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Sorority Celebrates a Century at the University of Cincinnati

As the Pi Alpha chapter of Chi Omega plans a special reunion, the sorority will celebrate ties to its national organization as well as its influence on higher education at UC.

Date: 10/9/2013 4:00:00 PM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Lisa Ventre, UC Archives

UC ingot   They were a progressive group of UC college women with a shared set of ideals, who gained their charter on campus on Christmas Eve, 1913. That was seven years before American women won the right to vote, after the passage of the 19th Amendment.
Chi Omega
Chi Omega Bid Night, 2011

As it approaches a century on campus, the Pi Alpha chapter of Chi Omega sorority is planning a grand November reunion to celebrate its history, to honor a legacy and to continue its support of the future of education at UC.

Founded in 1895 at the University of Arkansas, Chi Omega calls itself the largest woman’s fraternal organization in the world – dedicated to friendship, personal integrity, academic excellence, service and campus and community involvement.

UC’s Pi Alpha chapter of Chi Omega – 152 members strong – is the third-largest of the university’s eight sororities that are members of the National Panhellenic Conference, which provides support and guidance for its members and serves as the national voice on contemporary issues of sorority life. Chi Omega at UC has claimed the prize for the top sorority fundraiser during UC’s Greek Week’s philanthropies (Make-A-Wish and FreeStore Foodbank) from 2010-2013, and was the top sorority overall winner of Greek Week in 2012 and 2013.

However, Chi Omega’s history at UC stretches beyond the women’s organization and its Cincinnati history of service, straight into the university’s history of excellence in education. It’s a history that is also traced to the naming of Dyer Hall, part of Teachers College.

Elizabeth Dyer
Elizabeth Dyer (University Archives)

Elizabeth Dyer was director of UC’s School of Household Administration from 1924-40, then became dean of the College of Home Economics (now the College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services) from 1940-1952. Dyer was called instrumental in organizing the college as one of the early schools in its field, and also was hailed as being progressive on women’s issues before they were woven into the Civil Rights Movement.

Dyer left her position as a UC college dean to serve as national president of Chi Omega from 1952-1970. She also served as National Panhellenic Conference chairwoman from 1963-65 – the last Chi Omega to serve as NPC chair – until former national president Jean Mrasek rotated into the position this fall. Dyer died in 1989.

UC alumna and Chi Omega reunion event chairwoman Becky Mirlisena says that back when Dyer was national president of Chi Omega, the sorority’s national headquarters was located at Dyer’s home in Hyde Park. After Mirlisena earned her bachelor’s degree in communication from UC’s McMicken College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) in 1982, she also worked for the national office in Cincinnati, after the headquarters had moved to the 33rd floor of the Carew Tower downtown. Mirlisena says she worked alongside Letitia Fulkerson, the current national president of Chi Omega, who also lives in Cincinnati. Fulkerson will be guest speaker at the sorority’s centennial celebration luncheon on Nov. 2, at UC’s Kingsgate Marriott Conference Center.

In addition to being one of the organizers of the banquet, Mirlisina has been researching the sorority’s presence at UC and also is on a committee that is building a website detailing the history of the Pi Alpha chapter. “I’ve been reading all of the minutes from our sorority meetings – from 1913 to the present – and it has given me a real perspective on how rich our Chi Omega history is at the University of Cincinnati, and how this history laid the foundation for the future,” says Mirlisena. “It’s really interesting to see how the sorority evolved around what was happening in the U.S. at the time. When the nation was at war, the sorority worked with the Red Cross. During the Great Depression, the sorority reported how it was financially suffering.”

Mirlisena pledged Chi Omega when fellow sorority sister Judy Dalambakis was president of the Pi Alpha chapter. Dalambakis graduated from UC with a bachelor’s degree in communication (A&S) in 1980.

As part of the sorority’s centennial celebration, Dalambakis is chair of organizing the sorority’s centennial gift to the university, a gift that also honors the memory and service of Elizabeth Dyer. The sorority is raising funds for a multi-functioning meeting and conference room to be named in honor of Dyer’s legacy to her sorority and to education at UC, as part of the future renovations planned for the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH).

“This is an exciting project, and I think it’s going to be a fabulous gift to the university,” says Dalambakis.
UC Chi Omega President Emily Schlager (Photo provided by Chi Omega)
UC Chi Omega President Emily Schlager (Photo provided by Caitlin Hauff)

Current Pi Alpha chapter president Emily Schlager, a fourth-year accounting major, says the Nov. 2 celebration also will include tours of the Chi Omega house and campus, led by current active sorority members. The banquet at Kingsgate Marriott also will include alums in Chi O’s traditional Preference Ceremony – the sorority’s formal invitation to prospective new members – as part of recruitment.

“It’s a very intimate gathering, filled with the values and ideals that the sorority holds dear. It’s not only emotional for potential pledges who are making their final decision to join a sorority, but it’s also emotional for our members,” says Schlager. “This is a longtime tradition that allows our alums to have this experience once more.”

Schlager says the sorority also is adding some extra touches to their house for their Nov. 2 open house for alumnae. The women are adding photo decorations of Chi Omega’s Pi Alpha chapter over the years. In addition, both Schlager and Dalambakis mentioned that they’re looking forward to showing off UC’s transformed campus.

Chi Omega
Chi Omega Bid Night, 2011

“As we look ahead to our centennial celebration, I’m really looking forward to showing off the campus to friends who are coming in from out of town. The campus has changed so much, and it’s so amazing to get to see the #hottestcollegeinamerica,” says Dalambakis. “Seeing all these age groups of Chi Omegas coming together is going to be very, very special.”

“I’m looking forward to reconnecting with sisters I haven’t seen since the ‘80s, as well as meeting with older members to add to our history of the chapter,” says Mirlisena.

Fundraising for Chi Omega’s gift to the university continues through Dec. 24, 2013 – the official anniversary date when Chi Omega established at the University of Cincinnati.

Brief Highlights of Chi Omega Centennial Events for Saturday, Nov. 2

11 a.m.-2 p.m.: Centennial luncheon, Kingsgate Conference Center
2-5 p.m.: Chi Omega House and campus tours for alumnae, starting at the Chi Omega House, located at 311 Joselin Ave.

Full Schedule of Events

Contact Information for Centennial Celebration

Related News: Pi Alpha of Chi Omega Centennial – See Photos Through the Decades

Make a Gift to the Chi Omega Centennial Fund

Related Greek Life News: Kappa Alpha Theta to Hold Centennial Celebration Nov. 22-24