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Add A Chapter to Your Life: A History of Tradition with the Sororities at U of T

Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta... As a college freshman, it was all Greek to me. Greek life in Canada may not be as widely recognized as it is in the States, but that certainly doesn’t mean the impact hasn’t been as strong. One of the first things that comes to mind when you hear the word sorority or fraternity may not be the word tradition, but it truly is the central foundation of any Greek life organization. Many chapter events are grounded in a rich tradition that dates back to the very first founders. Speaking of firsts, many of the sororities at the University of Toronto were the first to establish chapters in Canada and set the stage for making their organizations international. Some have even been in continuous operation for over 100 years at U of T and still stand strong in carrying on the legacy.


Photo credit: http://piphionalpha.wordpress.com/

When you think about joining Greek life as living the legacy, you proudly realize that you are a part of something that goes beyond the four or more years you spend in university. In fact, many sorority alumnae were so prominent in the U of T campus and city culture, they left behind a legacy through landmarks you may very well be familiar with, but never knew were attached to the Greek legacy.
Ever visited the University of Toronto Art Centre at University College? Nearly half a million dollars was donated on behalf of the Toronto Alumnae Association of Delta Gamma Women’s Fraternity in order to showcase many important Canadian art collections right on campus. They were able to fund the renovations at UC and create one of the central gallery spaces at U of T. Another landmark in the University College area is the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse that was named after Helen Phelan, one of U of T’s Alpha Phi alumna. Many sorority women were cultural leaders in the city; including Vida Peene of Pi Beta Phi at U of T who was awarded the Order of Canada’s Service Medal for her service to Canada and the arts. Her legacy lives on through awards and funding through the Canada Arts Council in her name.
Philanthropy is highly valued among Greeks and is also grounded in tradition. Every year, sororities raise thousands of dollars in support of their partnered charities or causes and even contribute hundreds of service and volunteering hours throughout the year. Alumnae groups from University of Toronto’s Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Gamma Delta, and Alpha Omicron Pi were instrumental in founding Corbrook (http://www.corbrook.net), which is still in operation today and helps children with severe physical disabilities. One of the founding members, Gloria LeGrow of Alpha Chi Omega has an award in her name that the sororities at U of T give to a current sorority member that has displayed outstanding leadership in the community.

This only scratches the surface of the campus and community leadership that has been founded in the roots of Greek life. Fraternities for women began at a time where the norms were quite different and the empowerment of women was not as strong. Looking at the foundations of this empowerment through a history of fraternity tradition and leaving legacies gives sororities across the nation something to be very proud of. Especially at the University of Toronto campus, the power of Greek life can often be undermined or seem underrepresented. The truth is, we have a very strong commitment to tradition and excellence that we can all be collectively proud of. Back when it was all Greek to me, I was given the chance to connect with these traditions and after joining a sorority, I proudly carry the values of service, sisterhood, and leadership in everything I do.

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