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Leadership, Friendship, Service: Alpha Phi Omega’s Story

By Anna Fox

As a new volunteer in the University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections, I’ve had the chance to process a new collection, to arrange and preserve a piece of the university’s history. It was an exciting prospect not only to gain hands-on experience with archival processing, but to learn more about UD through its students’ activities. I could not have asked for a more enlightening project than the processing of the Alpha Phi Omega scrapbooks.

Alpha Phi Omega is a nationwide coeducational fraternity formed in 1925 for which leadership, friendship and service are its three foundational pillars. In the fall 1991 edition of Alpha Phi Omega’s national newsletter, Torch & Trefoil, the message to its readers was ‘Try Something New.’ The president of the national fraternity, Jerry Schroeder, wrote, “True leadership is not following the path — it’s going forward and leaving a trail.” That same year at UD, Cort O’Neil, a sophomore psychology major, and Matt Hoag, a sophomore electrical engineering major, would try something new by starting a chapter of Alpha Phi Omega on campus. It was the first coed service fraternity established at UD. The efforts of these two students left a trail for others to follow as the fraternity flourished.

Cort O’Neil, Michelle Albertini, Matt Hoag, and Alex Deschapelles discuss plans for starting a chapter at the University of Dayton, ca. 1991.

Cort O’Neil, Michelle Albertini, Matt Hoag, and Alex Deschapelles discuss plans for starting a chapter at the University of Dayton, ca. 1991.

Growing Dedication to Service

The group was dedicated to completing service projects on campus and throughout the Dayton community, such as building playgrounds for local schools, assisting at food pantries and holding fundraisers for local charities. By its fifth anniversary at UD, Alpha Phi Omega had grown to 40 members up from the original 15 founders’ class.

Alpha Phi Omega students construct the Franklin Montessori School playground, Oct. 26, 1996.

Alpha Phi Omega students construct the Franklin Montessori School playground, Oct. 26, 1996.

Students in Alpha Phi Omega came from all over the country and abroad, united by their desire to help others while studying here. Each year, a scrapbook documented the members and their accomplishments through autobiographies and photos. Teresa Arisco, a pledge in the fall of 2004, wrote in her autobiography, “Alpha Phi Omega is a gateway to personal betterment, as well as the betterment of the community they serve.”

What is striking about the collection is that no two scrapbooks are alike; each one looks different and reflects the personalities of the chapter’s members. Every binder is a time capsule of Alpha Phi Omega’s focus, goals and achievements. The changing styles of each year can be seen within each book, but what remains consistent is the commitment to serving the community at large.

A stack of some of the pledge books from the Alpha Phi Omega collection.

A stack of some of the pledge books from the Alpha Phi Omega collection.

The pledge book collection of Alpha Phi Omega from 1991 to 2014 is now housed in the University Archives and Special Collections for anyone interested in learning more about the fraternity or for those who wish to take a walk down memory lane.

— Anna Fox is a second year Wright State graduate student in the Public History program.

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