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April 19: The Varsity Bachelor Club Changes Its Colors

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On this date in 1913, The Student, UND's student newspaper, reported on the installation ball of Phi Delta Theta, a new fraternity.

The paper said the gymnasium never looked prettier. “All of the decorations were carried out in azure and argent, the fraternity colors. Hundreds of streamers festooned across the hall formed a vast canopy and produced a pleasing and restful effect. A novel feature in the decorations was a latticed bower in the center of the hall. Finley's orchestra was stationed in the bower and played a delightful program of music. The hall was lighted by two rows of Japanese chandeliers attractively decorated with fringed shades and trailing smilax. The large Phi Delta Theta shield outlined in electric lights was one of the special features.”

The new fraternity was the result of two days of installation rites that transformed UND's Varsity Bachelor Club into the North Dakota Alpha chapter of Phi Delta Theta.

The Varsity Bachelor Club began in 1902 as a self-improvement brotherhood. Its club rules were:

“1. Never go out walking with a lady who is not your sister or near relative.

2. Never pay attention to, or smile at, ladies.

3. Be courteous to fair ones, but do not become fascinated.”

However, a decade later as the club became a fraternity, its installation ball attracted dozens of young ladies!

The Student newspaper reported:

“The grand march led by Bruce McDonald and Clara Burman, began the program of twenty-six dances. In the first-favor dance the men presented their partners with a corsage bouquet of white carnations, the fraternity flower. Fraternity songs were sung and many original ideas were carried out in the dances. During the evening frappe, ices and wafers were served.

The confetti dance, which closed the program, was made very effective by colored lights. During the dance, confetti of red and black, the Bachelors' colors, and azure and argent, were thrown towards the bower in charming confusion, then rainbow colors were thrown on the pretty scene. The guests formed an immense circle about the hall and sang 'Auld Lang Syne,' then the fraternity closed the program with the Phi Delta Theta song.”

Dakota Datebook by Andrew Alexis Varvel


  • “NATIONAL FRATERNITY INSTALLS CHAPTER AT STATE, UNIVERSITY: VARSITY BACHELLOR CLUB BECOMES PHI DELTA THETA: FORMAL SERVICES OF INSTALLATION WERE HELD LAST THURSDAY AND FRIDAY: RITES WERE IMPRESSIVE: Number of Prominent Phi Delta Thetas Were Here to Take Part in the Ceremonies – Informal Reception on Thursday Afternoon and Banquet at Hotel Dacotah”, The Student (Grand Forks: University of North Dakota, 24 April 1913), page 1, column 1.
  • Although this installation ball was the first formal party hosted by the organization once it had been transformed into the North Dakota Alpha chapter of the national Phi Delta Theta fraternity, the Varsity Bachelor Club had hosted parties before – when its colors were red and black.
  • Louis G. Geiger, “University of the Northern Plains” (Grand Forks: University of North Dakota Press, 1958), page 261.
  • “History of the V. B. C.” in “The Dacotah '04” (Grand Forks: University of North Dakota, 1903), pages 134-135.
  • The Student counted 23 patrons and patronesses, 14 guests, 49 young ladies, and 49 young men, for a total of 135 people at the party.
  • “GAVE FORMAL PARTY LAST NIGHT”, The Student, page 1, column 1.
  • Although the Varsity Bachelor Club is the University of North Dakota's first fraternity, its successor organization Phi Delta Theta is far from the first Greek letter organization on campus. The Banded Brothers of Bungaloo, originally Phi Tappa Kegga, received its national charter from Sigma Chi in 1909.
  • Geiger, page 259.
  • Thomas W. Howard, “Students” in “A Century on the Northern Plains: The University of North Dakota at 100” (Grand Forks: Office of the President, The University of North Dakota, 1983), page 71.
  • According to historian Louis Geiger, “Some of the Varsity Bachelor alumni, who had strained their purses to raise money for their chapter house, feared that their beloved society would lapse into just one more social fraternity when it succumbed to the vogue and applied for a national charter from Phi Delta Theta; and so it did.”
  • Geiger, page 260.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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