Theta Phi Alpha

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Theta Phi Alpha
Theta Phi Alpha crest.jpg
Founded August 30, 1912; 102 years ago (1912-08-30)
University of Michigan
Type Social
Mission statement "to create close comradeship, to advance educational, social and philanthropic interests and leadership training; to encourage spiritual development and adherence to the highest moral standards; and to promote lifelong bonds of friendship"[1]
Motto "Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring."
Tagline "Ever Loyal, Ever Lasting"[2]
Colors ‹See Tfm›     Blue ‹See Tfm›     Gold ‹See Tfm›     Silver
Symbol Compass
Flower White Rose
Jewel Sapphire, Pearl
Mascot Penguin
Patron saint St. Catherine of Sienna
Publication The Compass
Philanthropy Glenmary Home Missioners,
The House That Theta Phi Alpha Built
Chapters 53 (active)
Headquarters 27025 Knickerbocker Road
Bay Village, Ohio, USA

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.[3] Originally a sorority for Catholic women who faced persecution, Theta Phi Alpha opened its doors in 1968 to all women regardless of race, creed or religious belief.[4] Theta Phi Alpha has 53 active chapters across the United States and four colonies with alumnae clubs and associations in almost every major city.

Theta Phi Alpha recognizes Glenmary Home Missioners and The House that Theta Phi Alpha Built as the national philanthropies, both of which helping the homeless and underprivileged.


Omega Upsilon 1909[edit]

Father Edward Kelly

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.[5] From this need, he started the women's fraternity Omega Upsilon in 1909 for Catholic women. At the time, other fraternities on campus openly discriminated against Catholic women and would not welcome them into their organizations.

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.

The Start of Theta Phi Alpha 1912[edit]

Throughout the summer of 1912, the ten founders prepared for the new organization.[6] 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.

Joining the National Panhellenic Conference 1951[edit]

Theta Phi Alpha joined the NPC in 1951 along with 7 other sororities in the NPC's most recent expansion.

Absorbing Pi Lambda Sigma 1952[edit]

The pin of Pi Lambda Sigma

On June 28, 1952, Theta Phi Alpha absorbed Pi Lambda Sigma, the only other national Catholic women's fraternity.[7] 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.[8][9][10]

Growing Organization 2000s[edit]

Theta Phi Alpha approved the expansion of its Grand Council from five to seven members in 2006.


The symbols, insignia, and jewlery of Theta Phi Alpha are representative of the organization's mission, goals and character.

  • Colors: blue, gold, and silver. The color of precious metals, silver and gold represent endless faith. Blue represents the bond between sisters[11]
  • Symbols: compass represents direction
  • Flower: White rose
  • Mascot: Penguin
  • 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.


Theta Phi Alpha Founders

The founders of Theta Phi Alpha comprise of 8 alumnae of the University and two undergraduates. These women collectively selected the Fraternity's flower, jewels and colors.[12]

