The rain soaked days I spent in Corvallis at Oregon State University were some of the happiest of my life.
Looking back now I know that the people that shaped me the most lived in that house on the corner of 25th and Harrison. People can say what they like about sororities, but what they taught me there has stayed with me my entire life.
The number one rule in our house was that you never disparage a sister. We were not allowed to talk smack about each other. It was simply not done. This created an atmosphere of harmony that allowed sixty girls to live happily and peacefully together.
We were also required to be ladies at our fraternity functions and if we were not we got a chat on the back porch by our President.
What the Alpha Phi’s cared about the most, however, were the academics. Our chapter had been number one in grades for many years. When I was going through rush I chose Alpha Phi for this very reason. I was terrified of flunking out and ending up back where I had come from. Freshman had mandatory study tables and every test that Oregon State had ever administered was in our study files in a filing cabinet called the vault. Tests were never allowed to be removed from the tiny room where the vault was located. This room in the basement was called the dungeon and had a 24 hour quiet rule.
The senior class the year I was a freshmen was comprised of the most lovely and intelligent group of women I have ever met before or since. They would play their flutes and violins together on the third floor and the music floated down the street and could be heard blocks away as I walked down fraternity row in the late afternoon light. When these women graduated they went on to become doctors, lawyers and leaders of all kinds. On the other hand, my pledge class was full of a group of Catholic girls who were wicked smart, and also a ton of fun. I think we were a bit of a disappointment to the upper classman, but they worked with us, and we had our fun and still got good grades.
The Alpha Phi’s had high standards and I fell quickly into line. Because of them I was on the Dean’s list eight times. They gave me my first lesson in work life balance teaching me that it was possible to work hard and also have fun. Through the four years that I lived among them I developed compassion, integrity, a strong work ethic combined with self discipline, and the ability to work within a group for the collective good. But more than anything else, my years in the Alpha Phi house taught me to treat other people with kindness, love and respect.
Alpha Phi was an excellent fit for me from the start and the friends I made there are more than friends they really are sisters.
When my older daughter had to write a letter to the society she joined at college she wrote about growing up with my sorority sisters and their children and she wanted that experience for herself.
The love and support of my sorority sisters shaped me in so many positive ways and made me the woman I am today.
This past weekend I traveled home to Portland for our annual holiday brunch. It was no surprise to anyone that my big sis and I had gathered a group of friends to go downtown the night before. I was blessed to have two of my sisters travel with me and to be able to spend time with my dear friend Maureen and celebrate my birthday.
Needless to say it was a whirlwind trip. When I returned home and had time to reflect on the weekend what was most interesting to me was that nothing had changed and absolutely everything had changed. In my mind, my sisters were still young women, but they were also mothers and wives and CFO’s. I can say that the young girl was not completely gone, she was still very much present. It was beyond endearing to see eyes light up and the girl appear when we talked about old boyfriends and those few short years we spent together when everything was ahead of us and nothing behind.
You can’t go back in time, but you can take the time to reconnect.
Love and blessings to all.