History of Gamma-Gamma Zeta
On October 15, 1917, the local fraternity Sigma Phi Alpha was founded at the University of Cincinnati. Two of the prime movers in the founding of this fraternity were Charlie Parker and Chase Davies. The first meetings of this local fraternity were held at Parker’s home. Sigma Phi Alpha was active at UC from 1917 to 1919. In 1919, the men of Sigma Phi Alpha decided to become members of a national fraternity. At the time, most of the men favored affiliation with Phi Gamma Delta, which was at that time an old and well-established national fraternity. One of the members, James Cunningham, however strongly favored Lambda Chi Alpha. He became interested in Lambda Chi Alpha through one of his professors, Doctor J.M. Thrasher, a professor of physiology from Cornell. Cunningham carried on a strong campaign for Lambda Chi and finally, the men of Sigma Phi Alpha took his point of view.
When it was decided to try to join Lambda Chi, the men of Sigma Phi Alpha needed a house to show Warren A. Cole, the president and founder of Lambda Chi Alpha at the time. Therefore, they rented a three-story house on Albion Place in Mount Auburn. After inspecting the local fraternity, the Grand High Zeta voted to accept Sigma Phi Alpha as the fiftieth Zeta (chapter) of Lambda Chi Alpha. The chapter named Gamma-Gamma was installed by men from the national headquarters at the home of William Margraf. After the ritual, the new brothers of Lambda Chi Alpha held a banquet at the Sinton Hotel, located at 4th and Vine Streets. Partially because of the use of his home for the ceremonies, William Margraf became Gamma-Gamma 1.
In 1920, another house was rented at the comer of Highland Avenue. The chapter had no cook, but this was remedied by the culinary artistry of Doctor Ed Grumme, one of the chapter’s recent initiates. A short while later a regular cook was obtained, and more men moved into the house. A year later, in 1921, Gamma-Gamma Zeta bought a house at 3444 Brookline Avenue for $14,000.00. To pay for the house, the men obtained a loan of $10,000.00 and formed the Gamma-Gamma Reality Corporation, for profit. This company sold stock to make up the remaining $4,000.00.” At this time, only Beta Theta Pi and Sigma Chi had better homes.
For the next six years, the chapter was extremely strong but had financial management issues during the Depression. During the second world war, men volunteering to enlist diminished the strength of the chapter, and many fraternity operations went into hiatus as students became soldiers. It was during this time that the University of Cincinnati found it necessary to take over the fraternity houses of the campus for use as barrack in conjunction with its military training program. Another house was temporarily rented on Howell Avenue until the war had ended. The income from this house and the rent that the University paid for the Brookline house were the only things that kept Lambda Chi solvent.
At the end of WWII, the fraternity’s most serious problems arose. The men returning from the Army were too old and had changed too much to be able to get along with the new men of the fraternity. As a result, the chapter was split into two parties which constantly disagreed with each other. Only excellent administration saved the chapter and in time most of the problems disappeared. Bob Van Hoof, High Alpha, at the time, was responsible for starting the building fund which eventually helped to pay for the house at 332 Probasco Street that was purchased in 1953.
The period 1953 to 1968 was a high-water mark for Gamma-Gamma Zeta. Membership was at a high point, and brothers were involved in all campus activities and main leadership roles. It is during this time that Lambda Chi Alpha gained its reputation as one of the University of Cincinnati’s top-tier fraternities. In 1958 John Pease purchased the Riddle Rd house as the “Annex” for Gamma-Gamma Zeta. Later, Rich Hall was purchased in the middle 1960s. We maintained that house until 1983 when it was sold. In the fall of 1985, the chapter’s 1919 charter was returned to International Headquarters’ Office because of low numbers, poor judgment and bad decisions by the chapter. Just three months later, in March 1986, Gamma-Gamma Zeta was recolonized. The short time to recolonize was due to the diligent efforts of Bob London and Ed Leonard of IHQ.
The group of eight strong and determined young men re-started the chapter. Through their efforts, the chapter grew to over forty members in the span of three years. In May 1988 the charter was returned to Gama Gamma Zeta. There was a huge celebration at the Cincinnati Convention Center and the event was very well attended by alumni from all the classes. The chapter progressed in prominence on the campus and maintained its size. Through the hard work of the officers and members, Gamma-Gamma Zeta was awarded the Macintosh Award in 1991 and 1992. There were some challenging years with recruitment numbers in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The house and chapter survived quite well during these times however. Around this time, it became apparent there were many improvements that were needed to keep 332 Probasco Street livable. Building codes required major repairs and system changes, and the funding was simply not available to renovate the old house in the proper manner. At that time Stratford Heights was being developed as student residences and Greek Life village and the chapter found its place there, until a move in 2009 to 2809 Swiss Chalet Court. These subsequent residences offered a marked improvement in housing space and condition for the chapter and its members.
Coming to the chapter’s present, in 2014 members relocated chapter operations of Gamma-Gamma Zeta to the historic Tudor house on the corner of Clifton and Joselin Avenue, with the official address of 2357 Wheeler St, Cincinnati, OH, 45219. The prominent location of the current house, neighboring Chi Omega and Kappa-Kappa Gamma sororities and directly across Clifton Avenue from McMicken College, has been ideal in hosting many chapter functions at the location. Currently, the chapter nears completion of the first of three phases in a self-initiated revitalization effort, to return themselves and the Greek community as a whole back to a prominent force within UC’s student life. The chapter boasts a strong undergraduate officer corps, consistently excellent individual and cumulative GPAs, well-organized and promoted philanthropy events, and is in excellent financial shape. Many alumni have stepped up to serve as chapter advisors for the Alumni Advisory Board, or as officers for the Gamma-Gamma Properties housing corporation.
Gamma-Gamma Zeta celebrates its 100th year at UC in the fall of 2019. A centennial planning committee has worked to plan an evening gala at the Marriott Renaissance Hotel in downtown Cincinnati. On the same weekend, the chapter hosts alumni, family, and friends at the chapter house for a tailgate preceding the UC v. Tulsa football game at Nippert Stadium. As the chapter continues to build relationships with alumni, campus leaders and staff, members remain conscious of its storied history, and the contributions of those that come before them. Gamma-Gamma Zeta continues to be a foundation of leadership and learning, brotherhood and camaraderie, and positive inclusivity for all who seek it.