40 Years of our Foundation: Reflections for Women’s History Month

March 31st, 2023
Filed Under: Foundation | Guest Post | History

By Amalia Cochran, Alpha Delta Pi Foundation President, Zeta Lambda-Texas A&M

Since March is Women’s History Month and we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Alpha Delta Pi Foundation, I wanted to take the opportunity to talk with our founding Board President Jane Madio. I wanted to learn more about the vision of our founding sisters, as well as put the timing of the founding of the Foundation into the context of 1983.

Jane describes the Grand Council who approved starting the Foundation and the original Board of Trustees as being “courageous,” and as she shared the stories of the early days, I realized how right that was.  The Charter Trustees shared a sense of mission in the ways that the Foundation could support our sisters.

Our Charter Board of Trustees included the following members:

  • Vicki Mathews Lilly, Tau–University of Kansas
  • Jane Fiedler Madio, Gamma Omicron–Susquehanna University
  • Ruth Pretty Palmer, Sigma–University of Illinois
  • Kay Dyche Weed, Delta–University of Texas, Austin
  • Pam Zimmerman, Epsilon Tau–Middle Tennessee State University

While they each had no direct expertise in running a nonprofit, together they brought experiences that informed some aspect of the Foundation’s work. Jane also highlighted for me that the Charter Trustees thought it important to maintain credibility by making choices that were financially sound. The organization started small, using Kay Weed’s dining room table as the office. Jane told me, “When we got to $10,000 in the checking account, we were astounded!”

We had a conversation about the difference in women’s philanthropy between 1983 and today. In the early days of the Foundation, no married woman made a contribution without the approval of her husband, so the Trustees had to cultivate two donors. Many of these husbands wrote sizable checks to support their fraternity foundations but didn’t necessarily believe in a sorority foundation as a serious enterprise. Through steadiness and good stewardship, the Trustees were able to show what they could accomplish, which helped with spousal buy-in.  Another important change was simply how the world has now evolved to have more women in roles that allow them to be financially independent and able to use “their” money to support the Foundation at a high level.

One of the initial funding priorities was what has become the Clasped Hands Fund, which has been largely supported through the Violets for My Sister program from its inception. The initial violets at Grand Convention were hand-tied ribbons with a violet in the middle – and yes, the Charter Trustees sat at Kay’s dining room table to make these ribbons.

The other early priority was funding of scholarships for sisters, which was a timely commitment as the 1980s were the first decade in which women constituted more than half of college students in the United States. The Foundation started the Scholarship Committee in fall of 1983 and in that same year awarded $4000 through 3 different scholarships. Fast-forward to fall 2023 when the Foundation will award approximately 150 scholarships with a value of more than $300,000.  We’ve come such a long way!

The Alpha Delta Pi Foundation now has office space and professional staff at Memorial Headquarters in Atlanta. Our organization has come so far over the last 40 years, and as the current President of the Foundation I could not be more grateful for the groundwork done by our Charter Trustees. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do all of the great work we’re able to do now.  I loved hearing from Jane the joy that she has in seeing what has come of what the Charter Trustees thought was a small idea, and appreciated her reminder that, “Having a passion for your cause in a small way can lead to big, wonderful things.”