Gamma Phi Beta History 

Decades

In 1874 at Syracuse University, students and friends Helen M. Dodge, Frances E. Haven, E. Adeline Curtis and Mary A. Bingham decided it was high-time to break gender alienation on their campus. In effort to create a welcoming and supportive environment for collegiate women, they founded Gamma Phi Beta Sorority. The following timeline, organized by decade, dives deep into Gamma Phi Beta's rich and unique history.

1870s

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The Founding of Gamma Phi Beta

More than 50 years had passed since the founding of Gamma Phi Beta when one of its Founders, Frances Elizabeth Haven, wrote to her friend and Sorority sister Nina Gresham (Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1913) on February 19, 1930, recalling those days. 

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The Path to Education

Until the mid-1800s, most girls attended school only when and if her family could afford for her to take time away from her household chores. 

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Syracuse University

Syracuse University was founded as a co-educational institution in 1870. Centrally located in the Onondaga Valley, an area rich in Native American history, Syracuse, New York, had become a large and thriving city with a population of approximately 60,000 by the mid 1800s. 

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Helen Mary Dodge

The students at Syracuse University, men and women alike, boarded in various homes throughout the city. Three of the 19 women who enrolled for the fall term of 1872, boarded in the home of C. W. Howe at 41 Irving Street in Syracuse, among them a young lady named Helen Dodge.

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Frances Elizabeth Haven

Another of Gamma Phi Beta’s Founders, Frances Elizabeth Haven, had a very similar experience to that of Helen Dodge.

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Mary Alice Bingham

Mary Alice Bingham, or “Minnie” as her friends knew her, was born on August 30, 1856, in Watertown, New York. 

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Eunice Adeline Curtis

Eunice Adeline Curtis was born on December 22, 1854, in Moravia, New York, the daughter of the Reverend E. C. Curtis and Susan D. Curtis.

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A Serious Minded Group Of Girls

They were, as Frances said, “a serious minded group of girls,” each of whom appreciated the rarity and value of the opportunity they’d been given for scholastic achievement.

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1874: The First Meeting

They met informally on November 11, 1874 – Helen Dodge, a junior; Frances Haven, a sophomore; Minnie Bingham and Adeline Curtis, both freshmen – and it was then they decided to organize as a “College Literary Society.” 

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1874: The Name Gamma Phi Beta

In 1874, Syracuse University was home to four male and one female fraternity, Alpha Phi.

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Founded On A Rock

Aware of society’s fears regarding the impact of education upon women, the Founders were eager to prove that a young woman could coexist in a man’s world while retaining her dignity and fine manner. 

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Syracuse Triad

Alpha Phi and Gamma Phi Beta shared the common bond of being founded at Syracuse University. 

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1874: The First Meetings

The earliest meetings were held on Friday afternoons and illness was the only accepted excuse for absence. 

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1874: Creation Of The Badge

Their organization solidified, the ladies went about the business of establishing the more public symbols of their alliance. 

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1875: The First Initiate

Clara Worden, Gamma Phi Beta’s first initiate after the Founders, Bud vase given to Clarawas initiated March 19, 1875, and proudly recalled that she was chosen to be “Critic” at her first meeting. 

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1875: New Members

By the fall of 1875, Flora Crane had been initiated. 

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1875: The Colors

The ladies selected another outward symbol of their friendship – Gamma Phi Beta’s colors. 

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1875: First Anniversary

Gamma Phi Beta celebrated its first anniversary on November 11, 1875, holding their usual meeting in Professor Brown’s room, followed by a more festive celebration. 

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1875: The Blessing

“The Blessing,” written by Charles Moss, also appeared in 1875 and though never formally adopted as the Sorority’s official prayer, it has been so universally used at gatherings that it may as well have been. 

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1876: The Seal

The minutes of a meeting held November 19, 1875, indicate that a committee was established to create a seal. 

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Early Meetings

In the June 1908 issue of The Crescent, Adeline was the source for an article on the Sorority’s earliest days. 

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1876-1878: The Founders Graduate

In June of 1876, Helen Dodge became the first of the Founders to receive her undergraduate degree. 

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The Aristocrat, The Friend, The Scholar, The Artist

As Gamma Phi Beta was expanding and maturing, the four Founders were busy building their domestic lives.

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1880s

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The 1880s

During the 1880s – later characterized as being a high point of the Second Industrial Revolution and the Gilded Age – Americans experienced exceptional industrial development and economic growth.

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1880: Legitimizing Alpha

Gamma Phi Beta received its charter of incorporation under the laws of New York State with the help of Colonel Chamberlain, the father of Julia Chamberlain Alley (Syracuse, 1881).

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1882: A Time For Expansion

At the beginning of 1882, Alpha Chapter had 59 collegiate and alumnae members, many of whom felt it was time for expansion.

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1882: The First "Sorority"

When the two delegates from Alpha returned to Syracuse, Jessie Decker (Syracuse, 1878) hosted a party to announce and celebrate Beta’s Installation.

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1883: The First Convention

Now that there was more than one chapter, the first true Convention was held in Syracuse on November 8-9, 1883.

