Phi Mu scholarship honors 50th anniversary of Lander chapter

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In 1969, Anne Walker went to a meeting with friends to talk about establishing sororities on the Lander College campus. A sophomore, she became one of the first students to help establish one of two local sororities that would bring national Greek life to the coeds at Lander – a move led by Elizabeth Jervey, then Lander’s dean of students.

Walker and her friends named their sorority Kappa Phi Delta in 1969, and she was elected president. Kappa Phi Delta then became a “colony” of Phi Mu in May 1970. And on March 6, 1971, the colony became the Kappa Tau Chapter of Phi Mu. “Once Phi Mu gets in your blood, you’re always a Phi Mu, and you want to live up to the ideals of the sorority,” said Walker, who became the first Phi Mu president at Lander.

Since then, Walker has watched thousands of young women at her alma mater embrace the opportunities for leadership, scholarship and service offered through membership in the national sorority. “If you become a Phi Mu at Lander, both at the national and local level, you will learn leadership skills that will put you on a successful path in life,” said Walker ’72, of Sumter, the executive director of the Alston Wilkes Society in Columbia.

“You also become lifelong friends with women. We remain in touch with each other, years after leaving college. Those relationships are important in our lives,” she said.

In recognition of the sorority’s 50th anniversary this year, Walker and three other Phi Mu alumni from Lander – Marcia Thrift Hydrick ’81, Julie Combs Hunt ’91 and Angela Gilbert Strickland ’02 – have made gifts totaling $5,000.

“For half a century, the women of Phi Mu have had an integral role in their service to Lander and to the communities in which they have lived,” said Randy Bouknight, Lander’s special gifts officer who worked with the Phi Mu alumnae to establish the fund.  “Their commitment to service is now seen in this scholarship which will impact the education of Phi Mu members for many generations.”

Strickland, an attorney in Columbia, said the scholarship follows on the heels of other gifts that she and her husband, former soccer player, Robert Strickland ‘02, have established at Lander. The couple funded scholarships on behalf of their family and also to support international soccer players and first-generation students majoring in political science.

“We jumped at the chance to participate in this scholarship that helps members of Phi Mu, an organization that I loved being a part of in college,” said Strickland, a Phi Mu member from 1998 – 2002. “I was an officer every year, starting with my sophomore year. When I became a member, I decided I wanted to make friends and connections that could serve me beyond Lander as network contacts. I also used my time in leadership roles to develop my leadership abilities. All of that experience has been a big asset to me when I went to law school and beyond.”

Phi Mu, the nation’s second oldest sorority founded in 1852, places an emphasis on personal and academic development, service to others, commitment to excellence and lifelong friendship through a shared tradition.

Having that foundation, Hydrick said, not only was a positive influence in her life, but also life changing. “I established lifelong friendships and skills, such as dedication, communication and leadership, just to name a few.”

Although Phi Mu was struggling when Hydrick became a member, “our pledge class was a larger one and helped with the future growth of the sorority. We were able to recruit incoming classes and the Kappa Tau Chapter at Lander transitioned into a new level of interest and involvement,” said Hydrick, of Seneca, president of her family’s business, Thrift Brothers Inc.

“The sorority gave me confidence to believe in myself and the responsibilities associated with a group of women who were learning how to get along in our walk of life and who shared a commitment to each other and to Lander,” she said.

The opportunity to give back to her alma mater was key in Hunt’s decision to establish the scholarship. “I owe Lander a great deal, more than just academia,” said Hunt, an educator at Spring Hill High School in Chapin. “I learned about life, relationships and conflict resolution, how to have fun while also maintaining responsibilities, perseverance when things are challenging or don’t go as expected. My time at Lander prepared me ‘to adult.’ “

The chapter has come a long way since the 1971 weekend, celebrated by Lander officials and national and state Phi Mu leaders, who came to Greenwood for the installation. The events included the initiation of new members, a banquet and dance, Sunday church service and a tea. The chapter received a silver punch bowl and ladle as gifts.

“Having a tea? Members today probably would say ‘what’? It may seem old-fashioned to them now,” said Walker, with a laugh. “But after all of these years, Phi Mu stands steady and strong. I applaud all of the young women through the years who have come here and kept the chapter strong.”

That strength is at the heart of each of the scholarship donors’ commitment to and philanthropy for Lander. Walker, Hydrick and Strickland are members of Lander’s Board of Trustees, as is Hunt’s husband, Raymond D. Hunt.

Walker and her husband, the late David L. Evans Jr., established a scholarship at Lander to benefit each president of the Kappa Tau chapter of Phi Mu. “My husband was a KA (Kappa Alpha) at Western Carolina University and also a founding officer of his chapter, so he completely understood and appreciated my love for Phi Mu,” she said. “We felt this was a special way to give back to my chapter. Our daughter, Missy Evans, is also a Kappa Tau Phi Mu alum, so we are a ‘Greek Family’ through and through.”

Hunt organized philanthropic activities during her Phi Mu membership from 1988 – 91.  “My parents instilled in me the importance of giving, not just of money but most importantly of time,” she said.

Strickland said she and her husband attended Lander on full scholarships. “We would have been racked with debt had we not had those scholarships available to us.”

As a business leader, Hydrick said, “My dedication to Lander over the years has grown as I have realized that the very depths of my education and relationships with the University are a huge part of my success as a person and a female in the working world.”  

Philanthropy ensures the future success of others. “I hope that this scholarship will provide a sister with the ability to reach dreams or goals which otherwise would not be possible,” Hunt said.

“The four of us encourage all Phi Mu alums to make a contribution of $50, $500 or up to $5,000 to celebrate the past and secure the future of providing an annual academic scholarship at Lander to a member of Phi Mu for many years to come,” Walker said.

Lander’s Day of Giving, scheduled Feb. 11 – 12, provides a great opportunity to make gifts honoring Phi Mu, said Bouknight.

Visit Lander’s secure online giving portal at https://lander.harnessapp.com/wv2/campaign/756  for Phi Mu donations, or make checks payable to The Lander Foundation (earmarked Phi Mu Scholarship), 320 Stanley Ave, Greenwood S.C., 29649.

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