Alpha Delta Phi (ΑΔΦ, also Alpha Delt, A.D. or ADPhi) is a North American Greek-letter secret and social college fraternity. Alpha Delta Phi was originally founded as a literary society by Samuel Eells in 1832 at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. Its more than 50,000 alumni include former presidents and senators of the United States, and justices of the Supreme Court. In 1992, five chapters withdrew from the male-only organization to become co-educational, and formed the Alpha Delta Phi Society, a separate and independent organization.
When Samuel Eells arrived on campus at Hamilton College, he found two existing literary societies, the Phoenix and the Philopeuthian, the latter of which he reluctantly joined. Eells quickly became disenchanted with both societies' unscrupulous recruiting tactics and considered creating his own society which would disavow what he described as jealous and unsavory competition between the two. Eells proposed to select members from both the Phoenix and the Philopeuthian and found a new society of limited membership based on "the loftiest of intellectual and moral ideals."
On October 29, 1832, Eells gathered four other members, two from the Phoenix and two from the Philopeuthian, to a meeting in his room. The other men were Lorenzo Latham, John Curtiss Underwood, Oliver Andrew Morse and Henry Lemuel Storrs. At that meeting Eells wrote the constitution and he and Latham designed the fraternity's emblem and symbols. Later in the year, other members were added and the first chapter of the Alpha Delta Phi was in full operation by the beginning of 1833.
Alpha Delta Phi was the first fraternity to establish a chapter west of the Appalachian Mountains when it formed a chapter at Miami University in 1835. This chapter preceded the formation of three national fraternities at Miami University known as the Miami Triad in the years that followed.
The Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity is a charter member of the North-American Interfraternity Conference (formerly known as the National Interfraternity Conference; NIC). A Brother of Alpha Delta Phi, Hamilton W. Mabie (Williams College, class of 1867), was the first President of the NIC. The Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity is today still a member of the NIC; as a result of its decision to admit non-male-identifying members, the Alpha Delta Phi Society was not able to maintain membership in the NIC.
Alpha Delta Phi is both a social fraternity and a literary society. As part of this focus, the Samuel Eells Literary and Educational Foundation makes educational grants and sponsors annual literary competitions, which award cash prizes.
In August 2015, the fraternity had 31 chapters and 3 affiliates, the oldest of which is at Hamilton College. Its regional alumni organization, the Midwest Association of Alpha Delta Phi, is more than 125 years old. Alpha Delta Phi also has the third oldest continuously-operating chapter in the North American Fraternity System, which is also the second oldest Alpha chapter, placed at Hamilton College.
At Yale University, it was mostly brothers of Alpha Delta Phi who were invited to join the university's top-ranked senior society Skull and Bones. Issues with the number of Alpha Delta Phis tapped for Skull and Bones also led to the creation of Yale's second society, Scroll and Key. Students at Harvard formed a chapter of Alpha Delta Phi but disaffiliated to form the independent final club, the A.D.
In 1877, the Cornell University chapter's alumni group built its first house for the undergraduates, which has been described as the "first house in America built solely for fraternity use." Financed by 19th century entrepreneur Martin McVoy, the house served the brothers until the turn of the century. The chapter has since moved to a different location on campus - into a house designed by John Russell Pope - but the original chapter house, designed and built by William Henry Miller, still stands.
Alpha Delta Phi's Dartmouth College chapter was the inspiration for National Lampoon's Animal House. The movie was co-written by Chris Miller and Doug Kenney. Miller based his writings on his own fraternity experiences at the chapter. The chapter was affiliated with Alpha Delta Phi from 1846 until 1969, when it broke away from the national organization and formed an independent one, Alpha Delta.
The Fraternity is a retronym used now to distinguish the all-male Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity from the gender-inclusive Alpha Delta Phi Society (discussed below). In general parlance, the Fraternity refers to itself simply as the "Alpha Delta Phi"; the Society uses either the "Alpha Delta Phi Society" or "The Society".
The Brunonian (Brown University) chapter first initiated women into its local membership in November 1973 and this was followed by a proposal at the 1974 national convention to either allow individual chapters to admit women or to do so fraternity-wide. This debate was often contentious with most chapters opposed, some members lobbying for full admission of women but a larger number wanting to ban women altogether or grant them some form of associate membership. In 1992, at the Fraternity's 160th Annual Convention held in Brainerd, Minnesota, an agreement was made that allowed five chapters to withdraw from the fraternity (the Brunonian, Columbia, Middletown (Wesleyan University), Stanford and Bowdoin Chapters) and to allow those chapters wishing to be coeducational to create their own organization, which resulted in the legal formation of two separate organizations, the all-male Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity and the Alpha Delta Phi Society, which granted each of its chapters "home rule" permission to determine its gender make-up.
Under the terms of this agreement, the Fraternity and the Society would be completely separate and independent legal entities with separate governing bodies. The two organizations were not part of the same entity and did not share membership, except for male members of the Society who joined before 1992. Both groups were licensees who share the Greek letters and intellectual property such as history and songs. The agreement put limitations on both organizations as to where they could have chapters, and there were limitations on the use of the name Alpha Delta Phi by the Society.
On August 12, 2017 at the Fraternity's 185th Annual Convention held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Fraternity and the Society entered into a new agreement that replaced the Fraternity-Society Agreement of 1992. The new agreement maintained the original rights of the two independent and legally separate organizations to license and share the Greek letters alpha, delta, and phi and other intellectual property. The new agreement removed all restrictions on the Society's license to use the name "Alpha Delta Phi Society." It also removed most of the limitations on where either organization could have chapters.
The Society as a national organization is gender-inclusive, and the Society continues to espouse "home rule" for its chapters, allowing them to determine their own membership rules. As of today, every Society chapter has always chosen to be a gender-inclusive organization.