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Early Conventions

As provided by the constitutional revisions, the second Convention was held at Beta Chapter in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on November 15, 1884.

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1887: Ties To Northwestern

In 1887, Epsilon Chapter (Northwestern) was installed as Gamma Phi Beta’s fifth collegiate chapter. 

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1888: The Carnation

The practice of marking special occasions with gifts of flowers most likely began when Helen Dodge was gifted with a basket of flowers upon her graduation.

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1890s

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The 1890s

The economic success of the Gilded Age came to a swift end with the Panic of 1893 when a series of bank failures led to the worst economic depression the United States had experienced.

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1890: Renumbering The Conventions

History buffs delving into Gamma Phi Beta’s own annals will find themselves confused over the numbering of the Sorority’s Conventions. 

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1891: A Panhellenic Affair

In 1890 there were seven national sororities on campuses across the country, each with several chapters.

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1892: Organizing Alumnae Chapters

Eighteen years had passed since Gamma Phi Beta was founded and the growing numbers of alumnae were eager for an avenue for maintaining their connections with the Sorority.

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1893: Establishing An Executive Board And The Gamma Phi Beta Directory

Later the same year, the Gamma Phi Beta Convention addressed an issue that had risen to prominence as the Sorority grew both in size and sophistication — its governance. 

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1896: The Seal

In 1896, the Gamma Phi Beta seal was officially adopted.

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The First Advisors

Gamma Phi Beta’s earliest advisors were primarily men who were more acquainted with the nature of fraternal organizations. As time went on, however, Gamma Phi Betas began seeking the counsel and advice of other women.

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1900s

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The 1900s

“We stand upon the threshold of the 20th Century facing a still brighter dawn of civilization,” said New York Times.

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1900: The Crescent

Gamma Phi Beta held its first Convention in 1883. It was decided then that each chapter should periodically write a letter to each of the other chapters as a way of keeping each other apprised of their news and activities between Conventions.

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1902: New Member Pin

When the Founders invited new members, they were given ribbons of two shades of brown tied into a small bow. This tradition continued for two decades until the Convention of 1898 when a pin, a small gold crescent with an Arabic inscription of the number four, was proposed and rejected because of concerns over the cost.

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1904: Gamma Chapter Acquires A House

In 1904, Gamma Chapter (Wisconsin-Madison) took steps to become the first chapter to own its house. 

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1906: An Earthquake In California

On April 18, 1906, Northern California experienced one of the worst earthquakes in history. 

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1907: Convention – The Founders Reunited

The 1907 Convention, held in Syracuse on November 12-15, was a joyous one for everyone who attended. Though Frances wrote later that she was recovering from a serious illness and “almost broken hearted over the death of my oldest son,” she attended at her family’s urging. All four of Gamma Phi Beta’s Founders were there, the first time they had been together at a function for many years.

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1908: The National Panhellenic Conference

Undaunted by the rejection of their 1902 recommendations, the Intersorority Conference continued meeting annually. Gamma Phi Beta President Lillian Thompson (Michigan, 1892) was their first delegate to the Conference.

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1908: The Peanut And Olive Tradition

The June 1908 edition of The Crescent included an article entitled, “A Brief Record of the Beginnings from Alpha,” that cleared up, once and for all, the mystery surrounding the origins of Gamma Phi Beta’s extraordinarily unique tradition regarding the serving of peanuts and olives.

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1909: Biennial Conventions

When the 27th Convention was held in Berkeley, California, in November 1909, 75 members were present at the banquet. There were now eight alumnae chapters in existence but the Sorority’s expansion policy remained very conservative.

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1910s

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The 1910s

The attempts at progress that characterized the turn of the century continued through the 1910s.

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1910: Lindsey Barbee

Over the years, a number of women have given their time and talents to the management of The Crescent. None, however, served it as long as did Lindsey Barbee (Denver, 1897) who was appointed editor by then President Mabel Stone (Syracuse, 1893) in 1910, a position she held until 1938. 

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1912: The Changing Status Of Women

The role of women changed dramatically during the 1910s. The Progressive Movement, which took root in the 1890s, was gaining momentum.

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1913: A White House Wedding

On November 25, 1913, Gamma Phi Beta went to the White House when Jessie Wilson (Goucher, 1905), daughter of President Woodrow Wilson, was married to Francis Sayre.

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1913: Omicron Chapter, Founded By A Founder

After the death of one of her sons, Frances E. Haven found herself quite upset and needing a way to alleviate her sadness. Her husband Charles Moss suggested that Frances attempt to open a Gamma Phi Beta chapter at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 1913, Omicron Chapter was installed and is the only chapter to be founded by a Founder.

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1914-18: Gamma Phi Betas In World War I

Immediately after war was declared, Gamma Phi Beta collegians and alumnae volunteered with the Red Cross folding bandages, sewing and knitting. 

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1915: Grand Council And The Endowment Fund

The 1915 Convention, held August 25-28 at Asilomar, California, and hosted by Mu Chapter (Stanford) in Palo Alto, was the first to be held away from a college environment.

