75th Zeta anniversary unites alumnae, actives

Brenda Falcinelli, 1975 Union graduate, and her sister, Joyce Keohane, 1976 Union graduate, review photographs from Zeta Tau Alpha albums in Harvey Hall during Zeta’s 75th anniversary celebration. | Photo by Beth Spain

By Beth Spain

More than 75 years ago, Union University’s campus was home to an established social group of women known as “The Zetas.” Zeta Gamma was a gathering of like-minded Christian women who were later recruited in 1935 by the Greek fraternity Zeta Tau Alpha. Since then, Union’s Zeta chapter, known as Beta Omega, has accomplished a 75-year historic milestone as the second longest running Zeta chapter in Tennessee.

Zeta members and alumnae reunited at the Zeta lodge to celebrate the milestone, Nov. 19 through 20.

“Seventy-five years is a long time for anything,” said Peggy Donaldson, 75th anniversary chairwoman and Beta Omega panhellenic advisor.

Twenty-one of the 242 national Zeta chapters have reached such a milestone, Donaldson said. To hold this legacy, a chapter cannot do anything to revoke its charter. Any acts against the fraternity’s charter, from hazing to lacking in the number of members, could strip the organization from its active status. This is a challenge. Out of the seven Zeta chapters colonized in Tennessee, four are active and three chapters have never been closed. The Zeta chapter at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville was colonized 109 years ago, making it the oldest Zeta chapter in the state.

Almost 200 alumni, collegiate chapter members and their parents participated in the weekend’s celebration. Breakfast in the Brewer Dining Hall with many choices of Think-Pink Yoplait yogurts started Saturday’s events. Harvey Hall’s walls and stage were lined with composites from the decade, and its tables were filled with years of scrapbooks.

“You have someone to guide you through college, to keep you going,” said Anita Falcinelli, a Beta Omega alumna from the early ‘70s. Falcinelli’s two younger sisters, who were also in attendance as former Beta Omegas, said she was their inspiration to come to Union. As a quarterback for some intramural football games, Falcinelli said the friendships and sports were the most memorable part of being a Zeta.

Alums from different decades spoke during the evening ceremony, Donaldson said, and some reminisced about making floats for homecoming and participating in “All Sing.”

“They were the highlight of the program,” Donaldson said.

Participants were also given the opportunity to be photographed next to the Beta Omega link in Zeta Tau Alpha’s chain of chapters. Beta Omega is No. 73 in the chain of 242 chapters.

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