By: Tatum Baker – Contributing Writer
The Ohio Iota Chapter of Pi Beta Phi, based at the University of Dayton, celebrated its 25th anniversary Oct. 25 with an open house, formal dinner and ending ritual on the campus in western Ohio, north of Cincinnati.
Among those attending were founding members – President Lori Feldhouse, Vice President Cathy Overbeck and Treasurer Nat “Jennifer” Warne. Also present were UD alumnae Martha Ebeling and Louis Ross, former Pi Phi Grand Council President Sarah Ruth “Sis” Mullis, and the current members of Ohio Iota led by Chapter President Kaitlyn Tunney. More than 150 sisters attended the various celebratory events organized by Lizzy Riddle, vice president of event planning.
Ohio Iota was officially established on March 19, 1989, and is recognized nationally as the 123rd chapter. It started with a class of 70 initiates, and has grown to 130 active members today on a campus of roughly 8,000 undergraduates.
Getting the chapter started was not easy; Feldhouse told those attending the Saturday night dinner held at the Dayton Country Club. But she said she was determined, encouraged by her father, who founded a Greek chapter – Sigma Tau Gamma – during his own career at Fenn College.
Feldhouse said she and a few friends discovered during the rush period in 1988 that the three sororities offered on campus did not have what they were looking for. She met with the UD Greek Advisor to discuss procedures to start a chapter of a national sorority and was told that it could not be done. National sororities choose where they want to go, not where they are asked. Feldhouse was not dissuaded.
“Let us try,” she recalled saying.
The women contacted 19 sororities through snail mail (no email then) and received remarkable feedback. The women selected five candidates, which sent representatives to UD to pitch their sororities. Afterwards, the UD women voted for Pi Beta Phi by a vast majority.
“A simple idea that sparked within the confinement of a freshman dorm room has now become a home that over 1,000 UD women claim sisterhood in,” Feldhouse said.
Today, the Ohio Iota Chapter of Pi Beta Phi holds the highest overall GPA among Greek organizations on the UD campus, with a cumulative average of 3.48. The sorority has been among the top 10 chapters in the nation many times and boasts high annual recruitment numbers.
Besides the traditional philanthropic events of Arrow Spike and Pi Day, the UD Chapter also has raised awareness on campus of the nation’s illiteracy rate and how students can help. Pi Beta Phi sisters have held Lemonade for Literacy events, during which they pass out lemonade labeled with statistics of illiteracy. They celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday each year on campus to stress the importance of reading to a person’s success.
Every week, the sisters work with children at a Dayton-area middle school, helping students enhance their reading skills. This work is coordinated with Champions are Readers; an enrichment program for third graders designed to improve reading skills and instill a love of reading. The UD sisters also volunteer at various seasonal service projects in the community, working this month at Aullwood Farm’s Apple Fest, Kiser’s Annual Trunk or Treat, and 2nd Street Market.
“We aim to grow our members academically, mentally and personally,” Tunney told the attendees at the chapters celebratory dinner Oct. 25. “Through this growth, we are able to create a deeper meaning to friendship and sisterhood. By living out our values daily, we not only gain but also grow from our experiences.”
Sis Mullis, who has been involved with Pi Beta Phi from the day she pledged in 1962, iterated the importance of living out the values and upholding tradition. She was the co-winner of the 1965 National Amy Burnham Onken Award and has attended every national convention since 1962. She also has attended more chapter installations than anyone living today, including Ohio Iota Chapter’s instillation in 1989.
“Heritage is an accumulation of events, principles, ideals and values,” Mullis said. “It is like a bank to draw upon.”
Through deposits as well as withdrawals from this experience,” she said, “sisters progress and grow. At that point heritage becomes a monument.”
The Ohio Iota Chapter is looking forward to future deposits and continues to strive for the betterment of their community, philanthropy, and sisterhood.
“It’s amazing to see what Pi Phi has done over 25 years,” Tunney said. We cannot wait to celebrate and recognize 25 more years of giving back.”