Peithosophian

THE SOCIETY

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the charter of Centenary University! To celebrate, the blog will be highlighting past posts about Centenary’s history.

Literary societies are one of the oldest student organizations in America, and the forerunners of modern-day fraternities and sororities. Traditional literary societies were founded to promote scholarship through literary exercises and debate. Centenary Collegiate Institute had five literary societies in its early years; the first society was formed within the school’s first week! Centenary’s first president, Dr. Whitney, fostered ideas of social training that were quickly adopted by all four societies. Utmost in importance to all societies was the inclusion of earnest, purposeful young men and women.

Whitney Lyceum was the first literary society to be formed at Centenary in September 1874, a chapter of the Alpha Omega fraternity. The ‘Whits’, as they were called, disbanded in 1910, when the school became an all girls school.

The Philomathean society was the second fraternity to be founded in the school’s first year. After a decade, the ‘Philos’ resigned from their fraternity, and joined the Alpha Phi Fraternity, Zeta chapter. This literary society also ceased to exist after the men left in 1910.

The Diokosophian Society was founded in 1875, and was Centenary’s first female literary society. The ‘Dioks’ were members of the Sigma Epsilon Phi sorority.

The members of Diok were so many that students decided to form a second sorority in 1880. This society was called The Evergreens, but was soon renamed the Peithosophian Society. It was a chapter of the Theta Epsilon Nu sorority.

Callilogian Society was a latecomer to Centenary, having been brought over by students and teachers from a school that had become an all boys school in 1910. Its Greek letters were Delta Sigma Sigma.

These societies have all disappeared over the years, with new ones taking their places. Currently, the university has one fraternity, Alpha Phi Delta, and one sorority, Alpha Theta Psi.

Advertisements

PEITHOSOPHIAN SOCIETY

Peith History

The Peith Logo

Created by: Misses Chaplain, Morrow, Stevens, Richardson, Ellis, and Porter.

Year Introduced: Spring 1880

Colors: Blue & Gold

Secret Letters: D.V.V.

Society Paper: The Meteor

Greek letters: Theta Epsilon Nu (first mentioned in 1914 Hack Yearbook)

Nicknames: Peith, the Evergreens

The original society, the Evergreens, was changed to Peithosophian after the members became disgusted with the name.

The Peiths of 1904

The Peiths of 1904

Lit society Anns

peith ann_0001

Peithosophian Anniversary of May 10, 1889 Back Row: Misses Norris (Oration), Yelter (Essay), Penny (piano), Mathews (Pipe Organ solo), Fisher (Recitation), and Wolf (Poem). Seated: Misses Warne (Essay), Lizzie Beers (President), and Carrie Beers (Editress).

CENTENARY’S LITERARY SOCIETIES

literary societies header

Literary societies are one of the oldest student organizations in America, and are considered the forerunners of modern-day fraternities and sororities. Traditional literary societies were founded to promote scholarship through literary exercises and debate. Modern fraternities and sororities focus on the personal development of their members, often promoting social growth above scholarship.

societies 1909 skull b

from the 1908 Hack Yearbook

Centenary College is no exception to this age-old tradition. When the college first opened, its students created four literary societies, one within the institute’s first week! Students named it the Whitney Lyceum in honor of President Whitney. His Friday afternoon declamation exercises challenged students to improve their public speaking skills, which inspired the society. Within months came another society, the Philomathean Society, which merged into the Zeta Chapter of the Alpha Phi Fraternity in 1885. Both were gentlemen only. The ladies had their own societies: Diokosophian was in 1875, and the Evergreen Society (later called Peithosophian) in 1880. Dr. Whitney’s ideas of social training were quickly adopted by all four societies. Utmost in importance to all societies was the inclusion of earnest, purposeful young men and women.

 

literary society program header

Societies met every Saturday night in their respective meeting room to carry out literary exercises and read their society paper, which contained both serious and humorous articles. They hosted Anniversary Programs, or “Ann’s”, events that consisted of musical numbers, speeches, debates, and dramatic performances. Ann’s were open to the public, and were attended by students, faculty, Hackettstown residents, and alumni! After chapel the audience would visit each society hall to enjoy their presentations and have discussion until dinner was announced. In a way, these programs were informal class reunions. Each society created a motto for itself that was fiercely guarded by its members – other societies could know only the initial letter of each word. Even 50 years after graduating, members refused to divulge their society’s motto.

Amazingly, these societies were completely student controlled. They were not under the direct supervision of the President, nor did they request support from faculty or staff members, yet each ran like a well-oiled machine. Members were expected to behave in an appropriate manner at all times, and could be punished or expelled from their society for irresponsible or foolish behavior. They were respectful of faculty, and earned the respect of the faculty through their professionalism and enthusiasm for learning.

Eventually, students started to spend more time on their societies, Ann’s in particular. Ann’s became such a diversion that in one instance students asked their professors to make exams as light as possible. To alleviate cost and stress, Ann’s were merged – Whitney Lyceum with Diokosophian, and Peithosophian with Alpha Phi. By 1907 all four societies held one combined Ann. In 1910, the college said goodbye to the men and their societies, and hello to a new girl’s society: Callilogian Society. Over the next few decades the objectives of the societies transformed from academic to social. By the time the fourth society, Kappa Psi Delta, was created in 1961, traditional literary societies were almost completely phased out. The trophy contest, in which societies wrote essays in competition for the right to display a statue called “The Lady”, was possibly one of the last traditional academic events held by the societies.

 

diok-whit ann

from the 1904 Hack Yearbook

Keep an eye out for upcoming posts to learn more about each literary society!