Illinois Alpha image

Illinois Alpha

Monmouth College

Founding date: 4/28/1867

Notable fact: Pi Beta Phi's founding chapter; Original I.C. chapter (Alpha)

Installing Officers:
Founders (1867) and Amy Burnham Onken, Illinois Epsilon (1928)

Philanthropic Event:
Champions Are Readers® (CAR)

Installation of Illinois Alpha 

The story of Illinois Alpha is the story of Pi Beta Phi. On April 28, 1867, ten young women gathered in the southwest second floor bedroom of Holt Houseand created I.C. Sorosis. Two of their friends couldn’t attend and agreed to abide by whatever the ten decided to do. They chose the arrow as their badge and they agreed to “conceal and never reveal” that the organization was founded in Monmouth. The organization grew despite the opposition from the college authorities. By the late 1870s the chapter was operating sub-rosa. At the 1884 convention, the chapter relinquished its charter.

In 1928, Amy Burnham Onken reinstalled the chapter. Five of the six living founders attended. Jennie Horne Turnbull could not make it, but Clara Brownlee Hutchinson, Inez Smith Soule, Margaret Campbell, Libbie Brook Gaddis and Fannie Whitenack Libbey were all in attendance.

Illinois Gamma Minnie McDill McMichael, wife of the Monmouth College President, along with the townspeople, worked together to set up a great installation weekend. The ceremony took place at the home of the McMichaels. There, members of the local organization Zeta Epsilon Chi, both active and alumnae, were pledged to Pi Beta Phi. On Thursday, the initiation and installation ceremonies took place. Over the three days there were many banquets. On the first day a luncheon was prepared by Phi Delta Sigma and a breakfast was given by Kappa Alpha Sigma to promote Panhellenic spirit. After the Pledging Ceremony, there was a dinner held at the home of Iowa Alpha Adaline Ward Barnum by the Monmouth, Illinois, Alumnae Club. There the constitution was read and explained. Then, on Thursday after the initiation ceremony, there was a buffet luncheon served by the Zeta Epsilon Chi alumnae. That evening the new chapter held a formal banquet.

Living at Illinois Alpha

For decades, the chapter had a chapter room in Marshall Hall, where the sororities each had a room. In the early 2000s, the College furnished the chapter with a small house where some of the members could live and the chapter could congregate. In 2015, the son and daughter (Vicki Knapheide Wood, Arkansas Alpha) of Illinois Alpha Mary MacDill Knapheide made a $1.2 million donation to the College to provide the chapter with a new house. The house was completed in the early April 2016. A house dedication took place on April 28, 2016. At the house dedication, many alumnae returned to campus to tour the brand new house as well as see the graves of the founders at the Monmouth cemetery. The Pi Phis who attended the house dedication joined together and sang “Ring Ching” as one; it was a very unique and inspiring moment. The house includes a TV room, a formal living room, dining room, full kitchen, chapter room, craft room, multiple lounge areas, multiple bathrooms and an outdoor pavilion. There are around 15 women living in the house. Overall, the chapter members find themselves extremely blessed to be able to call this beautiful building home. The chapter is very thankful to all who have helped construct the house and worked on the project. Chapter members have already began making new memories in the house such as primary recruitment, sisterhood events, chapter meetings and big/little bonding activities.

Overall, the entire house can be viewed as a museum containing a plethora of Pi Beta Phi history. However, there are three main focal points that really encompass Pi Beta Phi as well as make the house unique. In the casual TV room, there is an interactive history wall. On the history wall, one can look back to the very beginning of Pi Beta Phi. The history wall contains a timeline that starts with the Founders and ends with notable Pi Phi’s as well as covers all the history in-between. On the wall there is also an I.C. Sorosis badge as well as a copy of one of the early editions of The Arrow. However, the most unique part of the history wall is the interactive touch screen where one can learn more about the history of the chapter or look through past composite pictures. Outside the chapter room, there is a sisterhood wall as well as a values wall. The sisterhood wall displays pictures ranging from the very beginning of Pi Beta Phi (such as pictures at Holt House) and to more recent pictures (such as recruitment and the house dedication). On the values wall, there are pictures of the chapter’s sisters embodying the values of Pi Beta Phi. The wall also includes the mission and vision statements of Pi Beta Phi.

Panhellenic Groups on Campus

Alpha Xi Delta, Kappa Kappa Gamma and Pi Beta Phi

Notable Alumnae

  • Evelyn Peters Kyle, Pi Phi’s Poet Laureate
  • Mary MacDill Knapheide

Carolyn Helman Lichtenberg Crest Award Winners from Illinois Alpha

  • Tiffany Mekshes Cole (2002)

Grand Council Members from Illinois Alpha

  • Evelyn Peters Kyle