It’s easy to mistake fraternities and sororities as largely keeping to themselves. They are members-only after all, with their secret rituals, their private parties and, up and around Rugby Road, even their own neighborhood. One thing they haven’t been keeping to themselves lately is their generosity. Here are some examples.
Alumnae of the local Kappa Alpha Theta chapter, 213 of them, raised more than $1 million to restore the Rotunda’s North Terrace. The campaign, timed with the chapter’s 40th anniversary, culminated in the dedication of a plaque on the North Terrace last fall. The fundraising set the record for largest gift by a Greek organization to UVA, and it brought the Theta-affiliated total of Rotunda giving close to $3 million. “The Rotunda is at the heart of the University,” says Whitney Andrews Murphy (Col ’87), who along with Merry Walker Dougherty (Col ’90) spearheaded the effort for Kappa Alpha Theta members to join the donors who have committed $100,000 or more to the Rotunda project.
In September the local chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon announced that its alumni had raised more than $1 million to fund a Jefferson Scholarship. It commemorates David Magoon (Col ’03), a DKE Jefferson Scholar who had gone on to Harvard Medical School and had plans to travel abroad to help indigent communities. Magoon died in a freak accident in 2006, which inspired the DKE alumni to endow a scholarship in his name.
“We thought, at least we can give him a chance that he didn’t get,” says Berkley Cone (Com ’72), who co-chaired the initiative. “We can support another student.”
It took DKE alumni less than a year to come up with pledges sufficient to support a DKE-Magoon scholar once every four years in perpetuity.
Magoon’s parents attended the celebration of the 165th anniversary of DKE on Grounds, where the successful campaign in their son’s name was announced.
“People got teary,” Cone says.
The prestigious Jefferson Scholarships program awards a full ride, including stipend, to 35 or 40 students who exemplify leadership, scholarship and citizenship.
St. Elmo Hall was the first fraternity at UVA to fund one. More than 25 years ago, its alumni raised $200,000, a fund that has since grown to more than $1 million and has already paid for seven Jefferson Scholars. St. Elmo alumni also raised $100,000 for the Rotunda Restoration, and back in 2008 the local chapter celebrated its centennial by donating $150,000 to the Jefferson Trust, a UVA Alumni Association initiative that grants seed money to innovative programs across the University.
Funding outstanding scholars has become something of a trend among fraternities. Sigma Alpha Epsilon has raised $500,000 in the past six months to fund its own Jefferson Scholar, and Zeta Psi is in the midst of a campaign to fund one, too.
Says Theta’s Murphy, “The Greek system makes such a positive impact on Grounds, and giving as a group is so much more powerful than giving as an individual.”