This year has been a time of enormous challenge, change and opportunity. We’ve been challenged to reconfigure our lives as COVID-19 has become a global, shared reality. We’ve changed the way we interact, the way we conduct business and the way we recruit new members. And we have had the opportunity to listen and learn, stand up bravely, speak up boldly and demonstrate kindness in the wake of social and racial injustice.
While such challenge, change and opportunity may be unprecedented in our lifetime, it is not the first time Tri Delta members have been called to face an uncertain world with grace, hope and resilience.
In a time when a woman’s place in higher education was still questioned, Sarah Ida Shaw set her sights on attending the prestigious all-women’s institution Wellesley College. When her mother fell ill the summer before she was to leave home, she decided, instead, to attend Boston University and stay closer to home. After her first year, she made plans again to attend Wellesley, only to have those plans change once again, this time due to her father’s illness. Sarah knew what it was like to have unexpected illness change one’s life plans.
Nevertheless, Sarah thrived at Boston. When she was unable to find an existing sorority to call home, even after participating in recruitment, she was undeterred. In her senior year she, along with Eleanor Dorcas Pond, committed to “set heart and hand to creating a society that would be kind alike to all and think more of a woman’s inner character than her outward appearance or personal circumstance.”
On Thanksgiving Eve of 1888, Sarah and Eleanor pledged their eternal loyalty and fealty to Tri Delta and initiated a sisterhood based on the values of truth, self-sacrifice and friendship. It is these values that have allowed us to withstand challenge and change, no matter how great.
These values, and the women who embodied them, are why Tri Delta has been able to face other previous global challenges. We endured another pandemic—the Spanish flu of 1918—along with the Great War and World War II. In the midst of turmoil, Tri Delta members remained steadfast in their love for one another and in service to others.
And these values are exactly the reasons that Tri Delta remains strong today. Perhaps never before has the power of sisterhood been so important. We do not shy away from hard conversations or fear adapting to challenging times. Tri Delta has moved quickly to adopt new technology and create new opportunities for members to connect with and support one another.
Through our Let’s Talk Tri Delta podcast (launched summer 2019); our networking app, CONNECTDDD (launched fall 2019); our new online learning platform, LEADDDer.org (launched summer 2020); The Trident online (launching fall 2020); and the plethora of online events and experiences offered through our Summer of Sisterhood and Fall for Kindness, Tri Delta is working to meet our sisters where they are and inspire a lifelong journey of friendship, personal development and growth.
It is also paramount that Tri Delta ensure an equitable and inclusive lifetime membership opportunity for all our sisters, especially our Black, Indigenous and Sisters of Color. While Tri Delta was the first national women’s fraternity with a non-discrimination policy, we humbly acknowledge that our efforts around diversity, equity, inclusion and access have not come far enough or fast enough.
In 2020, we are intentionally focusing our energy, effort and resources on identifying and dismantling systemic racism in Tri Delta; promoting education, understanding and healing; and fighting for racial equality, equity and justice. The body of work designed to accomplish this is reflected in our LEADDD Now action plan, available for review here.
A critically important step in implementing the LEADDD Now plan is the expansion and enrichment of our governing boards. We are very grateful to the Sisters of Color who have stepped up to lead: Executive Board – Emily Greer, Rhodes; Tycely Williams, Wake Forest; Tri Delta Housing Board – Caroline Chin Goldwater, James Madison; Tri Delta Foundation Board – Ashley Baskerville, Cal State/Long Beach; Diane Petersen, Ohio Wesleyan. The depth of talent, perspective and experience they bring to Tri Delta is transformational. You can read more about these incredible leaders here. We have also launched an organization-wide diversity audit, the results of which will be shared openly with our members in the spirit of sisterhood and transformational culture change.
At the same time, we have been committed to supporting sisters through some of the most difficult circumstances they’ve ever faced. To date in 2020, Tri Delta’s Foundation has granted more than $260,000 to sisters in need through our Crescent Fund programs, including $208,000 in emergency funding related to COVID-19. The stories our sisters have shared in their outreach to Tri Delta’s Foundation have been poignant and empowering. The common themes in their stories have been their love of Tri Delta; the influence our sisters and sisterhood has had on their lives; and a sense of hope and resilience—inspired by our timeless values.
As we celebrate our 132nd Founders’ Day, as a society founded to be kind alike to all, I can truly say I have never been prouder to be a Tri Delta. While no one could have predicted the challenges 2020 has delivered, one thing remains certain: Tri Deltas everywhere remain committed to our founding Purpose.
In my first Founders’ Day message as Fraternity President, I charge you all to remain loyal to that Purpose, while being open to new opportunities for personal and community growth. As our sister Dr. Sarah Burgamy, Dartmouth, said in her recent podcast interview, “Be aware, be patient and be generous with yourself and with others.”
Sister Deltas, do not give up when your best-made plans fall to the wayside. Instead, like Sarah Ida Shaw before you, ask yourself not if but how you will take the next step forward. And when someone asks you how you’re making it through, you can say—with perfect confidence—“I am a Tri Delta.”
Here’s to facing the year ahead by renewing our commitment to truth, self-sacrifice and friendship; being brave, bold and kind; and leveraging our collective influence in service and kindness to all.
Loyally, your Fraternity President,
Megan Shaw James, Millsaps