Emory campus building in fall

Milestone Anniversaries Inspire Yearlong Recognition of Sororities and Fraternities

By Adrienne S. Harris, Consulting Writer, Campus Life

Greek letter organizations at Emory will celebrate two milestone anniversaries in 2019: the 150th anniversary of fraternities and the 60th anniversary of sororities on campus. To mark these historic occasions, the university is planning a series of activities to highlight the many positive ways that sororities and fraternities are engaged in the intellectual, cultural, and social life of the Emory community.

Virginia (“Ginger”) Hicks Smith 77C 82G, Emory librarian emerita and a member of Delta Delta Delta (“Tri Delta”) sorority, and Daniel Shoy Jr. 95C, president and CEO of the East Lake Foundation and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., are co-chairs of the Greek life celebration planning committee, which includes alumni, staff, and students.

Imani Brooks
Imani Brooks 20C, anniversary planning committee. Photo by Alexa Palomo 19C.

“For many years, Greek letter organizations have thrived at Emory. They are woven into the fabric of the university,” said Smith. “Our goals are to honor the history, traditions, and positive contributions of sororities and fraternities, affirm the importance of sorority and fraternity connections, and celebrate the enduring value of sorority and fraternity life.”

For committee member Imani Brooks 20C, a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., the celebration is also an opportunity to highlight the growing diversity of sororities and fraternities at Emory.

“I joined Greek life as a second semester first-year student and have witnessed the progress of the community since then. That progress should be celebrated,” said Brooks, an international studies major. “I also see the committee and the events as a great way to work across councils and establish new collaborative connections throughout Greek life at Emory.”

During the year, the committee will partner with the organizers of key university celebrations—such as Founders Week, Dooley’s Week, and Commencement—to showcase how sororities and fraternities enhance the campus environment. In October, the committee will host a special event to honor these organizations as part of the university’s 2019 Homecoming activities.

Brett Weingart.Brett Weingart 19C, anniversary planning committee. Photo by Alexa Palomo 19C.

“We want the recognition of Greek life to be a unifier for the entire community,” said Shoy. “We want everyone to recognize that many of the values that sorority and fraternity members share are the same values that are shared by people at Emory who are not affiliated with Greek organizations.”

One of those values is the significance of lifelong relationships—the lasting bonds of sisterhood and brotherhood that are created when students join an organization that supports their individual growth, as well as their collective experience. Sororities and fraternities also encourage academic excellence and help members cultivate attributes that lead to success, at Emory and beyond.

“Part of the enduring value of sororities and fraternities is the skills members learn and practice in a small group of friends,” said Smith. “They learn interpersonal, organizational, business and meeting management, and analytical and critical thinking skills. But they also learn what it means to be a responsible member of a community—the importance of consideration, kindness, inclusion, and democratic principles.”

Shoy believes these skills and attributes are particularly needed now—at a time when civic discourse is often fraught with tensions that divide communities.

“When I was a student at Emory, I looked around and saw that most of the leaders and people involved in service had a common denominator—they were involved in Greek life. And that continues today,” said Shoy. “Sororities and fraternities are part of the greater society. We don’t exist just for the benefit of our members, but also for the benefit of others.”

Sororitty Bid Day
On Bid Day, Jan. 20, sororities announced names of new members.
Photo by Trevor Chun.

In fact, a hallmark of Emory’s sororities and fraternities is their commitment and rich legacy of service and philanthropy, which includes volunteerism and fundraising to help people and causes on campus, in metropolitan Atlanta, across the country, and around the globe.

“Students come to Emory because they want to positively transform the world,” said Marlon Gibson, assistant dean for Campus Life and director of sorority and fraternity life. “Our job in the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life is to support members of Greek-letter organizations, who comprise a third of the student body, to become prepared to take on that challenge.”

The OSFL team includes a staff member assigned to each of the four councils that serve as umbrella organizations for a diverse group of 36 sorority and fraternity chapters: the Emory Panhellenic Council; Interfraternity Council; Multicultural Greek Council; and National Pan-Hellenic Council. The staff advise students on creating and maintaining brotherhood and sisterhood, engaged scholarship, ethical leadership, healthy behaviors, community engagement, inclusion, and positive social interactions.

Gloria Grevas, senior director of campus and community engagement in the Office of Alumni Engagement and a member of Alpha Omicron Pi Sorority, looks forward to the celebration as a way for Greek-affiliated alumni to reconnect, or connect more closely, with their alma mater. The planned activities not only will demonstrate the university’s commitment to sororities and fraternities, but also the commitment of sororities and fraternities to the mission of the university.

“Sororities and fraternities play a critical role in student development, and their work aligns with the pillar in the One Emory strategic framework that focuses on cultivating a thriving campus and a compelling student experience,” said Grevas.

“Emory wants to create a connected, living, impact-oriented intellectual community for students—and so do sororities and fraternities,” Grevas added. “Our administration and our Greek-letter organizations are definitely working toward the same goals.”

Committee member Brett Weingart 19C agrees with Grevas and sees the anniversary events as opportunities to celebrate the countless contributions of sororities and fraternities at Emory and to enhance Greek life as a vital part of the university community.

“The Greek system, both at Emory and nationwide, has its challenges,” said Weingart, a chemistry and psychology major. “Our anniversary celebration marks a milestone in the history of Greek life at Emory, a milestone that allows us to examine our past, identify key issues, and work toward improving them.”