Alpha Chi Omega (ΑΧΩ, also known as Alpha Chi or A Chi O) is a women's fraternity founded on October 15, 1885. Currently, there are 193 chapters and Alpha Chi Omegas represented throughout colleges and universities across the United States, and there are more than 200,000 lifetime members. Angela Costly Harris is the current National President of Alpha Chi Omega and oversees all collegiate and alumnae chapters in the nation. Alpha Chi Omega's official symbol is the three-stringed lyre.
In the fall of 1885, Professor James Hamilton Howe, the first Dean of the Music School, invited seven young women from the school to a meeting with the purpose of forming a fraternity. Those young women were Anna Allen, Olive Burnett, Bertha Deniston, Amy DuBois, Nellie Gamble, Bessie Grooms, and Estelle Leonard. Howe himself was not a member of a Greek fraternity, so he consulted with James G. Campbell, a Beta Theta Pi, on the proper procedures for founding a national-based fraternity. Campbell was thus responsible for laying out the first constitution and by-laws. This first constitution read: "The object of this fraternity is as follows: To attain the highest musical culture and to cultivate those principles that embody true womanhood." On February 26, 1886, the fraternity was given its formal introduction by a soiree musical.
Alpha Chi Omega joined the National Panhellenic Conference in 1903.
Although some association with the music school was required early on, Alpha Chi Omega was never a "strictly musical" organization. Members graduated in many other departments of the university, including the liberal arts department. In 1889, a national literary fraternity offered to merge with Alpha Chi Omega; however, unlike professional fraternities, Alpha Chi never considered taking members of other fraternities. In its early years it was externally considered to be a professional music society, but due to disagreement with this designation, in 1900, the sorority added literary qualifications, which led to it being considered a general (social) sorority by 1905.
Alpha Chi Omega's Founders chose "Alpha" (Α), the first letter of the Greek alphabet, because they were forming the first fraternity in the school of music. Since they thought they might also be founding the last such fraternity, "Omega" (Ω) seemed appropriate, considering it stands for the end. "Kai", meaning "and", was added to form "the beginning and the end". "Kai" was soon changed to "Chi" (Χ), a letter of the Greek alphabet.
Alpha Chi Omega's colors of scarlet red and olive green were chosen to commemorate the fraternity's fall founding. The symbol is a lyre and the official flower is a red carnation, exemplifying the fraternity's colors. The official jewel is the pearl. The badge (pin) is a lyre, typically featuring pearls and the fraternity's letters on the crossbar.
There are 193 chapters of Alpha Chi Omega at colleges and universities in the United States. There are also 273 alumnae chapters. The alumnae chapters allow women of all post-graduate ages to come together and continue the mission and values of Alpha Chi Omega. Alpha Chi Omega collegiate chapters work directly with alumnae chapters to link sisters from around the country. In addition, alumnae chapters continue the cause of working to eliminate domestic violence.
Alpha Chi's focus is on developing Real Strong Women who become leaders in their communities and connecting these women through the Life Loyal sisterhood. There are 5 standards of membership focusing on academic interest, character, financial responsibility, leadership, and personal development.
Members of Alpha Chi Omega have enjoyed the same heritage and traditions since 1885. Some of these special dates celebrated by Alpha Chi Omega include:
"Alpha Chi Omega Symphony"
To see beauty even in the common things of life.
To shed the light of love and friendship round me.
To keep my life in tune with the world that I shall make no discords in the harmony of life.
To strike on the lyre of the universe only the notes of happiness, of joy, of peace.
To appreciate every little service rendered.
To see and appreciate all that is noble in another,
Be her badge what it may.
And to let my lyre send forth the chords of love, unselfishness, sincerity.
This is to be my symphony.
In 1911 Alpha Chi Omega began supporting the MacDowell Colony, as MacDowell was an alumna of Alpha Chi Omega. During World War I and II Alpha Chi Omega offered its support by helping working mothers who were married to service men by providing day nurseries and helping orphaned French children. In 1947 Alpha Chi Omega adopted Easter Seals as its philanthropy.
In 1978 the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation was created to help support the philanthropic projects and educational programming supported by the organization. In 1992 it was decided that Alpha Chi Omega's current national altruistic project would be the support of Victims of Domestic Violence. Alpha Chi Omega voted to change primary philanthropies during the 1980s after the National Board became aware of the prevalence of domestic violence, with very little remedy offered to victims, both financially and emotionally. Alpha Chi Omega was the first American women's fraternity to tackle the problems of domestic violence head-on, not just by assisting victims, but by educating its members about it. Alpha Chi Omega continues its support of Easter Seals.
Through many funds and grants the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation also helps to support members and those closely related to Alpha Chi Omegas. This is to ensure that support is continuously available for all sisters.
Individual chapters focus their attention on increasing the awareness of the domestic violence, the destruction it causes to individuals, families, and children, as well as actively aiding victims of domestic violence through hands-on activities and service projects. This work is done through local agencies, which undergraduate and alumnae chapters support physically and financially. Local agencies include rape crisis centers, emergency shelters and safe houses for victims of domestic violence and their children, and long-term assistance centers for battered women across the nation.
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