With the school year wrapping up here at IU we thought it would be fitting to share some recent research on the Wylie family’s extra-curricular involvement at Indiana University, specifically in their memberships in Greek letter organizations. Greek Letter Societies were established in the 1776 with the creation of the Phi Beta Kappa Society at the College of William and Mary. Fraternal organizations rapidly gained national prominence in the 19th century and quickly became a collegiate tradition. Indiana University is historically known to be the home of several early chapters of both men’s and women’s fraternities, with members of the Wylie family playing a significant part in these organizations’ beginnings.
The Phi Delta Theta Legacy of the Wylie Family
Theophilus Adam Wylie was an honorary member of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. Established at IU in 1849, Phi Delta Theta often recognized outstanding faculty members of IU as honorary members, therefore the accomplished university professor, librarian, and president, Theophilus was welcomed to Indiana Alpha Chapter of Phi Delta Theta in 1853. The Fraternity paid great respects to Theophilus upon his death in 1895. A letter written by the IU Phi Delta Theta Chapter to his wife Rebecca reveals the Fraternity’s sincere grievances in regards to their late brother:
“By his scholarly habits, his unselfish disposition, and his untiring zeal in every good work, we recognize him a man worthy of universal emulation; therefore, be it resolved, that we as members of PDT Fraternity, as well as students of Indiana University, extend to Mrs. T.A. Wylie and family our tenderest condolence in his their hour of bereavement, and that we shall hold ever dear the memory of his work for the University as well as the pleasant relationship that existed between him and the fraternity.”
A newspaper article also elaborates on Theophilus Wylie’s funeral: “Resolutions of respect were read from the faculty and also from the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. Dr. Wylie was one of the oldest and most prominent members of the letter organization, and as long as he was an active member of the faculty, took a special interest in all the young men of the fraternity. The floral offerings were simple and of exquisite taste. Among them was a shield, representing the badge of Phi Delta Theta.”
Theophilus was cherished by Phi Delta Theta, and his fraternal loyalty certainly must have inspired several other Wylie family members to join the brotherhood. For instance, Arthur C. Mellette was a student at Indiana University who boarded at the Wylie House, where he met and later married Theophilus’s daughter, Margaret Wylie. In 1864, he became a member of Phi Delta Theta, perhaps under the guidance of his future father-in-law.
Arthur’s own son, Arthur Anton Mellette later became a legacy of Phi Delta Theta at IU in 1903. Theophilus also had two nephews, Theodore W.J. Wylie and Reddick A. Wylie, who became members of Phi Delta Theta in 1877 and 1893, respectively.
Three Generations of Wylie Kappa Alpha Thetas
Women’s fraternities began to appear much later than those of men’s fraternities. The first fraternity for women, Kappa Alpha Theta, was founded in 1870 at what is now known as DePauw University.
Not long after the creation of these female fraternities did the first women’s fraternities begin to appear at Indiana University (the term “sorority” was created later in 1882). The earliest women’s fraternity at IU, Kappa Alpha Theta, was installed in 1871. It was the second chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta installed and was subsequently named Beta Chapter.
Louisa Wylie Boisen, the eldest daughter of Theophilus and Rebecca Wylie, was one of the first female students at IU and an early member of Kappa Alpha Theta in 1871. (For more information on Louisa’s memories as a Theta, please read the previous Wylie House Museum blog post: https://wyliehouse.wordpress.com/2008/12/04/kappa-alpha-theta/). Louisa’s Theta legacy continued with her daughter, Marie Boisen Bradley, in 1896, and her granddaughter, Louise Bradley, in 1927. Louisa’s niece, Rebecca (Reba) Wylie, also joined Kappa Alpha Theta in 1905.
Other Wylie Family Greek Affiliations
Several other members of the Wylie family were affiliated with Greek letter organizations. Hermann B. Boisen, the husband of Louisa Wylie, became an honorary member of Phi Gamma Delta at DePauw University in 1874. Like Theophilus at IU, the brothers of Phi Gamma Delta honored Hermann Boisen with the honorary membership as he was an esteemed professor of Modern Languages. Hermann and Louisa’s son, Anton Theophilus Boison, later became a legacy of Phi Gamma Delta. Two of Theophilus’ grandchildren, Samuel Brown Wylie, Jr. and Morton C. Bradley, Sr. (the husband of Marie Wylie Boisen) were members of Sigma Chi Fraternity.
The entire Wylie Family Collection is incredibly vast. There is so much information on how many members of the family were involved in Indiana University’s campus life. While we can form a narrative with much of the information that resides in the collection, there are some material that remain a mystery to us. This photograph of a young woman remains unidentified except for a small clue from an accessory. Look carefully at her hair and you will notice that she is wearing the Kappa Alpha Theta badge neatly in her coif. We are not sure who she is but we can assume that she was somehow affiliated with one of the Wylie daughters based on this pin.
From correspondences, dance cards, and photographs we were able to piece together the story of the Wylie’s relationship not only to the history of IU and Bloomington but also to these prestigious national organizations.
Wylie House Museum Volunteer
Graduate Student, Art History, Indiana University
Wylie House Graduate Assistant
Graduate Student, Library Science, Indiana University
Greene, Elizabeth M. “Simple Burial Services of Dr. Wylie.” In Theophilus Adam Wylie Diaries from 1832 to 1892: A Transcription from the Handwritten Copy of Original Diaries, 659. Bloomington: Department of Chemistry, Indiana University, 1987.
Laut, William F. “’To Eternity We’ll Brothers Be: 150 Years of Leadership by the Indiana Alpha Chapter of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity’,” 1999. indianaalpha.org/documents/IndianaAlpha.pdf.
Phi Gamma Delta Board of Trustees. “Membership Catalogue, Lambda Chapter.” The Phi Gamma Delta, 1913.
The Wylie House Museum. “Letter from Phi Delta Theta to Rebecca Dennis Wylie, 11 June 1895.” In Theophilus Adam Wylie Family Correspondence, 1806-1930. Bloomington: Wylie House Museum.
The Wylie House Museum. “Letter from Phi Gamma Delta of Depauw University to Theophilus Adam Wylie, 28 February 1884.” In Theophilus Adam Wylie Family Correspondence, 1806-1930. Bloomington: Wylie House Museum.
Wylie, Theophilus Adam. Indiana University, Its History from 1820, When Founded, to 1890, with Biographical Sketches of Its Presidents, Professors and Graduates, and a List of Its Students from 1820 to 1887. Indianapolis: William B. Burford, 1890.
Yale University, School of Forestry. Biographical Record of the Graduates and Former Students of the Yale Forest School. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1913.
“Kappa Alpha Theta.” Wylie House Museum Blog, December 4, 2008. https://wyliehouse.wordpress.com/2008/12/04/kappa-alpha-theta/.
“Dance Cards.” Wylie House Museum Blog, February 25, 2011. https://wyliehouse.wordpress.com/2011/02/25/dance-cards-2/.
Kappa Alpha Theta, Beta / Indiana University.
Phi Delta Theta, Indiana Alpha Chapter