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1915: The Crest

A contest was put into motion for the 1915 Convention to select a crest for Gamma Phi Beta.

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1916: The First Loss Of A Founder

Mary Alice Bingham Willoughby, the youngest of the four Founders, was the first to pass away. She died on January 14, 1916, at her home at 34 ½ Grant St. in Utica, New York, after only a one-week illness with grippe (the 1916 term for influenza) and pneumonia.

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1916-18: The Gamma Phi Beta Belgian Relief Committee

But American soldiers weren’t the only ones who needed help. German-occupied Belgium and northern France found their food supplies requisitioned to feed the German army. Many faced imminent starvation. Shortly after the U.S. entered the war, Gamma Phi Beta’s Grand Council adopted a French orphan, Louise Miroux, and several collegiate chapters followed suit. However, an even larger effort was about to be launched.

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1917: Clarifying Convention Confusion

Zeta Chapter (Goucher) and Baltimore Alumnae Chapter were to host the 1917 Convention at the Stafford Hotel in Baltimore and they selected the last week in March, citing Baltimore’s summer heat and the convenience of the Easter vacation for travel. It proved to be an auspicious decision.

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1919: Stirrings Of A Central Office

The Convention of 1919 was held at the Hotel Stanley in Estes Park, Colorado, and 200 Gamma Phis attended. Theta Chapter put on a vaudeville show and treated the girls to horseback rides during the day and a “steak fry” one evening under the pine trees.

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1919: Women's Sufrage

The Women’s Suffrage Movement, started in the mid-1800s, finally saw its work come to fruition. Though several versions of suffrage legislation were brought before Congress beginning in 1915, they were all defeated. Many Gamma Phi Betas were involved, the most visible among them Alice Carpenter (Barnard, 1901).

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1919: An International Sorority

Gamma Phi Beta became an international sorority with the installation of their first Canadian chapter, Alpha Alpha, at the University of Toronto on October 30, 1919. 

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1920s

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The 1920s

On August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment was finally ratified and women earned the right to vote.

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1921: The Story of Gamma Phi Beta

Gamma Phi Beta’s 33rd Convention, hosted by Lambda Chapter (University of Washington) and Seattle Alumnae Chapter, was held at Lake Crescent in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains. The delegates convened on August 28, 1921. 

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1924: Fiftieth Anniversary

Without struggle, the Gamma Phis did, indeed, pay homage to the remaining Founders at the 34th Convention the following year, postponed until 1924 to coincide with the Sorority’s 50th anniversary.

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1924: The First Endowment Fund

There was, of course, some business conducted at the 1924 Convention, including the approval of a National Endowment Board. “In 1919,” Lindsey Barbee (Denver, 1897) wrote, “the Endowment Fund was a sum of eight hundred dollars and it became the obsession of the Council to raise it to fifty thousand by 1924, the fiftieth anniversary of Gamma Phi’s founding.”

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1924: The Province System

The Lake Placid Convention also saw the approval of Margaret Meany Younger’s (University of Washington, 1910) plan to divide the Sorority into Provinces, each with a supervisor for the chapters within a given district. The goal was to provide better supervision and unification of the chapters within each Province.

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1925: Gamma Phi Beta’s First Camp

Bolstered by the enthusiastic response she witnessed during the 1921 Convention, Kittie Lee Clarke (Denver, 1908) led Denver alumnae in organizing a summer camp for underprivileged children in the mountains west of Denver. 

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1927: “Our Hearts Swell Up Almost To Burst”

While we tend to picture the earliest members in their bustled dresses and corseted waistlines, physical training was required for every undergraduate student at Syracuse on the premise that robust health was a necessary ingredient to scholarly achievement.

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1927: A Baltimore Office

Three years had passed since the plan for a central office was approved and still no one had been found in the Chicago area qualified to act as office executive. 

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1928: Panhellenic House

On October 1, 1928, Panhellenic House, later called Beekman Tower, in New York City officially opened its doors and more than 800 visitors attended a reception where they danced, enjoyed refreshments and admired gilded floral reliefs on bright blue over the doorways and the pale blue marble in the vestibule.

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1929: Finalizing A Central Office

Finally, Lillian Thompson’s (Michigan, 1892) dream was realized when the Convention body voted to create a new permanent home for the Sorority’s Central Office in the Pittsfield Building in downtown Chicago. 

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1929: Adopting An International Project

For each of Gamma Phi Beta’s Founders, their faith was an integral part of their lives and they believed that service to their fellow man was, in essence, service to God. Early on, the Sorority’s charitable efforts were largely a matter of personal commitment.

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1930s

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The 1930s

The Roaring Twenties ended abruptly with news of the stock market crash on October 29, 1929. That chaotic and desolate day – now known as Black Tuesday – marked the beginning of the Great Depression, a worldwide economic crisis that lasted into the mid-1940s.

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1930: The Great Depression

Though the relatively prosperous families of Gamma Phi Beta members were far removed from the travesties of bread lines and soup kitchens, few Americans remained untouched by the Depression.

