While today six sororities are dotted around Otterbein’s campus, 40 years ago there was a seventh sorority that was in play.
Rho Kappa Delta, or Arcady as they were referred to around campus, was founded in 1917, the same year Otterbein University became Otterbein College.
Greek Life was illegal on campus when Arcady was founded. Although many chapters existed, they were hidden from administration and marketed as “Social Clubs.”
There were many chapters that popped up at this time in history that don’t exist today, such as Alpha Beta Sigma Fraternity (Alps) and Phi Theta Pi Sorority (Phoenix). Two fraternities, Delta Beta Kappa (Cook House) and Lambda Kappa Tau (Lakota) technically are still around today, as in 1931 the two chapters merged to form Zeta Phi.
Arcady outlasted most sororities that went under and never came back at many points throughout history, such as during the Great Depression. In the 1970s, women wanting to rush a sorority had seven chapters to choose from, instead of the six they can choose from today. It wasn’t until 1980 that Arcady had to disband, presumably due to low membership. But what was this lost sorority?
Sharon Wilson, a 1970 graduate of Otterbein and an alumnus of Arcady, said she was drawn to Arcady in particular because she already knew people in the chapter. At the time she was in the chapter, a lot of the members were education majors, which Wilson was also studying.
Arcady was made up of “people that were quieter,” according to Wilson. She remembers the chapter as people who were quiet, but still got things done and were active on campus. Wilson cites the quiet demeanor of the sorority as another thing that drew her towards Arcady. Being from a small town, she said she was just taking in the big city, and didn’t have the experiences most people from larger communities had. Since Arcady was home to some women also from her hometown, that’s where she ended up.
Just like all the other Greek chapters on campus, Arcady bred friendships. A fellow Arcady member was a bridesmaid in Wilson’s wedding. Also reminiscent of today is the friendships cultivated through chapter meetings and new member education, which was referred to as “pledging” when Arcady was on campus. Wilson said the chapter meetings, which were held in a room in the basement of Clements Hall since the sororities didn’t have houses at this time, as being fun moments she remembers to this day. “You'd get all your sorority members in that little room, and it was fun,” reminisced Wilson.
Members of Arcady had fun just like any other sorority. They participated in homecoming, held two formal dances a year, and did serenades during new member education, which are all things that today’s sororities still do. Arcady also participated in painting banners, or “sheets” as Wilson said they were called back then, for Homecoming.
A particular memory that sticks out to Wilson is a year she was in charge of painting the banner, but she waited too long, and it was too wet and cold outside to hang the banner to dry. Her and another Arcady member attempted to hang the banner to dry in the basement of their dorm, which at the time was where Cowan Hall now sits.
“They never did dry,” Wilson said, laughing. “So we hung them outside anyway, and they froze.”
Wilson said this is one of the moments that taught her organizational and time-management skills that she used through her career as a teacher and the owner of her own travel agency. Wilson, now retired, said Arcady taught her valuable skills that she has never forgotten. Being in a sorority taught her how to get along and work well with other people, which led her to becoming vice president of Arcady her junior year.
While Arcady fizzled out in the early 1980s due to low numbers, they had brief moments in 1996 and 2005 where it looked like they may come back. In both situations there was a group of women who banded together and tried to renew Rho Kappa Delta’s charter. Both times the renewal of the charter was denied by the Panhellenic Council.
For Arcady to get restarted, Wilson said it would require a special kind of individual to be able to recruit the type of girls Arcady was known for and to be able to sustain the newly reformed chapter financially.
“There's so many given things,” Wilson said. “So, I don’t know if it would be a good idea to bring back Arcady or not.”
It isn’t uncommon for chapters to dip in numbers, according to Ben Schwarz, the associate director of alumni relations at Otterbein. “If the guys or the women don’t do very well in recruitment for a few years, it really hurts,” Schwarz explained.
There was a time in the 1990s where Kappa Phi Omega was low in numbers and dangerously close to having to disband. Pi Beta Sigma came together and convinced a large group of girls to rush Kappa, and therefore saved the chapter from a fate like Arcady’s.
Tau Delta has disappeared and come back to campus a couple times as well, with the most recent return to campus being in 1988.
Sigma Delta Phi (Sphinx) has also had to disband a few times. A notable time they disbanded was during World War II. In 1943, Sphinx disbanded due to every member of the fraternity being enlisted in the war. Sphinx came back on campus in 1946, has disbanded a few times since then, and returned to campus for the final time in 2000 where they have been active ever since.