A 40-Year Reunion and an Everlasting Bond

A 40-Year Reunion and an Everlasting Bond

By Bridget Guernsey Riordan, PhD (Gamma Mu, Ball State University) 

Consultants1979-80 NCFA team with then-national vice president Martha Hannegan  

Traveling as a chapter consultant for Alpha Chi Omega is a unique and exciting opportunity – new people, new places and new experiences. In 1979 I embarked on that adventure as a national collegiate field adviser (NCFA). Through that experience I was teamed with three other consultants. We spent weeks together being trained by skilled staff and volunteers and then were sent on the road. We quickly realized that no one understands the job as much as a fellow consultant, so we exchanged numerous letters (thank you carbon paper and the US Mail) and occasional phone calls (not too many as long distance calling was expensive then). These three Alpha Chis – Cindy DeRisio VandemBeemt (Eta, Bucknell University), Jana Faught Zrake (Alpha Eta, University of Mount Unionand Marilyn Taylor Tipton (Beta Psi, Louisiana Tech University) – each from chapters very different than mine, became my lifelong friends. 

ReunionThe four sisters at their reunion  

After 40 years apart, the isolation of the pandemic prompted me to reach out to my cohort for a reunion by Zoom. After our year on the road (1979-80), the four of us left our national headquarters and hadn’t been together as a group since then. Fortunately, stayed connected with two of our foursome – even had seen them in person a few times – but had only recently found our fourth teammate on Facebook. At the start of the Zoom, we all giggled as we saw one another on the screen. Within minutes it was apparent that we felt no time had passed. We quickly knew the Zoom was not enough and we would have to reunite in person. So, we made plans to reconnect in 2024 and began the year with a reunion at the home of Jana Faught Zrake in the beautiful San Diego area. The real fun began!  

ConventionBridget and Jana with their daughters at convention  

Over three days we talked, laughed, shared stories and laughed some more. We each had more than 40 years of fulfilling life experiencesAnd weach had suffered loss, experienced disappointments and dealt with stress. However, being together we found the comfort of sisterhood endured. A bonus of our reunion was we got to connect with Jana’s daughter, Karly, who served as a chapter consultant in 2018-19. Karly and my Alpha Chi daughter Colleen also served as convention pages in 2016, which made for great memories for Jana and me when we also attended convention that year.  

All four of us agreed that Alpha Chi Omega shaped usAs consultants, we had to be independent and self-reliant. If we missed a flight, we had to get on the next one. Lost suitcase – go borrow clothes. Feeling lonely – call a fellow NCFA. We learned to be resilient. We also agreed we were advised and mentored by the best! When dealing with a chapter predicament, Martha HanneganNancy Leonard, Ellen Vanden Brink, Katie Beck or one of the province officers would give us a pep talk. On days off and in unfamiliar college towns, many Alpha Chi Omega volunteers or staff members welcomed us into their homesTheir care and nurturing made us feel like family. We felt sisterhood across the nation and across all ages and backgrounds. Alpha Chi Omega taught us about all types of differences and helped us grow and understand people and culturesAlpha Chi Omegas were different at each campus but connected by the values of our Fraternity.  

Our year of travel included some fun adventures for each of us. Marilyn got to her first Jimmy Buffet concert with the members of Epsilon Nu (Boise State University) and helped charter our Zeta Iota (Stanford University) chapterJana helped select and charter our Zeta Lambda (University of Virginia) chapter as well as cultivate our Alpha Chi Omega presence in Texas. Cindy’s year included investigating further extension for Alpha Chi Omega in the Northeast. Thanks to the members of our prospective chapter and later establishment at Zeta Kappa (New Mexico State University), learned how much commitment it takes to be a charter member and how to appreciate authentic Southwest food.   

Alpha Chi Omega also changed the trajectory of our lives. Two of us pursued careers in higher education based on our experiences. Another chose human resources and was mentored by an Alpha Chi Omega alumna. Another stayed on aadditional year and helped our Fraternity establish new chapters. Alpha Chi Omega exposed us to the bigger world, and we couldn’t be more grateful. 

At the end of our reunion, one of our cohort said, “True friends are ones you don’t see in 42 years and then you see one another and pick right back up.” This couldn’t be more true of our experiences. Alpha Chi Omega initially brought us together, but the bond of sisterhood reconnected us. We challenge all Alpha Chi Omegas to reconnect with one another. Sisterhood truly is for a lifetime.