109 - Jean Vincenheller

Texas native Jean Vincenheller was born July 16, 1878, in Eastland County (west of Fort Worth) and was unforgettable with her “red hair and violet eyes.” She was just 17 years old at the time of Chi Omega’s Founding and served Psi as the first G.K.A. and the first G.M. She would then go on to serve as G.T.B. and played an instrumental role in establishing Chi Omega’s esoteric traditions.

S.H. Shelley Potter, the only other S.H. to be from Texas, with Flat Founder Jean Vincenheller in Eastland County Texas

Jean’s leadership was strong both in and out of Psi Chapter as she was very active on campus, where she was editor of the college magazine, The Cardinal, and president of the Math and Literacy Society.

Jean Vincenheller

Although originally from Texas, her family lived in Fayetteville, Arkansas, by the time she began her freshman year at the University of Arkansas. Because the university did not offer women’s dormitories at the time and the Vincenheller home was so large, they hosted other women who needed housing in addition to Jean. Ina May Boles was one of those women. The two built a strong bond and quickly became friends.

Early Psi Chapter photo circa 1896 with Jean Vincenheller, back row center, next to Jobelle Holcombe, to her right
Early Psi Chapter photo circa 1898 with Jean, front row third from right, and Jobelle Holcombe, back center

It was here during a Sunday afternoon that Dr. Richardson was approached by Ina May and Jean about Chi Omega. In this time, it was common for men and women to gather in the home of a friend on Sunday afternoons to socialize over snacks and singing. Dr. Richardson frequently visited the Vincenheller boarding house during his Sunday social hours, and it didn’t take long with his track record for starting Greek organizations for the two women to approach him with the idea of starting one of their own.

Dr. Richardson was flattered that the women asked for his help, and he agreed to assist them. The Vincenheller house would become a location for the Founders to meet and discuss the earliest decisions of the Fraternity.

Vincenheller boarding house
Newer photo of the Vincenheller boarding house

Jean served as Chi Omega’s first national president from 1899 to 1900, when the title was G.S.H. instead of S.H. As a member of the first Governing Council, she set the original blueprint for how the Governing Council would run in the years following. While national president, she presided over the first national Convention and Model Initiation (held in Memphis, Tennessee), oversaw the first publication of The Eleusis, and the creation of the coat of arms. Several charters were also planned. Then, at the end of the first Convention in 1900, she accepted the office of S.T.B. on the second Governing Council, 1900–1901, and later held various offices in the Fayetteville Alumnae Chapter.

Jean Vincenheller pictured as the first G.S.H. (S.H.) in the 1899 issue of The Eleusis

At a later Convention in 1906, the delegation had traveled to Washington, D.C. Delegates decided to plant a tree at Mount Vernon in honor of Chi Omega. Under the tree, they buried a time capsule that included a Convention program, a list of the national officers, and at Jean’s suggestion: the original badge made by Dr. Richardson! It wasn’t until the 1920s that an alumna was sent to dig up the capsule and retrieve the coveted original badge.

Jean helped install Phi Alpha Chapter at The George Washington University and was a charter member and first president of the Washington, D.C. Alumnae Chapter. She was finally formally initiated by Psi/Arkansas in 1951. She and Jobelle are the only two Founders to have ever been officially initiated.

Jean and her husband, Frederick Dengler, her Sigma Phi Epsilon sweetheart and career military officer, married in 1902. They had two daughters, Jean and Frances. Jean Dengler pledged at Phi Alpha/George Washington but was initiated at Psi/Arkansas in 1925. Frances Dengler did not go to college, due to her frequent moves, but was a Special Initiate in 1951 at Gamma Delta Chapter/San Diego State.

Because her husband’s military career required moving often, Jean lived in various places during her life including Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, California, and The Philippines

Jean joined the Omega Chapter in 1954 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery with her husband.

Gravesite of Jean Vincenheller and her husband Fredrick Dengler