Theta Phi Alpha's History

The Past and Present 

Theta Phi Alpha has been official since 1912, but its origins are deeper than that. There was a student chapel at the University of Michigan, and the pastor there laid the foundation for ΘΦΑ. Father Edward Kelly noticed that many of the Greek organizations didn’t welcome the Catholic women he mentored. They were restricted and left feeling unwanted. Father Kelly decided that they would be able to grow and develop friendships if they had a place to come together. With that idea, Omega Upsilon formed in 1909.

Omega Upsilon struggled, however. Several women joined or showed interest, but it was challenged by financial instability. In addition, Father Kelly became the Bishop of Grand Rapids and found less time to devote to the group. In the summer of 1912, alumnus Amelia McSweeney, whom Father Kelly had enlisted to help, returned to save the organization. She worked alongside nine other women to create a new group. By the time the semester began, Theta Phi was up and running and held open arms to the women entering the campus.

Since that time, ΘΦΑ has joined the National Panhellenic Conference. It’s one of 26 sororities in the association. More than 50 active chapters are spread across the country, and it has touched the lives of thousands of women. Much respect is still given to ΘΦΑ’s Catholic origins, but since the 1960s, it allows women of any religion to join.


There are several symbols that separate the women of ΘΦΑ. Whereas many sororities choose only two, Theta Phi Alpha’s colors are blue, gold, and silver, creating a striking combination. These hues can be seen throughout the sorority and make an excellent choice for apparel.

In line with their colors, the women of Theta Phi Alpha chose the sapphire and pearl as their jewels. These elegant gems can often be seen in badges, and they help identify leadership positions. The standard membership pin, for example, is set with pearls. Theta is superimposed onto Phi and Alpha, and all of them are crafted in gold. The Theta is ringed with tiny pearls and has one set in the center. New members have their own badges: a small black diamond emblazoned with a gold compass.

Aside from its appearance in pins, the compass is the official symbol for the group. Its publication, “The Compass,” pays homage to this fact and provides updates and recognition through the year.

The official mascot is a penguin, which became official in 1987. Because the bird symbolizes friendship, the sisters elected to implement it into the insignia. The crest is commonly displayed as well. It features an open book, flower, cross, and diagonal band of gold. The name is shown beneath it in Greek, written across a blue banner.


ΘΦΑ reaches out into the community through several partners and events to make a difference. The first is the Theta Phi Alpha Foundation, which emphasizes education and philanthropy. The agency manages the fraternity’s aims, although it began as a program for scholarships in 1959. Much has changed since then, however, and the horizons have broadened to include all of the charitable goals.

Also in 1959, ΘΦΑ joined forces with Glenmary Home Missioners. This organization travels into the most rural areas of the United States, where the economy is the poorest. Volunteers provide physical and educational supplies to the citizens of these areas. The sisters hand out items as basic as food and clothing to these less fortunate people. Missioners set up training for new jobs and tutor children as well, helping the areas progress even after the GHM has left.

Camp Friendship works in a similar manner and is the third outreach of Theta Phi Alpha. This group is located in Mississippi and invites children from disadvantaged families. ΘΦΑ sisters not only gather money and raise awareness for this worthy cause, but they also volunteer as counselors for the two-week camping period. Many of the activities at the camp focus on personal growth and training to help brighten these children’s future.

Houndstooth Has You Covered 

There’s a degree of pride that comes from working with an organization of such standing. We’ve been drafting and crafting incredible t-shirts for more than 20 years, and we can help you too. Reach out to see what a custom design can do to promote ΘΦΑ and show everyone where you belong.



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