Epsilon Wooster charter 415x260

Preserving the History of Closed Chapters

Category: Heritage

Noraleen Young

Alpha Chi, Purdue

One of the most difficult tasks that Grand Council experiences is the process of closing a chapter. Since 1870, of the established 185 chapters, 45 are closed as of today. Closures happen for a variety of reasons: lack of interest by students, an unwelcoming campus environment, and/or significant violations of Theta's standards for membership.

Regardless of the reason for the closure, the history of the chapter and its members are not forgotten and are preserved in Theta's archives. When a chapter closes, headquarters staff—namely me, the staff archivist—works with volunteers and other staff to pack up a chapter's records and ritual items. Once received in the archives, the items are reviewed, boxed, cataloged, and placed within the archives’ collection. The archives use these materials to answer future questions about the chapter and preserve the chapter's connections to the larger organization.

Charter of Epsilon/Wooster, 1897
Charter of Epsilon/Wooster, 1897. The chapter was established in 1875 and closed in 1913. The Fraternity sent out new charters in 1897 to all established chapters that reflected the newly adopted coat-of-arms.

What ends up in the archives depends on how well the chapter maintained its records while the chapter was open and operating. Typically, I receive things like chapter minutes, reports, newsletters, scrapbooks, photographs, and ritual items. Chapters that closed in the early part of Theta's history have fewer records than more recent chapters: Chapters with a longer history will have more materials than chapters that were only active for a brief period.

Closing a chapter is always difficult but not necessarily rare; 27 of our currently active chapters have closed at one point in their history. One of my favorite requests is when I receive notification from Theta’s collegiate services department that we are reestablishing a chapter. I assist with providing the re-established chapter with their materials, particularly their roll books, charter, and other ritual items. I also provide images and other things to reacquaint the reorganized chapter to their history.

Know that just because a chapter is closed does not mean that those chapter members are no longer Thetas. Theta is for a lifetime. Members from closed chapters continue to maintain their Theta involvement, including participating in alumnae groups and serving as advisors and officers at all levels, including Fraternity president!

Closing a chapter is always a difficult and heavy decision to make, but the chapter and its members are still part of Theta and its history despite a closure. Preserving a closed chapter’s history in the archives is a task I am proud to undertake.

The archives welcome donations of items from all its chapters, particularly our closed chapters. Please help us preserve the history of your chapter.