The State Female Normal School, now Longwood University, in Farmville, VA, was the first institution of higher learning in Virginia to admit women for collegiate study. Naturally, it attracted superior students, many of them daughters of college professors already familiar with the fraternity idea.
Among the students attending in the fall term of 1901 were five women who had become very good friends. Attractive, vivacious and intelligent, they had been recruited and bid by the existing sororities. However, if they accepted these bids, it would mean that the five would not be sorority sisters.
On Nov. 15, 1901, a new sorority was organized and named Alpha Sigma Alpha. As stated in the charter, "The purpose of the association shall be to cultivate friendship among its members, and in every way to create pure and elevating sentiments, to perform such deeds and to mould such opinions as will tend to elevate and ennoble womanhood in the world." Signatures to this document include those of Alpha Sigma Alpha's five Founders: Virginia Lee Boyd (Noell), Juliette Jefferson Hundley (Gilliam), Calva Hamlet Watson (Wootton), Louise Burks Cox (Carper) and Mary Williamson Hundley.
The two chapters recognized the insight that Mrs. Martin could provide and immediately elected her to lead the sorority.
At this point, Alpha Sigma Alpha decided to limit its chapters to teachers' colleges and colleges of education within universities. By October 1914, two other local groups were sufficiently interested in Alpha Sigma Alpha to arrange for a convention.
The Miami, OH, convention was held over Thanksgiving weekend 1914, with delegates from the four chapters present. In two days they adopted a constitution, formulated a more elaborate ritual, made some changes in symbols and customs and arranged for a weekly publication, the Phoenix.
Throughout the next few decades, the Phoenix was the central medium linking the chapters. It was edited by Mrs. Martin, who had been elected national president, and read like a family letter sent periodically to far way children by a strong-minded mother whose experience and age gave her authority of opinion and action. The years 1914 to 1930 were formative ones for Alpha Sigma Alpha. Under the guidance of Mrs. Martin and the dedication of Alpha Sigma Alphas serving as national officers, the sorority began to flourish.
By 1930, Alpha Sigma Alpha was firmly re-established and ready for new leadership. At the 1930 national convention in Boston, MA, the convention body elected Wilma Wilson Sharp, Zeta Zeta Chapter, as national president. After 16 years of guidance by Mrs. Martin, Alpha Sigma Alpha was now under the leadership of one of her very own initiates. Mrs. Sharp served for 17 years as national president and served a total of 35 years as a national officer, granting her the honored title of president emerita.
Through Mrs. Sharp's vision and dedication, our ritual was bound into book form, the Creed of Alpha Sigma Alpha was composed, a memorial to the Founders at Longwood University was established, a new constitution was designed, the first published history of the sorority was released and Nov. 15 was declared Founders' Day.
Prior to 1947, Alpha Sigma Alpha and other members of the Association of Educational Sororities (AES) limited their expansion to teachers' colleges. When the teachers' colleges began granting liberal arts degrees instead of granting teaching certificates, National Panhellenic Conference sororities were free to expand on those campuses while AES groups could not expand on any other type of campus.
Considering that the activities and purposes of the "social" and "educational" sorority were identical, Alpha Sigma Alpha and Sigma Sigma Sigma initiated the vote to dissolve AES and join NPC. In September 1947, Alpha Sigma Alpha petitioned the National Panhellenic Conference for provisional membership and was accepted on Nov. 12, 1947. In 1951 NPC admitted these three groups to full membership.
In the years since 1947, Alpha Sigma Alpha has reached many exciting milestones. The 1950s brought about the celebration of the sorority's fiftieth anniversary and the golden anniversary convention held in 1952 at the Hotel Roanoke in Roanoke, VA. In 1957, the memorial garden was dedicated at Longwood University in recognition of the sorority's founding.
At the 1958 convention, aid to the mentally challenged was selected as the national service focus. In 1976, the Special Olympics was named as the national philanthropic project. Today Alpha Sigma Alphas around the country volunteer as judges, timers and huggers for Special Olympics events. In 1990, an additional philanthropic project was selected, the S. June Smith Center. The center is located in Lancaster, PA, and is named after Alpha Sigma Alpha member Dr. S. June Smith, Kappa Kappa Chapter. The S. June Smith Center is a private non-profit agency providing early identification, education, training and therapy to infants and children in theLancaster area with developmental disabilities and delays.
The Philanthropic Fund, originally established in 1926 and used to issue loans, was changed in 1967 to a fund that provided scholarships. The fund grew and scholarships were added. In the mid-1990s the Philanthropic Fund was transferred to the Alpha Sigma Alpha Foundation. The Foundation now awards all Alpha Sigma Alpha scholarships.
Leadership development and training was enhanced beginning in the 1960s with the development of the traveling secretary program, today known as the leadership consultant program. Recent graduates were recruited to spend a year traveling from chapter to chapter to provide training and assistance in all areas of chapter operations and membership development.
Emma Coleman Frost, Pi Pi Chapter, believed in the leadership potential of Alpha Sigma Alphas. In her honor, the first Emma Coleman Frost Leadership Development Institute was hosted at Penn State University in 1989. Today there are institutes held regionally in the years when a national convention is not held.
Finally during this period the first central office was established in Kenmore, NY. Prior to this time, the records of the sorority had been housed with individual officers. In 1962, the central office was relocated to Springfield, MO, and in 1966 the sorority purchased its first building to house the sorority office.
The property at 1201 East Walnut Street was dedicated as the first national headquarters in 1969. After more than 30 years in Springfield, the needs of the sorority outgrew the lovely old home. The decision was made in 1998 to move the national headquarters to Indianapolis, where a concentration of Greek organizations have located their headquarters. A permanent facility was built in 2007 and dedicated in 2008, located at 9002 Vincennes Circle.
The centennial celebration kicked off at the 41st Alpha Sigma Alpha National Convention in Richmond, VA, on June 28, 2000.
On Nov. 11, 2001, collegians and alumnae gathered across the nation to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the founding of Alpha Sigma Alpha and look toward the future.
The national council focused on the strategic plan in the spring of 2002, implementing a new organizational structure. This included district support teams for the nine districts, a volunteer recruitment and placement team and other support teams. The priority areas within the districts included finance, recruitment, the Advantage and volunteer recruitment and training. This organizational structure was approved at the 2002 convention in Nashville, TN.
The first District Day event was held in February 2003. Since its inception, thousands of members have attended this event held in locations across the country. District Day is a program designed to provide training opportunities for undergraduate and alumnae members across the country. District Day is the best opportunity for collegiate chapters, colonies and alumnae chapters to send a number of members to a national Alpha Sigma Alpha event. It is also an opportunity for individual members who may not be involved with an alumnae chapter or as a volunteer to reconnect with the national sorority. Attendees participate in training programs to increase knowledge and skills in areas such as recruitment, leadership development, personal development, finance, advising, member education, standards and chapter management.
The Alpha Sigma Alpha Foundation launched giving levels for alumnae and collegiate members with programs such as the Heritage Society and the 1901 Society. Each giving level achieved is represented with specifically crafted jewelry for the donor. The foundation also offers grants and scholarships for a variety of careers and goals.
For a more complete history please contact asa@AlphaSigmaAlpha.org to order your copy of Alpha Sigma Alpha's history book.