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BETA PI THETA by Dr. Scott Fish

Sarah Rogers

Elizabeth "Bessie" Louise Standifer Hall Rogers, circa 1950, Courtesy of Dr. Ward Oliver.

Sarah Rogers

Miss Sarah Rogers, 1928 Executive Secretary of Beta Pi Theta and faculty advisor to chapter Theta Zeta. Courtesy of Coker College.


Beta Pi Theta was a French honorary founded in the city of Birmingham, Alabama by Elizabeth "Bessie" Louise Standifer (1900-1966). Born in Eufaula, Alabama, Standifer graduated from the University of Alabama with honors. While an undergraduate, Standifer was a standout student. She was the first female co-editor of the university yearbook, the Corolla, and was a member, leader and founder of many university honor societies, clubs and organizations; she was especially active in literary societies. Following graduation, she taught mathematics and chemistry at Phillips high school in Birmingham, Alabama, and her biographic profile in Thompson's History of Barbour County, Alabama indicates that she took additional coursework at Howard College. It is thus likely during this period in 1924 that she founded Beta Pi Theta, although the reasons for the foundation of a French literary society are still unknown. Aside from the first chapter, Alpha, all of Beta Pi Theta's chapters include a two Greek-letter combination starting with Theta. Standifer served as the Executive Secretary of the Society from 1927-1928. (2)




"BETA PI THETA is an honorary fraternity established with the purpose of organizing representative men and women in universities and colleges who by travel, study, conversation, interest, influence, and ability will advance the progress of literary French and things cultural in America; who will maintain the highest scholarship and literary standards; who will encourage consecration to social service and the highest ideals of a liberal education, and who will recognize and award merit in productive French literature." ("Beta Pi Theta." Baird's Manual of American College Fraternities. Ed. Francis W. Shepardson. Vol 11 (Menasha, Wisconsin: Georges Banta Publishing Co., 1927) 373.



The Beta Pi Theta badge is a hexagon with concave sides displays the Society's Greek letters. A Greek lamp appears above the letters while a scroll appears beneath them. the Beta Pi Theta key is rectangular and on one side bears the Beta Pi Theta coat-of-arms and on the other the Society's three Greek letters. The pledge button is an unmounted Beta Pi Theta coat-of-arms. The Society's colors are purple, gold and while, and the flower is the lily.



Trademarks were filed on March 23 and April 10, 1928 with the United States Patent Office by Executive Secretary Sarah Rogers of Coker College for Women (Hartsville, South Carolina) for the Society's quarterly newsletter What's Doing in Beta Pi Theta and its combination of Greek letters: ΒΠΘ. Sarah was a 1914 graduate of Coker College for Women (later Coker College) and taught French in Mississippi before working at Coker. The Society's other publication was Beta Pi Theta Quarterly News Letter.


Chapters & Dissolution


By 1935 Beta Pi Theta boasted thirty-five chapters in the United States while Pi Delta Phi had only eight. The Society held a national essay contest and awarded a scholarship to attend the summer French language school at Middlebury College in Vermont. The organization was, perhaps like other academic societies, mostly inactive during WWII and attempted to reactivate after the war. For reasons unknown, the society had ceased to function nationally by 1948. A few individual orphaned chapters operated independently, however, until 1960. Pi Delta Phi contacted many of the orphaned chapters in the 1950s and 60s and invited them to apply for affiliation.

institution, location, installation date, chapter Greek letters

City of Birmingham, Alpha

Adrian College, Adrian, Michigan, 1926, Theta Beta

Baker University, Baldwin City, Kansas, Theta Epsilon

Baldwin Wallace University, Berea, Ohio

Baylor College for Women, Belton, Texas, 1931, Pi Eta

Baylor University, Waco, Texas, 1927, Theta Chi

Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio, 1936, Pi Xi

Butler University, Indianapolis, Indiana

Coker College, Hartsville South Carolina, Theta Zeta

Dakota Weslayan University, Mitchell South Dakota, 1930, Pi Epsilon

Eureka College, Eureka, Illinois, 1926, Theta Delta

Florida State College for Women, Tallahassee, Florida, 1926, Theta Kappa

Gordon College, Barnesville, Georgia, Theta Lambda

Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois, Pi Delta

Howard College (now Samford University), Birmingham Alabama, 1926, Theta Nu

Iowa Wesleyan College, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, Theta Gamma

Lawrence University, Appleton, Wisconsin, Theta Iota

Lindenwood College, St. Charles, Missouri, Theta Xi

Longwood University, Farmville, Virginia, 1930, Pi Zeta

McKendree University, Lebanon, Illinois, 1936, Pi Sigma

Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, 1929, Pi Gamma

Mississippi State University, Starkville, Mississippi

Mount Union College, Alliance Ohio, 1937, Theta Omicron

Murray State University, Murray, Kentucky, 1937

Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln, Nebraska, Theta Pi

Queens College, Charlotte, North Carolina, 1926, Theta Mu

Park College, Parkville, Missouri, 1926, Theta Eta

Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey

St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York, 1928, Theta Iota

Shorter College, Roma, Georgia, Theta Theta

Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, 1927, Theta Phi

University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

University of Chattanooga, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Theta Sigma

University of Nebraska, Kearney, Nebraska, 1930, Pi Iota

University of Maine, Orono, Maine, 1928, Theta Tau

University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, 1929, Pi Beta

University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, Pi Nu

University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, Chattanooga Tennessee, 1930, Theta Sigma

West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, 1927, Theta Upsilon

Winthrop College, Rock Hill, South Carolina, 1930, Theta Omega

Wofford College, Spartanburg, South Carolina, Theta Rho

(1) The Student Association of Southern Methodist University, The Rotunda (Dallas: South Methodist U, 1928) 267.

(2) Mattie Crocker Thomas Thompson, History of Barbour County (Alabama. Eufaula, AL: N.p., 1939) 125-127.

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