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1931: The First Pledge Manual

Convention delegates and visitors assembled at Birchmont Beach Hotel in Bemidji, Minnesota, in June 1931 for Gamma Phi Beta’s 37th Convention. Two hundred and seventy-five women, fewer than usual for a Convention, gathered in this wilderness setting near the Canadian border. The $5-a-day hotel rate included meals, boating and tennis.

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Making Due...

While alumnae chapters and mother’s clubs were busy with benefits and rummage sales to add a few dollars to the treasury, lack of money did not seem to worry the collegians. The chapter letters from the period do, however, reflect a social calendar filled with simpler, less formal events.

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...And Flourishing!

In a gesture of economy, the Grand Council postponed the 1933 Convention. Alpha Phi Chapter (Colorado College), installed in 1932, hosted the 38th Convention held in June 1934 at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs.

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1935: Greek Organizations Under Fire

Greek organizations across the board once again came under fire during the trying years of the Great Depression. The New York Times published a series of articles criticizing fraternities and predicting the demise of the Greek system. 

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1937: Frances E. Haven And Omicron Chapter (Illinois At Urbana-Champaign)

The two surviving founders of Gamma Phi Beta, Frances Haven Moss and Helen Dodge Ferguson, passed away within months of each other in 1937. 

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1937: Frances' Art And Faith

Throughout her life, Frances’ faith was an integral part of her life and in 1918, as America faced the challenges of World War I, she wrote to the ladies of Omicron Chapter (Illinois at Urbana-Champaign): “There still remains a phase of your development most essential of all and that is the spiritual….I do not see how any woman in this critical time dares assume the responsibilities of life unassisted by divine power. It is yours for the asking. It will help you to be brave in time of trial….”

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1937: Remembering Frances

Frances died at her home on South Mathews Avenue in Urbana, Illinois, on June 16, 1937, at age 83 following a long illness due to heart trouble.

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1937: The Last Founder

Interestingly enough, the Founders of Gamma Phi Beta died in reverse order of their birth and on October 21, 1937, the eldest of the four, Helen Dodge Ferguson, passed away.

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1939: A New Look For The Crescent

Airdrie Kincaid Pinkerton (University of Washington, 1912) became editor of The Crescent in 1938 and gave the magazine a whole new look in February 1939. The pages were enlarged and the familiar brown cover was changed to shades of cream and brown.

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1939: Featured In Life Magazine

The December 11, 1939, issue of LIFE Magazine featured members of Sigma Chapter (Kansas).The pictorial, entitled “Kansas Girls: Life is Fun for Them at State University,” followed the day-to-day activities of sorority members on campus. 

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1940s

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The 1940s

On the morning of December 7, 1941, Americans were shaken by the attack on Pearl Harbor, initiating the United States’ involvement in World War II. 

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1940: Preparing For War

The 1940 Convention, the Sorority’s 41st, was held in the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., June 22-26, 1940. .

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1940: Blitz Balls

There were many avenues for contributing to the Great War effort but the women of Gamma Phi Beta made it their mission to help provide medical and rehabilitative care for the wounded soldiers. 

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1941: The Attack On Pearl Harbor

Throughout 1941, war with Japan was becoming imminent and on December 7, 1941, their invasion of Pearl Harbor made it a certainty. President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke to the largest audience in radio history the next day, describing the horrors of the attack as “a date that will live in infamy.” 

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1942: Leadership Training And The Traveling Secretary

Beginning in 1942, Leadership Training Schools, forerunner to the current REAL Leadership Institute (RLI), were held biennially during off-Convention years for alumnae advisors and volunteers. 

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1943: Hardships For Camperships

Between 1929 and 1934, Gamma Phi Beta’s camps were financed through a Camp Fund that consisted of an annual tax of $1 from every active member. 

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1944: Bonds Buy Mercy

Individual chapters did their part for the war just as they had during the First World War, but in 1944, Gamma Phi Beta launched a campaign the results of which were nothing less than spectacular.

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1945: Marguerite Higgins

One of the more amazing stories of Gamma Phi Beta involvement in World War II is that of Marguerite Higgins Hall (California-Berkeley, 1938), who won a Pulitzer Prize for her brilliant reporting on the European and Pacific war fronts. 

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1947: Opening New Camps

After the war, the Denver area camp was reopened in 1947. Two new campsites were purchased after the war: one in Colorado and the other in Sechelt, British Columbia. 

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1948: The Creed And Core Values

The 42nd Convention assembled June 22-27, 1946, at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, where the main topic of business was the post-war revival of expansion efforts. 

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The 1950s

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The 1950s

During the 1950s, Americans enjoyed a period of post-war peace and prosperity that sent young adults flocking to the suburbs and witnessed women enrolling in universities in unprecedented numbers. 

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1950: The 44th Convention – A Railroad Strike

The 44th Convention was to be held at the Colorado Hotel in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, in June 1950. Situated at the confluence of the Colorado River and the Roaring Fork River, Glenwood Springs is surrounded by steep inclines, making air travel a risky undertaking.