  • Dorothy Phalan (then Caughey)
Dorothy assisted the founding of the sorority by providing the original meeting space to plan the reorganization of Omega Upsilon. Her daughter, Margaret, became the first legacy of Theta Phi Alpha to pledge. [13]
  • Katrina Ward (then Caughey)
After graduating from University of Michigan in 1911 with a literary degree.[14] Katrina assisted the new Theta Phi Alpha as an Omega Upsilon alumnae out of Detroit where she taught junior high school. Alongside her sister, Dorothy, she helped the original meetings of Theta Phi Alpha. She believed that experience through adversity strengthened fraternal bonds.[15]
  • Mildred Connely
Mildred's focus was on turning Theta Phi Alpha into a national sorority by visiting old Omega Upsilon groups. Mildred became the second President, the first Chairman of the Board of Trustees, the first recipient of the Guard of Honor, the primary writer of the creed, and earned the distinction of the "Lifetime Keeper of the Ritual"
  • Selma Gilday
Selma was born on August 21, 1877 in Monroe, Michigan. Despite protest from her neighbors, she attended the University of Michigan and graduated with a degree in Latin and German in 1902. Selma was present at the first tea for Theta Phi Alpha and was pivotal to the alumnae support of the new organization. She taught German, Latin, and mathematics for 46 years in Toledo where she organized the Toledo-Monroe City Alumnae Association, until she died on June 10, 1958.
  • Otilia O'Hara (then Leuchtweis)
Otilia was born in Konigheim Germany in 1889. Her family owned a vineyard where she spent her time until her mother died and she was sent away to live in America at the age of nine. After her surrogate father, her mother's first cousin, died she was placed in the care of her uncle, an ordained Catholic priest. In 1912, Otilia was the first to sign the record book and become president of Alpha chapter. She, along with Eva, located and secured the home for the newest sisters of Theta Phi Alpha. She also ran the recruitment which gained the two girls ten active members. After she graduated the following year, Otilia remained interested in the sorority and chaired the committee that selected the gift of silver flatware presented to Alpha at the 1941 National Convention.
  • Amelia McSweeney
After graduating from the University of Michigan in 1898 as an alumnae of Omega Upsilon, Amelia became an important figure in education and civic life in Detroit.[5] She believed strongly in the need for Panhellenic recognition on campus which led her to travel to Ann Arbor for many meetings to start the sorority. On December 12, 1913, on one of Amelia's trips to Ann Arbor, Amelia contracted the meningitis that ultimately ended her life, and she succumbed on January 4, 1914.
  • Camilla Sutherland (then Ryan)
Born in 1886 in Canada, the Ryan family moved to Michigan in 1900. Camilla was an alumnae teacher of Omega Upsilon when she was approached by Bishop Edward Kelly to establish the sorority. Camilla believed that in order for the organization to survive, you could not separate undergraduate and graduate members. Camilla, along with her sister may hosted a joint meeting of the Grand Council and the Board of Trustees in 1931 in her family home.
  • Helen Quinlan (then Ryan)
Helen graduated from the University of Michigan in 1908 and started teaching mathematics in Detroit. In 1910 she married Walter S. Quinlan and moved to Cleveland. From Cleveland, Helen was active in forming the first National Council of Catholic Women and has served as chairman of numerous committees. In addition, Helen was a member of the League of Women Voters, Fortnightly Musical, and the Women's Club. Helen brought Girl Scouting to Springfield, OH earning her name on the Wall of Remembrance. Helen's perseverance and passion did not end there, in the last nine years of her life, Helen continued her charity work and traveled to Europe and South America to hold audience with Pope Pius XII, despite her inability to see.
  • May C. Ryan
Born in Canada in 1876, the family moved to Michigan in 1900 where May went to University of Michigan to become a teacher. As a founding member, May is credited with developing the name, motto and original coat of arms for Theta Phi Alpha. She was also a member of the Board of Trustees until she died on May 18, 1935.[16]
  • Eva Bauer Everson (then Stroh)
Eva Regina Stroh found the furnishings and housing for the original Theta Phi Alpha house in the summer of 1912 as a freshman along with Otilia Leuchtweis. Eva moved traveled from city to city in her father's private railway car when she was a child. Before she entered the University, Eva found solace in the St. Catherine of Siena Catholic church, whose namesake became the patroness of the Theta Phi Alpha fraternity. Eva went on to teach and was instrumental in establishing the Veterans Institute at University of Michigan. After Eva Stroh Baur Everson died from leukemia in 1973, she named Theta Phi Alpha as a beneficiary in her will.


While the Theta Phi Alpha Foundation oversees the national philanthropic causes, each chapter can also support additional philanthropic causes.[17]

Theta Phi Alpha Foundation[edit]

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 Theta Phi Alpha Foundation is one of ever loyal commitment, everlasting support.[18]

Glenmary Home Missioners[edit]

Theta Phi Alpha nationally adopted Glenmary Home Missioners as a national philanthropy in 1959.[19] 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.

Camp Friendship[edit]

Over the summer, Glenmary hosts a summer camp in Misissippifor underprivileged youth called Camp Friendship/ Camp Glenmary.[20] Theta Phi Alpha sponsors the camp, donates clothing, toiletries, arts and crafts to the camp for underprivileged children.[21] Sisters of Theta Phi Alpha also serve two weeks helping run the camp to help children who otherwise may not be able to afford summer camp.

The House That Theta Phi Alpha Built[edit]

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. The chapter can 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 our aim and purpose.[22] This umbrella term allows sisters to identify the issues in their individual communities. Many charities fall under the House that Theta Phi Alpha built such promoting literacy, serving dinners, and running errands for the elderly. [20]

Badges and Pins[edit]

The New Member pin is a square bade 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.

Upon death of a member, her badge is either sent to the Fraternity's archives or buried with her. Each member has the responsibility to see that her family knows of these alternatives, and should arrange to have one or the other followed at her death.

The National President's Badge, worn by the National President during her term in office, is 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 shall be accompanied by a guard.

Guards are to be worn by current and former members of The Grand Council, is the Fraternity coat of arms with a sapphire on each side of it.


Theta Phi Alpha recognizes Saint Catherine of Siena as the patroness.[4] Her motto, "Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring," is the fraternity's official motto.[4] 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.[23]


The creed of Theta Phi Alpha outlines the ideals of the sisters and connects new members, collegians and alumnae of Theta Phi Alpha across generational and geographical distances.

Theta Phi Alpha Creed:

"Justice to each fellow man

Wisdom in each deed and plan

Loyalty to every friend

Faith that sorrow can transcend.

Truth to God and truth to self

Honor valued over wealth

This is the creed that in us lies

The creed of loyal Theta Phis.

The white rose for its purity

The sapphire blue for loyalty

The compass for its needle sure

That holds our course firm and secure.

