Each spring, Chi Omega Sisters across the country surprise our more senior Sisters celebrating with special recognition of their 75 years of Chi Omega membership. The Alumnae Connections Team began this project with two goals in mind; honor our 75-year Sisters with connection and recognition and engage local alumnae in intergenerational Sisterhood. Volunteers ranging in age from 20 to 80 visit our honorary Sisters to share stories and present them with a certificate and white carnations.
“This program not only honors our long-time members, but it is meaningful for the women who volunteer to make these visits. It is a great connection point for Sisters of all ages,” says Kay Calloway, Director of Alumnae.
When the program first began in 2014 the team began honoring these 75-year Sisters with a visit and a certificate marking their momentous milestone. In 2015, white carnations were additionally gifted on these visits as a nod to Ritual and a symbol of their lifelong membership in the Fraternity.
“Since then, our scope has grown each year. With Chi Omega membership spiking in the 1940s, we expect that each year we will honor more and more Sisters,” says Marnie Money, Tau Beta/Oklahoma State, who oversees much of the annual project.
The program also provides an opportunity for our Sisters to reflect on the meaning and value of their membership in Chi Omega.
“The initiative is intergenerational. Oftentimes, collegians and alumnae have the chance to volunteer together. It shows our younger Sisters that Chi Omega is truly for a lifetime,” says Missy Pask, S.M.
Stories of our Visits
Several Sisters that have been impacted by their involvement in these visits shared their experiences with us. The stories below each share a common theme, Chi Omega’s dedication to instilling a lifetime of purpose in its members that is cherished for decades beyond their collegiate years.
Cathy Coers Frank, Psi Zeta/Houston, shares…
Of all the Chi Omega volunteer work I’ve done for almost 40 years, outside of being an advisor for Psi Zeta, this has been my other favorite thing to do. For the last few years, our Fraternity has honored its 75-year members with visits, treats, and lots of Chi Omega sorority spirit!
Five members of the Houston Alumnae Association made three visits this spring. We visited three “Slightly Senior Sisters” including Marjorie Knapheide Rice, Mu Gamma/Culver-Stockton College; Elizabeth Van Bradt Meredith, Epsilon Gamma/Tulsa; and Martha Galbraith Dougherty, Psi/Arkansas.
All three women regaled us with stories of attending college during World War II, when supplies and fraternity men were hard to find on campus! They all spoke with a fondness for their Sisters and the many happy times in college. Each woman was able to graduate from college one having a distinguished career in engineering, one in writing, advertising, and library science, and the other Sister serving the Houston, Texas, Chi Omega alumnae association on the recruitment board for many years.
We saw one common thread connecting all three women, besides being Chi Omegas. They’re interested in lifelong learning and are still volunteering… and driving!
Barrie Greis Hart, Lambda Alpha/Kentucky, shares…
I was contacted on behalf of Chi Omega by a delightful alumna, Michelle Guinn Caudill, Gamma Theta/Eastern Kentucky, whose ‘job’ it was to find all the Chi Omegas in Kentucky celebrating 75 years of being a Chi Omega Sister. My mother, Ann Barron Greis, an initiate of 1944, is one of those women! Michelle and Chi Omega were so kind and truly excited to recognize her.
My mother pledged Lambda Alpha at the University of Kentucky in 1943. She often complained that there were so few men at college; They were all off to war! But, she eventually found and married one of those soldiers, Thomas Champe Greis.
She then became a teacher specializing in working with children with special needs and co-authored a book. She moved to the University of Kentucky’s Children’s Hospital as the teacher who hopped from bed to bed, teaching all subjects and grade levels to children who had long-term medical needs.
Through her life, she has loved Chi Omega and her sisters. Following in her footsteps, her sister Emily pledged in 1950, as did I, her daughter, in 1967, and her niece in 1974.
My mother is now 95 and is living with Alzheimer’s. She is not very verbal, but when Michelle met mother I introduced her as a “Chi O,” and mother’s eyes widened. When we talked of Chi Omega with her, mother looked up and spoke a word of recognition, and I could see her mind was filled with many wonderful memories. It was truly an indication of how very important Chi Omega was and is to her.
Michelle Caudill was wonderful with meeting mother, arranging for a presentation at the chapter house, providing a cake for us, cupcakes for all the girls, and presenting a lovely 75-year blanket.
Since my mother was unable to attend the presentation, I corralled my pledge Sisters, life-long friends since 1967, and they came and supported mother. How wonderful our Sisters are!
Ann Comfort, Lambda/Kansas shares…
I had so much fun talking on the phone with Eleanor Dillard, Sigma/Randolph-Macon, as we planned our visit with her. She is intelligent, worldly, and a joy to spend time with. We learned that Eleanor went to Randolph Macon Women’s College in Virginia and majored in Latin, where she was initiated in 1944 during WWII.
She married and had six children with her husband and talked a lot about the fun she had traveling the world with her Chi Omega big Sister!
Our Piedmont Triad, North Carolina, group has delivered certificates for two years in a row now and we hope to make it an annual tradition. It has been fun for us to get to know each other while honoring our 75-year sisters!
Gina Gilomen-Study, Mu Delta/Bradley, and Mindy Vlk, Omicron/Illinois share…
We visited Edith Van Tuyle Phelan, Xi/Northwestern, and her husband, Richard, with a 1920s scrapbook from Xi Chapter. Edie was able to bring this scrapbook, which pre-dated her by 20 years, to life with stories about sorority life, Mary Love Collins, and Northwestern’s Dean of Women, a Chi Omega and Chapter Advisor.
Edie shared that their love story began at Northwestern when she met her husband in front of the Chi O house. Richard even gave us a signed copy of the book he wrote dedicated to the crew of the Lamson, his torpedo boat deployed to the South Pacific, which was hit by a kamikaze. That near-death experience fueled his quick proposal and marriage to Edie! When Richard’s ship came back for repairs, the two married. We loved hearing the stories of how Edie only had a few hours to shop for a wedding dress after finishing her final exams. When she finally found “the dress,” it was a foot too long, but there was no time for alterations before the wedding. She asked the shopkeeper if she had a hoop skirt, she said yes, and Edie was all set!
We have been blessed with wonderful, new friendships and have immeasurable respect for this couple from our nation’s Greatest Generation.
Amanda Kay Seals, Eta Gamma/South Carolina, shares…
I visited Sister Mary Petree Carlton, an initiate of Iota Gamma at Centenary College with my Eta Gamma Sister and dear friend, Kacy Goebel in April 2019.
Sister Carlton remembered her Chi Omega days at Centenary College fondly. She recounted how she had moved frequently as a child because of her father’s work, but she found a home and a network within Chi Omega as a collegian. When it was time to go through recruitment her father, remembering his own college days, told her he would pay for her Chi Omega dues or nothing. No other chapter would suffice.
Among her Sisters at Centenary was her own younger sister and a woman who would become her sister-in-law. She continued to treasure those Chi Omega friendships as an alumna as she moved for her husband’s work. She even met JoBelle Holcombe at an alumnae meeting! Sister Carlton’s apartment was filled with dozens of owls, she wore a custom-made owl ring, and a Chi Omega lavalier pendant for the occasion.
At the end of the visit, we sang Shades to Sister Carlton. Though she was not familiar with the song, all three women had tears in their eyes.
How to Get Involved
An email is sent to all alumnae in late January each year calling for volunteers to visit our 75-year Sisters. Dependent on the number of honorees and their location, volunteers will be contacted on how they can assist. More questions about how you can get involved as an alumna of Chi Omega? Check out opportunities here!