Theta Phi Alpha Fraternity was founded on August 30, 1912, at the University of Michigan through the reorganization of a Catholic sorority.
By 1912, women were beginning to form clubs, social circles, and societies based on various interests or lifestyles, such as religious affiliations or ethnic backgrounds. Some of these organizations would later be absorbed by larger organizations, such as sororities, as the early twentieth century progressed.
History of Theta Phi Alpha
Theta Phi Alpha was founded on August 30, 1912, at the University of Michigan by nine women, both current students and alumnae of the university, who worked to restructure an existing sorority for Catholic women.
Omega Upsilon, founded by Father Edward D. Kelly in 1909, was an organization for Catholic women because they were not warmly recieved by the campus’s other sororities and women’s fraternities. Father Kelly had a vision of an organization that would provide a sense of belonging to young college women, just like a sorority.
However, Omega Upsilon faced financial troubles by 1912 due to low membership. By this time, Father Kelly had become the bishop of Grand Rapids, and stepped in to save the organization.
The founders, both alumnae and undergraduate, set out to reorganize the organization and, on August 30, 1912, was fully operational on the University of Michigan’s campus. During the first week of classes, the two undergraduate members successfully added two more women to Theta Phi Alpha’s roster.
Theta Phi Alpha continued to grow and expand throughout the twentieth century. Through its expansion efforts, Theta Phi Alpha and Pi Lambda Sigma, the only other national Catholic sorority, merged into one organization under Theta Phi Alpha’s name.
In 1951, Theta Phi Alpha became one of the eleven sororities and fraternities that were granted full membership in the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC). Eight of those organizations still exist today, while the remaining three either collapsed while trying to conform to NPC’s membership qualifications or merged with other NPC organizations.
In 1968, the leadership of Theta Phi Alpha removed all restrictive membership clauses from its governing documents. Since then, membership in Theta Phi Alpha has been granted to women from all religious backgrounds.
Theta Phi Alpha Today
Since 1912, Theta Phi Alpha has initiated over 20,000 women across the United States.
Theta Phi Alpha’s philanthropic projects include Glenmary Home Missioners and The House That Theta Phi Alpha Built.
Glenmary Home Missioners provides books, clothing, food, and medical services to people living in depressed rural areas of the United States, such as the Appalachian Mountains.
The House That Theta Phi Alpha Built, established in 1993, is a collective campaign of collegiate and alumnae members working to improve the lives of the homeless in their areas through volunteering and donating goods and services.
Theta Phi Alpha, like all other Greek letter organizations, can be identified through various distinct insignia adopted throughout the organization’s history.
- Colors: blue, gold, and silver
- Mascot: penguin
- Symbol: compass
- Flower: white rose
- Philanthropies: Glenmary Home Missioners and The House That Theta Phi Alpha Built
- Motto: Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring
Founded in 1912, Theta Phi Alpha was the enduring result of nine women and Father Kelly’s hard work in reorganizing an organization for Catholic women. Now, while no longer restricted to Catholic women, thousands of college women have benefited from Father Kelly’s vision of providing a place for young college women to belong.