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HistoryIT | We Give History A Future


University of South Dakota

May 1st, 1920

Founding Date

Psi chapter came into existence after many long years of dreaming and planning. As the wife of the president of the University of South Dakota, Gertrude Reiman Slagle (Delta-Cornell) had spent many years helping a group called Kappa Phi Alpha in its efforts to join Alpha Phi. Sadly, she had passed away in 1915. But the group had continued, and was finally granted a charter. Soon, a group of alumnae alighted the train in Vermillion, South Dakota, to meet their new sisters. “When we reached the top of the hill where the town and the University are located,” Beta’s Claudine Wilkinson MacDonald reported, “we felt as if we were on the rim of the world. The town looks across the valley of the Vermillion and the Missouri Rivers to the hills of Nebraska.” The beauty of the landscape would be touched with emotion, as the installation committee members were greeted by Dr. R. L. Slagle, the president of the university, who “called upon us and made us feel that he considered Alpha Phi essential to the future of the University.” The busy preparations were now in order, as “Saturday, the all-important day arrived. 


The morning was given to the preparation of the hall, and mad dashing about as silver, cut glass, flowers,  notes of congratulations, and good wishes arrived.” The initiation was a great success. Among the twenty-one new Alpha Phi sisters were several women who had already graduated from the University of South Dakota, but had long sought a charter for an Alpha Phi chapter at their school. Installation was, therefore, “all so like a dream.” The newly initiated Psi chapter sisters were “so intent on our new Alpha Phi-hood that we sat smiling dazedly at the candles and the lilies of the valley and absent mindedly eating everything that was put before us,” Doris Stevens (Psi-South Dakota) reported of the banquet. “We happily let the big sister Alpha Phis teach us new songs and tell us new things of Alpha Phi. And when the last toast had been given and the last song sung, we reluctantly went back from the clouds to earth and the chapter-house to ‘receive’ the University and the town with pineapple ice and our best party smiles.” As much as the new sisters were moved beyond words to finally become a part of Alpha Phi, the alumnae who performed the initiation were also moved. “We found a group of girls who had kept the faith through years of waiting and disappointment,” Claudine wrote in the Quarterly. “In that group, we found three married women, one with a daughter eight years old, who had carried work in the University sufficient to enable them to be initiated into Alpha Phi.” One of these women, Margaret Stansbury Stockton, had dreamed of being a member of Alpha Phi for eight years. In 1917, she had accompanied her husband to the university after he was appointed dean of the College of Arts and Science; there, she learned of the late Mrs. Slagle’s dream to bring an Alpha Phi chapter to the university. Dr. Slagle gave Margaret his wife’s Alpha Phi badge for safekeeping. And now the day had finally arrived when Margaret would be initiated and possess a badge of her own. “Dr. Slagle,” Claudine Wilkinson MacDonald noted, “had given Mrs. Stockton Mrs. Slagle’s beautiful, old fashioned pin and the girls were to see that pin every day to remind them of the traditions of the Fraternity. We, who had gone to give, came home grateful for the privilege that had been ours.” When the visitors began to depart on Sunday after the banquet, the “whole chapter dashed down the hill to be at the station to speed the first two on their way,” Claudine reported. “We climbed aboard and then risked our lives in order to keep the girls in sight as long as possible.”