Abigail Davis – A Lasting Legacy (Part 1)

One pillar of the Alpha Delta Pi Foundation is “Serve” – service to our community, service to our sisterhood and as our creed proclaims “unselfish service to mankind.” One way the Foundation serves our members is through an emergency grant for collegians who have fallen on unforeseen financial hardships. These women can apply for the Abigail Davis Emergency Grant Fund to provide short-term assistance which helps keep them in school.  Since 1989, more than $366,000 has been awarded to 322 collegians.

Who is the woman behind the Abigail Davis Emergency Grant Fund and how can one person leave a lasting legacy?

abigail-davis

Abigail Louise Davis was born February 11, 1890 in Weatherford, Texas. Abigail was the 7th child in a family of eight children. Her primary education was received from governesses in her own home. In 1907, she enrolled in Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas to complete her preparatory work. Upon her arrival in Georgetown, while still at the train station, she was greeted by an active member of Zeta Chapter who “sounded the call” and Abigail accepted the pledge. From the first day, Abigail was a loyal and enthusiastic member. She even attended the 1907 Convention in Georgetown.

After two years at Southwestern, Abigail went to Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia to continue her education. In early October 1910 she petitioned the faculty for the privilege of establishing a new Alpha Delta Phi (our original name) chapter on campus. After four weeks, the petition was granted and Nu Chapter was installed. Not only did she organize this chapter at a college with seven other sororities but, through her efforts, the chapter built a lodge during their first year of organization, the first to be built by any sorority at the college. She served Nu Chapter as their first president and later as treasurer and was the chapter delegate to the 1911 Convention in Atlanta where she was one of the leading advocates for the expansion idea.

During 1911-13, Abigail attended the University of Chicago and graduated in 1913 with a Bachelor of Science degree. While in Chicago she organized the Chicago Alumnae Chapter, helped install Sigma Chapter at the University of Illinois, and planned and carried out practically all the arrangements for the 1913 Convention in Chicago. That Convention, the largest and most successful in the history of the sorority to that point, owed its success largely to her efforts.

During the Chicago Convention, Abigail was elected to the position of Inspector on the National Council.  The Inspector had responsibility for expansion of new chapters.  Not only during Abigail’s time as Inspector were some splendid new chapters installed (Chi, Psi, Omega, Alpha Alpha, Alpha Beta, Alpha Gamma, and Alpha Epsilon), but she worked to strengthen the old ones.  There was no more active and enthusiastic member for the Sorority than Abigail!  “Abigail Davis was one of the best loved Inspectors ever chosen.”  She also drew up a system for uniform chapter accounting, was a contributor to the magazine, a delegate to the convention of all fraternities in June 1913 in Chicago as well as a delegate to the National Panhellenic Conference in 1913.  She served as Inspector from 1913-1915.  At the 1915 Convention, she was elected to the position of Alumnae Secretary.

During the winter of 1916, Abigail fell ill. Sadly, on May 29, 1916, Abigail passed away from a cerebral embolism complicated by emphysema of the lungs.  She was 26 years old.

At the 7th National Convention in June 1917 at the Grand View Hotel in Waupaca, Wisconsin, the Abigail Davis Student Loan Fund was established in memory of Abigail Davis, Nu who was an inspiration as National inspector.  Chapters celebrated Abigail’s birthday, February 11th, with special breakfasts or luncheons for many years.  On February 11th in the 1950’s to 1970’s, chapters collected one penny for each pound that members weighed and contributed it to the Fund.  The name of the Fund was later changed to the Abigail Davis Emergency Grant Fund and in 1989 this Fund was transferred to the care of the Alpha Delta Pi Foundation.

Each December chapters are encouraged to support this fund with a donation of $2.50/member to support this permanent endowment that directly gives back to collegiate sisters in need. It has been 100 years since Abigail Davis passed away, but her legacy and impact on Alpha Delta Pi will forever be remembered.

A special thank you to Foundation Board of Trustee, Vice President of Finance, Barbara Kinter Kunkel – Delta Kappa Chapter, Pennsylvania State University, for compiling this information on Sister Abigail Davis.

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