Our History

Our History

Alpha Chi Omega is an organization built by and for real, strong women.

 
Founders | Past National Presidents | Alpha Chi Omega History Books

Alpha Chi Omega was founded on October 15, 1885, at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. At a time when women were just beginning to occupy seats in college classrooms, seven female students were encouraged by Professor James Hamilton Howe, dean of DePauw’s School of Music, to form a women’s society within the school.
 
Inspired, our Founders formed the 10th women’s fraternity in the country—the first to be in a music school. Sure they would be the last, the Founders chose "Alpha" and "Omega"—the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet—to form their name, with “Kai” (meaning “and”) in the middle, later changed to the Greek letter "Chi."
 
Dedicated to advancing “the intellectual, social and moral culture” of its members, our Founders’ vision has grown to include our women’s Fraternity, the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation, the National Housing Corporation and Pearl Stone Partners. Together, they serve more than 230,000 members in more than 140 collegiate chapters and nearly 200 alumnae chapters nationwide.

 

Founders

THE REAL, STRONG WOMEN WHO FOUNDED ALPHA CHI OMEGA WERE MUSIC STUDENTS AT DEPAUW UNIVERSITY IN GREENCASTLE, INDIANA.


As musicians, our Founders included three pianists, a cellist/violinist/bassist, a composer and two singers. As collegians, they sought “friendship, artistic society and advancement of the principles of true womanhood.” 
 
ANNA ALLEN SMITH (1870–1933)
Interested in music from early childhood, Anna was the youngest student to do advanced work at DePauw’s School of Music, graduating at the age of 19. Anna was an accompanist, performer and teacher in the school for 10 years. She lived in Greencastle all her life, and the first Alpha Chi Omega convention took place at her home.
   
OLIVE BURNETT CLARK (1867–1956)
Olive (called “Ollie” by her friends) studied piano, violin, cello and double bass. She taught at DePauw for two years while carrying on her studies. In her junior year, she left school to take teaching positions in Anderson, Indiana and Franklin, Indiana. “I have found no greater happiness in my life than in Alpha Chi Omega,” she said later in life. “All I have ventured to give toward the upbuilding and uplifting of our fraternity has been from the depths of my heart, and has been repaid in thousandfold by my girls.”
 
Olive Burnett Clark
   
Bertha
BERTHA DENISTON CUNNINGHAM (1869–1950)
When Bertha’s parents decided their musically advanced daughter should continue her studies at DePauw, she had to play for Dean Howe to determine just how advanced she was. She went on to become the envy of the school’s music students because of her composing skills. She also was an accomplished performer and successful teacher in the School of Music for 10 years. Hers is the only one of five original badges that exists today; it’s on display at Alpha Chi Omega headquarters.
   
AMY DUBOIS REITH (1868–1915)
Amy was only 15 when she entered DePauw. She studied both voice and pianoforte. She was known as “the little girl with the big voice” and was selected to sing important roles in school productions. Amy had a quiet and straightforward manner, which belied her fondness for pulling pranks on her fraternity sisters. Her influence on the Fraternity endured long after she left to teach music in Kansas.
Amy Dubois Reith
   
Nellie Gamble Childe
NELLIE GAMBLE CHILDE (1867–1960)
Nellie studied piano from an early age and, after much deliberation, chose DePauw. She was described variously by her sisters as being gentle, energetic, earnest and friendly, leading a life of “quiet influence for good.” Later in life, she cultivated roses and loved to garden. She said that Alpha Chi Omega had a small beginning, but was built by loyal women with high standards who have achieved “marvelous results.”
   
BESSIE GROOMS KEENAN (1866–1920)
Bessie began studying music as a young child and was an accomplished pianist by the time she entered DePauw. Near the end of her first year there, she strained the muscles of her left hand from over-practice and had to give up the ambition of her life. However, she gave much of her time to help build Alpha Chi Omega. Her daughter, Hannah, eventually became director of Alpha Chi Omega's central office, today known as headquarters.
Bessie Grooms Keenan
   
Estelle Leonard
ESTELLE LEONARD (1860–1955)
Estelle entered DePauw hoping to make a living as a musician. Most of her time was spent practicing or studying. She also served as Dean Howe’s secretary for two years. Though she had serious goals and a “dignified appearance,” she was known for playing practical jokes on her colleagues. She graduated in 1891 and had a full career teaching music, publishing piano compositions and reporting for the local newspaper. Long involved with Alpha Chi Omega, she attended more conventions than any other Founder. She was described as “distinctly modern in her ideas” and as having “developed independence, decision and a rather bohemian attitude.”
 
