Theta Phi Alpha (ΘΦΑ) (commonly known as Theta Phi) is a women's fraternity founded at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor on August 30, 1912. Theta Phi Alpha is one of 26 national sororities recognized in the National Panhellenic Conference. Today, Theta Phi Alpha has 54 active chapters across the United States and three colonies, with alumnae clubs and associations in almost every major city. The organization is involved in the philanthropies Glenmary Home Missioners and The House that Theta Phi Alpha Built which help the homeless and underprivileged, specifically in the Appalachian Mountain region, and Camp Friendship, a summer camp in northeast Mississippi for children from disadvantaged and low-income homes.
Theta Phi Alpha was born out of the demise of a local Catholic sorority, Omega Upsilon. Father Edward D. Kelly contacted Amelia McSweeney to discuss the possibility of a new organization. Amelia and nine other founding sisters, active collegiates and alumnae of Omega Upsilon, banded together to organize Theta Phi Alpha throughout the summer of 1912. Theta Phi Alpha continued to grow, especially after the merger with another Catholic social women's fraternity, Pi Lambda Sigma, in 1952. Although Theta Phi Alpha began as a sorority for Catholic women, the organization opened its doors to all women in 1968.
Father Edward D. Kelly (later bishop), a pastor of the student chapel at the University of Michigan saw a need for Catholic women to have a place to go for socialization and friendship. From this need, he started the women's fraternity Omega Upsilon in 1909 for Catholic women. Several women students were originally very interested in joining, partly because Catholics were not always welcome in the other Greek-letter sororities on campus. By founding this new sorority, Catholic women had sorority life opened to them.
By the Spring of 1912, Omega Upsilon was failing financially and membership was low. Father Kelly requested the assistance of Amelia McSweeney, who graduated from the University in 1898. Amelia and other alumnae of Omega Upsilon began actively to redesign the failing organization.Throughout the summer of 1912, the ten founders prepared for the new organization. Plans for the coming school year were completed on August 30, 1912, and Theta Phi Alpha began operation on the campus of the University of Michigan.
During the first week, Theta Phi Alpha received its first new member, Kathlyn Holmes. The first initiation of Theta Phi Alpha was held on November 16, 1912 for the new sisters Kathlyn Holmes and Marie Sullivan.
Theta Phi Alpha joined the NPC in 1951 along with ten other national sororities in the NPC's most recent expansion.
On June 28, 1952, Theta Phi Alpha absorbed Pi Lambda Sigma, the only other national Catholic women's fraternity. Pi Lambda Sigma at the time of merger had four chapters which joined Theta Phi Alpha: their chapters at Boston University and University of Cincinnati joined the Theta Phi Alpha chapters present there; the chapter at Creighton University became Chi chapter of Theta Phi Alpha; and the one at Quincy College became Psi chapter. The Sorority initiated the National President of Pi Lambda Sigma at the 1952 convention and welcomed all Pi Lambda Sigma sisters to become Theta Phi Alpha sisters.:60:67
In 1969, Theta Phi Alpha hit a chapter count of 18 with the loss of Rho at Penn State.:45–50 At the National Convention in 1972, Theta Phi Alpha began considering expansion to Junior and two-year colleges. Two years after this consideration, only ten chapters (Epsilon, Kappa, Sigma, Upsilon, Chi, Alpha Gamma, Alpha Epsilon, Alpha Iota, and newly installed Alpha Mu (Northern Kentucky University) and Alpha Nu (General Motors Institute)) were represented at convention. This chapter count was well below the required number for membership in NPC. At the following convention in 1976, the Fraternity began discussing options of dissolution, merger or commitment to growth.
The chapter count began to grow over the next four years with the reinstatement of three chapters (Alpha Beta, Alpha Xi, Alpha Zeta), until in 1981 NPC notified Theta Phi Alpha they were placed in Associate Member Status due to low chapter count. The Fraternity had until 1987 to obtain 14 active chapters, the youngest had to be two years active. Due to its associate status and financial strain, Theta Phi Alpha gave up their spot as NPC treasurer in rotation for NPC Chairmanship. This also hindered the organization from acting as Vice Chairman the following two years, and finally Chairman. In spite of this setback, Theta Phi Alpha was committed to expansion. Over the following six years the sorority gained 11 chapters, and was granted full membership status in NPC in 1987.
