171 Years Ago in Oxford, Ohio…

Phi Delta Theta is a men’s college fraternity founded in 1848 at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  The Fraternity has nearly 185 active chapters in 43 states and five Canadian provinces and maintains its headquarters at Miami University.  Since 1848, more than 250,000 men have been initiated into Phi Delta Theta and the Fraternity has more than 160,000 living alumni.  

101 Years Ago in Hamilton, New York…

The New York Zeta Chapter of Phi Delta Theta (the chapter) was founded in 1918 at Colgate University in Hamilton, NY.  The organization was originally created as the Owl Club in 1907 and later became the Sigma Alpha fraternity before receiving its Phi Delta Theta Charter.  To date, the New York Zeta Chapter has initiated 1,984 members.  The chapter is a self-governing organization that offers its members opportunities for leadership development, community service, social networking and group housing.  About half of the chapter’s active members reside in a chapter house that is owned by Colgate University and is located at 114 Broad Street in Hamilton, New York

Phi Delta Theta International

The Beginning

The fraternity was founded by six undergraduate students: Robert Morrison, John McMillan Wilson, Robert Thompson Drake, John Wolfe Lindley, Ardivan Walker Rodgers, and Andrew Watts Rogers, who are collectively known as  The Immortal Six

The fraternity was founded by six undergraduate students: Robert Morrison, John McMillan Wilson, Robert Thompson Drake, John Wolfe Lindley, Ardivan Walker Rodgers, and Andrew Watts Rogers, who are collectively known as The Immortal Six

As the Christmas holidays approached in 1848, the atmosphere on the Miami campus in Oxford, Ohio was gloomy and uncertain.  This was the mood in which Robert Morrison suggested to a close friend and classmate, John McMillan Wilson, that they consider putting together a new collegiate brotherhood. Morrison and Wilson, thinking in terms of providing a permanent base with growth potential, sought out underclassman that they believed they would be dedicated to their cause.  Thus juniors John Wolfe Lindley and Robert Thompson Drake were approached, as were sophomores Ardivan Walker Rodgers and Andrew Watts Rogers, all of who accepted the concept.

All six men were among the group of Miami students who did not attempt to go home to join their families for the Christmas holidays. Winter travel conditions were difficult and could often prove perilous due to harsh winter conditions. The need for close companionship had to be evident when the six met the night of December 26, 1848 in Wilson’s second floor room in Old North Hall, directly above Morrison’s room.  They firmed up their desire to establish a brotherhood. They met two nights later in the same room to consider an appropriate motto and constitution.  Morrison and Wilson put the consensus of these ideas into the terminology that became The Bond. This is the same Bond that every initiate in to the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity has since signed.

On December 30, the “Immortal Six” put their signatures to The Bond of the Phi Delta Theta in Wilson’s room.  Their names remain a vital part of the rituals that continue today in every chapter room across the United States and Canada.  The Bond has remained unchanged from that day to this.  So far as it is known, it is the only document of any fraternity of such a character and it is easy to understand the veneration with which all members of Phi Delta Theta regard it.

The second chapter of Phi Delta Theta was established at Indiana University in October of 1849 and other chapters followed at Centre College and Wabash College.  The real growth occurred during the two decades from 1870 to 1890 due principally to the efforts of Walter B. Palmer, Emory-Vanderbilt 1877, and George Banta, Franklin-Indiana 1876. The two were given the title Second Founders for their work.

An International Fraternity

In 1900, twelve students at McGill University submitted a charter application.  The request was presented at the General Convention in November where it was decided to grant the charter.  At the installation of Quebec Alpha on April 5, 1902, a toast to the King was followed by a toast to the President and Phi Delta Theta was hence forth known as an international fraternity.  The Fraternity continued to extend its presence in Canada, eventually stretching from coast to coast.

the leader in the fraternity world

Phi Delta Theta was the first Fraternity to create an endowment for free lifetime subscriptions to the Fraternity magazine called The Scroll, a plan later adopted by nearly every other fraternal organization.  Phi Delta Theta was also the first to adopt a pledge button and the first to publish a pledge manual.

Phi Delta Theta members have occupied every major public office including the presidency and vice presidency of the United States, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senators and Congressmen, State Governors and Senators in the Canadian House of Commons.  Phi Delta Theta also holds the unique distinction of having Brother Neil Armstrong as the first man on the moon.