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1950: The Pink Carnation

Several noteworthy actions were taken at Convention 1950. One ruled that housemothers could not be initiated into the Sorority while under its employment; another added a new officer, Chairman of Expansion, to the Grand Council. And finally, the declaration of the pink carnation was officially entered into the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws.

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1950: The Loss Of Two Important Sisters

Within the coming year, Gamma Phi Beta lost two of its most devoted and hard-working members. Within two weeks of the Convention, Lillian Thompson (Michigan, 1892) died on July 2, 1950, and Lindsey Barbee (Denver, 1897) passed away the following April 8.

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1952: 45th Convention – New Awards

The 45th Convention exchanged Colorado’s scenic mountains for the warm ocean breezes of San Diego and delegates convened at the Hotel del Coronado on June 23, 1952.

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1954: The 46th Convention

For the first time in 27 years, the 46th Convention met again at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, held July 1-7, 1954. Under the leadership of Grace Merrill (Northwestern, 1917) of Chicago, the newly created Philanthropy Board had been very successful and she reported that more than $38,000 had been contributed by the chapters in one year to local organizations focusing on child welfare, the camp program and various scholarships.

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1955: Beatrice Locke Hogan

Societies that had a member on the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) Executive Committee were allowed another delegate and thus Beatrice Locke Hogan (Oregon, 1912) entered the NPC as a special delegate in 1951 and then served as secretary in 1953. 

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1956: The 47th Convention – 50-Year Pins

The Greenbrier Hotel, where Beatrice Locke Hogan (Oregon, 1912) was named National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) chairman, was also the site of Gamma Phi Beta’s 47th Convention held July 2-7, 1956. It was the first at which a professional parliamentarian was present at all sessions. A Golden Crescent Award pin was authorized as an appropriate symbol for those members initiated for 50 or more years. Two committees were organized: one to study the financial structure of the Sorority and another to study the relocation of the Central Office outside the Chicago metropolitan area.

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1958: International Council Badges

Delegates to the 48th Convention held at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia, during June 1958 authorized the creation of badges for members of the Grand Council.

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1958: The Gamma Phi Beta Foundation

Legislation enacted at Victoria at the 48th Convention established an important new fund, the Gamma Phi Beta Foundation, “a trust organized solely for the promotion and encouragement of educational and charitable purposes.” 

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1959: A European Tour

Gamma Phi Betas capped off the 1950s with their first European tour. On July 19, 1959, 39 collegiate members from 21 chapters, along with seven alumnae and 15 guests, boarded a ship in Quebec and headed for Southampton, England. 

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The 1960s

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The 1960s

During the turbulent decade known simply as “The Sixties,” America underwent societal changes like no other time in the nation’s history. The decade started when America’s youngest elected president and its first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, challenged everyone to ask “what they could do for their country,” pledged to put a man on the moon within the decade, and put his name to a nationwide fitness program for American school children. Though heart-wrenching tragedy lay ahead, JFK and First Lady Jackie became the most elegant couple to ever reside in the White House.

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1961: Growth In The Face Of Adversity

Though criticism was nothing new to members of the Greek system, the turbulent Sixties was the beginning of anti-Greek sentiment that heralded brand new challenges for the coming years. For the time being, however, things were booming. A National Panhellenic Conference statistical report of June 1961 enumerated 2,008 college chapters, 4,787 alumnae chapters and a total membership that topped one million at 1,024,600 women. On top of the growth they experienced in the 1950s, Gamma Phi Beta added another 23 chapters between 1960 and 1969.

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1965: A New Look For The Crest

In the spring of 1965, Gamma Phi Beta’s crest or coat-of-arms took on a new look.

 

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1965: Member Education Materials

Two new books, the result of years of dedicated research, made their debut in 1965.

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1965: The 39th NPC Meeting

Colonial Williamsburg was the setting for the 39th meeting of the National Panhellenic Conference in October 1965. Against this historical background, delegates grappled with the challenges they faced from radical student activist organizations.

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1966: The 52nd Convention – The Grand Presidents' Badge

Gamma Phi Beta’s 52nd Convention was held in the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, June 19-24, 1966. Eighty-two Greek-letter chapters and 78 alumnae chapters were represented with a total attendance of more than 400.

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1968: Ideally Speaking

In 1968, “Ideally Speaking,” a standards book researched, written and edited by Ritajean Hartung Butterworth (University of Washington), was added to the pledge education program in 1968. An incredibly comprehensive guideline for young women, the book covered topics that ranged from the proper treatment of housemothers to the personal merits of productive citizenship. 

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1968: The 53rd Convention – Two Special Guests

More than 500 Gamma Phi Betas attended the 53rd International Convention at the Huntington-Sheraton Hotel in Pasadena, California, held June 23-29, 1968. Cloris Leachman (Northwestern) and Hope Summers (Northwestern, 1920) were special guests at the poolside Fiesta Banquet one evening. 

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1969: Touring Russia

The seventh Gamma Phi Beta European Tour, again directed by Helen Berg Kline (Oklahoma, 1918), was taken in June 1969. Even as the Cold War continued between our two countries, Russia was included in the itinerary for the first time.

