Twenty-five years ago Richmond made a grand entrance into Greek life for women by establishing six sororities in one fell swoop.
It was a feat that hadn’t occurred in the country at that time. Even today, the University holds the record for establishing six sororities at the same time. During the first recruitment, 604 women — or around 62 percent of women enrolled — joined one of the new chapters.
The founding of Richmond sororities came after years of surveys and planning, says Alison Keller, director of student activities and Greek life. Keller helped design and start the sorority system during the 1980s.
Greek life has flourished since then, including the addition of two historically black sororities to the campus in 1992 and 1995. The sororities were also among the first to implement a philanthropy night and a sisterhood night involving alumni during recruitment. They also were one of the first systems to establish a code of ethics and integrate it into Greek experience. The only thing missing had been dedicated spaces for the sororities. Plans for such spaces had been discussed for nearly 20 years, but were put into motion in 2007.
This year, the University celebrated the anniversary of women’s leadership through Greek life by opening of Cottage Court, a new facility with dedicated space for each sorority.
On Nov. 3, 2012, to cheers and flashing cameras, seven sorority cottages opened up to the public and the women of Greek life. The ribbon-cutting ceremony and cottage tours began on Saturday afternoon during Homecoming. Hundreds of Greek alumni were invited back to campus, and current sorority members served as tour guides and hostesses during the event.
The dedication drew a host of campus dignitaries and national leaders from each sorority. Speakers included President Edward L. Ayers, Vice President Steve Bisese, Trustee Elaine Yeatts, Student Activities Director Keller, and Kerrey Hoolihan, W’89, the first UR Panhellenic president.
In the new complex, each of Richmond’s seven sororities will rent a cottage that has been designed to accommodate regular sorority programs including weekly chapter meetings and recruitment activities. In addition, the cottages allow sororities to display their awards, symbols, and composites. A larger general facility, eighth cottage, and outdoor courtyard also promise space to any student organization to host events and activities.
Greek life continues to thrive at the University. Thirty-nine percent of students affiliate with a Greek social organization. Sorority involvement remained steady over the two decades since the original sororities were established and approximately 46 percent of the female students choose to join a sorority, mostly during their first year.
“Sororities give women an opportunity to lead women,” Keller says. “We did it then, we will do it now, and we will continue to do it in the future.”