The Fraternity continued to grow and expand surviving tough times such as war, the Great Depression, and the civil rights movement.  The 1980s changed the way Fraternities conducted business with new legal charges in suits involving alcohol abuse, hazing, and discrimination.  Fraternity insurance and risk management programs were born and new educational program initiatives were directed at combating these issues to ensure the safety and well being of our members.

Phi Delta Theta reaffirmed its leadership role in the late 1990s when it voted to eliminate alcohol from chapter facilities by the year 2000. Based on this new movement, the Fraternity has undergone one of its largest growth spurts in the history of the modern Fraternity.  This indicates a renewed demand for a values-based organization from college students.  Phi Delta Theta continues to be a model for other Greek organizations looking to make the same positive move.

The Owl Club

The above pictured men were the original members of the Owl Club and the founders of Sigma Alpha. Rear: J. William Douglass, George Smith and William O’Brien. Middle: Herbert Franklin, Daniel Lynch, Albert Davis and J.R. Cornog. Front: Albert J. Salathe and Edward H. Clayton. Absent: H.F. Keyser.

The above pictured men were the original members of the Owl Club and the founders of Sigma Alpha. Rear: J. William Douglass, George Smith and William O’Brien. Middle: Herbert Franklin, Daniel Lynch, Albert Davis and J.R. Cornog. Front: Albert J. Salathe and Edward H. Clayton. Absent: H.F. Keyser.

In the fall of 1907, under the direction of Jacob R. Cornog, ten students at Colgate University gathered together and formed the Owl Club.  In 1909, the Owl Club reorganized as Sigma Alpha Fraternity, which later became the New York Zeta Chapter of Phi Delta Theta.

Sigma Alpha (1909-1918)

In 1911, Clarence Castimore, a member of the class of 1912 and chairman of the petitioning committee, met with Dr. Elmer B. Bryan, president of Colgate to discuss the possibility of affiliating the Sigma Alpha chapter with Phi Delta Theta.  Castimore emerged from the meeting committed to bringing Phi Delta Theta to Colgate, and on March 6, 1912, the brothers of Sigma Alpha formally petitioned Phi Delta Theta.  Six years passed before Phi Delta Theta granted a charter on January 2, 1918.

The above image was taken on March 29, 1918 when the brothers of Sigma Alpha were installed at Colgate as the New York Zeta Chapter of Phi Delta Theta. The Sigma Alpha house was purchased by the brothers of Sigma Alpha in 1914, and burned down in 1924. It was replaced by the current chapter house.

The above image was taken on March 29, 1918 when the brothers of Sigma Alpha were installed at Colgate as the New York Zeta Chapter of Phi Delta Theta. The Sigma Alpha house was purchased by the brothers of Sigma Alpha in 1914, and burned down in 1924. It was replaced by the current chapter house.

During this six year period, Sigma Alpha continued to establish itself on the Colgate campus.  In 1914, the brothers purchased the Sigma Alpha house pictured above from Dr. Maynard, a retired member of the Colgate faculty.  From 1909 - 1918, Sigma Alpha counted numerous campus leaders as members, including four Editors-in-Chief of The Madisonensis, the President of the Students’ Association, and members of the varsity baseball and football teams, including Clarence E. “Steamer” Horning, who played professional football for several years after Colgate.

At the installation of the New York Zeta chapter in 1918, Dr. Freeman H. Allen, a member of the Colgate faculty and honorary member of Sigma Alpha, read a brief tribute to Sigma Alpha:  

From the start, Sigma Alpha was received most cordially by the other fraternities and a most happy relationship has continued to the present time.  This has been due in large measure to the character and standing of the men who founded the Society and to the ideals, standards, and impetus given by them to the young organization.  They were men of lofty ideals as men and students, strong character and clean life; independent thinkers, fine students and good mixers.  They were careful in selecting new members, and the ideals and the advice of these founders of Sigma Alpha have been passed on to each succeeding generation.  It has ever been the policy of the fraternity to endeavor to help each brother to become his best - to conquer his faults, stimulate scholarship, cultivate the traits of gentlemen whether within or outside the fraternity house, engage and excel in some extra-curricular activity, and to consider himself first a servant of Colgate and second a servant of Sigma Alpha.  