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1969: Closing The Indian Hills Camp

In recent years, the Indian Hills, Colorado, camp had been plagued with an ever-decreasing water supply and by 1965 was in need of some rather costly capital improvements. The camp was closed and Gamma Phi Beta began leasing the Jefferson County Lab School site to continue the camp sessions.

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The 1970s

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The 1970s

The 1970s were a turning-point in American culture. Dubbed “The ‘Me’ Decade” in an influential essay by Tom Wolfe in The New York Times, young adults who were raised during the prosperity of post-war America began to stray from the sense of community and toward individualism. “The Seventies” hosted an abundance of historical highs and lows: the Ohio National Guard opened fire on protesters at Kent State University, President Richard Nixon resigned from office following the Watergate scandal, American troops left Vietnam, the miniseries “Roots” aired and earned 36 Emmy Award nominations. Abroad, Margaret Thatcher was elected as the first – and only, to date – female British Prime Minister.

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1970: "Challenge of Change"

The late 1960s and early 1970s were a challenging time for sororities, as the Greek way of life remained a target of misguided criticism. 

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1971: The TranSISter Program

Over the next few years, the primary business of the Sorority was securing its future. In July 1971, Gamma Phi Beta engaged the services of Jacqueline Thunfors (Syracuse), a public relations consultant. She was given the task of designing programs through which Gamma Phi Beta could better serve members in every age group and ensure the Sorority’s relevance throughout members’ lives. Through Ms. Tomassi’s expertise, the Bed and Breakfast Plan, the Housing Exchange and the Clipping Service were all organized. Most notable, however, was the TranSISter Program, which took its name from the popular portable transistor radios of the day. 

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1971: Chapter Development

A new guide for pledges, “A Lifetime Experience Begins Here,” written by Barbara Burns Hiscock (University of Washington, 1939), was published in 1971.

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1972: The 55th Convention – Future Soundings

The 55th International Convention held at the Radisson South Hotel in Minneapolis during June 1972 had a nautical theme, “Future Soundings,” and among other business, created a plan to aid the formation of new alumnae chapters.
 

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1973: The Graduate Counselor Program

Collegiate chapters received some help through the Graduate Counselor Program, established in 1973. If a chapter was in need of guidance, a young alumnae accepted into that school’s graduate program received assistance with tuition, housing and books. Having received the same intensive training as the Collegiate Leadership Consultants (CLCs) in leadership techniques and the “how-to’s” of chapter administration, the graduate student lived with the chapter for the entire school year, assisting members in every facet of chapter life while she furthered her education.

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1974: A Century Of Sisterhood

In 1974, Gamma Phi Betas gathered at various times to mark a century of sisterhood. Plans for the Centennial celebration were begun as early as 1964 when the production of a centennial film was authorized to depict the Sorority’s history. Funds for the production were raised through the sale of a Centennial charm and seals bearing the same design.

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1974: The 56th Convention – Celebrating 100 Years

The Centennial Convention, the Sorority’s 56th, was held June 14-17, 1974, at the new Crown Center Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri. More than had ever gathered before, there were 800 full-time registrants, and more than 1,000 took part in some of the events or stopped in to greet old friends.

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1974: The Foundation Logo

When the Centennial Campaign was established in 1974 to raise funds for the Foundation, the Foundation logo was created. The design was a gift from Rowley, Kahler Associates, a design and marketing firm in Denver. The design features a heart, divided in half, the right side of the heart created by the profile of a young woman. The point at which the two halves meet in the center forms the outline of an unborn child, expressing the central themes of love and life.

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1974: Personal And Chapter Enrichment

Gamma Phi Beta’s chief objective to develop the highest type of womanhood through education, social enrichment, ritual, personal growth and service to country and humanity served them well throughout the challenging 1970s. Chapter Development, later renamed PACE for Personal and Chapter Enrichment, was introduced to provide advanced chapter programming for both collegians and alumnae in areas that went beyond the classroom curriculum.

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1974 : The Success Of The Centennial Giving Appeal

The success of the Centennial giving appeal provided momentum for the next 10 years, so that during this period, assets of the Foundation increased from $100,000 to $400,000.

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1976: The 57th Convention – From Sea To Shining Sea

Approximately 450 delegates attended the 57th Gamma Phi Beta Convention held June 20-24,1976, at the Olympic Hotel in Seattle, Washington. “From Sea to Shining Sea” was the theme. 

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1979: A New Home For International Headquarters

Previous decades of growth meant the need for increased storage space for supplies and new equipment to handle the growing volume of work and mail. Between the Sorority and the Foundation, 20,000 pieces of mail were sent out from the Central Office each year and in coming years it would increase as the “Crescent Communique,” the Magazine Agency and the merchandising program were all delegated to the Central Office.

