70 years of sisterhood celebrated PDF Print E-mail
Written by KAREN NADLER COTA Sentinel Lifestyles Editor   
Monday, 15 April 2013 09:58
Jill Bortel poses outside the BGSU Alpha Xi Delta sorority house with the flowers she received as a gift for serving as the chapter advisor for 40 years. (Photos: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
The 300 or more women who came back to Bowling Green this weekend range in age from 18 to 87, and hail from multiple states, but what they have in common is summed up in a single word: Sisterhood.
They gathered to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Alpha Xi Delta Sorority on the Bowling Green State University campus. Represented were women who belonged to AXD's Beta Mu chapter during every decade since the 1940s.
The weekend included campus touring, T-shirts, a gala banquet at the Hilton Garden Inn in Perrysburg, photos galore, and a campus tree dedication ceremony remembering sisters who have been lost.
This first such all-alumni reunion in the local sorority's history was the brainchild of alumna Stacy Warner, currently of Columbus. "That sounds to me like a reason to celebrate," she told another member when they realized this April would mark 70 decades since the founding in 1943.
Gloria Davis, 87, was a member of the very first pledge class, in 1944.
"I was a freshman that year, and my roommate and I - we both decided to pledge," Davis said Sunday. "She was from Cuyahoga Falls, and I had graduated from Toledo DeVilbiss."
When she heard about the planned reunion Davis called her old roommate, now living in Hudson, and suggested they both attend.
"We had a blast."
The two were the oldest sisters at the reunion, and younger alums and current undergrads listened with rapt interest as the women reminisced about sorority life in the 1940s.
"Things have changed an awful lot, mostly having to do with the rules on campus. We were not allowed to leave town without special written permission - from the dean," Davis said.
There were strict rules even to leave the campus itself. "You had to sign a book telling who you were going with, how you we going (you weren't allowed to just get in a car) and when you'd be back," she recalled.
Infractions meant "you'd be given demerits," Davis added.
"I don't think these girls have ever heard of demerits," she said of the 21st century sisters. "But my, they are pretty."
Appearance mattered back in the day, too, but again, those pesky rules got in the way.
"If you had your shorts on and were going to go play tennis, you had to put a trench coat on over the shorts to walk across campus."
The sorority experience "was a positive thing - all except for rush," Davis believes. "I didn't like rush."
Sororities "helped you keep up your grades." If a member's GPA dropped below a certain level "you were grounded - in your room by 7 or 8 p.m., I forget which."
(From left) Marcia Luce, Mary Wright, and Gloria Davis pose during the Alpha Xi Delta 70th anniversary banquet at the Hilton Garden Inn at Levis Commons in Perrysburg. Marcia Luce and Gloria Davis were members of the first pledge class and Mary Wright is a current BGSU student member.
Jill Bortel has been the Beta Mu Chapter adviser for 38 years, ever since 1974, and she was recognized during the reunion for her remarkable dedication over four decades.
"She's always been a behind-the-scenes kind of woman," 2006 graduate Nora Solomon, a current alumni leader, says of Bortel. "How many pledge classes, how many graduating classes have passed through that house under her leadership. She's been a mother figure, a confidante and a genuinely true sister."
In fact, Bortel is the longest serving advisor for any AXD campus chapter in the nation, as well as the most senior advisor of any Greek chapter at BGSU.
"The meaning and the true sisterhood has not changed at all" in four decades, Bortel believes.
So what has changed within the sorority?
"The numbers have changed. Not as many are going through recruitment," something that's true across campus. "Even in the early 1980s we had up to 110 members. Now membership is 72.
Bortel added that during her early years nearly 50 girls lived in the AXD house, but currently, 36 is the required maximum.
AXD and "one or two others are the largest houses on campus."
The Beta Mu Chapter, like all sororities on campus, will be saying farewell to their venerable houses at the end of the next school year. After that the structures will be torn down and a new Greek village constructed elsewhere on campus.
So this weekend's reunion doubled as a chance for many of the women to say a final goodbye to a much-loved home.
Besides the sorority house itself, Bortel talked about the transformative effect that social media has had on Greek life since her first decade as an advisor.
"There's more social media," and thus more concern for possible misuse of it in ways that could adversely impact a girl's personal future or career. "No pictures with any alcohol in it now at all. Back then," disseminating such photos wasn't considered a big deal.
"Times change. What wasn't hazing then, is now," Bortel added.
Last Updated on Monday, 15 April 2013 10:27

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