103 - An Adventurous Leader

By Tori Pough, Upsilon Beta/Rollins

Elizabeth Carmichael Orman, Theta Gamma/Queens, dedicated her life to the education experience. Her professional career included positions at Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, Oklahoma State University, The Ohio State University, and the University of Alabama. Her dedication to furthering educational opportunities for women quickly flowed into her devotion to the principles and ideals of Chi Omega which became a lifetime commitment enabling her to serve the Fraternity as an advisor for 24 years, the installing officer for 14 Chi Omega chapters, S.K.A., National Alumnae Officer, and S.H.

Many recognize her name from the Elizabeth Carmichael Orman Memorial Scholarship, an annual award given to rising senior Sisters, honoring her devotion to education and the Fraternity.

But who was Elizabeth beyond the accolades?

She was born in Knoxville and would go on to be raised in Loudon, Tennessee. She then headed to Queen University and where she was a member of the charter class for Theta Gamma Chapter. In 1928, she earned her B.S. in Home Economics, but she wasn’t done there. In 1937, she earned her M.S. in Psychology and Family Life. In 1945 she moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It was here that she became involved with the Nu Beta Chapter.

An Adventurer

Elizabeth Orman, our 10th National President, traveled the world over but always kept Chi Omega “ever at heart.”  In 1967, years before our Sisterhood had an official Chi Omega Travel Program, she organized an incredible two-month European trip for Chi Omegas that included nine countries and a transatlantic crossing on the Queen Mary!  The highlight of the trip was a visit to Greece and the Parthenon where the stories and secrets of Chi Omega would come to life!

From left, Betty Calvert, Phi Gamma/LSU; Elizabeth Orman, Theta Gamma/Queens, Christelle Ferguson, Psi/Arkansas; Debbie Gibson, Sigma Theta/Sam Houston State, in Athens Greece

A one-of-a-kind adventure, this trip included both collegiate and alumnae members, further illustrating that Sisterhood is for a lifetime. Elizabeth, along with The Eleusis editor, Christelle Fergusson, organized a number of trips to Europe following the initial journey, and in 1976, there were over 15 Chi Omegas traveling together. It was through these trips that Elizabeth’s passion for lifelong travel and her 20 years of experience organizing summer trips for the internationally known Brownell tours came to fruition for Chi Omega.

A Change Agent and Visionary

Elizabeth’s love and devotion to Chi Omega extended far beyond travel.  She was a long-standing Personnel Advisor to Nu Beta Chapter at the University of Alabama, where she also was an esteemed professor of home economics.  She went on to serve on the Governing Council in many capacities – first as National Alumnae Officer 1950-1952, S.K.A. 1952-1956, and again as National Alumnae Officer from 1971 – 1976.  At the 1976 Convention, her decades of Chi Omega leadership led her to be elected as S.H. and she would go on to serve until 1979.

She was a visionary and made sure that Chi Omega was fully immersed in the “new age” of computers back in the 1970s, spearheading the monumental task of transferring the membership rolls to a digital database.  She embraced the challenge and the change – just as she had done when she and Winnie Bowker, her S.H. predecessor, spent over a month clearing out the former Executive Headquarters at the residential home of former S.H. Mary Love Collins and moving it to the new office in Carew Tower in Cincinnati, where Chi Omega’s Executive Headquarters would stay for over 20 years.  Now that was a task in a pre-digital era! 

Elizabeth Orman, left, is shown serving as National Alumnae Officer as she presents her cousin, Anna Keys, with her fifty-year membership pin as a past recipient and her daughter join in the celebration

A Leader

Elizabeth was a woman of great stature in every sense of the word, tall and commanding, yet gentle in her forthright approach.  Her strategic decisions made during her tenure as S.H. from 1976-1979 have benefitted Chi Omega through the years, resulting in the professional and organized operation that supports the Sisterhood today.  

Elizabeth Orman, seated center, with the 1978 Governing Council

Elizabeth joined the Omega Chapter in November of 1979 after an illness. In a 1980 issue of The Eleusis, memorializing her passing, her legacy was described as “Her devotion to the principles and ideals of Chi Omega inspired her to study, work hard, dare to try the uncharted way. She had imagination and a sense of system in all her work. She could clearly see the questions from every direction and reach a conclusion based on her experience and knowledge of Chi Omega. Elizabeth held firm to bur most important traditions and was expedient in bringing about changes for our Fraternity of today. Her business sense enabled Chi Omega to meet these changing decades with a sense of security for Chi Omega’s present and future. “

Elizabeth’s leadership was all-encompassing. She brought so many talents to Chi Omega and as she is often quoted,  “Ours is a proud Fraternity.  Proudly, not boastfully, we recognize the great heritage from which we draw our present strength and prestige. Our Chi Omega heritage is unearned.  It comes to us as a gift from others who have gone before.”

Elizabeth Orman

Elizabeth is one we can thank today as a Sisterhood who has come before us and given us the great heritage of Chi Omega.