The 2017 International Convention, June 28 to July 2, in Washington, D.C. welcomed the largest number of sisters since Centennial from across the United States and Canada. The more than 900 sisters in attendance experienced many wonderful, historic moments for the Fraternity including an exciting launch of the new AOII brand and a beautiful combination of the Candle Lighting Ceremony with Opening Ritual. Additionally, the Rituals, Traditions, and Jewelry Committee Chairman and Past International President Ginger Banks, Pi Kappa (U of Texas at Austin) announced that the panda has moved from our unofficial to our official Fraternity mascot.
As members began pouring into the Washington Marriott Wardman Park hotel, shrieks followed by long embraces of sisters reuniting filled the enormous space. Under the guise of the average Kickoff to Convention, sisters began flooding into the ballroom unaware of the surprises that were held within. International President Gayle Fitzpatrick, Alpha Rho (Oregon State U) welcomed all members in attendance before handing the stage over to Troy LeForge, Executive Director, Beta Phi (Indiana U) for a walkthrough of where the Fraternity had been and unveiled the extensive rebranding that would further advance Alpha’s interest. A cohesive color palette to highlight technological advances and a new call to action to inspire ambition were met with thunderous applause that became a roar as attendees exited the ballroom to see that AOII’s new brand had taken over a greater part of the hotel.
With the excitement and sugar-rush from the Dessert Reception still strong, sisters participated in one of the most exciting convention traditions, the Candle Lighting Ceremony, which honors each of Alpha Omicron Pi’s 212 collegiate chapters, and Opening Ritual. For the first time in the Fraternity’s history, the two ceremonies were combined in a well-orchestrated event that was the highlight of many attendee’s week.
Thursday began with a breakfast program that introduced the members of the 2015-2017 Foundation, Properties and Executive Board in the board precessional where there was a second, exciting surprise in store to share with convention attendees. A special 75-year pin had been created and the first recipient was none other than Past International President Margaret “Peg” Crawford, Iota, (U of Illinois).
After enjoying a beautiful meal saluting the Convention 2017 host city, Fitzpatrick led Council as they conducted the opening business for the Fraternity and deliberated over a number of amendments to the Bylaws and Governing Documents in a record-setting 11 hours of business sessions throughout the week.The week was more than hard work, however, as sisters were given the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and celebrate Alpha Omicron Pi in new ways including a trip across town to the Nationals’ Stadium to Strike Out Arthritis!, followed by a tour of the city’s numerous memorials and monuments. Prior to the first pitch, Fitzpatrick joined Ann Palmer, Arthritis Foundation President and CEO, Laura Larrimore; Arthritis Foundation Youth Ambassador; and the Larrimore Family on the field to receive the Spirit Award, acknowledging the dedication of AOII to the Arthritis Foundation.
Attendees took advantage of five enriching education tracks Friday morning.
- “Finding Life Balance” led by Haley Cahill, Assistant Director of Communications/ Editor, Sigma Gamma (Appalachian State U) and Lori Goede, Education Committee Member, Gamma Omicron (U of Florida) shed light on an important topic in many collegian and alumnae lives: exploring coping actions for stressful situations and engaging in personal, mental and spiritual health.
- Rebecca Easterling, Assistant Director of Collegiate Experience, Epsilon Omega (Eastern Kentucky U) and Sandy Stewart, Education Committee Chairman, Alpha Chi (Western Kentucky U) facilitated the popular presentation, “Mentor Me, Mentor You.” Those in attendance explored the creation and cultivation in successful mentor and mentee relationships and how to apply their new knowledge into their personal lives.
- “Retention Intervention: Rethink The Way You Engage and Empower Members” reinforced the ideals that recruitment and engaging members is everyone’s responsibility to a standing room only crowd. Laura Dunlap, Education Committee Member, Kappa Tau (Southeastern Louisiana U), and Troy LeForge explored different methods to help keep all members engaged and create quality membership experiences.
