Have you ever met an MIT alum purely by chance? Maybe on a plane someone asked you about your cardinal and grey sweatshirt. Perhaps you found out an older neighbor once walked through the Infinite to class. We immediately connect to these MIT alumni, trading stories about late nights and tunnel escapades and comparing Brass Rats. We have shared experiences and a common history.
Greek organizations also provide these amazing shared experiences. When a sorority woman sees someone wearing matching letters at the airport, or hears someone mention her affiliation, our mutual sorority experience allows us to connect immediately.
And while we can perform the handshake, or whisper favorite moments from our initiation ceremonies, the sorority bond is not just about the secret rituals. Our organizations are rooted in our founders’ ideals of the women they wanted to become, and these values have been passed down for over a century. Sorority founders based our Greek organizations on friendship, leadership, learning, and service. They were ordinary women who wanted to become better — together — and created organizations to promote this mutual growth. And throughout the decades, as chapters expanded to campuses nationwide, sororities invited more young women who shared these same values to grow with these sisters.
My sorority, Alpha Chi Omega, was founded as Mark Twain finished Huckleberry Finn and as the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York City. Since then, my sisters survived the Great Depression, been “Rosie the Riveters” during World War II, and watched man first land on the moon. My sisters witnessed both the Berlin Wall and the Twin Towers fall. So much has changed in the past 128 years. Yet the values of my fellow Alpha Chi Omegas, and of the sisters of all Panhellenic organizations, have remained true to their roots through it all.
This continuity fosters the cross-generational connections that contribute to what makes being Greek so great. This continuity makes me know that my great-grandmother, initiated into Alpha Chi Omega when women were still fighting for the right to vote, lived by the same ideals that I hope to attain. The traditions and symbols of our sisterhood mean that my eighty-five year old grandmother, initiated in 1946, and I can sing the same songs, and that I can proudly wear her badge. But more importantly, our value-based sisterhood makes me know that while times have changed, we have all sought to become the best women we could be, seeking the heights together as Alpha Chis.
You don’t have to be biologically related to a sorority alumna to share the benefits of these cross-generational connections. We are motivated by our more recent alumnae, succeeding in the real world. We read in our sorority newsletters about our inspirational sisters who have continued to live our organization’s values beyond college life. We can reach out to these sisters, no matter when or where they went to college, for advice, or when we are in a new city, and immediately connect because of our shared experience. We can be confident that these women, from diverse backgrounds and in different careers, share our ideals and will care for us as sisters no matter what.
Throughout the years, as times have changed, sororities have remained steadfast to their original values and goals. Because of this continuity, Greek organizations offer a unique, shared experience throughout the generations. I am living by the same ideals that my grandmother, great-grandmother and over 200,000 women lived by throughout history. This common link of love and loyalty is timeless. This collective bond of shared experiences and values makes me proud to call these incredible women my sisters.