Pi Beta Phi (ΠΒΦ), often known simply as Pi Phi, is an international Fraternity for Women, founded at Monmouth College, in Monmouth, Illinois on April 28, 1867 as I.C. Sorosis, the first national secret college society of women to be modeled after the men's Greek-letter fraternity. According to G. William Domhoff, in Who Rules America? (Seventh edition, p. 57), Pi Beta Phi was cited as one of the four or five sororities upper-class college women "joined with nationwide social prestige". Its headquarters are located in Town and Country, Missouri, and there are 200 chapters ever installed and more than 300 alumnae organizations across the United States and Canada. Once an initiated member in good standing graduates or otherwise leaves her college or university, she is a member for life.
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Pi Beta Phi was founded as a secret organization under the name of I.C. Sorosis on April 28, 1867 at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois. It began to use Greek letters as its name in 1888. Pi Beta Phi is regarded as the first national women's fraternity. It began when twelve female students wished to enjoy the benefits of a secret society similar to those formed by collegiate men. The founders were Clara Brownlee Hutchinson, Libbie Brook Gaddis, Emma Brownlee Kilgore, Margaret Campbell, Rosa Moore, Ada Bruen Grier, Nancy Black Wallace, Jennie Horne Turnbull, Jennie Nicol, Inez Smith Soule, Fannie Thomson, and Fannie Whitenack Libbey. They planned their society at the home of Major Jacob H. Holt, where two of the women rented a room. The name chosen for the society was I.C. Sorosis. The motto chosen was Pi Beta Phi.
Shortly after the founding, the sisters had a jeweler design their official badge: a golden arrow with the letters "I.C." on the wings. When the name was changed to "Pi Beta Phi," the Greek letters replaced "I.C." on the wings. At the Yellowstone Convention of 1934, they voted to limit the links in the badge's chain; there are 12, one for each of the founders.
The first fraternity convention was held in 1868 at the home of Fannie Thomson in Oquawka, Illinois. It was also in that year that the fraternity's second chapter was established at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. The expansion made Pi Beta Phi the first national (multi-chapter) women's secret society.
At the 1882 convention, the society officially adopted its motto as well as the fraternity colors of wine and silver blue. Six years later, the name was changed from I.C. Sorosis to Pi Beta Phi. In 1893, with the number of alumnae members growing, the fraternity organized a national alumnae department. Cooperation among women's fraternities and sororities was formalized in 1902 with the founding of the National Panhellenic Conference, of which Pi Beta Phi was a founding member. Meanwhile, chapter expansion continued, and in 1908 the fraternity's first Canadian chapter was established at the University of Toronto.
The fraternity's first philanthropy, Pi Beta Phi Elementary, was organized in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in 1912. It would be followed over the years by other philanthropic endeavors. In 1913, the fraternity also began the practice of support for its chapters through local Alumnae Advisory Committees. Central Office, a fraternity headquarters, was established in 1925.
The Kansas Alpha chapter had begun publication of The Arrow in 1885; it would eventually become a quarterly magazine published by the national fraternity for all its members. Today, dues-paying alumnae receive The Arrow by mail, while others can access it online at the fraternity's web site.
The official symbol of Pi Beta Phi is the arrow, and the official flower is the wine carnation. The fraternity colors are wine and silver blue. The unofficial mascot is the angel, nicknamed "Angelica".
Pi Beta Phi does not have an official gemstone.
The crest is a lozenge emblazoned with the crest of the Brownlee family, two of whom were founders of the fraternity. The badge (pin) is a golden arrow. The pledge pin is a golden arrowhead with the Greek letter Βeta.
According to G. William Domhoff, in Who Rules America? (Seventh edition, p. 57), upper-class college women "joined one of the four or five sororities with nationwide social prestige (e.g. Kappa Kappa Gamma, Kappa Alpha Theta, Pi Beta Phi, and Delta Delta Delta)."
A chapter is local Pi Beta Phi affiliates at a particular college or university. When expansion of Pi Beta Phi first began to other college campuses, the fraternity adopted the custom of naming chapters with Greek letters in order of their founding. Thus, the original chapter at Monmouth College became Alpha chapter, the chapter established at Iowa Wesleyan College became Gamma chapter, and so on. This naming convention became cumbersome as the number of chapters increased.
The fraternity now names chapters by their state, followed by the Greek letter designating the order of founding within each state; for example, Alpha chapter at Monmouth College is now known as Illinois Alpha. The sole exception is the chapter at Knox College, which absorbed the chapter at the now-defunct Lombard College and is now known as Illinois Beta-Delta in recognition of both chapters. Now, if a chapter closes for any reason, its name remains unused until such time as the chapter can be re-established at the same university.
Each chapter elects an Executive Council consisting of a President and nine Vice Presidents (Member Development, Fraternity Development, Finance, Membership, Administration, Philanthropy, Communications, Event Planning and Housing). Each chapter also has an Alumnae Advisory Committee and House Corporation comprising fraternity alumnae living in the area who assist the chapter.
Chapters are grouped geographically into regions, formerly known as provinces, to facilitate national organization and administration. Each collegiate region has a Regional Director and several Regional Specialists covering different functions.
Pi Beta Phi alumnae, initiated members in good standing who have graduated or otherwise left their college or university, can organize into local alumnae clubs or "pockets" (smaller, less established clubs) which are recognized by the fraternity. Like collegiate chapters, alumnae clubs are grouped geographically into regions, which also have their own officers.
