Alpha Chi Omega

DIGITAL HISTORY

Alpha

Alpha chapter was founded at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana on October 15, 1885.

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Olive Clark as a Child Photograph, c. 1870

Olive Burnett Clark (Alpha, DePauw University) called “Ollie” by her friends, studied piano, violin, cello and double bass. She taught at DePauw for two years while carrying on her studies. In her junior year, she left school to take teaching positions in Anderson and Franklin, Indiana. “I have found no greater happiness in my life than in Alpha Chi Omega,” she said later in life. “All I have ventured to give toward the up-building and uplifting of our fraternity has been from the depths of my heart, and has been repaid in thousandfold by my girls.”

Anna Allen Smith Portrait Cabinet Card

Anna Allen Smith (Alpha, DePauw University) lived her entire life in Greencastle, Indiana, and was childhood friends with Bessie Grooms Keenan (Alpha, DePauw University and Olive (Ollie) Burnett Clark (Alpha, DePauw University). She was always interested in music and was the youngest student to do advanced work at DePauw's School of Music. She was just 15 years old when Alpha Chi Omega was founded. Anna was the Founder most associated with Alpha chapter and until her untimely death in 1932, she knew every initiated Alpha (all 700 of them).

Olive Burnett Clark Portrait Cabinet Card

Olive Burnett Clark (Alpha, DePauw University) grew up in Greencastle, Indiana before eventually moving to Indianapolis, Indiana. She set the example for grace, civility and dignity that defined the Fraternity.

Amy DuBois Rieth Portrait Cabinet Card

Amy Dubois Rieth (Alpha, DePauw University) was only 15 when she entered DePauw. She studied both voice and pianoforte. She was known as “the little girl with the big voice,” and was selected to sing important roles in school productions. Amy had a quiet and straightforward manner, which belied her fondness for pulling pranks on her Fraternity sisters. Her influence on the Fraternity endured long after she left to teach music in Kansas.

Bessie Grooms Keenan Portrait Reproduction Photograph

Bessie Grooms Keenan (Alpha, DePauw University) began studying music as a young child and was an accomplished pianist by the time she entered DePauw. Near the end of her first year there, she strained the muscles of her left hand from over-practice and had to give up the ambition of her life. However, she gave much of her time to help build Alpha Chi Omega. Her daughter, Hannah Keenan, eventually became director of Alpha Chi’s central office, today known as headquarters.

Estelle Leonard Portrait Photograph, c. 1886

Estelle Leonard (Alpha, DePauw University) entered university hoping to make a living as a musician. Most of her time was spent practicing or studying. She also served as Dean Howe’s secretary for two years. Though she had serious goals and a “dignified appearance,” she was known for playing practical jokes on her colleagues. She graduated in 1891 and had a full career, teaching music, publishing piano compositions and reporting for the local newspaper. Long involved with Alpha Chi Omega, she attended more conventions than any other Founder. She was described in our 1948 History as “distinctly modern in her ideas” and as having “developed independence, decision, and a rather bohemian attitude.”

Nellie Gamble Childe Portrait Cabinet Card, c. 1886

Nellie Gamble Childe (Alpha, DePauw University) studied piano from an early age and, after much deliberation, chose DePauw. She was described variously by her sisters as being gentle, energetic, earnest and friendly, leading a life of “quiet influence for good.” Later in life, she cultivated roses and loved to garden. She said that Alpha Chi Omega had a small beginning, but was built by loyal women with high standards who have achieved “marvelous results.”

Ryan, Burnett and Deniston Cabinet Card, April 1886

Anna Ryan (Wells) (Alpha, DePauw University, left) poses with Alpha Chi Omega Founders Olive Burnett (Clark) (Alpha, DePauw University, center) and Bertha Deniston (Cunningham) (Alpha, DePauw University, right).

Table of Alpha Chis and Fijis Cabinet Card, Fall 1887

Alpha (DePauw University) chapter members sit with men from Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity during a dance.

Starr, Hough, Rude, Paul and Burnett at Thanksgiving Photograph, November 1888

Four Alpha (DePauw University) chapter members and a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma pose together at Thanksgiving. They are: Sidelia Starr (KKG), Anna Hough, Maud Rude Link, Grace Paul Kerr and Olive Burnett Clark.