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, (Ann Arbor, 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."
Colors      Blue      Gold      Silver
Symbol Compass
Flower White Rose
Jewel Sapphire, Pearl
Mascot Penguin
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) also known as "Theta Phi" women's fraternity was 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.[2] Originally a sorority for Catholic women who faced persecution, Theta Phi Alpha opened its doors in the 1960s to women of all faiths and celebrates a proud tradition of religious diversity among its members.[citation needed]


In 1909 the organization, originally Omega Upsilon, was started as a fraternity for Catholic women. Bishop Edward D. Kelly was the pastor of the student chapel at the university and saw a need for Catholic women to have a place to go for socialization and friendship.[3] 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. Kelly, now the Bishop of Grand Rapids, requested the assistance of Amelia McSweeney, who graduated from the University in 1898. Amelia and other alumni of Omega Upsilon began actively to redesign the failing organization.

Throughout the summer of 1912, Amelia McSweeney, seven other alumnae, and two undergraduate women worked tirelessly, meeting at the home of Dorothy and Katrina Caughey, to prepare the plans for the new organization. May C. Ryan contributed the name, motto, and original coat of arms, and the membership selected the Fraternity's flower, jewels, and colors.

Two undergraduate members of Omega Upsilon became members of Theta Phi Alpha. They were Eva Stroh, a sophomore, and Otilia Leuchtweis, a senior, who became Theta Phi Alpha's first Chapter President. 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.

Otilia and Eva, the undergraduate members, proved an enthusiastic team. During the first week, they took in Kathlyn Holmes, Theta Phi Alpha's first new member, and Marie Sullivan. With the aid of the alumnae, they held their first initiation on November 16, 1912.

In the early 1950s, Theta Phi Alpha absorbed Pi Lambda Sigma, the only other national Catholic fraternity. Pi Lambda Sigma's badge was a black aureole with the letters Pi, Lambda, Sigma, in gold, written vertically.

At the 46th Bi-Annual National Convention in 2006 held in Atlanta, the Convention body of Theta Phi Alpha approved the expansion of its Grand Council from five to seven members to accommodate the fast-growing national fraternity. Theta Phi Alpha celebrated its centennial anniversary at their National Convention in July 2012 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the site of its founding Alpha Chapter.


  • Symbols: The compass is the official symbol.
  • Flower: The white rose.
  • Mascot: The penguin was officially adopted as the Theta Phi Alpha mascot in 1987.
  • 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 reveres these ten women as the Founders:[4]

  • Dorothy Caughey Phalan
  • Katrina Caughey Ward
  • Mildred Connely
  • Selma Gilday
  • Otilia Leuchtweis O'Hara
  • Amelia McSweeney
  • Camilla Ryan Sutherland
  • Helen Ryan Quinlan
  • May C. Ryan
  • Eva Stroh Bauer Everson


Theta Phi Alpha Foundation enriches Theta Phi Alpha sisters by providing resources for scholarship, philantrhopy, and education through charitable giving. The vision of Theta Phi Alpha Foundation is one of ever loyal commitment, everlasting support.[5]

The Theta Phi Alpha Foundation of Theta Phi Alpha oversees the organization's philanthropic causes. Theta Phi Alpha nationally supports Glenmary Home Missioners and The House That Theta Phi Alpha Built.[6] 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 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. Theta Phis also actively support Camp Friendship.[7]

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. 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.[8]


The creed of Theta Phi Alpha is important to its members as a foundation of the sisterhood. The ideals of the sisters of Theta Phi Alpha are expressed in the creed. The creed connects new members, collegiates 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.[9]


Theta Phi Alpha has 53 active collegiate chapters as well as 37 alumnae associations and clubs across the United States.

Notable Alumnae[edit]


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

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.[10]

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.[11]

The past recipients of the Siena Medal are:[12]

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. [13]
1938 Mary Merrick Founder and lifetime director of the National Christ Child Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children in need. [14]
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 Kaye 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[15]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]