The founding of Theta Phi Alpha is a story of a group of young friends, not unlike the members of today. They were faced with a myriad of challenges and issues on their campus. By joining together, they provided support and friendship to one another, to meet the challenges that they faced and to create an organization that would enable future generations to share that sisterhood. We recognize the contributions of the sisters who have gone before us and acknowledge that, without them, our experience today would be very different.


In 1912, a small, local Fraternity of Catholic women at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, was struggling. The organization had originally been formed by Father Edward D. Kelly in 1909, when he was pastor of the student chapel at the University. He believed that there should be some kind of home life provided for the young Catholic women who attended the University and he realized that a sorority offered such society, friendship, and atmosphere. Several women students were originally very interested in joining, partly because Catholics were not always welcome in the other Greek-letter sororities on campus. By founding this new sorority, Catholic women had sorority life opened to them. Unfortunately, however, by the late spring of 1912 membership in Omega Upsilon was low and the treasury was unable to support the activities of the group.


By this time, Father Kelly had become Bishop of Grand Rapids, but he retained his dream of an organization which, in ritual and in practice, would help shape the lives of young college women. He enlisted the aid of Amelia McSweeney, an 1898 graduate of the University of Michigan and a woman prominent in educational and civic life in Detroit. She and several alumnae of Omega Upsilon felt that a fraternity for Catholic women was a pressing need and believed that many of the problems of Omega Upsilon were perhaps a result of the operations of the chapter being left completely in the hands of undergraduate members. The alumnae felt that, with their guidance in matters such as finances and housing, a new organization for Catholic women would be quite successful.


Throughout the summer of 1912, Amelia McSweeney, seven other alumnae, and two undergraduate women worked tirelessly, meeting at the home of Dorothy and Katrina Caughey, to prepare the plans for the new organization. May C. Ryan contributed the name, motto, and original coat of arms, and the membership selected the Fraternity's flower, jewels, and colors.


Two undergraduate members of Omega Upsilon became members of Theta Phi Alpha. They were Eva Stroh, a sophomore, and Otilia Leuchtweis, a senior, who became Theta Phi Alpha's first Chapter President. Plans for the coming school year were completed on August 30, 1912, and Theta Phi Alpha began operation on the campus of the University of Michigan.


Otilia and Eva, the undergraduate members, proved an enthusiastic team. During the first week, they pledged Kathlyn Holmes, Theta Phi Alpha's first pledge sister, and Marie Sullivan. With the aid of the alumnae, they held their first initiation on November 16, 1912.

Last Updated (Saturday, 14 January 2012 15:31)


Theta Phi Alpha reveres these ten women as its Founders:

Dorothy Caughey Phalan
Katrina Caughey Ward
Mildred Connely
Selma Gilday
Otilia Leuchtweis O'Hara
Amelia McSweeney
Camilla Ryan Sutherland
Helen Ryan Quinlan
May C. Ryan
Eva Stroh Bauer Everson


Theta Phi Alpha's insignia have been evolving since the 1920s and includes badges and guards that designate specific periods of membership, offices held, or honors received. Much of the symbolism behind this insignia is rooted in ancient heraldry, and yet the designs are classic and become treasured pieces of jewelry.

The symbols of the fraternity - including its colors, jewels, flower, and mascot - showcase the unique personality of Theta Phi Alpha. Our mascot, the penguin, was chosen in the 1980s because it is the symbol of friendship. On all of our campuses, you'll see our sisters proudly promoting our letters and symbols on banners, sweatshirts, bumper stickers, and wherever else you can squeeze in the three Greek letters (Theta Phi Alpha)

Official colors: silver, gold, and blue.

Official jewels: the sapphire and the pearl.

Official symbol: the compass.

badgeThe badge is a gold letter "Theta" set with pearls, superimposed upon plain gold letters "Phi" and "Alpha." The badge of Theta Phi Alpha is worn only by initiated members and is at once a means of identification and a source of pride to the wearer. The Fraternity badge is to be worn over the heart and is always placed above any other piece of jewelry.

The right to wear the Theta Phi Alpha badge is bestowed on each member at Initiation and each member is required to purchase a badge to wear throughout her life. However, should she in any way forfeit the right to wear the badge, it must be relinquished to the Fraternity's archives.

Upon death of a member, her badge is either sent to the Fraternity's archives or buried with her. Each member has the responsibility to see that her family knows of these alternatives, and should arrange to have one or the other followed at her death.

pledge pin

The Pledge pin is a square badge in black enamel with a gold compass in the center, and a gold border.

crestThe coat of arms is a crest formally described as follows: azure (blue), a bend (a diagonal band), between a double cross-crosslet (a cross figure with two transverse beams on each arm and top) fitchy degreed (with the bottom section pointed, and longer than the others), and a Tudor rose or (gold), latter seeded sable (the rose has black seeds).

Mantling (a cloak-like arch), azure doubled or (blue combined with gold). Over an esquire's helmet, the crest, an open book argent (silver), edged or (edged in gold), charged (imprinted) with two fleur-de-lis azure (blue conventionalized irises). Motto, Theta Phi Alpha in Greek, upper and lowercase.


The penguin was officially adopted as the Theta Phi Alpha mascot in 1987.

Other official badges:

The National President's Badge
, worn by the National President during her term of office, is the official badge, but with the Theta set with diamonds, mounted on a wreath of gold.

The Chapter President's Badge, purchased by a chapter and worn by its president during her term of office, is the official badge, but with the Theta set with sapphires, mounted on a wreath of gold. Should the chapter's charter be revoked or suspended, this badge shall be returned to the Fraternity's archives, to be held in trust in the event the chapter is recolonized.

The Grand Council Badge, worn by each member of The Grand Council, other than the National President, during her term of office, is the official badge with the Theta set with alternating diamonds and sapphires and a diamond in the center, mounted on a wreath of gold, and shall be accompanied by a guard of the respective office.

roseThe official flower of Theta Phi Alpha is the white rose.

The Grand Council Guard, available to be worn by former members of The Grand Council, is the Fraternity coat of arms with a sapphire on each side of it.



Last Updated (Monday, 16 April 2012 11:25)