Illinois Epsilon image

Illinois Epsilon

Northwestern University*

Founding date: 5/26/1894

Installing Officers: 
Grand Secretary Grace Lass Sisson, Illinois Delta, and Loretta Hood, Illinois Delta

Philanthropic Event: 
Pie a Pi Phi

Installation of Illinois Epsilon 

The chapter was installed on May 26, 1894. The chapter was established through the influence of the Michigan Beta chapter, which helped five women apply for the Pi Beta Phi charter, and Grace Lass (Sisson), who was serving as Grand Secretary at the time.

After the Initiation Ceremony, the women enjoyed a tea at the house of a town member, where they received little plates decorated with carnations. The chapter sent out formal announcements the following week. Additionally, they were given a moonlight boat ride on Lake Michigan by a brother of a member. The charter members were Maude Van Sickle Schiver, Miriam Prindle Waller, Grace Van Sickle Melone, Hila Verbeck Knapp and Addie May Griggs.

Living at Illinois Epsilon 

The Illinois Epsilon Chapter house is an amazing center for all members. The first floor and kitchen are always full of familiar faces studying or catching up at all hours of the day (and night). The house holds 44 members. The Pi Phi kitchen is arguably the most popular place in the house. 

The chapter house has a framed kimono that hangs in the common area on the first floor. Every few years, a Pi Phi sister will take it out and wear it around the house. In a room called “the umbrella room,” there are beautiful Japanese inspired umbrellas hanging from the ceiling. In the fireplace room of the house hangs the original charter from 1894, and the fireplace itself has the crest of Pi Beta Phi on its front. There is also a beautiful grand piano and it is a wonderful addition to the house.

Panhellenic Groups on Campus
Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Phi, Chi Omega, Delta Delta Delta, Delta Gamma, Delta Zeta, Gamma Phi Beta, Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Delta, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Pi Beta Phi and Zeta Tau Alpha.

Philanthropic Service

Illinois Epsilon’s main philanthropy event is called “Pie a Pi Phi.” It is held every May on campus, and students are given the chance to throw “Pie’s” at members in order to raise money for Pi Phi’s Read > Lead > Achieve® initiative. There is a time-honored Pi Phi wooden face cutout board where the members are pied with pies made out of pudding and whip cream. It is a hilarious and a fun event for everyone involved. Recently, the chapter turned the day event into a weeklong event called Arrowfest. Before the Pie a Pi Phi day, members raised awareness by giving out "lemonade for literacy," throwing a pie eating contest and having a benefit night at the popular Blaze pizzeria. 

Notable Alumnae

  • Jacquelyn Mayer Townsend, Miss America 1963 and motivational speaker
  • Phyllis Elliott Oakley, Diplomat, United States State Department, served as Assistant Secretary of State
  • Martha Hyer, actress, seen in "McCloud"
  • Patricia Neal, Oscar-winning actress

Carolyn Helman Lichtenberg Crest Award Winners from Illinois Epsilon 

  • Jane Ehrenberg Rosen (2015)
  • Patricia Neal (1999)
  • Phyllis Elliott Oakley (1996)

Grand Council Members from Illinois Epsilon 

Grand Presidents

  • Amy Burnham Onken, Grand President for 31 years (1921–1952), the longest term of any Pi Phi Grand President; the Amy Burnham Onken Award, Pi Phi's highest individual award, was established in her honor.

Grand Council Members

  • Elda L. Smith
  • Margaretta Penn Putman
  • Mary Jane Stein Derringer