Today, Tri Delta celebrates 130 years of kindness. I had the honour of delivering the keynote speech at my chapter’s Founders’ Day celebration. The transcript of the speech is below, and I promise I tried really hard to stick to what was written (for the purpose of aligning with the recording).
In 1888, four college-aged women, much like you and me, aspired to build an organization that would be kind alike to all, in an era when women were not afforded the privileges of post-secondary education. They would endeavour to create a perpetual bond of friendship among its members, establishing themselves at Boston University, and later expanding beyond the state of Massachusetts and across the continental United States.
As one of the first fraternities for women, Delta Delta Delta provided a space for women to attain their fullest potential, both in college and in non-academic pursuits.
These women would spread their influence abroad, growing each year, and developing as an international organization in the early 1930’s with the founding of chapters at three Canadian universities (Toronto, Alberta, and Manitoba). Hundreds, and later thousands, of women would have the privilege of membership bestowed upon them. Rooted in truth, driven by self-sacrifice, and guided by friendship, those very same women would flourish. As teachers. As lawyers. As members of local and national public office. As doctors. As leaders.
Together, they had fostered a community that would realize the strength of womanhood in all its forms; breaking down generations of submissiveness to society and making space for women to have a seat at the table. Tri Delta endeavoured to make her members strong, with professional development opportunities afforded to women through the philosophy by which we are called to serve.
“The office seeks the member” reflects Tri Delta’s moral life: a life formed by her values of truth, self-sacrifice, and friendship. This philosophy asks us to boldly accept the call to assist her members in every possible way, to challenge our own perceived limitations and serve faithfully as a chapter officer, or a fraternity volunteer.
Today, Tri Delta is strong because of her members. Our Fraternity boldly answers the call to offer a more inclusive membership experience, starting during recruitment. Our non-discrimination policy was refreshed by changing one word: from sex… to gender. By adapting this language, we affirmed our commitment to live kind and lead kind, in welcoming all those who identify as women to become a part of our sisterhood. Such a seemingly subtle change wouldn’t take place overnight.
Over the span of the 2016-2018 biennium, the Inclusion Task Force was given a charge to address many of the common, and some uncommon, barriers to Tri Delta membership for potential new members.
I humbly accepted my call to serve on this task force from 2016 to 2018, though that is not the moment that sticks with me today. The moment that sticks with me is the collective silence in the room at the Collegiate Leadership Conference, as Fraternity President Kimberlee Sullivan shared Tri Delta’s renewed commitment to kindness. That silence truly felt like a physical representation of the culmination of the hours of work behind the reinvigorated non-discrimination policy. Sitting in a ballroom, filled with collegiate leaders from across the continent, who chose to be bolder, braver, and kinder in a purposeful way.
The silence was broken by a soft sound of snapping fingers that eventually filled the whole room. Even now I can’t recall anything more than that sound, as I looked around the room at the loyal Tri Deltas who made that moment possible. Admittedly, we may have all been nervous at the outset, but not because we didn’t believe our members were ready for this change. But because it required a vulnerability that we may not have fully realized. In that moment, with a rising mountain of tears in my eyes, I felt endlessly proud and grateful to be a Tri Delta woman and was, and still am, confident that my service to her members has only just begun.
Our service to Tri Delta begins here, no matter where you find yourself on your membership journey. No one is here because it’s their right. Delta Delta Delta is a premier women’s organization because, every day, she chooses us. For every talent and every flaw, she chooses us. As ambassadors for the college communities we share space with, she chooses us. As women striving to become unselfish leaders, she chooses us.
130 years later, we have the privilege of holding space with over 200,000 living members; women who choose Tri Delta every day. Delta Delta Delta chooses us and challenges us, to live, learn, and lead, with the Purpose set out before us, for a lifetime. Our founders’ call to action was to steadfastly love one another, and we should endeavour to love widely and deeply for the next 130 years of brave, bold, and kind Tri Deltas.