The international fraternity is governed by a Grand Council, elected at each biennial convention and comprising a Grand President and six Grand Vice Presidents (Alumnae, Collegians, Finance, Communications, Membership, and Programming). Also elected biennially are four international Directors (Collegiate Membership, Extension, Finance, and Philanthropy) and one Director for each alumnae region and each collegiate region. The work of Directors is supervised by a member of Grand Council.
In addition to the elected officers, there are several appointed international officers assigned certain functions, such as an archivist and a fraternity historian.
Like many sororities and fraternities, Pi Beta Phi members take part in a number of philanthropy programs. Over the fraternity's history, philanthropies have included education, literacy, and the preservation of regional arts and crafts.
In 1990, Pi Beta Phi created the Pi Beta Phi Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
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Pi Beta Phi opened the Pi Beta Phi Settlement School in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in 1912 to provide education, economic opportunity, and health care to the rural area. Over the years, as the community took over childhood education, Settlement School began to adapt by offering arts and crafts classes in an effort to preserve and promote the region's crafts tradition. An extension of the Pi Beta Phi Settlement School called the Craft Work Shop was begun in 1945 in cooperation with the University of Tennessee. Now an independent nonprofit organization known as the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, it is one of the oldest arts and crafts centers in the South and is a world-renowned facility providing college and graduate level courses. Arrowmont remains a major philanthropic project of Pi Beta Phi.
In conjunction with the fraternity's commitment to the arts and crafts tradition of the Gatlinburg area, Pi Beta Phi opened the Arrowcraft Shop in 1926. The shop provided local craftspeople with an outlet to sell their products, thereby providing an economic as well as cultural benefit to the community. While no longer affiliated with Pi Beta Phi, Arrowcraft remains in operation as the oldest gift shop in Gatlinburg. It is now affiliated with the Southern Highland Craft Guild.
Another legacy of Pi Beta Phi's tradition of educational philanthropy is Pi Beta Phi Elementary School of Gatlinburg. After the county began to take over administration of the school in the 1940s, the fraternity deeded to the county the land on which the new elementary school was built. The school is now part of the Sevier County public school system.
Pi Beta Phi became the first Greek letter organization to have a Canadian philanthropy in 1967 when, at the dual centennial of Canada and of Pi Beta Phi, the fraternity officially adopted the Northern Libraries Project to provide support for library systems in the Yukon and Northwest Territories. The project was renamed Arrow in the Arctic in 1969. Today, philanthropy funds provide English and Inuit resources for libraries in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.
The Houston, Texas, Alumnae Club of Pi Beta Phi provided the framework for another of the fraternity's national literacy projects, Champions Are Readers. CAR promotes family literacy by targeting pre-kindergarten to third graders with a fully developed reading enrichment program to encourage children to read and reinforce programs already in place in the schools.
Pi Beta Phi teamed up with First Book in 2006, sharing the same goal to give the gift of the First Book:
In June 2007, Pi Beta Phi announced its corporate partnership with First Book, an international nonprofit organization founded in 1992 with a single mission: to give children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books. Together, First Book and Pi Beta Phi are committed to bringing new books to children from low-income families in communities across the United States and Canada. In fact, within the first year of the partnership, Pi Phi and First Book donated 350,000 brand-new books.
First Book works to end child illiteracy by elevating the quality of education through making new, high-quality books available on an ongoing basis. Since 2007, Pi Beta Phi and First Book have distributed more than 1.5 millions books to children in need.
In 2005, Pi Beta Phi began a partnership with a reading awareness program called Read Across America. Commenced by the National Education Association in early March 1998, Read Across America was created to stimulate reading motivation and awareness. It has been shown through extensive research that children who are more motivated to read in turn do better in school. A celebration of reading is head annually on March 2 in honor of the birthday of well-known and beloved children's book author, Dr. Seuss. Pi Beta Phi chapters across the country hold special literacy events and gatherings at their respective campuses that support and celebrate their partnership with Read Across America. Pi Beta Phi is also actively involved in and supports many other literacy programs such as First Book, Speed Read, Champions Are Readers, and Arrow In The Arctic, to name a few. Several philanthropic events and book drives are held at Pi Beta Phi chapters at colleges across the country to help promote literacy and get kids excited about reading.
I.C. Sorosis, the name of which was later changed to Pi Beta Phi, was founded in the home of Major Jacob H. Holt along with Meghan E Holt his beloved wife, 402 East First Avenue, Monmouth, Illinois, where founders Ada Bruen and Libbie Brook were renting a room. Over the years, the home fell into disrepair. With the approval of the 1938 convention, the fraternity bought the property at tax auction and embarked on a restoration project. Pi Beta Phi still owns and operates Holt House, which is used for various private gatherings as well as meetings by local Pi Beta Phi groups. Also there are several dolls which were made to resemble the 12 original founders. Contrary to rumor, the dolls are not made with actual hair belonging to the founders.
In 2010, the chapter at Cornell University received national attention after a seven-page email sent to pledges was released on what is acceptable and unacceptable to wear at certain events. The tone of the e-mail—with lines such as "No muffin tops or camel toe" and "I will not tolerate any gross plastic shizz [jewelry]"—drew criticism from the Huffington Post and many online young adult forums.
In 2010, the chapter at the Miami University was suspended for one year after underage drinking, vomiting, littering, and damaging Lake Lyndsay Lodge in Hamilton, Ohio. In August 2017, the organization closed its chapter at Miami, saying that "... the decision was made because the membership experience has routinely fallen below Fraternity expectations, particularly in regards to risk management and the lack of commitment to Pi Beta Phi’s core values."
In 2012, the chapter at Bucknell University was suspended for at least three years for violation of the national chapter's policy and position statements regarding event planning-management and alcohol use.