Looking into the new millennium, the conversation on a National level turned to the role of religion in ritual. In 1968, Theta Phi opened its doors to women of all faith and replaced the crucifix used in ritual to a cross. In 1988, there was discussion of removing the cross in ritual. The discussion was tabled during convention but it was decided that the cross would have a less prominent role in ritual:55 In 1990, Theta Phi Alpha surveyed the sisters about the Catholic influences in the ritual. The most positive response was to adjusting the ritual to match the current views of the national fraternity, while the most negative response was to removing all references to God in the ritual. This dissonance between the sisters is still discussed today. However, Theta Phi Alpha is slowly removing religious aspects, in 1990 the Lord's Prayer was removed from the ritual. In 1992, the Theta Phi Alpha Prayer was removed:56and the following year a less religious ritual for deceased members and a nonreligious national philanthropy, The House that Theta Phi Alpha Built were introduced.:57
Other efforts were made to create a new national identity during this time. In 2003, the logo and tagline were developed.:60 At this time, the fraternity was also looking to honor its history as a singing fraternity. In 2010, a national songbook was developed and a CD with the songs called Everlasting Melodies were given out as grab bag gifts at the National Convention.:64
During this time there was also an interest to strengthen existing chapters, now that the fraternity was in good standings with NPC. The fraternity began to develop programs to increase the leadership abilities of the chapter. These efforts included instating the leadership conference in 1991 as well as developing standards for sisters as well as new members.:56 The standards for new members were focused on new member education through the development of a program called My Sister, My Friend. The fraternity also created Leadership Consultants to advise chapters throughout the country. The fraternity also began to look at risk management with regards to hazing and alcohol abuse in 1987.:55 In 1993, a national risk management and chapter operation manual were created.
In 1998, the majority of chapters fell below minimum chapter size, were in violation of hazing or alcohol policy or did not meet financial obligations.:58 This caused many programs such as Compass Point and Reflections to help chapters grow and look at chapter life. The National Office also began to improve communication through the development of a national website. In 2003, a fine was instated for chapters with a number of girls under the campus total number of girls possible to recruit. This controversial fine was created with the intention of keeping chapters active in recruitment. The following year a GPA minimum and value based recruitment system were in place as a way to strengthen chapter membership. Theta Phi Alpha approved the expansion of its Grand Council from five to seven members in 2006 to have more of a focus on assisting chapters as well.
The founders of Theta Phi Alpha are eight alumnae of the University and two undergraduates. These women collectively selected the Fraternity's flower, jewels and colors.
Dorothy Phalan (then Caughey)
Katrina Ward (then Caughey)
Otilia O'Hara (then Leuchtweis)
Camilla Sutherland (then Ryan)
Helen Quinlan (then Ryan)
May C. Ryan
Eva Bauer Everson (then Stroh)
Symbols: the compass represents direction
Flower: White rose
Coat of Arms: The coat of arms is an azure crest with a diagonal band between a cross with two beams on each arm and top. The bottom is pointed and longer than the others. The coat of arms bears a Tudor rose with black seeds and gold. A blue and gold cloak-like arch cover the top. Over the esquire's helmet, the crest has an open book with a silver and gold edge. This book is imprinted with two blue fleur-de-lis. The motto, Theta Phi Alpha in Greek lettering, is written in upper and lower case on the blue banner on the bottom of the crest.
The New Member pin is a square badge in black enamel with a gold compass in the center, and a gold border.
The Badge is a gold letter "Theta" set with pearls, superimposed upon plain gold letters "Phi" and "Alpha." The badge of Theta Phi Alpha is worn only by initiated members and is at once a means of identification and a source of pride to the wearer. The Fraternity badge is to be worn over the heart and is always placed above any other piece of jewelry. The badge is to be worn with 'badge attire' which is similar to business attire.
The National President's Badge, worn by the National President during her term in office, is similar to the official badge but with the Theta set with diamonds, mounted on a wreath of gold.
The Chapter President's Badge, purchased by a chapter and worn by its president during her term. Similar to the National President's Badge, but with the Theta set with sapphires.
The Ground Council Badge, worn by each member of The Grand Council (other than the National President), is the official badge set with alternating diamonds and sapphires and a diamond in the center, mounted on a wreath of gold, and is worn accompanied by a guard.
Guards, to be worn by current and former members of The Grand Council, exemplify the Fraternity's Coat of Arms set with a sapphire on each side.
