I pledged Alpha Xi Delta in the spring of 1967, but this story starts with recruitment in the fall of 1966.
Imagine a small, brunette, klutzy, Italian Little Orphan Annie-type freshman who spilled hot tea all over herself at a Rush Party. That was me! I had gotten a bad perm and had two wisdom teeth pulled the week before so my jaw was black and blue and my hair looked like I had stuck my finger in a light socket. I tried to remove one of my white gloves (Yes, we really did wear those.) during the first of what would become many sorority "teas" and spilled hot liquid everywhere. Sometimes I wonder what Alpha Xi Delta saw in me -- but I was asked to stay despite my shortcomings.
The reason I selected Alpha Xi and maybe the reason they selected me was because of a Sister named Barb Hille. Now the Alpha Xis were the known as the smartest chapter on campus and they came by that reputation honestly. In 1966 Kent held its first ever early fall recruitment before school started. The Sisters saw this as a chance to grow the chapter and build on their reputation to could compete with some of the larger sororities. The chapter Sisters divided the list of incoming Freshman girls up by GPA, extracurricular activities and declared majors and then assigned each Alpha Xi sister a girl with whom she would correspond before Rush. They picked girls with whom they had something in common and Barb wrote to me because we were both journalism majors. (As an aside, I have been doing tourism marketing for 30 years and I now know that the Alpha Xis used target gorilla marketing techniques that weren't even called "gorilla marketing" until years later! It worked as we had what at the time was the biggest pledge class in AXD history.)
I remember Bid Day and holding my breath as I saw a little white envelope being pushed under the door of my dorm room. I wanted desperately to pledge but there were dues and I was on a scholarship so money was tight. I called my parents crying and begged, saying, "A girl asked me to become her Sister!" My parents gave in and the rest is history. I was elected vice-president of the sorority as a sophomore and then president as a junior. I received a lot of honors as a Greek woman and Alpha Xi provided me countless leadership opportunities.
Challenges? You bet! During my tenure as president we were without a sorority house. The alums had sold our house and while a brand new one was being built the officers lived together on one floor of an off-campus apartment one year and then in a converted motel the next year. This was not ideal but it was a learning experience.
Benefits: Many times a Sister would come knocking at my door with a problem or heartbreak or a need to talk. That's how I learned the relationship skills that transcended into my professional career - I led a nationally recognized 500-member chamber of commerce and resort association for more than 30 years. My roommates were my Sisters and we were all officers in the sorority. These women are still my best friends.
This brings me to May of 1970, the year of the shootings at Kent State. The shootings happened just weeks prior to our graduation. One of the four slain students was Sandy Scheurer, an Alpha Xi and my roommate's little Sister in the sorority. In fact, the pledge paddle that my roommate made for Sandy was recently on display at the May 4 Memorial Museum at Kent.
It is still hard to think or write about Sandy but everyone needs to know what an incredible smart, funny, talented, warm and wonderful person she was. I first met her at a recruitment party. We walked into a room of the sorority house that had a display named "Philanthropy" and Sandy blurted out, "Oh I know -- stamp collecting!" (She had confused the word "Philanthropy" with the word "Philately" or the study of stamps. If you had known Sandy you would realize this was the type of funny offbeat thing she did. Simply put, Sandy was a darling, beautiful and intelligent young woman who was cut down in her prime. We who knew her still miss her.
There are a lot of other Alpha Xi Delta stories I could share but this is where I'll close. Alpha Xi for me will always be the Sisterhood of Women; the double gold and blue; the secrets of the badge and Quill; a beautiful pink rose; and coming of age with women who were more than friends and truly Sisters. Here's to the next 125 years!
Yours in Xi,
Written by Marianne Balotta Virgili, Kent State '66