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The 1980s

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The 1980s

The turmoil that characterized the late 1960s and early 1970s was finally dying down. President Ronald Reagan’s election portended a return to more traditional values and First Lady Nancy Reagan launched her “Just Say No” campaign against drug abuse. Women were playing an increasingly larger role in the workplace and the term “Ms.” was created to ward off speculation or concern over a woman’s marital status. The Hippies’ tie-dyed t-shirts were traded in for the exaggerated shoulder pads, leg warmers and big hair that became the trademark of the decade.

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1980: A Decade For Expansion

American campuses began returning to traditional social and extracurricular activities as colleges and universities realized that their most loyal alumni were members of fraternities and sororities. Between 1982 and 1984, 30 schools approached Gamma Phi Beta expressing interest in expanding their Greek systems.

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1982: Developing PACE

In 1982, Chapter Development was replaced by Personal and Chapter Enrichment (PACE) to provide chapter programming, public relations, problem-solving skills and education beyond the classroom for both collegians and alumnae.

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1985: Grand Council and the Foundation Meet

In July 1985, Sorority and Foundation leaders met jointly for the first time. The purpose of the meeting was to clarify their various roles and functions in order to avoid duplicating and overlapping their efforts. In addition, a report prepared by past International President and Foundation board member Karen Wander Kline (Iowa State) was reviewed on the feasibility of purchasing a permanent International Headquarters for the Sorority.

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1986: Honoring Alumnae Chapters

From the beginning, the women of Gamma Phi Beta intended for their sorority experience to extend far beyond their college years. In a letter to Magdalena Birch (Wisconsin-Madison, 1906) in 1932, Founder Frances Haven Moss wrote, “I think it is very true we get out of a thing what we put in and I believe one strong reason why Gamma Phi Beta has kept its high standing and cherished its high ideals is because the alumnae have been so loyal and helpful in every way to the actives [collegians].”

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The 1990s

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The 1990s

The style of the decade shifted from big hair and acid wash jeans to flannel and Dr. Martens as “grunge” became popular in the 1990s, while other Americans sported “the Rachel” – a haircut made famous by Jennifer Aniston on the hit television show “Friends.” The Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC and Britney Spears topped the charts and were sharply countered by the also popular “punk pop” work of Blink-182, Green Day, Social Distortion and the like. “Titanic,” “Jurassic Park,” “The Lion King” and “Forrest Gump” were among the highest grossing films of the decade and video gaming systems like PlayStation and Nintendo became commonplace in homes across the continent.

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1990: A Permanent Home For Headquarters

Gamma Phi Beta celebrated its 64th Convention at the Hyatt Regency Tech Center in Denver, Colorado, held July 24-28, 1990. At this Convention the Gamma Phi Beta Loyalty Award was established to honor members who, for at least seven years previous, offered outstanding service on the international level, as well as financial support to either the Sorority or the Foundation. Fifteen women were honored with the Loyalty Award when first bestowed in 1991. The highlight of the Convention, however, was the groundbreaking ceremony for the new International Headquarters in Centennial, Colorado, where small brick favors were given in the project’s honor.

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1992: 12737 East Euclid Drive

On April 26, 1992, International President Jolene ‘Joey’ Lessard Stiver (North Dakota State), served as Mistress of Ceremonies for the dedication of the new International Headquarters at 12737 East Euclid Drive in Centennial, Colorado. A Dedication Service prepared by former Grand President Audrey Weldon Shafer (Missouri-Columbia, 1938) followed a ribbon-cutting and the unveiling of a monument erected to honor the donors. Ann Mullen Bronsing (Indiana State), also a former Grand President, gave an address, as did the endowment-loan board chair, the Denver Alumnae Chapter president and the Theta Chapter (Denver) president. Those in attendance were treated to a guided tour and a video presentation by Ryden Associates chronicling the construction of the International Headquarters.

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1992: The 65th Convention – Structure Revision

When delegates gathered at the Adams Mark Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri, for their 65th Convention during July 1992, they reviewed and approved a substantial revision in the officer structure of Greek-letter chapters. Based on recommendations from a consultant on administrative structures, the chapters were now divided into seven departments, each chaired by an officer of the executive council.

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1997: Updating The Circle Of Excellence

In 1997, a new dimension of the Circle of Excellence was added with the introduction of the Founders Circle of Excellence. To be included, alumnae chapters must have attained the Circle of Excellence for the previous five consecutive years. In those years, chapters must have attained either the Pearl or Diamond Level and in at least three of those five years, they must have attained the Diamond Level.

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1999: The 125th Anniversary

Though Gamma Phi Beta’s 125th Anniversary fell in 1999, a non-Convention year, the celebrations were no less grand. In November 1999, sisters gathered in New York City from across the continent for a dinner and theatre production. The next day, those hearty enough to venture out in the early morning hours arrived outside NBC’s studios in Rockefeller Center holding a Gamma Phi Beta anniversary banner for the benefit of all viewers of the “Today Show.” They then traveled to Syracuse for a Founders Day luncheon and ritual, as well as tours of the Alpha Chapter (Syracuse) house and the Syracuse University campus where four young women planted the seeds of sisterhood 125 years before.

