College / Greek-Letter Fraternity Pins

Row one.

Tau Beta Phi.  Engineering honor society found in 1885 at Lehigh.

Phi Beta Kappa.  First Greek letter organization, now an honor society.  Founded in 1776 at William and Mary.  This one is from Vassar and is dated both í92 and 1899.  Later pins only have three stars.

Alpha Xi Delta. National sorority founded in 1893 at Lombard College.

Phi Sigma Sigma. National sorority founded in 1913 at Hunter College.

Farmhouse.  Agricultural fraternity founded in 1905.

Mu Phi Epsilon.  Music fraternity founded in 1903 at Metropolitan College of Music.

Row two.

Alpha Phi.  National sorority founded in 1872 at the University of Syracuse.

Zeta Psi.  National fraternity founded in 1847 at NYU.

Sigma Pi Sigma.  Physics honor society founded in 1921 at Davidson College.

Pi Kappa Delta.  Forensics honor society founded in 1913 at Ottawa University.

Gamma Phi Beta.  National sorority founded in 1874 at Syracuse University.

Phi Gamma Delta.  National fraternity founded in 1848 at Washington and Jefferson.

Row three.

Delta Omicron.  Music sorority founded in 1909 at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

Alpha Tau Omega.  National fraternity founded in 1865 at Virginia Military Institute.

Alpha Delta Phi.  National fraternity founded in 1832 at Hamilton College.

Kappa Sigma.  National fraternity founded in 1869 at University of Virginia.

Zeta Beta Tau.  National fraternity founded in 1898 in New York.

Alpha Omicron Pi.   National sorority founded in 1897 at Barnard College.

Row four.

Kappa Psi.  Pharmacy fraternity founded in 1879 at the Russell Military Academy in New Haven, Connecticut by F. Harvey Smith.

Delta Kappa Epsilon.  National fraternity founded 1844 at Yale.

Alpha Delta Kappa.  Honor society.

Psi Upsilon.  National fraternity founded in 1833 at Union College.

Sigma Nu.  National Fraternity founded in 1868 at Virginia Military Institute.

Chi Omega.  Pledge pin.  National sorority founded in 1895 at University of Arkansas.

Row five.

Delta Upsilon.  Non-secret national fraternity founded in 1834 at Williams College.  This is an old one from Washington and Jefferson.

Delta Upsilon.  Contemporary DU badge.

Kappa Delta Pi.  Educatorís honor society founded in 1911 at the University of Illinois.

Delta Tau Delta.  National fraternity founded in 1858 at Bethany College.

Phi Delta Kappa.  Educatorís fraternity founded in 1906 at Indiana University.

Phi Beta.  Music and Drama sorority founded in 1912 at Northwestern University.

Row six.

Alpha Psi Omega.  Drama honor society founded in 1925 at Fairmont State College.

Beta Alpha Psi.  Accounting honor society founded in 1925 at University of Illinois.

Alpha Chi Omega.  National sorority founded in 1885 at DePauw University.

Sigma Chi.  National fraternity founded in 1855 at Miami University (Ohio).

Phi Delta Theta.  National fraternity founded in 1848 at Miami University (Ohio).

Delta Chi.  National fraternity founded in 1890 at Cornell University.

Row seven.

Phi Delta Kappa.  Educatorís fraternity founded in 1906 at Indiana University.

Pi Kappa Phi.  National fraternity founded in 1904 at Charleston College.

Delta Kappa Gamma. Honor society for women teachers founded in 1929 at the University of Texas.

PEO Sisterhood.  Founded in 1869 at Iowa Wesleyan University.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon.   National fraternity founded in 1856 at the University of Alabama.

Nu Sigma Nu.  Medical fraternity founded in 1882 at the University of Michigan.

Brief History of the Greek Letter Fraternities

  "I, A. B., do swear on the Holy Evangelists of Almighty God, or otherwise as calling the Supreme Being to attest this my oath, declaring that I will, with all my possible efforts, endeavor to prove true, just, and deeply attached to this our growing fraternity; in keeping, holding, and preserving all secrets that pertain to my duty, and for the promotion and advancement of its internal welfare."  Thus the oath of fidelity was administered to the respective initiates and candidate of the oldest North American College Fraternity known as Phi Beta Kappa Society.

The North American College Fraternities, which are more commonly recognized today as the Greek-letter Fraternities, have a sinuous correlation with Freemasonry.  Not all college fraternities bear Greek-letter nomenclature.  However, the vast majority of college fraternities have followed the example set forth by the earliest know college secret society, Phi Beta Kappa, in creating a name composed of two or three letters from the Greek alphabet.

The founding of the Phi Beta Kappa Society came significantly at the heels of the American Revolution and not surprisingly within the very township that helped to foster the Declaration of Independence.  Phi Beta Kappa began its maiden voyage on December 5, 1776 at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.  