Chapter House


In 1914, the brothers of Sigma Alpha, our predecessor organization, occupied the historic Fisk residence on West Kendrick Avenue. This was the brothers’ third home since the founding of the original Owl Club in 1907. While the Fisk house served their needs for shelter, the brothers wanted to build a new home, one they could truly call their own. With this in mind, they included the first plans for the construction of a new chapter house within their original petition for membership in Phi Delta Theta.

The brothers of Sigma Alpha were ambitious, and their plan described the creation of a $28,000 home. According to the brothers, the proposed house was to be entirely fireproof, using steel construction throughout, and was to be architecturally based on the model of an Italian villa. The original plan shows outside walls made of pure white stucco containing a large percent of feldspar. This grand design, sadly, was not to be realized, and plans for its construction were soon put aside. However, the desire for a new home remained strong within the brotherhood.

During the spring of 1914, brothers Charles Hetherington and Lynn Pickard stood on Whitnall Field contemplating Sigma Alpha’s housing situation. It was at this time that they began to think that Dr. Maynard’s home would make an attractive residence for the members of Sigma Alpha. "Dr. Maynard’s home, the site of the present house, looked very desirable to us," Brother Hetherington said when recalling this moment. "He was an elderly man, retired from the faculty and seemed settled in his home. However, we took a chance. We hustled over and suggested that he trade his home to us for our wreck on Kendrick Avenue. After many consultations, an agreement was reached. Lynn and I had bonds issued, and the marvel to me now is that we were able to sell them, and we moved into the new quarters in the fall, rushing the new delegation through paint and paper and shavings."

In Dr. Maynard’s old home the brothers of Sigma Alpha had finally found a place to their liking, but it must have been less than perfect, as it was soon nicknamed "the ice palace." Nevertheless, the brothers from this period often recalled fond memories of the home, including tales of flooded bathrooms and food fights during Christmas parties when the cider was too hard. Yet, despite the brothers’ enjoyment of their house, they were always concerned with making Sigma Alpha the best fraternity at Colgate. The dream of building a new house for the brotherhood remained.

On December 8, 1923, the New York Zeta Alumni Club of New York was founded in part to address this desire. The members of this club had been early brothers of Sigma Alpha and were still resolved to make their fraternity the best and most visible house at Colgate. By this time Sigma Alpha had become Phi Delta Theta and the alumni lent the undergraduate brotherhood a great deal of support in paying off debts and raising funds. However, while plans were in the works for construction, fire claimed the old Dr. Maynard home on July 31, 1926. The fire resulted in an emergency meeting of the alumni board of directors, who passed a vote to build a "Colonial House of brick or stone, to cost approximately $40,000, on the present location." This house was to become the present chapter house, and it was finally completed in the fall of 1927. During the interim period, the brothers were forced to rent rooms near the post office from the local Masonic chapter, but through the resolve of the undergraduates and financial support of the alumni, our home came into being.

In February 1948 a fire seriously threatened the complete destruction of the house and caused enough damage to require a major restoration.  As part of the reconstruction some remodeling was done including the addition of a library and the extensive landscaping of the lot behind the house.  The addition of a new wing to the back of the house in 1965 increased its housing capacity from 28 to 47 members at a cost of about $142,000.

The 114 Broad Street property was owned and operated as a chapter house by the New York Zeta of Phi Delta Theta Corporation until May 2005, when it was sold to Colgate University for $670,000 and the housing capacity was reset to 30 members. Despite the transfer of ownership to Colgate, the brothers of New York Zeta continue to enjoy the exclusive use of this property as their chapter house and the alumni corporation continues to operate an independent kitchen for the chapter on the premises. This house has served us well for many years and living in-house has been one of the common experiences that bind us together. In these halls, sacred to friendship, we meet as brothers. We look forward to carrying this tradition into the future.

Winnie Mackay (1942-2006)

This eulogy was presented by Bruce Clayton ’89 on December 2nd, 2006:

Winnie Mackay and her son, Tim Mackay dance to the music of Terrance Bruce

Winnie Mackay and her son, Tim Mackay dance to the music of Terrance Bruce

Thank you all for coming today as we celebrate the life of Winnie MacKay. My name is Bruce Clayton and I am the President of the Phi Delta Theta Alumni Corporation. I have known Winnie for the past 21 years. While Winnie has had a major impact on my life, I am also speaking today on behalf of over 900 alumni and undergraduate members of Phi Delta Theta and countless friends whose lives she has touched.

