Theta Memories: The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

Category: Fraternity

Kit Clark

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Thetas have, from the beginning, kept small mementos and accounts of their time as a collegian. Today, my friends and I still collect notes from our "big sisters," hang our bid cards and letters of congratulations on our cork boards, and press flowers from fraternity men to commemorate a formal or other event. The archive holds a number of such treasures, especially in the scrapbooks of college women, dating as far back as 1904. I have loved flipping through the pages, seeing how the experience of these women compares to my own. Theta is a common bond we all share across campuses and generations. The same nervous jitters I had walking to the Theta facility during recruitment as a potential new member, my mother had at Southern Methodist University years earlier. As I treasure my own Bid Day shirt, I was so grateful to have hers from her own Bid Day.

Though what we Thetas choose to tuck away in our scrapbooks has slightly changed over time, the traditions we hold dear have not. In the 1920s, it was dance cards carefully pasted onto pages with embossed cocktail napkins and newspaper clippings of friends’ engagements. The 1940s were filled with records of Theta’s contributions to the war effort. Today, my friends and I save prints of us at CASA fundraisers and t-shirts from homecoming or a formal. No matter the difference in mementoes across generations, the sentiment is the same: Theta links us heart to heart.

One of my favorite scrapbooks in the archive belonged to Lisa Smith, Delta Pi/Tennessee. Kept in the early 1980s, she includes letters of congratulations and encouragement from friends and older members of the chapter as she is about to be initiated. Their accounts of sharing ritual, appreciation for honest and loving conversations, and excitement in another joining their Theta family is infectious. More than 30 years later, these letters made me smile and recall what a special time my own initiation was.

My time as an archive intern has ended, and I could not have loved it more. I would encourage you to save your treasured Theta memories. Share them, ask questions, and learn about those who came before you. The value of this is immeasurable, and history is easily lost if we do not work to preserve it. Embrace the changes we have seen and help maintain Theta tradition as it continues to bind us to one another.