For any organization to last for more than a few years, it takes extreme dedication, from members, administrators and alumni.
It’s no surprise, then, that Greek Life recently celebrated its 50th anniversary at St. John’s University.
On Oct. 17, 1956, Gamma Chi Sorority became the first Greek organization to be recognized at St. John’s. Fifty years later, there are 33 active Greek Life organizations. Within those groups are 27 national chapters, six local chapters and more than 500 active student members. And so while Greek Life celebrated its golden anniversary, they also celebrated Gamma Chi.
“Without the founding of the first sorority, the rest of us wouldn’t be here,” said Gia Messuri, sister of Gamma Phi Beta.Gamma Phi Beta, a national sorority, was recognized by St. John’s in 1999. A number of the current recognized chapters were not recognized until the late ’90s and into the new millennium.
More than 400 members from all 33 active organizations, new and old, were in attendance at the 50th anniversary gala as were a number of alumni from Greek Life, all celebrating five decades of Greek unity.
The second oldest Greek organization, Kappa Phi Beta Sorority, was in attendance along with charter members of the group. Recognized at St. John’s in 1957, Kappa Phi Beta was the third Greek organization at the University, after Beta Epsilon Rho Fraternity, which is no longer active on campus.
“It’s hard to believe [that Greek Life has been around this long] because we never realized it would sustain itself this long,” said Diane Carroll, a Kappa Phi Beta alum.
But in the 50 years that Greek Life has been at St. John’s, not much has changed, at least according to those who were around at the beginning.
“The girls today are the same as the girls back then,” said Audrey Resch, a Kappa Phi Beta alum. She went on to say that the girls who are Kappa girls now would certainly have been accepted into the sorority 49 year ago when it was chartered.
You can tell, she said, which sorority a girl belongs in, and Kappa girls have not changed in more than four decades.
Greek Life has not changed much either. The four key principles of Greek Life are leadership, scholarship, community service and sisterhood/brotherhood. They are the principles that Greek organizations are founded on, and they are the principles that the members of the Greek community live by. It is what makes them such an important part of the University community as a whole.
Jose Rodriguez, dean of Student Affairs, said that the students involved in Greek Life are wonderful students and the organizations they are a part of, and the work they do, is an important part of St. John’s.
“We’re proud of the work they’ve done here,” Rodriguez said. Damien Duchamp, director of Campus Activities, agreed, adding that the bonds formed are also important.
“It’s nice to see the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood and to see the alums reconnecting,” Duchamp said.
The students involved agreed. The bonds they form as members of Greek Life for just four years are bonds that will last a lifetime, or at least 50 years.
“It’s a great experience,” said Agnes Bachleda, a sister of Delta Phi Epsilon, “[Celebrating] that they’ve been on campus [for 50 years] and contributed to the community and were able to help each other out and been a support system for all the sisters and brothers.”
Still going strong after 50 years is an accomplishment all members of Greek Life should be proud of. The only big accomplishment they have left is making it their centennial, a feat that they are sure to achieve.