A new exhibit at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, tracing students’ extracurricular lives for two centuries, will be free to the public through May 31 in the Wilson Special Collections Library.
“From Di-Phis to Loreleis: A History of Student Organizations at UNC” features 157 records, photographs, publications and other items that document the evolution of student organizations from the University’s founding through the present. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays; and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.
In conjunction with the exhibit, UNC alumnus Kevin Cherry will give a lecture, “And They Talked – Always They Talked: 215 Years of the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies,” in the library at 5:45 p.m. on April 7. Cherry, who earned bachelor’s, master’s (two) and doctoral degrees at Carolina, works at the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums.
A reception and exhibit viewing at 5 p.m. will precede the free public talk. The Loreleis, a UNC women's a cappella group, will perform during the reception.
The events highlight Wilson Library’s effort to encourage students and alumni to preserve documents and memorabilia of their student days and donate them to the library so they can be preserved and made available for study.
“The lives of students are incredibly telling, not just about UNC, but about what was going on in the broader culture and world they inhabited,” said Jay Gaidmore, University archivist and an exhibit organizer. “These items reveal so much, but many of them have come to the library only by luck or chance.”
Cherry will discuss UNC’s debating and literary societies, founded in 1795 and still active today. The University's oldest student organizations, they have counted some of UNC’s most illustrious alumni among their members, including author Thomas Wolfe, N.C. Sen. Sam J. Ervin Jr. and Albert Coates, founder of UNC’s Institute (now School) of Government. Cherry, a longtime Di-Phi member, will discuss the organizations’ history and lore.
For program information, contact Liza Terll, Friends of the Library, (919) 962-4207,
The exhibit takes note of such curiosities as The Ugly Club, an unauthorized organization formed in the 1830s to help – and haze – homesick students; The Temperance Society, which passed with an era; and political, social and service organizations that made their mark on UNC. Among the items on display are:
- A 1797 minute book from meetings of the Philanthropic Society;
- The original 1893 charter of Kappa Sigma fraternity;
- Photographs of an early Jewish fraternity (Zeta Beta Tau, 1927) and the first historically African American sorority (Delta Sigma Theta, 1973) and fraternity (Omega Psi Phi, 1983);
- A photograph of a banquet in the 1950s by the Order of Gimghoul, a secret society, in Chapel Hill’s Gimghoul Castle; and
- A 1948 photograph of Andy Griffith as a UNC student, performing in a Carolina Playmakers production of “The Mikado.”
Gaidmore said library officials are interested in receiving both official records and informal keepsakes such as photographs, publications and objects used in activities of UNC student organizations. If you have or know of such materials, contact Gaidmore at (919) 962-6402 or
Banquet in Gimghoul Castle in the 1950s
Students formed the secret society that is now known as the Order of Gimghoul in 1889. The society is open only to male students who are rising juniors and seniors and to University faculty. Members must be invited to join. The organization built a castle as its meeting place in 1926.
Black Ink, March 1975
In 1969, the Black Student Movement printed the first issue of Black Inkbecause it considered the Daily Tar Heela newspaper for whitestudents. Black Inkis still published today.
Pledge class of Omega Psi Phi pictured in the UNC annual, the Yackety Yack, in 1983
Chartered on February 16, 1973, the Psi Delta Chapter of Omega Psi Phi was the first historically black Greek organization established at the University. The fraternity continues to operate today and is one of eight historically African American Greek organizations on campus.
Women’s Glee Club pictured in the Yackety Yack, 1937
By the late 1930s, the University had more than 300 female students. Those who enjoyed singing found camaraderie in the Women’s Glee Club. The 1940 Yackety Yackrecorded that there were “no try-outs or requirements for membership in the organization other than a very meager knowledge of music and musicianship and a willingness to attend rehearsals regularly.”
Library contact: Jay Gaidmore, (919) 962-6402,
News Services contact: LJ Toler, (919) 962-8589