over.
  • We remember putting on that brand-new set of letters.
  • We remember belting out “You Shook Me All Night Long” very late on a Saturday…or would that technically be Sunday morning?
  • Or, we remember another song: hearing “We Belong” for the first time.

But, what about the “in the valley” times, those times of disappointment, illness, or hopelessness?

For me, it was my husband’s organ transplant, my cancer diagnosis, the times things just didn’t work out. It was my sisters with their golden hearts who lifted me up, who helped me soar again.

That’s what sisterhood really is: It is the act of holding people in your heart and being fiercely loved in return.

That’s a much longer way of saying, “TLAM.”

That’s how it’s going.

But we should remember how it started.

Yes, we’re all familiar with “The Big 4.” Bettie, Alice, Bettie, and Hannah.

Tonight, though, I want to talk about the 44. Our 44. These are the 44 women who, with faith and hope, took a chance on Theta. It is these women who are responsible for the love we feel in this room, and in our hearts, tonight and forever. As often happens when you put a quadragenarian behind a podium, advice will be dispensed. Brace yourselves. It’s a long list of three.

  1. Remember the big picture: When you have an organization made of up leaders, squabbles are an inevitability. We’re sisters after all. But remember that life goes on. Sisterhood goes on. In 20 years, you won’t remember what you were cranky with her about in HUB yesterday. When you’re my age, you sometimes don’t remember what you had for breakfast. So, yes, forgiveness does become easier with age.
  2. Stick with it: Theta is not just for college, it is forever. Join an online group. (Yes, Theta has a book club.) Network with sisters. Volunteer for Theta Foundation. Or take on the most challenging and rewarding volunteer role of all: chapter advisor.
  3. Be present: Go to the thing. Put down the phone. Talk to someone new. Listen. Share. Lean in. Unencumbered time is a rarity. We need to make individual moments count.

Speaking of which… thank YOU for being present here tonight.

In closing, please raise your glass to the pride of Kappa Alpha Theta: Epsilon Lambda Chapter. May her decades be everlasting, as her impact already has.