VIDEO HIGHLIGHT: CLICK TO HEAR OUR FOUNDERS RECOUNT THE HISTORY OF ALPHA CHI OMEGA IN OUR 125TH  ANNIVERSARY VIDEO.

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Past National Presidents

FOR GENERATIONS OUR NATIONAL PRESIDENTS TIRELESSLY INVESTED THEIR TALENTS IN PRESERVING AND ADVANCING THE LEGACY OF ALPHA CHI OMEGA.

These volunteers were elected and worked alongside fellow National Council members to direct our organization.

  • Estelle Leonard (Alpha, DePauw University) 1885-91
  • Janette Allen Cushman (Beta, Albion College) 1891-93
  • Mary Elizabeth Stanford (Gamma, Northwestern University) 1893-94
  • Charlotte Weber Seiple (Delta, Allegheny College) 1894-96
  • Mary Janet Wilson (Alpha, DePauw University) 1896-98
  • Raeburn Cowger Obenchain (Alpha, DePauw University) 1898-1902
  • Kate Calkins Lovejoy (Beta, Albion College) 1902-07
  • Alta Allen Loud (Beta, Albion College) 1907-1910
  • Evangeline Bridge Stevenson (Zeta, New England Conservatory) 1910-12
  • Alta Allen Loud (Beta, Albion College) 1912-19
  • Elizabeth Dunn Prins (Iota, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) 1919
  • Myra H. Jones (Lambda, Syracuse University) 1920
  • Gladys Olmstead Graff (Zeta, New England Conservatory) 1920-24
  • Beatrice Herron Brown (Alpha, DePauw University) 1924-28
  • Ethel Mead Van Auken (Lambda, Syracuse University) 1928-35
  • Minerva Osborn Donald (Pi, University of California, Berkeley) 1935-39
  • Ruth Miller Winsor (Phi, University of Kansas) 1939-43
  • Gladys Drach Power (Nu, University of Colorado Boulder) 1943-49
  • Mildred Estabrook Scott (Pi, University of California, Berkeley) 1949-53
  • Ruth Tewinkel Suppes (Rho, University of Washington) 1953-57
  • Burnette Grimes Jones (Omega, Washington State University) 1957-60
  • Jessie Fanyo Payne (Upsilon, Millikin University) 1960-64
  • Rosita Hopps Nordwall (Epsilon, University of Southern California) 1964-66
  • Rosemary Newman Hittle (Alpha Chi, Butler University) 1966-70
  • Adele Fieve Drew (Alpha Lambda, University of Minnesota) 1970-76
  • Karen Aunan Miley (Alpha Lambda, University of Minnesota) 1976-80
  • Martha Carolan Hannegan (Omicron, Baker University) 1980-83
  • D’Alice Coburn Cochran (Alpha Mu, Indiana University) 1983-88
  • Ellen Little Vanden Brink (Alpha, DePauw University) 1988-92
  • Judy Evans Anderson (Alpha Lambda, University of Minnesota) 1992-96
  • Janice Manning Crandall (Omicron, Baker University) 1996-2000
  • Julie Cain Burkhard (Beta Sigma, University of Georgia) 2000-04
  • Donna Smith Chereck (Alpha Phi, The University of Texas at Austin) 2004-08
  • Marsha King Grady (Alpha Upsilon, The University of Alabama) 2008-12
  • Diane Wilson Blackwelder (Omicron, Baker University) 2012-16


Alpha Chi Omega History Books


The history of Alpha Chi Omega Fraternity: The First 25 Years


The History of Alpha Chi Omega Fraternity: 1910-1935



The History of Alpha Chi Omega Fraternity: 1935-1960
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Phone: 317.579.5050
Fax: 317.579.5051
Email: info@alphachiomega.org