Theta Phi Alpha recognizes Saint Catherine of Siena as its patroness. Her motto, "Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring," is the fraternity's official motto. The Siena Medal, awarded by the fraternity, is the highest award given to a non-member of Theta Phi Alpha. Because of the deep respect and reverence for Saint Catherine, her feast day, April 30, is used to celebrate the fraternity's founding because the original date, August 30, frequently does not fall within the academic year at most universities.
The Theta Phi Alpha Foundation oversees the organization's philanthropic causes. Theta Phi Alpha Foundation provides resources for Theta Phi Alpha sisters for scholarship, philanthropy, community service and education through charitable giving. The vision of the Theta Phi Alpha Foundation is stated as one of "ever loyal commitment, everlasting support."
While the Theta Phi Alpha Foundation oversees national philanthropic causes, each chapter may also support additional philanthropic causes. Many do.
Theta Phi Alpha nationally adopted Glenmary Home Missioners as its philanthropy in 1959. Glenmary's work is in depressed, rural areas of the United States, primarily in the Appalachian Mountains, where they distribute food, clothing, and books to needy persons, and assist in providing medical care, job training and tutoring.
The partnership began when sisters assisted in building a seminary for the missioners.
Over the summer, Glenmary hosts a summer camp in Mississippi for underprivileged youth called Camp Friendship/ Camp Glenmary.:207 Theta Phi Alpha sponsors the camp, in addition, donating clothing, toiletries, and arts and crafts supplies. Sisters of Theta Phi Alpha may also serve two weeks helping run the camp, offsetting costs that allow participation by children who otherwise may not be able to afford the program.
The House That Theta Phi Alpha Built is Theta Phi Alpha's newest philanthropic cause, established in 1993. The common goal through "The House" is to improve the plight of the homeless in any way. Chapters may seek to provide assistance to organizations that help the homeless, shelters, home building or neighborhood revitalization projects. This goal permits all Theta Phi Alphas to help those in need in their own community, while remaining united in aim and purpose. The umbrella term allows sisters to identify the issues in their individual communities. Many specific charitable efforts fall under The House That Theta Phi Alpha built, such promoting literacy, serving dinners, and running errands for the elderly.:207
A chapter is a local Theta Phi Alpha organization at a single college or university. As of July 17, 2015, Theta Phi Alpha had 54 active collegiate chapters as well as 37 alumnae associations and clubs across the United States.
Chapters are named with Greek letters in order of their date of installation, with the first chapter the Alpha chapter. If a chapter closes for any reason, no other Theta Phi Alpha chapter is allowed to utilize its Greek name designation until a chapter can be re-chartered or re-established at the same college or university.
In order to become a chapter, the group must first become a colony. A colony is a group of women working together to complete the requirements to become a chapter of Theta Phi Alpha. Once established, a colony is expected to fulfill nineteen requirements or "pearls." Once these requirements are fulfilled, the colony goes through Chapter Installation where the colony pledge sisters become members of Theta Phi Alpha.
As of February 19, 2018, there are two Theta Phi Alpha colonies:
The supreme governing body of Theta Phi Alpha is the National Convention which happens once every other year. The National Convention is held in even numbered years while a complimentary Leadership Conference is held in odd-numbered years.
The National Office is composed of the National Office Staff, the Grand Council, the Board of Trustees, and Appointed National Officers. The Grand Council is composed of 7 officers who are elected at the National Convention. The Grand Council manages the affairs of the Fraternity between Conventions by holding four meetings a year. The Board of Trustees is composed of five members are elected at Convention for a four-year term. The National President serves as an ex-officio member. Three of the trustees must have been previous National Officers. The Board of Trustees advises on National Policy, coordinates the awards and elections program as well as oversee the selection of the Siena Medal, as well as appoint the other national officers.
National Office Staff:
Current Board of Trustees:
The National Presidents of Theta Phi Alpha are:
Theta Phi Alpha has several awards available for bestowal upon members and nonmembers of the women's fraternity. These awards are given out at National Conventions.
Circle of Excellence Award: Established in 2008, this award recognized outstanding collegiate chapters. Chapters must submit an application to apply for this award based on campus involvement, community service, national organization contributions and others.:191
Diamond Jubilee Award: This award is given to an outstanding alumnae association for excellence in membership, financial management, program planning and other criteria. This award is a silver loving cup crowned with the Lady of Victory.:191
The Guard of Honor: The Guard of Honor is the highest award the Fraternity can give to a member. The member is awarded a guard pin with a Tudor rose in gold, with a sapphire center for her lifelong contributions to the Fraternity. As of 2014, only 78 guard of honor pins have been honored. A complete list of honorees can be found on the Theta Phi Alpha website.
