The History of the San Mateo County, California, Alumnae Club
The first Pi Phi alumnae get together in San Mateo was a tea hosted at Eileen Plate’s home sometime in 1928. There were quite a few newly married young women in the area, and they started playing bridge together as a way of getting better acquainted. Bernice Coultrap Gerwick of Berkeley, Province Vice President, heard of the group and urged them to form a club. She suggested a Peninsula Club including Palo Alto, since there was a chapter at Stanford (California Alpha) and no alumnae organization in Palo Alto.
The group met at the Bel Monti Country Club in Belmont on April 10, 1929 and voted to organize at once. An election of officers was held, and the charter granted to the Peninsula Club soon after. The next few years were filled with teas, Cookie Shines, bridge benefits and regular meetings.
By 1935, however, the Depression hit California and many of the women had a difficult time making it to meetings. The Palo Alto women took over the charter of the Peninsula Club and renamed it the Palo Alto Alumnae Club.
By 1940, more and more Pi Phis were moving into the San Mateo area. The area was recovering from the Depression and the local alumnae felt it time to resume Pi Phi activities. They elected officers and chose Pearl Vaughn as the first President. They applied for a charter and received it in June of 1940.
When WWII came along, the ladies stopped their evening meetings and had daytime affairs. In 1943, serving at the USO became the club’s main project, and they carried that through 1944 and 1945. After the war ended, members were very happy to settle into the type of meetings and activities that are much like those of today.
The club ran a bridge marathon for many years to raise funds for local scholarships awarded to graduating senior girls heading off to college. The bridge benefit would run for several months, culminating in a “Play Day” luncheon at the end of the season where prizes were awarded to players with the highest points. Throughout the years this fundraiser was featured several times in local papers. The proceeds were always donated to local charities, scholarship funds and Pi Beta Phi Foundation.
The San Mateo County Alumnae Club is still going strong, with many new members joining each year. There is a devoted group of women in the book club as well as an ongoing Thursday bridge group. Some of the more recent events that are fast becoming club favorites among newer members include a holiday ornament exchange, a Golden Arrows luncheon and a toga Pparty date night.
The club supports Marathon Bridge Benefit, awarding local high school women scholarships for college.
Awards and Club Recognition
- Arrowmont Award (1974)
- Best Alumnae Club/Chapter Relations Nominee (1995, 1996, 1998)
- Club of Superior Performance (2009, 2011, 2012, 2014)
- Excellence in Communications Award (1998)
- Pi Beta Phi Foundation Top 10 Alumnae Organization (2014)
- Spirit Award (2012)
Carolyn Helman Lichtenberg Crest Award
- Jane Grimmer Baker (1994)