Walking where the Founders Walked

Heather Miller headshotThis post is courtesy of Heather Wilson Miller, New Mexico Beta, as part of the Convention 2015 guest blogger series.

The last five days have been an amazing experience! I thought that maybe because this was my second convention, that it wouldn’t be quite as exciting or fun as my first convention in San Diego. I was wrong and I’ll admit it. It just keeps getting better, my sister! My first convention was a little overwhelming with the many scheduled items on the agenda, and I think my eyes were just wide open taking everything in. But in Chicago, I was able to enjoy and get even more out of each event knowing what to expect. My prevailing thought throughout convention as we were enjoying the inspiring speakers, the award presentations, the breakout leadership sessions and the fellowship time with our sisters, is that all of these experiences fall under the umbrella of sincere friendship. Sincere friendship drives our desire to become the best leaders we can be to make our chapters and clubs the best they can be and to foster an environment where each member feels that she is valued and welcomed in the bonds of the wine and blue.

IMG_2464But enough sappy… (by the way, did everyone else find themselves tearing up at almost everything on Monday or was it just me? I told myself it was because I was just tired so my emotions were running high, but we all know that’s not the only reason). Moving on to the fun! How awesome is Libbie and the Ring Ching Roadshow? Fingers crossed that she makes it to Phoenix at some point during the next two years! I already had my first meeting with her at Holt House on Monday (more about that coming). A trivia tidbit….do you know why she is named Libbie? And yes, you are correct that she is named after founder Libbie Brook Gaddis. But did you know that Libbie Brook Gaddis is known as the traveling Pi Phi? She was responsible for the founding of our second chapter at Iowa Wesleyan College and she also traveled to attend several conventions during her lifetime.

IMG_2459Yesterday, I had the pleasure of traveling to Monmouth College and Holt House which are located in Monmouth, Illinois. After three hours of sleep (eck!), we boarded a bus for over a three hour drive to Monmouth (whew, nap time). At our arrival at Monmouth College, we were greeted by college personnel and enjoyed a great buffet lunch. Many of us (including me) ate the fastest lunch in history in order to shop at the Monmouth bookstore.

Our tour started with a stop at the cemetery to visit the final resting place of five of our founders. Each of their headstones was marked by a plaque placed by the Monmouth historical society declaring them a founder of Pi Beta Phi. The tour had been very thoughtfully arranged with volunteers stationed at each gravesite who told us a little about the life of each founder.

IMG_2490And then on to (drumroll…….) Holt House! Seriously?!? This is like a huge check on my lifetime bucket list. And not only did I get to visit Holt House, but I did it with two of our most beloved members, Sis Mullis and Fran Becque! Yes, I am a very lucky girl! Sis was on my bus and during the ride she took the time to stop by each seat to introduce herself and find out a little bit about each of us. Talk about a phenomenal role model and leader! I’m taking notes. On to our Holt House visit. We were greeted by Denise Turnbull, Holt House Curator, who gave us the back ground and history on this historic building. Recognize her famous last name? Through marriage, she is a member of the Turnbull family and an honor initiate of Pi Beta Phi. After her welcome, she gave us free reign to explore the house on our own.

IMG_2520My first stop was to sign the guest register and explore the first floor of the house. The bottom floor is used by many local groups to hold wedding receptions, baby showers and other celebrations. I then headed up to the second floor to see THE BEDROOM. The front left bedroom of the house is where Ada Bruen and Libbie Brooke rented a room while they attended Monmouth College. On April 28, 1867, Ada and Libbie gathered in this bedroom with 10 of their friends to form I.C. Sorosis which eventually became Pi Beta Phi. I sat on the floor with several others to get a feel of what that meeting must have been like.

After exploring the rest of the house, I went outside to start taking photos. And I don’t think that other than at a wedding, have I ever seen so many snaps from cameras! Wow! No wonder almost every person on our bus had their phone run totally out of battery on our bus ride back to Chicago.

I got so excited telling you about our Monmouth and Holt House tour that I almost forgot to mention the upcoming 2017 Convention. I’m supposed to tell you why you should attend, but you really don’t need me to do that. In case you have been living under a rock, in 2017 we will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of Pi Beta Phi and convention is going to be the ultimate party! It will be held in St. Louis, the city that serves as our Fraternity Headquarters. Who wouldn’t want to be there?! It is going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity to attend! I know I will be there, and I hope you will too!

Well, this is my last blog post but it has been so much fun to bring you all the inside scoop from convention this year. I am very grateful for this opportunity. Have a wonderful rest of your summer my angel friends and can’t wait to see you all in 2017!

Convention Sunday was a Success!

Maureen Knaus headshotThis post is courtesy of Maureen Knaus, Indiana Gamma, as part of the Convention 2015 guest blogger series.

Sunday morning all the chapter delegates walked in the memorial service to honor the Pi Phis who have passed away since the last convention. Each delegate placed a wine carnation in a large urn to represent and honor the deceased members of their chapter. The room was filled with emotion, love, and support for those collegiate and alumnae members we have lost. Because two of our Past Grand Presidents passed away in this biennium, their daughters spoke during the ceremony. They described what their mothers were like before they were Grand Presidents. It seems like they were such persistent and strong women who upheld our values throughout their lives.

Initiation for the alumnae initiates was held after lunch. The ceremony was beautiful. Not only was it exciting to see the Grand President initiate four women into our sisterhood, I also got to practice our ritual with sisters from all different chapters.

It is so important to keep our chapters and clubs educated on fraternity heritage so it stays preserved forever. Getting the little things right in ritual matter. They will be passed on for years and we want those sacred words and actions to remain the way our founders intended.

During the educational programming session, I attended the Chapter Success Workshop. This was a great opportunity to review our annual member evaluation and compare it with the Pi Beta Phi chapter average. This session helped me and our AAC Chair identify opportunity for member satisfaction improvement. Throughout the day I learned so much valuable information from Chapter Presidents and the panel of Non-Regional Directors. The ideas I heard have inspired me to plan the goals I want to tackle my second semester as President. I am diligently taking notes so I can remember everything I’ve learned this weekend in order to continue improving my chapter and myself as a leader.

Hearing the Members of Distinction speak during lunch was one of the highlights of my convention experience. Chris Giza, Kansas Beta, was the seventh female navy pilot, the second military woman to fly military jets and the first woman to fly for the U.S. Marshals Service. Today she taught us that it is more than okay to stay away from the status quo. Nancy Hogshead, North Carolina Beta, CEO of Champion for Women and Olympic Gold Medalist in swimming, motivated me to always be an activist for what I believe in. Ruth Collins Altshuler, Texas Beta, who has devoted her life to philanthropic and charitable interests, inspired me to do something that will make the world a better place because it will lead to a satisfying life. Thank you to the Members of Distinction for letting us hear your motivating words. You set a wonderful example for all Pi Phis.

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