December 2020 Heritage News: A Sesquicentennial Year Wrap-Up

Category: Heritage

Noraleen Young

Alpha Chi, Purdue

What a year!

When I write these blogs, I look for inspiration from the past. I ran across “A New Year’s Greeting” in the February 1923 Theta Magazine. Written as a collegian, Elizabeth Torrey, Alpha Xi/Oregon* provides a plan for all of us:

A new year is beginning. It is a time for resolutions and renewal of pledges to things fine. Again, the door of achievement and experience is thrown open, there is breathing space, a moment for reflection and contemplation before the plunge into the whirl and chase of life in its various phases. We gather our treasures about us, take stock of our resources, review our plans, settle our accounts, take a new lease on life. Those experiences of the past year that we have particularly treasured, used in forming our real lives and building our personal identities, stand out, perhaps, as milestones in the development of the total content of our experience.

I, too, like to review the great things that happened and to plan for the new year. While it has been a different kind of year than anyone of us imagined back in January, there have been many very great things that have happened over the year. They include:

  • Theta’s 150th – Sometimes you plan, and plan and it finally happens. 2020 has been a great year of celebration. Founders Day on January 27, 2020, was so special. I smile when I think about it from the day’s activities and reports of chapters and members from around the world celebrating this special day. We have all celebrated this special anniversary the entire year.
  • 150 Years in Kappa Alpha Theta – This project was such a labor of love among all of us who worked on it, and it was so exciting to see it come to fruition. Theta had never done a photo-forward publication (and I can tell you lots of stories about how we agonized over which ones to include!), and it is great to be able to share at least a few of the wealth of images and artifacts on Theta’s history. (You can still purchase your copy or get one as a gift for another Theta.)
  • The Heritage Museum at Theta headquarters – We had planned on this to be ready for visitors this summer, but we all know that this year ended up being a bit different than expected. From the entryway reflecting not only where are our chapters are located to having the four founders visible, to The Heritage Museum (with generous support from Kappa Alpha Theta Foundation), relocating Bettie’s famous portrait and being able to share the famous cake basket in the renovated boardroom, as well a small new exhibit space where I get to share with our members only, the history of ritual, I know that it will be enjoyed over the years to come.
  • Sharing of materials for the archives – While I always receive materials from members and members’ families, this year in part because many of us have been at home and able to tackle those projects we always planned to do, I think I have received even more. Individually, these artifacts, papers, and images, tell the story of a specific member, but together contribute towards a fuller picture of Theta over its history. Learn more about donating to the archives.
  • Researching Theta’s history about diversity and inclusion (DEI) – Lists like this one often focus on the great big things, the celebratory events. While a challenging topic, Theta’s history of diversity and inclusion is an important one if we want to learn what we did in the past and accept responsibility for what happened. This research continues. (Information on Theta's DEI efforts are found on this web page.)
  • Answering questions – Your questions about family members, your chapter, and Theta’s history is one of the things I like to do the most as I always learn something new. Continue to reach out and ask.

Then end of the year also marks an opportunity to look forward. In 2021, I look forward to:

  • A relaunch of Live from the Theta Archives. Stay tuned on Founders Day!
  • A new archives catalog, accessible to members only.

I wish you a Happy New Year and look forward to sharing more Theta history in 2021.

* As I mentioned, I always learn something when I do some research. When I went to confirm her chapter, I noted that Elizabeth was identified as a “Dr.” Further research uncovered that Torrey became a pediatrician, receiving her M.D. from Johns Hopkins in 1927, a time when few women were in the medical profession. She worked at Bellevue Hospital and taught at New York University. Her family returned to California, and she became a physician for Works Progress Administration nursey schools in Alameda County, and later for Kaiser Permanente in 1950, where she began a teenage clinic.