The Senior Service Award: This award is given to a collegiate senior on Founders' Day, whose scholarship, leadership, character, and service to fraternity and school have been commendable.:193
The past recipients of the Siena Medal are:
|1937||Agnes Regan||First Executive Secretary to the National Council of Catholic Women and supporter of education for all regardless of race or sex.|
|1938||Mary Merrick||Founder and lifetime director of the National Christ Child Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children in need.|
|1939||Agnes Repplier||Essayist known for contemporary commentary.|
|1940||Jane M. Hoey||Director of the Public Assistance Bureau of the Social Security Board|
|1941||Anne O'Hare McCormick||First woman recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in Journalism|
|1942||Anne Sarachon Hooley||President of the National Council of Catholic Women|
|1943||Rev. Mother M. Katharine Drexel||Founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians & Colored People|
|1944||Helen C. White||She held the position of President for the American Association of University Women as well as the President for the American Association of University Professors|
|1945||Thomas F. Sullivan||Father of the Sullivan brothers who were lost in the sinking of the USS Juneau off Guadalcanal.|
|1946||Frances Parkinson Keyes||Novelist and biographer|
|1947||Mary Teresa Norton||1925-1951 United States Congresswoman from New Jersey; chairman of the House Committee on Labor|
|1948||Sister M Madeleva Wolff, C.S.C||She was an educator, poet and author. She was also President of St. Mary's College and President of the Catholic Poetry Society of America.|
|1950||Loretta Young||Actress most known for The Loretta Young Show, The Stranger, and The Bishop's Wife.|
|1951||Anne Laughlin||Administrator for National Youth Administration, United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, as well as UNICEF.|
|1952||Elizabeth Salmon||First woman President of American Catholic Philosophical Association|
|1954||Sister M. Ignatia, C.S.A||First to work with the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous in the hospitalization and assistance of alcoholics.|
|1956||Phyllis McGinley||1961 Pulitzer Prize recipient elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters|
|1958||Mary Harden Looram||Acted as the chairman of the Motion Picture Department of the International Federation of Catholic Alumnae|
|1960||Mary Ellen Kelly||Founded the League of Shut-In Sodalists as an imobilized arthritic|
|1962||Maria Augusta Trapp||Leader of the Trapp Family Singers|
|1964||Irene M. Auberlin||Founder and President of World Medical Relief|
|1966||Dorothy Julia Willman||Co-founder of the Summer Schools for the Christian Apostolate as well as Associate Editor of Directions magazine|
|1968||Rosemary Kilch||President of Women in Community Service|
|1976||Hattie Larlham||Co-founder of the Hattie Larlham Foundation|
|1986||Candy Lightner||Founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving|
|1988||Anne M. Burke||Once a court of claims judge for Illinois, Anne went on to found and direct the Special Olympics.|
|1990||Helen Thomas||First woman member and President of the White House Correspondents Association|
|1992||Eileen Stevens||Founder of the Committee to Halt Useless College Killings after the death of her son Chuck Stenzel.|
|1994||Linda Caldwell Fuller||Co-founder of Habitat for Humanity International|
|1996||Nancy Goodman Brinker||Founder of The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation|
|1998||Barbara McKillip||Founder of the Libri Foundation, an organization that provided children's books to rural libraries.|
|2000||Kay Redfield Jamison||Advocate in her field of manic depression illness.|
|2002||Dr. Pamela Martin||Executive Director of Homeward Bound|
|2004||Susan Davenny-Wyner||After a serious accident, Susan went on to become a soprano soloist and top conductor.|
|2006||Andrea Cooper||Mother who shared the story of her daughter's rape and subsequent suicide with college students.|
|2008||Diane Straub, M.D, M.P.H.||U.S. Paralympic team gold medalist and world record holder for swimming.|
|2010||Emily Elizabeth Douglas||At 11, Emily Founded Grandma's Gifts in memory of her grandmother, Norma Ackison. Her organization works to provide goods to families in Appalachia.|
|2012||Elizabeth Smart||Activist for sexual predator legislation and the AMBER Alert system.|
|2014||Rachel Simmons||Author of the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence|
|2016||Terry Grahl||Founder and CEO of Enchanted Makeovers|