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The 2000s

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The 2000s

It’s very unlikely that the young women who met in Dr. Brown’s rooms just 10 years after the close of the Civil War gave any thought at all to what the state of their “society” might be in the year 2000. As it approached, the world grappled with the Y2K problem – also known as the Millennium Bug – that threatened to degrade computer systems around the world. As it turned out, the year 2000 arrived and the Y2K bug turned out to be much ado about nothing.

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2000: A New Strategic Plan And Order Of The Crescent

Gamma Phi Beta opened its doors to the new millennium by rolling out a new strategic plan. Developed over the course of several years, its primary goals were to raise the Sorority’s public and private profile, strengthen its infrastructure and continue developing programs that empower women.

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2002: The 70th Convention – A New Philanthropic Mission

More than 700 Gamma Phi Beta sisters convened in Washington, D.C., for the Sorority’s 70th Convention held June 26-29, 2002, at the splendid Crystal Gateway Marriot. Still feeling the emotional aftereffects of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, Gamma Phis chose the theme, “History in the Making,” and were moved by the presentation of a flag, flown over the capitol in honor of Gamma Phi Beta just that day, and hand-delivered by an Eagle Scout.

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2002: Camp Fire

Gamma Phi Beta had been focusing its philanthropic efforts on camping since 1929 as a way to bolster underprivileged girls. Now, the task force was looking for a way to continue its focus on camping by finding an organization that offered opportunities for involvement at the local level. Camp Fire USA – today known simply as Camp Fire – originally organized in 1910 as Campfire Girls of America, a sister organization to Boy Scouts of America, fit the bill perfectly.

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2002: Annual Report

The Sorority’s Annual Report, appearing in the fall 2002 edition of The Crescent, opened with a slogan that underscored Gamma Phi Beta’s surge toward excellence in recent years...

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2002: Sisterhood Plaza

On October 26, 2002, the plaza at the entrance to the International Headquarters, nicknamed Sisterhood Plaza, was dedicated. 

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2003: A New Website

In keeping with the strategic plan’s goal to raise Gamma Phi Beta’s public profile, International Council, several volunteers and International Headquarters staff worked together for two years to update the Sorority’s website in a way that was consistent with their mission, vision, history and values.

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2005: Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Quick

On October 22, 2005, Elizabeth “Betty” Ahlemeyer Quick (Indiana) was installed as the 61st chairman of the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), the third Gamma Phi Beta to serve as NPC chairman in NPC’s 103-year history.

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2006: Progressive Advisor Training

During 2006, Gamma Phi Beta again became a “first” by developing the first online advisor training program in the Greek world.

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2006: Updating The Sorority Logo

Just a few years after the launch of its new website, the Sorority introduced a new logo to establish their branding — their visual identity — to the world.

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2008: Girl Guides of Canada

At the 2008 Convention, Gamma Phi Beta announced their new collaborative relationship with Girl Guides of Canada (GGC), an organization devoted to providing girls with opportunities for personal development that empower them to become responsible citizens.

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The 2010s

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2010: Restructuring The Alumnae Chapter Model

At Convention 2010, held at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, a new organizational plan for alumnae groups was presented.

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2010: REAL Relationships And REAL Wellness

Two more new programs were launched toward the end of 2010: Rock Solid Relationships and Gamma Phi Beta’s signature Safety & Wellness program (these programs are now called REAL Relationships and REAL Wellness).

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2010: Social Media

Gamma Phi Beta officially entered the world of cyber communication in 2010, establishing its own social networking sites including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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To Inspire The Highest Type Of Womanhood

Organizations that fail to continually evaluate their purpose and function do just that — they fail. Gamma Phi Beta’s first mission statement was developed in the mid-1990s and served the Sorority in good stead for many years. But like everything else, mission statements evolve, and it was now time for a more succinct and focused version.

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Confident Women Of Character

The vision statement was also revised into a powerful statement of intent expressing the leadership’s anticipated vision of the Sorority’s future. “We will build confident women of character who celebrate sisterhood and make a difference in the world around us.”

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2012: The Facilities Management Company (FMC)

Between classes, study time and sorority life, young women in college have enough demands on their time without worrying about their housing. 

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2012: The 75th Convention – Elevate

According to the National Panhellenic Conference, sorority growth had been on the rise for the past four academic years, with undergraduate membership increasing by slightly more than 15 percent between the years 2008 and 2011. In those four years, Gamma Phi Beta initiated more than 18,000 women.

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2012: Girls On The Run

Education Vice President Becky Boyd-Obarski (Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) announced the Sorority’s newest philanthropic partner — Girls on the Run, an organization established in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and dedicated to providing pre-adolescent girls with physical activity-based development programs.

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2012: Building Strong Girls

Additionally at Convention 2012, it was announced that Gamma Phi Beta’s new philanthropic focus would be Building Strong Girls.

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2016: Life Loyal

Life Loyal is a way to stay connected to Gamma Phi Beta and strengthen our future. This program is designed for women who believe in making smart, visionary decisions that will create long-term success for our organization and its members.

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2016: Moonball

After years of research, Gamma Phi Beta celebrated our new signature philanthropy event, Moonball, at Convention 2016.

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