A short history of 150 years of Greek life at Emory

During Homecoming 2019, Emory celebrated a number of anniversaries, including the sesquicentennial of Greek life at Emory. On Saturday, Oct. 26, several events were devoted to the Greek Life 150 Year Anniversary.

The day began with a Coffee and Conversation breakfast at which a Ginger Hicks Smith 77C 82G shared a short history of 150 years of Greek Life at Emory with members of the university’s extended family.

A 38-year veteran of the Emory libraries and a member of Delta Delta Delta Sorority, Smith co-chaired the anniversary planning committee with Danny Shoy Jr. 95C, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. Following is the text of Smith’s presentation, edited for publication.

Ginger Hicks Smith

Greek life at Emory over the years: Engagement, leadership, Service

After it was chartered in 1836, then-all-male Emory College alternately allowed and banned mystical societies.

In 1869, chapters of Chi Phi Fraternity and the Kappa Alpha Order were established on campus, only four years after the Civil War ended and three years after the institution was reopened.

Throughout the 150 years since, Greek life has been part of the Emory community.

National sororities came along 90 years later. The university became fully coeducational in 1953, and women students soon formed local social clubs, hoping to become chapters of national sororities.

That dream came true in 1959. In a formal university convocation in Glenn Memorial Auditorium, all nine local groups were installed as sorority chapters at the same time, so that none could claim the title of being “first.”

The convocation was followed by a campus reception. National sorority officers – in hats and white gloves, of course – and newly initiated chapter members stood in groups under the various basketball goals around the floor of the old gymnasium to greet well-wishers. That occasion still holds the record for the largest “going national” process on any American campus.

In 1976, the first historically black fraternity at Emory, Alpha Phi Alpha, was founded. The university’s first historically black sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, joined the community in 1979. So, AKAs are celebrating their 40th anniversary at Emory the same year the university celebrates the 150th anniversary of Greek life.

In 2002, Delta Phi Lambda Sorority was founded at Emory as the university’s first multicultural Greek organization, and in 2011, the Multicultural Greek Council was established to provide a sense of community for members of Emory’s increasingly diverse student body.

(Pictured above: Smith presents a brief history of Greek life at Emory during breakfast kickoff for the anniversary celebration during Homecoming. Photo: Emil Aceto.)

Learn more about the history of Greek life at Emory by viewing the Greek Life 150 Year Anniversary 3-minute video presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaCgFxWoKoU