St Paul Alumnae Chapter - 75th Anniversary

written by: Dawn Duerre, acting co-president
For presentation at our Founders Day Celebration, 26th January 2002

This year marks the 75th Anniversary of the St. Paul Alumnae Chapter. We have a long and interesting past. Unfortunately only small bit of it have been preserved in our very small archives. Today I plan to share with you a some of that history.

As most of you know Upsilon chapter was founded at the University of Minnesota in 1889. Well, only a few years later, in 1895, the Twin Cities Alumnae Chapter was founded. In those days the Twin Cities were, of course, much smaller, however, it also took much longer to travel between the two cities due to the types of transportation available.

This great distance between Minneapolis and St. Paul, was partially resolved in 1922, by the formation of the St. Paul Auxiliary Group. The following is an excerpt from the Nov 1922 Theta Magazine:

"Twin cities alumnae reports that part of its problem, of attendance because of the distances between the two cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, has been solved by the organization of a Theta club in St. Paul, which is an auxiliary to the chapter; and the division of the Minneapolis members into a number of committees, each in charge of some different phase of the biennial fair given by fraternity women in that section. The chapter's chief end is to cooperate in every possible way with Upsilon chapter."

On September 1, 1927 a petition was sent to the Grand Council of the Fraternity of Kappa Alpha Theta to establish an alumnae chapter in St. Paul. This petition contained the required 20 signatures and a copy of it can be found on the display board. The charter was granted with a Grand Council vote of 4 yeas and 0 nays. And on October 3, 1927 St. Paul Alumnae Chapter was established.

The installation of the chapter was held on Nov 21. The events of the day were recapped in this March 1928 Theta Magazine article:

"Our installation will long be remembered by the thirty Thetas present. Nov 21 was a snowy Minnesota day and the long motor ride out to the "Hame's best," the beautiful country estate of Caroline Durkee Harmon, was made through the snow covered hills and fields of the suburban country. Once arrived a note of color and festivity was imparted by the scarlet damask hangings in the long Colonial living-room, by the red roses in a huge Italian pottery pitcher and by the colorful frocks of the participants.

"Luncheon, in charge of Clara Averille Poole, was served at small tables in the sun-room looking down through the bare branches of trees to the lake. Preceding luncheon the Theta pledge song was sung. Immediately following luncheon the circle was formed in the living-room where Margaret Banta, District president, led the installation ceremonies."

Mrs. Frederick (Marie) Bathke was the first president of the St. Paul Alumnae Chapter. Mrs. (Marjorie Boesch) Merrick was the third president.

Mrs. Bernard (Clara MacKenzie) Bierman was the 12th president of the St. Paul Alumnae Chapter as well as the Michigan State Alumnae Chairman from 1939-1942 and the Minnesota State Alumnae Chairman from 1946-1969. Many of you may have heard of this woman, her husband, Bernie Bierman, was the a famous football coach at the University of Minnesota, and the TV room at the Upsilon Chapter house has a plaque over it saying the Clara Bierman room. At her retirement from the State Alumnae Chairman position in 1969, she had been active in Theta for 53 years. She was awarded the 25 year State Chairman charm at the centennial convention. Following her death on Dec 14, 1977 the Upsilon Chapter Corporation Board established a trust fund in her name to make possible replacements and repairs tot he chapter house in future years. Jean Strotham Tews wrote a wonder obituary for her titled "Clara MacKenzie Bierman - She Never Forgot". Here is a excerpt: "Clara was a woman of many charming qualities, the most outstanding being she never forgot anyone ... ever" A complete copy of the obituary is on the display board.

In 1950 Founders Day was hosted at the Chapter house. In 1951 the St. Paul Alumnae Chapter hosted Founders Day at the Women's Club. It was held on a Wed night at 6:30 p.m. in April. Preceding the dinner there was an informal reception honoring Theta National President Mrs. Paul K. French. Money was collected for the Friendship fund in charge of Mrs. Clara Bierman. Our national philanthropies were the Institute of Logopedics (since 1945) and the Foster Children committee which arranges for adoption of European children by active and alumnae chapters.

Another famous local Theta was Althea Atwater. She was initiated into Upsilon in 1912 and in an interview with her in 1969 (when she was 80) she was still going strong. She was an advocate for Planned Parenthood in Minnesota and was one of its founders. She spoke out for planned parenthood back when it was against the law to do such. She earned her degree in social work and her resume is quite long, she served on the Governor's Citizens Council on Aging, St. Paul United Funds Committee on Services for Senior Citizens, Wilder Senior Citizens Center Advisory Board, in 1944 she was a volunteer at Cook County Welfare Department, in 1957 she retired from Family Services' legal aid department as a marriage counselor and a she was a Trustee of St. Paul Art Center.

In 1969 the St. Paul Alumnae Chapter held a Holiday Bazaar. A portion of the proceeds went to the next door governor's residence garden memorial honoring Minnesota Vietnam Servicemen. We were the first St. Paul organization to take this memorial on as a project. The choice of this memorial is in part due to the death of a Theta's son. Kay Shannon's son , Lt. Thomas Eric Shannon, was killed in Vietnam in 1967. His efforts saved more than 400 men when their base was attached by 300-4000 North Vietnamese and Chinese troops.

The other reason for choosing this memorial was due to the National Fraternity. This being their centennial year they were encouraging all alumnae chapters to take on a local philanthropy as well as the Institute of Logopedics.

In 1970 we celebrated our centennial Founders Day on Jan 24th at 12:30pm at the Sheraton Motor Inn, Minneapolis. Althea Atwater was the guest speaker and "Theta Links the Centuries" was the title of her speech. In 1970 Theta had 95 college chapters, 77 alumnae chapters, and 246 alumnae clubs. St. Paul contributed $500 at convention as a centennial gift.

In the 60s and 70s the St. Paul Alumnae Chapter gave a scholarship to the active member at Upsilon who showed the greatest improvement in grade standings.

In 1972 the St. Paul chapter held a benefit luncheon fashion show and in 1973 a bridge benefit. Proceeds from these benefits went to the Institute of Logopedics, Foster Parent Plan, and Panhel Scholarships at the University of Minnesota.

In 1972-73 we donated $75 for a Panhel Project. Brochures, titled "Why Greek?", were given to prospective high school seniors. An article quoted "Alumnae have helped the active chapter with their enthusiasm and advice thus setting the example of Theta for a Lifetime."

In 1973 St. Paul hosted their 7th annual Flaming Festival at the Sheraton Motor Inn, Bloomington. The theme was Tablesetting ideas for the holidays, seasonal, and special entertainment. Proceeds went to the Institute of Logopedics. And in 1974 St. Paul hosted its 8th annual Flaming Festival at the Edina Country Club. This years theme was "Candlelight is Candle Power". Table setting displays created by local hostesses and professional decorators were highlighted with candlelit settings from the holidays and seasonal and special entertainment.

In 1974 Mary Jane Sweeny Plunkett, Upsilon 1942 and a member of the St. Paul Alumnae Chapter, became the Student Activities Consultant to the 23 Academic and professional fraternities at the U of M, She was one of only a handful of women to hold this position at universities across the country. She had also held a similar position previously advising the women. Mary Jane is an outstanding volunteer and has held various volunteer and leadership positions with the Gallenteers, the Women's Opera Guild, St. Paul Junior League, Home of the Good Sheperd, St. Joseph's and Children's hospitals, as well as participating in religious and school activities.

In 1982 Mary Jane was the consultant to the U of M department of Student Organization Development. She was the guest speaker at Founders Day Jan 16, 1982. The luncheon was at 11:30 am, it cost $8 and was held at the Midland Hills Country Club in Roseville. The title of Mary Jan's speech was "The U of Unlimited Horizons". I don't really remember

On April 18th, 1977 the St. Paul Alumnae Chapter celebrated its 50th anniversary with a special dinner and birthday party. Three of the original members who were still living in the St. Paul area were special guests: Dominica Faricy Lee, Elizabeth Bullock Bumgardner and Marie Figge Hartfield all Upsilon chapter. A style show "50 Years in Review" with alumnae models wearing clothes of their respective eras, incorporated with an historical and humorous narrative written by Rosemary Widman Gruber.

Another well known St. Paul Alumnae Chapter member was Jean Tews. In 1981 she was the first VP and action chairman of the Minnesota League of Women Voters. At the state capitol Jean interviewed every legislator of the state and prepared a capitol newsletter composed of articles written by the League of Women Voters members about the bills Jean discussed with the legislators. In addition to other positions in the St. Paul Alumnae Chapter, Jean served as Editor in 1977.

In 1984 St. Paul contributed $1000 to the PAT (Putting it all Together) program, which benefits mother who are barely able to survive.

We have had many members serve as officers at the National Level. To name a few: Clara MacKenzie Bierman was State Chariman; Sue Snippes Schradle was CDP in the 70s and later she became the Permanent Alumnae Secretary; Berdyne Harris Gaul was CDP in the 70s and 80s; Claire Wilson was ADP in the 70s and 80s; Paula Bergin Soholt was ADP in the 90s; and most recently Dale Jewett Sullivan was out ADO.

As an interesting side note - Berdyne is my aunt and was CDP when I was an active member at Upsilon. Claire Wilson was the ADP at the same time and her daughter, Terri, was my pledge sister.

In the most recent years we have had two fund raisers a year: the poinsettia and nuts sales in the fall and the bedding flowers sales in the spring. From my research I have found that we have been participating in the poinsettia flower sales since at least 1978. We have tried to establish some set events during the years. For the past couple years we have hosted a Lasagna Dinner in the fall to kick off our year. (Our dues paying year runs the same as a school year (Sept 1 - Aug 31)). For many years Paula Bergin Soholt has opened her beautiful home to hostess our holiday get together. All alumnae and collegians are invited. We decorate canvas bags for the Family Violence network and fill them with toiletries. Founders Day is hosted alternately every year with the Minneapolis Alumnae Chapter, as is our annual Senior Get Together. For the past few years we have also held a Pansies and Pies meeting, where members pick up their spring flowers and participate in a pie tasting contest. We also try to have a variety of other meetings and get togethers through the year to help attract members of all age groups.

We currently have 21 dues paying members. We have had as many as 68 in 1983-84. Our dues were $1 in 1956, $2 in 1964, $3 in 1970, $5 in 1971, $10 in 1979, $12 in 1984, $15 in 1986, $20 in 1990, and raised to our current level $25 in 1999.

As you all know our current National Philanthropy is CASA, or Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) as it is called in Minnesota. Through our fund raising efforts and our wonderful Theta liaison, Gloria MacFarland Williamson, we have been able to help GAL with on average one event a year for the past several years. We also contribute annually to the Foundation and contribute to Upsilon whenever we can. Most recently, in 1999, we helped to paint the Upsilon archives and do a little remodeling. Hopefully in the years to come we will have more money to help GAL, Upsilon and Foundation in a greater capacity than we have done recently.

Most of what I have discussed here today was found through the newspaper and magazine articles contained in our chapter's scrapbooks and from the national archives at headquarters. If anyone here has other information they would like to contribute to our archives we would be most appreciative. I hope you have enjoyed my little summary of 75 years of St. Paul Alumnae Chapter History.

Kappa Alpha Theta International

Bettie Locke Hamilton Alice Allen Brandt
Bettie Tipton Lindsey Hannah Fitch Shaw

Theta has come a long way since 1870. To learn more about who we are and where we've come from, take a peek at the Theta timeline on the Kappa Alpha Theta International Headquarters website ( They have a wonderful timeline that vividly illustrates the colorful history of Theta through the years.

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