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Alpha Chi Omega marks its 100th anniversary of supporting arts, womens causes at Brenau
National President with local president
The current president of the local Tau chapter, Alison Sellers, poses with AXO national president Marsha King-Grady.

In 1885, Alpha Chi Omega was founded at DePauw University in Indiana. A few decades later, the sorority would catch on in Gainesville.

In 1911, a group of women at what was then known as Brenau College sought to bring the organization’s mission to foster friendships and artistic society to their Gainesville campus.

This year, Brenau University’s Tau Chapter of Alpha Chi Omega, or AXO, celebrated its centennial anniversary.

Over the sorority’s 100-year history, more than 900 women have been members of the Tau chapter, said Lee Anne White, a Tau alumna who has served as the group’s adviser for the last five years.

The chapter’s official anniversary date fell on Thanksgiving this year so members had even more reason to be thankful.

"This marks a century of outstanding women making a difference in the lives of others," White said.

There are currently more than 130 AXO chapters nationwide. According to Tau alumna, the Brenau chapter is the largest in the Southeast.

Some famous AXO alumna include Condoleeza Rice, secretary of state under former President George W. Bush; Dawn Wells, the actress most know as "Mary Ann" on "Gilligan’s Island;" and Agnes Nixon, who created the soap operas "One Life to Live" and "All My Children."

To help celebrate its anniversary, the chapter hosted a number of activities, including a founder’s and friends brunch, a formal chapter meeting with the AXO national president Marsha King-Grady and a ritual refresher for alumnae.

"(We also) helped kick off Brenau’s 1878 Concerto Project by making the first contribution toward new Steinway Grand pianos for the university," White said.

AXO’s founding members were all music students so the arts have always played a significant role in the organization’s history. Its coat of arms features the lyre, an ancient Greek stringed instrument.

The goal of the Concerto project is to replace all of the university’s pianos in its music department, which would help Brenau become an official Steinway School of Music.

"Over 75 percent of Brenau’s pianos are in fair to poor condition," said Emmie Henderson-Howard, a Tau alumna, on the group’s alumna website. "The cost to replace the current inventory with Steinway pianos is estimated at $1.3 million."

Henderson-Howard is also the chairwoman of the Brenau University Board of Advisers, which is overseeing the Concerto project.

Over the years, the Tau Chapter has also been busy conducting service projects in line with the national chapter’s philanthropic efforts focusing on domestic violence awareness.

"Tau has been a strong supporter of the Gateway Domestic Violence Center," White said of the Gainesville nonprofit.

White said the chapter has held a "Piece and Harmony" art auction the past two years that raised more than $10,000 for the center.

She said the chapter also is host of the annual "Take Back the Night" event to raise awareness of domestic violence, which includes with a guest speaker, a candlelight vigil and a reception.