by Jessie Wang-Grimm, Phi Chi (U of Chicago), International Vice President
Wintertime gathers us all together for Founders’ Day, when we reflect upon our rich history, remember the four amazing women who inspired over 120 years of sisterhood, and celebrate sisters who inspire ambition on their campuses and communities today. Have you received your invitation? Time to bring out your badge and say yes to the fest!
I began attending Founders’ Day as a collegian in Chicago. Standing in a huge banquet hall, I was in awe of the hundreds of collegians and local alumnae who traveled from all over the state to be part of this singular day each year. I was part of a very young AOII chapter, with few graduates, so we relied on alumnae from other schools as our role models for lifetime engagement. It struck me how dedicated these women were, years out of college, and the stories of our honor card recipients’ selflessness and support to their sisters often left me reaching for the Kleenex. Founders’ Day was indeed a reunion time, and the most marvelous part for me was realizing alumnae from all different chapters had forged such deep connections. That was my first glimpse of the greater AOII out there. Founders’ Day brings us all back together.
Years after college, I attended a Founders’ Day event in my new town. This was a completely new experience for me, held in a sister’s home as an intimate gathering. But there we were, all seated in a circle around the living room, sharing the familiar stories of the four women who founded our beloved AOII, just like at all the other Founders’ Days I had attended. I enjoyed the accounts of Jessie, not only because we shared a name, but also because she was a passionate crusader and writer, and loyal friend—all things I aspired to be. I loved that Helen was a lawyer, as I had also become. I admired Stella, our first Grand President, and staunch advocate for women and children. I saw Bess as a guidestar, a brilliant teacher who led AOII through the Great Depression. Hearing these accounts of our Founders made me feel at home, connected me with my new AOII friends, and reminded me how important it is to commemorate those who started it all.
This year, 30 years after initiation, I will travel to Philadelphia and enjoy Founders’ Day with the women of Sigma Beta Chapter and many others. I am incredibly honored and excited to be with them on such a special day. I’m thrilled to experience this celebration of our cherished AOII, the promise of new friendships, and the many sisters who have continued to serve Alpha so lovingly.
So, whether it’s your first, 10th, or 20th+ Founders’ Day, may we be ever thankful for the four women who climbed those steps together at Barnard, pledged each other, and in doing so, created the gift of worldwide sisterhood for us. In Stella’s words: “May the love that unites us guide and bless you.”