A Sorority Deepens Bond as It Celebrates 134th Year

Times Staff Writer

Just about everybody has a time in their life--maybe high school, college, the military--that they shared with a select group of friends. And when they think about that time, which for most people is only rarely, they remember those friends. Crazy, they say, and yet they find themselves feeling kind of good inside as they wonder whatever became of old so-and-so.

Occasionally, of course, there are the reunions--when one actually gets to see some of the old crowd. Everyone makes sure they're looking good and they go and, if they're lucky, they have a good time. Actually, they have a sentimental time. They remember the bond that brought them together. They allow themselves to get caught up in some of the corny stuff, the shared rituals and memories, and tell themselves they really ought to get together with this group more often.

The funny thing is that on the face of it, these reunions, homecomings, Founder's Day get-togethers are always the same: pretty much the same program year after year; pretty much the same faces, though always a few new ones. Indeed, as one woman said Saturday at the 134th anniversary luncheon of Alpha Delta Pi sorority, "You go along year after year, seeing your friends, maybe meeting some of the new young members and all of a sudden, it's 50 years and they give you a special award and you realize you've gotten old."

The young ones don't see it that way, of course. Alpha Delta Pi, which just happens to be the nation's oldest secret society for college women, has chapters on six California college campuses: UCLA, USC, University of San Diego, Cal State Fullerton, UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley. Almost 400 collegiate members from every chapter but Berkeley came to the luncheon at the Castaway restaurant in Burbank. It wasn't an obligation, something the sorority requires you to do in the same manner your parents expect you to come home for certain holidays.

No, declared Lucy Rector, a senior at UCLA, "it's a great day. It's a day when we all get together and it just reinforces my feelings about ADPi. You come here and you really get the feeling of sisterhood."

Will Rector want to come to these Founder's Day events when she's an alumna? A vigorous nod, yes. "I will. Coming here today just reinforced my feeling that I'd want to."

Saturday was a grim, gloomy day and as people got out of their cars and walked across the parking lot to the banquet room, they hunched up, holding their arms against themselves to ward off the wind. Even if you hadn't seen their faces, you could pick out the collegiate members in trendy, but lightweight silks or cottons with at best a raincoat. The alumnae, 200 of them from 36 chapters, wore either suits or a smart jacket over their silk or wool dresses.

Once inside the reception area, however, immediate warmth and a din of voices. Grab a name tag, aim for the bar and a Bloody Mary or some white wine; and "Could you believe that wedding as we came in? They must have been freezing. Did the guy ever kiss the bride?"; and "Isn't this fun? I haven't seen you in so long. You look wonderful"; and "Did you guys come up by bus? We drove and I can't believe we're even here."

Co-chairman Mary Mason said they always hoped collegiates would mix a lot with the alumnae, but it never seemed to work that way. The alums who'd spent a lot of time around the chapter house visited with the college members. But let's face it, the feeling seemed to be, alums are different--sort of--from the members now living in the chapter house. They always have been and they always will be. It's the alumnae who perpetuate the traditions, values and standards of a sorority, while it's the college members who live it every day. "It's the trickle-down effect," said Amy Querman, new president of the UCLA chapter. "The alums are there, but we don't always know what they do, except that they're really important to us."

This particular Founder's Day had a certain momentousness. Besides being the 134th anniversary of the sorority, which was founded as a women's literary society named Adelphians at Wesleyan College at Macon, Ga., it was the 60th anniversary of the UCLA and USC chapters. So Friday night there had been alumnae bashes at both chapter houses and wow, it was amazing, the alums were giggling, how you found yourself doing things just the way you did in college. Like DeAnn Saliba Hayes, who'd gotten together with a bunch from her pledge class (UCLA, '55) and they'd piled off together in two cars, and when they arrived at her house there was her husband saying hadn't they forgotten someone? No, No. But they had--though it was OK. The lost member was still back at the chapter house, doing something in the kitchen.

There were more alumnae at this year's luncheon than usual, and of those alumnae, some--like Mary Mason, Jane Henry, the day's chairman, and Elaine Helbock, Los Angeles Alumnae Assn. president, had been had been active for just about the entire time they'd been out of college. Others, like Sheila Cameron only got active in alumnae activities in the last couple of years. Usually, it was by a fluke. Cameron, for instance, had run into a pledge sister at her tennis club six years ago and let herself be talked into coming back and helping with rush at UCLA. Now she's president of the Southern California province, which oversees the activities of three collegiate chapters. (The other three California chapters are in the province headed by Carroll Grush.)

Alumnae Run the Show

Invariably at these Founder's Days, the alums seem to run the show, but it's as if they get their energy from the collegiates, who are cheering, rooting and singing whenever their chapter is mentioned. The alumnae seemed delighted by this, laughing and exchanging smiles every time a cheer went up. They watched the entertainment provided by the collegiate chapters, and joined in with hand clapping and singing. They listened to the chapter presidents give their reports and marveled: The Fullerton house has a pool? The girls do so much. How do they ever find time to study?

The chapter reports were typically insightful. The chapter presidents described the study programs, how they raised money for philanthropy (the sorority's national philanthropy is the Ronald McDonald House), how they'd pledged the biggest and best pledge class yet. (USC took 40 pledges last fall plus seven this spring; UCLA pledged 62.) They talked about the accomplishments of their members. USD's chapter president Rosemary Wolf announced that the house had cut its Big Brothers from 106 to a more manageable "20 Men of ADPi." Laura Monical, president of the Cal State University of Fullerton chapter, breezily mentioned that their diving board had been stolen before a party.

Of course, the whole idea of a Founder's Day is to reflect on organization itself. For the ADPis, it was a time to consider the sisterhood, the goals and standards of the founding members and, how today, members can't rely on the past to sustain their bond--but must be unfailing in their pursuit of excellence. So for that, there was national president Jane Madio of Pennsylvania, introduced as the first grand president to hold that office while also holding a full-time job. (She's vice president of a financial institution.)

Then there were the honors: the outstanding Los Angeles Alumnae awards to Marjorie Anderson Lewis and Carol Blondefield Leishman; and outstanding collegiate awards to Linda Fallon and Debra Krebs, Cal State Fullerton; Rosemary Wolf and Patty Gill, University of San Diego; Diana Sands and Debbie Mercer, UC Santa Barbara; Marylisa Missakian, Nancy Sharp, Melissa DeMotte, USC; Kathy Casterson, Amy Querman, UCLA.

50-Year Alumnae Introduced

The last item of business was the Diamond Circle ceremony. That's where Jane Madio introduced the 50-year alumnae: Judge Elizabeth Eberhard Zeigler, Joyce Rippe Tanton, Carroll Welling Johnson, Mimi Koumrian Phillips, Mollie Gaston Owen, Magdalen Blondefield Lea, Charlotte Stokes Payne, Josephine Wheeler, Laura Judd Burgenbauch, Carolyn Coe Gorka, Margaret Gaunt Cooper, Doris Roys Bentzen and Irma Puutio Walker.

Very sentimental, it seemed, to think that those women 50 years ago and everybody else in the room had at one point in their lives been drawn for whatever reason to Alpha Delta Pi. They'd all, as Sheila Cameron had said earlier, learned the same pledge lessons, filled the same forms and experienced many of the same wild, happy times and also, frustrations. And they'd all be ADPis forever.

Then they all sang "I Love the Pin"--in harmony.

By this time, it was closing in on 4. The San Diego girls couldn't believe it. How were they going to make it back for their "Night in Atlantic City" party?

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