A Common Bond – Alpha Chi Omega and the Arts

A Common Bond – Alpha Chi Omega and the Arts

By Sally Cutler (Alpha Chi, Butler University), Historian and Archivist

 From the sisterhood’s earliest days, Alpha Chi Omegas have been bound by our Founders’ musical gifts. As students in DePauw University’s School of Music, they each brought their own talents and devotion to the study of music to this new women’s fraternity. They built the young organization on principles and elements directly related to music, after all. The original open motto spoke to this commitment to music and art – “Ye daughters of music, come up higher” – and, of course, they selected the lyre – the musical instrument played by the gods in Greek mythology – as Alpha Chi Omega’s symbol and the design for our badge. As the 1916 History stated, “Music was, from the outset, a beloved tradition with Alpha Chi Omega … Music will be, forever, an inspiring influence to all Alpha Chis.”


Here are just a few examples of some of our sisters’ accomplishments in the arts – some dating back to our founding. Did you know …Rondo

  • Founder Estelle Leonard was a prolific composer. Two of her compositions were particularly well-known at the time of their writing: a piano solo called “Sunlight” and an arrangement for piano and violin called “Rondo.”
  • In the early days of college fraternities, honorary membership was a common practice. Several honorary members of Alpha Chi Omega in the late 1800s and early 1900s were acclaimed professional artists. This included Maud Powell (Alpha, DePauw University), who was described as “the greatest woman violinist of all time.”  
  • More than a dozen sisters who achieved excellence in the arts during their lifetimes have been honored with the Award of Achievement. This includes Helen Mulford Thompson (Alpha, DePauw University), who was one of the award’s original recipients in 1955. Helen was a violinist, orchestra manager and advocate for small orchestras and performing arts organizations.  


AlumnaeMacDowell Month, which we celebrate each February, is named for the artists’ residency program in New Hampshire, which was Alpha Chi Omega’s first philanthropic project. This recognition month reminds us of our support of the arts as we take advantage of the opportunity to either express ourselves creatively or patronize the arts. (You can learn more about what’s happening today at MacDowell and see the artists’ studio created by Alpha Chi Omega, Star Studio, here.)

What are just some of the ways members of Alpha Chi Omega continue to demonstrate appreciation for and support of the arts during MacDowell Month and throughout the year?  

  • Alumnae and collegiate chapters are organizing outings to local theater productions and museums, trying their hand at painting demonstrations, learning about the art of cookie decorating or even enjoying the musical offerings at a local rodeo event!
  • Our sisters are active on stage and behind the scenes in both local productions and as professional artists – as actors, dancers, sculptors, authors and more.
  • Some sisters choose to further the arts by sharing their skills in a business or management role – creating museum exhibits, providing musical instruments and lessons to aspiring musicians, or holding executive leadership roles for cultural venues and arts organizations.


Whether or not these sisters immediately realize it, they are strengthening a common bond that has united Alpha Chi Omega sisters from 1885 to today and into the future. We hope you will let us know how you are appreciating and supporting the arts. Email or tag @AlphaChiOmegaHQ on social media in your posts!