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1942-43 Kansas Alphas

(Above) Pi Beta Phis at the University of Kansas in 1942-43 on the west lawn of the chapter house at 1246 Mississippi

OUR HISTORY

Pi Phi's Oldest Continuous Chapter

Kansas Alpha was founded in 1873 as the Kappa Chapter of I.C. Sorosis. It came into existence through the influence of Sara Richardson, a charter member of the I.C. chapter at Lombard College in Galesburg, Illinois. Sara spent the summer of 1872 at home in Lawrence, Kansas, where her three sisters were enrolled at Kansas University.


In the spring of 1873, Sara learned that a Beta Theta Pi chapter was being installed at Kansas University. She quickly wrote her sisters and a charter was obtained. The chapter was chartered on April 1, 1873, with eight members - Clara Morris, Alma Richardson, Flora Richardson, May Richardson, Gertrude Boughton, Hannah Oliver, Lizzie Yengle and Vina Lambert. Flora Richardson was the university's first female graduate, as well as its first valedictorian.

Kansas Alpha is Pi Phi’s oldest, continuous chapter. For photos of Kansas Alphas throughout the years, click here.

 

The Cookie Shine had its origin at the chapter’s first social event. It took place in June 1873 at the Richardson home and it was in honor of Sara, as a thank you for suggesting the chapter and spiriting it through the chartering process. Among the guests was University chancellor John Fraser. When the women began to lay their spread of good food, the chancellor dubbed the feast a Cookie Shine. The term so pleased the women that they immediately took it as their own.

By 1885, the year the first Arrow made its debut, courtesy, too, of the Kansas Alpha chapter, nearly every chapter adopted the Cookie Shine as a tradition. In 1912 a Pi Phi collegian wrote to The Arrow, “The term Cookie Shine itself, and the occasion for which it stands, has become so inseparable as a part of social life of our Fraternity that it will always be held in unquestioned and loving regard by all of us.”

 

The history of Kansas Alpha’s housing is also interesting. In 1901, the chapter lived together at 1200 Tennessee Street in a home belonging to alumnae Helen and Jennie Sutcliff. Out of town members were required to reside there, and a house fund was established to purchase furniture and carpets. In 1906, the Sutliffs moved to California, and this arrangement ended.

 

With $100 saved, members asked alumnae to build a chapter house. A lot at 1245 Oread cost $800. An alumna loaned the chapter money, and four alumnae signed the promissory note. “The Kansas Association of Pi Beta Phi” was formed in 1906. Dues were $1 per year. Fundraising began with personal letters and donations ranged from $5 to $100. By summer’s end, $800 was collected.

 

All was not smooth sailing. An early account stated, “It is surprising to remember, though, how much opposition and even ridicule we encountered. Older alumnae scoffed at the idea of our being able to finance and manage a chapter house of our own. But the courage and enthusiasm of the active chapter never faltered. They did everything in their fervor to help. They gave what they could outright, they worked all summer getting pledges and doing actual labor at home in turn for cash, they did without clothes and other things, they gave entertainments, all for the cause.”

 

The chapter rented a home on Louisiana Street for the 1906-07 academic year. There was more than $2,000 in the bank, but no one would loan the women the $5,500 they needed. Finally, an agent advanced $3,000 on a first mortgage and an alumna lent $2,500 on a second mortgage.

 

The chapter house at 1245 Oread was ready for fall 1907. There were 13 rooms and 2 baths; a basement room was finished later. It was the first women’s fraternity house located on campus. Eight years later, the house was paid for and plans were underway to enlarge it, but in 1915, the Association seized the opportunity to sell the house.

 

Two lots were purchased at 1246 Mississippi. A native stone and half-timbered stucco home was built. Association membership was $25 per share. The house cost about $20,000, half of it was borrowed, but the debt was paid off by 1923. An addition was added in 1928. It took nine years to repay the $20,000 debt for the addition.  

 

By the 1950s, the chapter had again outgrown the house. New city ordinances made it impossible to add on to the house, due to parking regulations.  A lot was purchased, but some did not care for it. Luckily, that lot was sold for a profit of $3,000. Ground was finally broken in December 1961 for the present chapter house at 1612 15th Street. The chapter moved into the house in October 1962, and it is still the chapter’s home.

Historical summary by

Dr. Fran DeSimone Becque,

Pi Beta Phi Historian

Fran DeSimone Becque
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Flora Richardson Coleman (class of 1873) was one of the chapter's founding members. She was not only KU's first female graduate, but she also was the university's first valedictorian.

Seven of the eight members of the Kappa Chapter of IC Sorosis, now Kansas Alpha Chapter of Pi Beta Phi: Clara Morris, Alma Richardson, Gertrude Boughton, Hannah Oliver, May Richardson, Lizzie Yeagley, Flora Richardson

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Images from early Cookie Shines

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Kansas Alpha's first chapter house at 1200 Tennessee, which still stands today. The house was constructed by Kansas Alpha sisters Helen Sutliff (past Grand President) and Jennie Sutliff as the first Pi Phi chapter house in Lawrence. The chapter moved into the home in 1901. Later, this home became the Student Union for male students at KU, then a women's co-op for KU students. 

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KU Pi Phis enjoying their newly built chapter house at 1200 Tennessee in 1901-02.

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1245 Oread Avenue - just across from the entrance to the KU campus (located on land that is now the parking garage next to the Memorial Union. This is the first Pi Phi house that the chapter owned. It was constructed over the summer of 1907.

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1246 Mississippi, the third Pi Phi house at KU and the second house that the chapter owned. Members lived here until the early 1960s and lovingly referred to it as "The Pea Green Lodge."

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1612 W. 15th Street, the current chapter house for KS Alpha Pi Phi. In 2022, the chapter marked 60 years in the Pink Palace.

 

Cosmopolitan Magazine even named it one of "The 50 Most Stunning Sorority Houses in America."

Learn about the women who made Kansas Alpha great.

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