The principal mission of this new organization, known as Phi Beta Kappa, was to provide a private literary forum, which later became known as a "debating club", whereby students could hone their dialectic skills.  It was not enough for students to amass a great deal of book knowledge; they also needed to be able to apply that knowledge and to develop an agility of the mind capable of thinking on one's feet.  More importantly, students need to acquire the competency to express their ideas and make others feel the impetus of the thoughts being conveyed.  Dr. Oscar M. Voorhees in his expose' "The History of Phi Beta Kappa", quotes from the 1832 Catalogue of the Linonian Society of Yale that "...the object of our Fraternity is to provide the intellectual improvement of its members by the study and practice of forensic debate, by exercises in composition and elocution, and by the delivery at stated times of writing orations and poems, and also to cultivate friendly and social feelings among members of all classes in college."

The earliest emblem of the Phi Beta Kappa Society was a silver square distinctive medal bearing the engraved initials S.P. and the date December 5, 1776 on one side and the Greek-letters F B K on the other side.  According to Albert C. Stevens in "The Cyclopedia if Fraternities", the emblem was redesigned into "an oblong watch-key made of gold, on one side of which are engraved the Greek-letters F B K, with a hand below pointing to seven stars above, while on the reverse is the name of the owner and the letters S.P. and date of December 5, 1776."  Stevens further states that "...the apparent mystery in this badge, which tradition informs us was originally worn on a ribbon about the neck of the owner... the seven stars refer to the parent chapter and its six branch chapters, from which the college secret societies of today may be said to have descended.  Forgetfulness  of the original chapters of Phi Beta Kappa is prevented by the hand, which perpetually points through the motto to the seven stars.

The original sign given by a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society "was made by placing two fingers of the right hand over the left corner of the mouth and drawing them across the chin.  His grip was made by locking the hands without clasping thumbs at the same time pressing the wrists; and his 'word' was the motto for which the Greek-letters F B K stood."

These fraternal college orders were singular in nature amongst secret societies as their membership was open exclusively to an aristocracy of social advantage and educational opportunity.  The prospective candidate is introduced to the fraternity through his sponsor where he/she undergoes an intensive scrutiny of conduct and conversation.  The process of conduct and scrutiny is known in the vernacular of the fraternity as "rushing" the candidate.  If the prospective candidate make a favorable first impression, he is invited to attend several social functions of the fraternity, where the intensive watch continues.  If the members of the fraternity are satisfied with his social skills and interaction, and are convinced that he/she will be a desirable acquisition, they will be presented with a formal invitation to join the fraternity.  The invitation is commonly referred to as the "bid" amongst fraternal brothers.  Should he/she accept the invitation, they are said to have been "pledged".  Finally, upon being duly initiated into the fraternity and earning the privilege of wearing the badge or colors of the order, they are said to have been "swung out".

After being "swung out" the novice member is still kept under strict observation.  The author, Albert Stevens, writes that the newly made members is "guarded against falling behind in class work and is taught during his first year that neither he nor his opinions are of any importance.  By the time he is a sophmore he has learned to make allowance for everyone's point of view."  The indirect reference to the teachings of Freemasonry is self-evident.  Tolerance is one of the watchwords of the Craft, and one cannot but reflect upon the previous statement about making allowances for the viewpoints of others.  Harmony being the support of all institutions!

Following the footsteps of the Greek-letter Societies, a lesser-known group of university undergraduates formed an organization of Hebrew-letter Societies.  On June 5, 1895, a Masonic Club was founded and incorporated at the University of Michigan.  The Masonic Club piqued a great deal of interest in Freemasonry amongst young students enrolled at the University of Michigan.  After a short-lived success, several ardent members of the Masonic Club decided to launch a national organization in 1904, which they named the Acacia Society based upon the structure and ideals of the Masonic Club.  The first meetings of the Acacia Society were held in a boarding house located at 236 South Thayer Street, Ann Arbor, Michigan.  During these meetings, the membership agreed to establish different chapters of the Acacia Society at various colleges and universities using Hebrew-letters to differentiate the Acacia Chapters from the more common Greek-letter Chapters.

The first Acacia Chapter was incorporated on May 12, 1904 at the University of Michigan and was named Aleph Chapter.  Other Chapters soon followed with Beth Chapter being formed at Stanford University, Gimel Chapter at the University of Kansas, Zayin Chapter at Dartmouth College, Teth Chapter at Harvard University, Samehk Chapter at Purdue University, Tsadhe Chapter at Colombia University, Aleph-Daleth Chapter at Syracuse University and Aleph-Beth Chapter at Northwestern University, to name a few.  The official badge or emblem of the Acacia Society is a right-angled triangle of gold with jeweled borders, within which are three smaller triangles marked respectively by the three Hebrew-letters Shin, Teth and He.

 

         

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