121 - A Lifetime Devoted

Persuasive and powerful when it came to purposefully advancing and growing the Fraternity, Mary Love Collins is remembered for moving Chi Omega to a position that she called “second to none in the fraternal world.” During her 42-year tenure as S.H., she shaped the Chi Omega principles, policies, and practices and provided irreplaceable guidance and leadership to the entire fraternity world. Mary Love’s life was purely devoted to the successes of Chi Omega.

This devotion spanned her entire adult life, as she occupied the office of S.H. from 1910–1952 and was administrative councilor and President Emeritus until joining Omega Chapter in 1972.

Earliest photo of Mary Love Collins in the Chi Omega Archives, circa 1902

Mary Love Collins was born June 3, 1882, in Loveville, Pennsylvania, and attended Conway Hall Preparatory School and Dickinson College. While a student at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Mary Love belonged to Omega Psi, a local organization.

Mary Love Collins pictured front center with her Omega Psi local sorority, 1902

In 1907, after she graduated with her bachelor of arts degree and as a Phi Beta Kappa in 1902, this local sorority became the Delta Chapter of Chi Omega. She was special initiated into Delta Chapter in 1907 and just three years later became S.H. of the Fraternity.

She went on to earn her master of arts degree in 1908, worked as an author, and in 1915 she graduated from University of Kentucky Law College with a bachelor of laws degree. Being a lawyer at a time when few women chose that profession, Mary Love constantly broke the boundaries of what a woman was “supposed” to be and do in the early 1900s.

Mary Love Collins, circa 1902-1912

In 1918, she taught courses at the University of Kentucky and in 1919 and 1920 was an attorney in the solicitor’s office of the United States Bureau of Internal Revenue. She was subsequently awarded a doctor of humanities degree at Dickinson College later in 1952.

In the midst of her academic and professional accomplishments, she was elected as S.H. of Chi Omega in 1910.

In that year’s issue of The Eleusis, the Convention report recorded, “Mrs. Purdue’s successor, Mary Love Collins, we have recognized, in the past two Conventions and on committee work, those talents for leadership so essential and so rare-poise, the ability to work hard, tact, unusual intellectuality, and the art of inspiring confidence in one’s followers. The good wishes of all members of the Fraternity are with her; their confidence, affection, and esteem.”

And with that, began 42 years of Mary Love Collins leading the Fraternity fearlessly into massive growth.

Mary Love Collins (left) with collegians in 1950

Establishing an Executive Headquarters

In a statement from Mary Love Collins she said, “In preparation for efficiency, the Council has, during the past year, experimented with an Executive Office. The object of this office has been to centralize the clerical work of the Fraternity without destroying the individuality of an officer… It is invaluable from the standpoint of the preservation of records. Fifty years from now the Fraternity will be eager to have authentic records of these days.”

In 1916, Mary Love’s plan was put into action as Chi Omega became the first women’s Fraternity to have an executive office in an office building, rather than a home, and only a few men’s fraternities had done the same at this time. The headquarters was established in Lexington, Kentucky, where Mary Love lived.

Eventually, after a couple more moves, Mary Love grew tired of renting space and wanted a prominent, permanent address for Chi Omega. The Executive office was moved to a large Cincinnati home purchased by the Fraternity.

Grandin Road Executive office, 1947-1973

The house was on the banks of the Ohio River in the prestigious Hyde Park section of Cincinnati, Ohio. However, the mailbox for the large, impressive home was located on a small lane with a not-so-impressive name, Weebetook Lane. Mary Love quickly solved that problem when she had the mailbox moved to the corner of the property that touched Grandin Road making it a prominent address in Hyde Park!

National Achievement Award

One of the most distinguished accomplishments of this former S.H.’s time was the National Achievement Award. Chi Omega paid for the design, the presentations, and each medal created between 1931 and 1958. Just as impressive as the award itself, its price was also impressive and is said to be one of the only initiatives during Mary Love’s career that she was willing to spend whatever it took to make happen. A drastic contrast to her preservation of pencil stubs used to write “A History of Chi Omega, Volumes I & II.”

From left, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Chi Omega S.H. Mary Love Collins, and Francis Grimes at the 1936 Convention where the 1935 National Achievement Award was given to Alice Hamilton

The National Achievement Award positioned Chi Omega as a leader in culture, especially in regards to honoring women’s contributions. It allowed for Mary Love to better guide purposeful connections between Sisters and leaders of various fields.

Her Lasting Impacts

Beyond establishing the Executive Headquarters and developing the National Achievement Award, May Love oversaw the Chi Omega’s growth from 24 chapter to 158 chapter during her service as S.H.

Easily recognizable in her tailored suit and tie, it’s said that she didn’t want to “waste time with frivolous things, like fashion,” so it was much easier to have a simple suit made by a local tailor in Cincinnati. This distinct and firm focus on efficiency and effectiveness was carried into every room she entered and every decision she made.

She was also heavily involved in the National Panhellenic Conference, serving as NPC Chairman 1919-1921, chairman of the NPC Research and Public Relations Committee 1945-1970, and attending NPC meetings for decades. May Love was a dedicated leader on many policy changes and operational decisions made within NPC at this time.

Mary Love Collins, center row and fourth from the left, with other National Presidents at a 1913 NPC meeting

The Later Years of Mary Love

After her tenure as S.H., Mary Love moved into the President Emeritus role in 1952. In 1971, a scholarship was begun with gifts to honor the dedication of her life to Chi Omega Fraternity. The Mary Love Collins Memorial Scholarship awards a Sister in graduate school to encourage higher education and furthering one’s academic endeavors.

Mary Love Collins, 1968

She remained a highly influential leader in the Fraternity and throughout the Greek world until her death at the age of 90 in 1972.  Her legacy as a strong and determined leader continues to withstand the tests of time, as hers is the driving force that challenges us to strive for excellence in all areas of Chi Omega.