Michigan Beta image

Michigan Beta

University of Michigan

Founding date: 4/7/1888

Installing Officer:
May Copeland (Drybread),
Michigan Alpha 

Installation at Michigan Beta

Two Pi Beta Phi members, Minnie Newby, Iowa Alpha, and Statia Pritchard, Iowa Gamma, were attending the University Michigan and they selected women to be charter members of Michigan Beta. The charter members were Minnie, Statia, Lucy Parker, Fannie Read and Franc Arnold. Michigan Alphas May Copeland and Jessie Sheldon conducted the installation. On April 7, 1888, the Pi Beta Phi chapter was installed in the rooms of two charter members in the east wing of the lower floor of the Miner house at 42 Liberty Street. 

The founding members had no badges. On the day after initiation they wore wine and silver blue ribbons in their hair. Later for pictures they made badges of gilt paper. The installation banquet took place at another charter member’s residence where there was a cake baked by the mother of a Delta Gamma. The chapter did not have a home until 1891 when the chapter established a residence at 720 South State Street. The owners gave the women the use of all but one room on the second floor, the use of their parlors for meetings and the use of their dining room and kitchen for parties.

Michigan Betas were instrumental in starting other chapters. Michigan Betas Lucy Marris and Zuell Preston installed Pennsylvania Alpha at Swarthmore College on October 12, 1892. With the help of the Michigan Betas, five Northwestern University women applied for a Pi Phi charter. Illinois Epsilon was chartered on May 26, 1894. On November 1, 1894, Wisconsin Alpha was installed. Gertrude Clark Sober, a Michigan Beta, helped organized the chapter.

Living at Michigan Beta

On April 7, 1888, Minnie Newby Ricketts from Iowa Iota (later Iowa Alpha) and Statia Pritchard Oursler from Iowa Gamma met with three like-minded University of Michigan collegians in a private home adjacent to the University’s campus. The house was located at the corner of Liberty and Thompson Streets. These five women were the first members of the Michigan Beta chapter of Pi Beta Phi.

As the membership grew, the chapter rented meeting rooms in homes on Packard Street, East Ann Street, South State Street, and Monroe Street. Finally, the Detroit Alumnae Club established a building fund, and in 1908 Pi Phi was able to purchase the home of Professor Andrew McLaughlin at 836 Tappan Street, which they had been renting for two years. The lovely home was expanded several times and in 1958 a new wing was added.

There are now 37 bedrooms, 10 full bathrooms and many common rooms for gathering, socializing, and studying. The chapter has maintained an unbroken presence at the University of Michigan for almost 130 years, longer than any other sorority on campus. Generations of Pi Phis have called the Federal brick house with a white picket fence their beloved home.

The Michigan Beta Chapter House Corporation embarked on a Capital Campaign for the 125th Anniversary! With donations from support alumnae, the CHC was able to make wonderful improvements! These improvements include exterior renovations and fresh landscaping, history cabinet, new furniture and flooring in the living rooms, a new baby grand piano and updated bathrooms and bedrooms. 

Carolyn Helman Lichtenberg Crest Award Winners from Michigan Beta

  • Catherine Wartinbee Townsend (2005)