Founders’ Day is one of the most special days of Theta Phi Alpha’s year, as we connect with one another across the miles and celebrate the ties that bind us through our shared sisterhood. As I wrote this year’s proclamation I began by reading previous proclamations. I also began to reflect on the Founders’ Day celebrations that I have shared with my sisters from my Sigma Chapter and the Akron Alumnae Association since I was a new member over 35 years ago.
In Akron, we use Founders’ Day as an opportunity to encourage our alumnae sisters to reach out and contact a sister we haven’t seen for awhile. The laughter and joy we experience as sisters reconnect is amazing. Throughout the year we share the names of sisters celebrating milestone anniversaries at the next Founders’ Day and encourage sisters to reach out to someone they know and invite them. For many years, our celebrations were only attended by Sigma sisters and alumnae initiates. But recently, we have enjoyed meeting new sisters from other chapters who live in our area and some collegiate sisters from Delta Delta chapter in Ashland, which is about an hour from Akron. Having these sisters join us has only enriched our membership and adds so much to the lifelong bonds of friendship we share. We choose a toastmistress each year, usually from an anniversary class and she shares some personal reflections of her collegiate days before reading the Founders’ Day Proclamation. A few years ago, we had two sisters share the duties and they had us all singing songs with them that they remembered from their college days in the 1960’s! In addition to sharing the time with one another, we also proudly support the Theta Phi Alpha Foundation generously during the roll call included in the Founders’ Day Ceremony.
My wish is that sisters have the opportunity to connect with their chapters or associations as joyfully as we do in Akron. I asked a few sisters who participate around the country to weigh in with some of their favorite parts of their Founders’ Day Celebrations that may spur ideas for other groups to build a lasting tradition of reuniting and celebration.
Kristin Henkenius, Alpha Pi, is a member of the Board of Trustees and wearer of the Guard of Honor. Her chapter holds a joint celebration annually with the Northeastern Nebraska Alumnae Association, as they recognize the importance of having as many collegians as possible participate. The alumnae hold an Association meeting during the weekend. Given the location in Wayne, NE, the chapter holds its White Rose Formal and the Founders’ Day Ceremony incorporated into one event. They set an annual goal to raise at least $500, so that they can partially sponsor a scholarship through Theta Phi Alpha Foundation. They also award a Theta Phi Alpha scholarship through Wayne State College. The alumnae appreciate the opportunity to see the collegians receive chapter awards and the Senior Service Award.
Kristin has the unique position of also attending the Mu chapter and Lincoln Area Alumnae Association celebrations as a Theta Phi Mom of her daughter (and sister) Liz. Kristin said, “It was very special to experience this with my legacy and my family, who was invited to the Founders’ Day at Mu.” Although Liz recently graduated, Kristin and Liz are still attending.
Cathy Billoni, Beta Nu and member of the Board of Trustees, is especially looking forward to this year’s Founders’ Day Weekend, as her chapter is celebrating its 25th anniversary of its installation at Florida Atlantic University. The Beta Nu and South Florida Alumnae Association celebration have a family-friendly weekend of events scheduled ranging from a bounce house and carnival games, a picnic, social hours, and the grand finale Founders’ Day Brunch. In honor of their 25th anniversary, a challenge to create a sponsored scholarship through the Theta Phi Alpha Foundation has been issued by Erika Lefkowitz, a founding sister. Cathy said, “I was the 61st initiate of Beta Nu out of 722, which is amazing to me!! To even imagine we’ve made it this long and come so far and achieved so much gives me great hope for the future, not only for Beta Nu but for our Fraternity.”
Cathy also participates with the Greater Tampa and Central Florida Area Alumnae Associations.
Stephanie Galendez, Alpha Beta, is a wearer of the Guard of Honor and a legacy. Her mom, Carolyn Bosworth Galendez, is a charter member of Alpha Beta. They have a long-standing tradition of participation in the joint celebration held by Alpha Beta and the New Orleans Area Alumnae Association. Given their location, they enjoy a nice brunch in the historic French Quarter. “It was always great to see how my Mom interacted with the collegians, not only asking them the basics like their major and where they are from, but also what brought them to New Orleans?” She adds, “Founders’ Day is a great way to reconnect and spend time with sisters.”
Stephanie also frequently joins 6 to 8 alumnae sisters and “crosses the lake (Pontchartrain)” to attend the joint celebration of Beta Epsilon and the Northshore Louisiana Alumnae Association. Both celebrations have chapter awards and are followed by an alumnae association meeting. Additionally, parents join the Alpha Beta celebrations.
Cristin Miller Brown, Alpha Psi, serves as National Assistant Treasurer. Living far from her Dayton, Ohio chapter, Cristin joined the New York City Alumnae Association and the Delta Beta Chapter Advisory Board to reconnect with sisters in her new city. She looks forward to celebrating Founders’ Day this year with the newly-formed Long Island Alumnae Association and bringing with her the traditions and experiences from her connections along the way. Cristin said, “What I’m most excited for as we host our first Founders’ Day celebration is connecting the many alumnae in the region to our local chapters, Beta Alpha and Delta Beta, as well as our new members from Farmingdale State College. I hope that the Long Island Alumnae Association can bring together the many sisters in this region so that we can continue to grow as an organization and have an impact both locally and nationally. I think that joining together and remembering our Founders will be a great foundation as we begin this journey.”
Kathy Sullivan, Alpha Gamma, Theta Phi Alpha Foundation Director, and Guard of Honor wearer, hosts the Chicago Area Alumnae Association celebration brunch at a local restaurant for just the alumnae of the area, as no chapters have been in Illinois for over two decades. “We have built a fun tradition to connect alumnae from over a dozen chapters. We focus each year on the women celebrating a special anniversary, such as their 25th, 50th or 75th anniversary of initiation. I have had the great honor and privilege of recognizing two very special Diamond Circle sisters: Jean Cusack, a Guard of Honor wearer from Beta chapter and Geraldine Cady O’Laughlin of Alpha chapter. I’m so appreciative each year when I see how generous my sisters are to Theta Phi Alpha Foundation in our roll call."
Through my connections, I learned that some Founders’ Day celebrations hold silent auctions or raffles of gift baskets to raise funds for Theta Phi Alpha Foundation. Others hold philanthropy drives, collecting items ranging from swimsuits for Camp Friendship to toiletries for local organizations under The House that Theta Phi Alpha Built banner. It’s great to see our sisters generously contributing while supporting Theta Phi Alpha.
I strongly encourage you all to attend at least one Founders’ Day celebration this year. These are just a few examples of how chapters and associations hosting events put their own special touches on the celebration. The main purpose shines through, however. Founders’ Day is a day to honor our Founders, celebrate our sisterhood, and remember our lifelong commitment to Theta Phi Alpha with a donation to the Theta Phi Alpha Foundation representing each year of our membership. I’m looking forward to seeing pictures of all the celebrations as we share on social media using the hashtag #ΘΦΑFoundersDay.