The silver for a precious faith

That knows no end not even death

This is the creed that in us lies

The creed of loyal Theta Phis." [24]

Chapters and Colonies[edit]

A chapter is a local Theta Phi Alpha organization at a single college or university. As of July 17, 2015, Theta Phi Alpha has 53 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 the greek name 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. At this point, 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.[25]

As of July 17, 2015, there are currently four Theta Phi Alpha colonies:[26]

National Conventions[edit]

The supreme governing body of Theta Phi Alpha is the National Convention which happens once every other year. The National Convention is held in the even number years while the Leadership Conference is held in odd-numbered years.

National Office[edit]

The National Office is composed of the National Office Staff, the Grand Council, the Board of Trustees, and Appointed National Officers.[27]

National Office Staff[edit]

  • Executive Director
  • Alumnae Relations Director
  • Collegiate Services Director
  • Office Manager
  • Administrative Assistant

Grand Council[edit]

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.

  • National President
  • National Vice President-Collegians
  • National Vice Presdient-Alumnae
  • National Vice President-Extension
  • National Vice President-Programming
  • National Executive Secretary
  • National Treasurer

Past National Presidents[edit]

Board of Trustees[edit]

These 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.

The current Board of Trustees includes:

  • Laura Foley (National President)
  • Kathy Gaver
  • Kristin Henkenius
  • Karen Rubican
  • Cathy Billoni
  • Alicia Palmisano

Appointed National Officers[edit]

These positions are appointed by the Board of Trustees.

Notable Alumnae[edit]


Theta Phi Alpha has many awards bestowed upon members and nonmembers of the women's fraternity.

Guard of Honor

The Guard of Honor[edit]

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 the sister's 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 in the references.[28]

The Senior Service Award[edit]

This award is given to a collegiate senior on Founder's Day whose scholarship, leadership, character, and service to fraternity and school have been commendable.

Siena Medal[edit]

The Siena Medal is an award given by Theta Phi Alpha. The medal is the highest honor the organization bestows upon a non-member and is named after Saint Catherine of Siena.[29]

The past recipients of the Siena Medal are:[30]

Year Recipient Accomplishment
1937 Agnes Regan First Executive Secretary to the National Council of Catholic Women and supporter of education for all regardless of race or sex.[31]
1938 Mary Merrick Founder and lifetime director of the National Christ Child Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children in need.[32]
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 Davenney 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[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Theta Phi Alpha - Mission
  2. ^ Rubican, Karen. The Centennial History of Theta Phi Alpha 1912-2012. p. 60. Archived from the original on July 23, 2015. Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  3. ^ NPC Organizations
  4. ^ a b c Theta Phi Alpha - For Parents
  5. ^ a b Theta Phi Alpha University of Michigan Founding
  6. ^ History
  7. ^ 8/30/1912 + Bishop Kelly + 10 Founders = Happy 102 Years Theta Phi Alpha! - Focus on Fraternity History & More
  8. ^ Rubican, Karen. The Centennial History of Theta Phi Alpha 1912-2012. p. 35. Archived from the original on July 23, 2015. Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  9. ^ Rubican, Karen. The Centennial History of Theta Phi Alpha 1912-2012. p. 67. Archived from the original on July 23, 2015. Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  10. ^ Baird's Manual of American College Fraternities 16th Edition (1957) p. 499
  11. ^ Rubican, Karen. The Centennial History of Theta Phi Alpha 1912-2012. p. 188. Archived from the original on July 23, 2015. Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  12. ^ Theta Phi Alpha Founders
  13. ^ Rubican, Karen. The Centennial History of Theta Phi Alpha 1912-2012. p. 12. Archived from the original on July 23, 2015. Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  14. ^ The Michigan Alumnus, Volume 37
  15. ^ Rubican, Karen. The Centennial History of Theta Phi Alpha 1912-2012. p. 15. Archived from the original on July 23, 2015. Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  16. ^ Rubican, Karen. The Centennial History of Theta Phi Alpha 1912-2012. p. 18. Archived from the original on July 23, 2015. Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  17. ^ National Philanthropy
  18. ^ Theta Phi Alpha Foundation Overview
  19. ^ NPC National Philanthropy List
  20. ^ a b Rubican, Karen. The Centennial History of Theta Phi Alpha 1912-2012. p. 207. Archived from the original on July 23, 2015. Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ Theta Phi Alpha Philanthropy and Community Service
  23. ^ Theta Phi Alpha - Symbols
  24. ^ Theta Phi Alpha - Creed
  25. ^ Starting a Chapter
  26. ^ Colonies of Theta Phi Alpha
  27. ^ Theta Phi Alpha - Overview
  28. ^ Guard of Honor honorees
  29. ^ Theta Phi Alpha - Awards
  30. ^ Siena Medalists
  31. ^ Biography of Agnes Regan
  32. ^ National Christ Child Official Website
  33. ^ Rachel Simmons to Receive Siena Medal

External links[edit]