Let me start by telling you a little about Winnie's life. Winnie was born on March 28, 1942 in Lyon's Falls, New York and she attended schools in West Lydon and Madison. At age 15, she started working at the Colgate Inn as the second cook. A year later, the head cook disappeared and Winnie was promoted to the position o f head cook at age 16. She later worked at the Beaches Restaurant as the saucier, the Braeloch Inn as the head chef, and a Jewish resort in the Catskills as the saucier. Her son, Tim, was born in October 1964 when Winnie was 22 years old. Five monthe later, on Feb 16, 1965, Winnie was hired to be the cook at Phi Delta Theta. Her position expanded over the years to become property manager and house mother for the fraternity. Winnie also worked part-time as a door monitor for various fraternity parties and later worked several evenings a week as a door checker at the Hourglass Bar.

Winnie's career at the fraternity spanned 41 years. During this time, she developed a special relationship with the brothers that extended far beyond the kitchen. College years were difficult times for many of us as we explored new relationships and became adults. Winnie was our trusted friend, mentor, advisor, second mother and babysitter for our years in college and beyond. We confided our secrets to her, she listened to our problems, and she gave us advice based on her experience as a mother. When we got out of line or needed a kick in the pants, she did not hesitate to speak up. She cared for us, fed us, teased us, and loved us as we journeyed from boyhood to manhood. After graduation, as we became husbands, fathers and even grandfathers, Winnie remained the constant in our fondness for the fraternity and what it stood for.

A few words that come to mind when I think of Winnie are:

Loyalty - Winnie demonstrated tremendous loyalty to the Phi Delta Theta organization by devoting nearly her entire adult life to serving the fraternity. We were all part of her family and she put her family above everything else.

Independence - Winnie was fiercely independent and strong willed. At times she was downright stubborn. She usually had a view on how things should be done. As students, we quickly learned that it was Winnie's way or the highway. But we knew she always had the best interests of the fraternity at heart.

Continuity - Winnie is a common link between generations of Phi Delta Theta brothers. The shared experience of life at a fraternity house under Winnie MacKay has brought us closer together as brothers and friends. The first thing that an alumnus does when he returns to the Colgate campus is to ask about Winnie and pay his respects to her.

Pride - Winnie had a lot of pride in her job and in the fraternity. It was important to her that the fraternity house was clean, that the brothers stayed out of trouble, and that we succeeded as a fraternity. She loved her job and it showed.

I first knew Winnie as an employee on her kitchen crew. I later became her supervisor when I became involved as an officer of our alumni corporation. Winnie was one of my best friends and a person that I greatly admired. We shared a passion for the fraternity house and what it represented. She was there for my graduation. I got married to my wife, Julie, in this very church some 13 years ago and Winnie let us use the Phi Delta Theta house for our wedding reception. Of course, Winnie was a guest of honor at the wedding and I even got her out for a few spins on the dance floor.

I visited Winnie last Saturday at the hospital in Utica. We had a nice visit and shared some memories about the fraternity. I read her some get well cards from my two daughters. Winnie and I always used to joke that her trips to the hospital were a vacation for her. This time, she told me it was going to be a short vacation and that she wanted to go home. So welcome home, Winnie, and rest in peace.

We all have our favorite memories and stories about Winnie. One of my fraternity brothers told me that as long as one is remembered, then one has reached a level of immortality. That is where Winnie will remain with all of us ... immortal.

Thank you, Winnie, for all you have done for me and for our fraternity.

Bruce Clayton '89
President, New York Zeta of Phi Delta Theta Corporation

Articles & Information

The following links include articles and information about Winnie Mackay.  She was featured several times in The Zeta Record, which is the official newsletter of the New York Zeta chapter of Phi Delta Theta.

Proclamation for Winnie Mackay

Funeral Mass Program (Dec. 2, 2006)

Winnie Mackay Obituary

Retirement Announcement (Winter 2005)

Keeper of the House (Spring 2003)

The New Flagpole (2001)


If you would like to make a memorial gift to the Phi Delta Theta Foundation on behalf of Winnie, you can do so by visiting www.phideltatheta.org or by sending a check payable to the Phi Delta Theta Foundation, 2 South Campus Avenue, Oxford, OH 45056.

If you are making on on-line donation, please remember to check the box to allocate your gift to the New York Zeta Fund.  If you are sending a check, please enclose a note stating that this is a memorial gift for the New York Zeta Fund in memory of Winnie Mackay.