- “AOII Branding And You” led by guest facilitators Karen McKenzie, Gamma Omicron (U of Florida) and Amanda Painter of Rhyme and Reason, provided insight to members about how to infuse all elements of the new branding initiative into their collegiate and alumnae chapter operations. Attendees received a hard copy of the Brand Standards Guide to bring back to their chapters which can also be found on AOII’s e-learning portal, Fulfilling the Promise and AOII website.
- “Ritual’s Relevance in Today’s World” had two sessions of attentive audiences led by Paula Daigle, Education Committee Member, Lambda Tau (U of Louisiana at Monroe), Shokooh Miry, RT&J Committee Member, Sigma (U of California, Berkeley), and Kay Elam, RT&J Committee Member, Sigma Delta (Huntingdon College). The two facilitators dug deep into how to carry out our Ritual everyday without sharing the words held within the Rituals Book and apply the charitable themes in personal and professional lives.
Sisters of Alpha Omicron Pi were then joined by members of other NPC Organizations during a lively brunch designed to celebrate the Panhellenic spirit and Past International President Carole Jones, Alpha Delta (U of Alabama) coming into the rotation of NPC Chairman in the fall. Entertaining keynote speaker, Lori Hart, Ph.D. Delta Delta (Auburn U), then took the stage to speak about the qualities that make sorority membership so great.
After a marathon business session and quick-change from members of Council, everyone descended upon the awards banquet to celebrate and reward the hard work of numerous alumnae and collegiate chapters. Amongst the jubilation and the recognition of a job well done, sisters were graced with a wonderful look into AOII’s past through a convention favorite- PIP storytelling. Laughter, tears and more tears from laughter consumed the room as each of the 11 Past International Presidents in attendance told stories of sisterhood and AOII experiences. The evening concluded under the grand chandelier with an autograph session of the composite-keepsake from the PIPs.
On Saturday, all members in attendance were able to celebrate 150 years of Canada with a dessert bar featuring maple treats of all kinds while they showed off their lapel pins sent from the Canadian Embassy.
Prior to closing business session on the last day of Convention, members of AOII were invited to take part in a special moment at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Alpha Omicron Pi was granted an amazing opportunity to enter the zoo prior to business hours for a reception in the Panda Exhibit. The audience was wowed as the last piece of artwork painted by Bao Bao the Panda prior to his return to China was gifted to hang in the halls of AOII International Headquarters from the Zoo. It was the first chance many had been given to see real pandas rolling about inside their habitat. Pandas of all kinds enjoyed breakfast and AOII members were given the option to feed some of the resident Pandas as well!
The business of the Fraternity came to a close with great applause for the newly elected 2017-2019 Executive Board and Foundation Board. With an array of extremely passionate and talented women at the helm, Alpha Omicron Pi will undoubtedly continue to reach new heights in the coming years. Spirits were lifted even higher for what was to come in the next biennium as Council was treated to Barb Zipperian’s, Past International President, Kappa Kappa (Ball State U) rendition of “Take Me Out to The Ballgame” during the Resolutions of Courtesy.
The third outfit-change of the day saw members in their ritual white, ready for installation of the new Board members as well as paying homage to dear sisters no longer with us. As members solemnly exited the ballroom, the mad-dash to the rooms began for another quick-change into formal attire.
Convention’s crescendo began as a parade of women in beautiful, long gowns descended one final time to the ballroom under the grand chandelier. One by one, the new leadership of Alpha Omicron Pi entered the room and made their way through the hundreds of sisters applauding their dedication to the Fraternity. The final, most prestigious awards were handed out including not one, but two JWH winners. The squeals died down as the last awards were dealt out, and Fitzpatrick returned to the podium to begin her second term. She sang the praises of all that had been accomplished in the past biennium and looked to the future to the excitement the next biennium holds.
Alpha Omicron Pi’s International Convention 2017 most definitely inspired all in attendance!
Thanks to GreekYearbook for being our official Convention photography company. GreekYearbook provides the best in sorority and fraternity composite, bid day, and convention photography for thousands of sorority and fraternity members across the United States and Canada. Take a look at our 2017 Convention photos as they are now posted online.