IOWA CHI OMEGA CELEBRATES 100th BIRTHDAY!

Centennial Weekend Photos by  Dan Rolling Photography

Centennial Weekend Photos by Dan Rolling Photography

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On April 6th, 1919, the Psi Beta Chapter of Chi Omega was charted at the University of Iowa.

There were thirty-four charter members: 3 Helens, Sadie, Essie, Mabelle, Eugenia, Florence, Anna, Blanche, Isabel, Cecelia, Lorena, 2 Margaret’s, Lillian, Lucille, Evelyn, Catherine, Gail, Pearl, Margie, Ethyn, 2 Esther’s, Beatrice, Gladys, Delphia, Elizabeth, Ada, Ruth, and Martha.

To those founding members of Psi Beta Chapter, we say THANK YOU! Those young women had vision, just like Chi Omega’s Founders, to imagine the future possibilities for women at the University of Iowa.  One hundred years later, our lives continue to be forever changed. It is here that each of us learned to love Chi Omega and to experience authentic friendship through Sisterhood.

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On April 5th, 2019, we welcomed our Alumnae from all over the country back to Iowa City to celebrate our 100th Anniversary. It was a wonderful Friday night welcome reception at the Old Capitol full of hugs and excitement at this incredible reunion.

The following morning sisters gather together at the ‘804’ to tour the house and look back on all of the memories made within the house over the past several years. Whether they were standing in their bedrooms sharing memories, or simply reminiscing on the old and new, it was so wonderful to have everyone in the place we all call home.

Later Saturday night, we gathered for a reception and dinner with our sisters at the Coralville Marriott Ballroom to honor the Psi Beta Chapter and all we have accomplished in the past 100 years. Over 450 sisters attended the special celebration!

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We began the night with an introduction from Kate Vittore, active member and Alumnae Relations Director. Her welcoming words kicked off the evening by connecting our actives and alumnae alike.

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As the night progressed, members paid tribute to sisters that have since passed, and celebrated the impact Chi Omega has had on our lives. Active President, Mary Grace Henderson, shared that Psi Beta has grown from 29 charter members in 1919 to 179 active members in 2019. Mary Grace updated us on all that Psi Beta has accomplished since the 75th Psi Beta Celebration in 1994. She noted a few points of pride from recent years:

  • Chi Omega Headquarters has awarded Psi Beta the Chapter of Excellence 13 times

  • Psi Beta has raised over $460,000 in the past seven years for Dance Marathon, receiving the award for the top fundraising chapter at Iowa the past four years.

  • Psi Beta has also raised nearly $150,000 for Make-A-Wish.

  • Received “Chapter of the Year” at the University of Iowa for the past 4 out of 5 years!

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Olivia Denkinger, active Vice President, shared the recipients of this year’s scholarships, Hayley Stuenkel and Kaitlyn Ohrnstein. She also shared that Psi Beta had been top in grades at the University of Iowa for the past 18 consecutive semesters! Lynette Pedigo Lancial, House Corp President, shared the changes to the chapter house since it was built in 1927.

We were thrilled to have Letitia Fulkerson, former National President of Chi Omega, as our keynote speaker for the evening. In the late 60’s, her father received his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa and is a proud Hawkeye! She lived here for four years as a young child. In 1983, Letitia worked as a Chi Omega National Leadership Consultant, and Psi Beta Chapter was her first visit!

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She sent us back to what was happening in the world around the time Psi Beta started in 1919:

  • In 1919, Woodrow Wilson was President and the Treaty of Versailles ends WW1.

  • Dial telephones are introduced by the American Telephone and  Telegraph Company (AT&T).

  • Most popular girls names were Mary, Helen, Dorothy, Margaret and Ruth.  Women’s fashion was silk blouses with detailed round necks. Suits and dresses were starting to have a slimmer silhouette heading into the Roaring 1920’s, hats and lace-up boots accessorized.

  • Prohibition of alcohol goes into effect.  

  • In sports, a big baseball scandal with the Chicago White Sox throwing the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.

  • Cars were Model T’s and A’s……can you imagine riding in those around Iowa City?

  • 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would guarantee suffrage to women is sent to states for ratification!

And in Iowa –

  • Enrollment was predicted to hit 5000

  • In the fall the Hawkeyes were 5-2 (and yes, Iowa beat Iowa State at Homecoming the last game of the season)

  • A yearly athletic ticket was just $8.00 for 4 football games, 7 basketball games

This was so impactful to think about our founders who came together when women in college numbered few - to form a group with FRIENDSHIP at its core. They knew that the world was changing and opportunities for women beckoned.  So they created Chi Omega with a grand vision of joining together friends from coast-to-coast, each seeking high ideals for cultivating a lifetime of purpose.

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Chi Omega’s Vision:

“Sisters inspired by our values who serve the world while keeping Chi Omega ever at heart.”

Letitia said, “Our vision is ‘who we aspire to be.’  For those who provide strategic direction for Chi Omega, which includes every chapter leader, collegiate, and alumna in this room, this is where we’re headed; this is our vision for the future. Once again, there are a few phrases I’d like to highlight.

“Sisters” is an important word, it says that we are more than just a “club”; we are part of a fraternal organization, a family, and have made a lifetime commitment to our Fraternity.

“Inspired by our values”, shows the importance that we are always rooted in our values. Isn’t it amazing that 18 and 19 year old women in the late 1800’s would select a purpose regarding careers when women had very limited options at that time and weren’t really even welcomed on campus?

The phrase “serve the world” reiterates our purpose of service to others but with an unlimited lens.  In a global community, “serve the world” could mean your next door neighbor or someone on another continent.

“while keeping Chi Omega ever at heart” It is also a charge to each Sister to always represent the organization with pride and dignity. To give of her time, talents, and resources, as she is able, so future generations may experience Chi Omega membership at its very best.

This Mission and Vision will lead the current and future members of Psi Beta Chapter at the University of Iowa.

There are certainly not enough words in any language to thank the women who came before and had the vision to create and nurture a community for women at the University of Iowa. A community founded on the highest bar of excellence to help women flourish as Sisters.  They surely didn’t know in 1919 that 100 years later, the early Psi Beta Sisters surely inspired the ones who followed – our Psi Beta Sisters are leaders in the fields of business, finance, management, marketing, communications and biological science; they are entrepreneurs, educators, leaders, doctors, scientists, and volunteers in their community and beyond.

To travel or work for Chi Omega requires a meaningful and thorough education on what a positive membership experience is all about, one that they have lived and experienced themselves.  And one that they are willing to share with others. National Volunteers and Headquarters staff that are Psi Betas:

Sarah Fisher - will be a National Leadership Consultant after graduation!

Katherine Mendieta - Multimedia Marketing Specialist

Julie (Mickelson) Spillane - National Consultant 2 years, now on the National Recruitment Team

Just how does a chapter not only survive, but thrive for 100 years? The secret to Chi Omega’s success is indeed the dedication, involvement, and gift of time provided to our collegians by our alumnae advisors, house corporation board members, and alumnae chapter volunteers.

We were thrilled when long time Recruitment Advisor Ann Harris won the Outstanding Advisor Award at Convention this summer!

With this milestone anniversary, we also challenge our collegiate Sisters to keep the bar of excellence high for future Psi Betas. Let’s SAVOR this moment, 100 years of incredible Friendship, the very essence of the 4 friends in Fayetteville and those who have joined them here in Iowa City – to form a community of support and inspiration for one another.  Let’s celebrate that Chi Omega continues to be a life-changing and life-enriching experience, challenging our members to seek more, do more, give more, and be more, while maintaining authentic connections that form these friendships so special and so close.

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