Classics society revived on campus
Wellesley’s Alpha Kappa Chi seems an unlikely mix of old and new. An old society that is now being revived also focuses on classics and antiquity, and hopes to be modern as well.
The classics society, known as AKX, was revived by Ryan Ackell ’17 and Wendy Nettleton ’17 as a way to pay homage to the old societies that were active at Wellesley. The original six societies are the societies that are currently on campus but do not include Phi Delta Phi, which was added later.
“It’s really cool to have the original six societies back on campus because a couple of them were deconstituted in the 60s due to lack of interest. I think it gives people more options if they’re interested in joining societies,” Ackell said.
The original Alpha Kappa Chi society was most active in the first quarter of the 20th century, with interest dwindling in the 1940s and 1950s. When the the society was disbanded in 1969 it had only six members.
The group of students currently in AKX intends on keeping some of the traditions of the original Alpha Kappa Chi, but is also working to modernize some of the original traditions of the society.
“Back in the 1800s when it was founded society members sang hymns and read Bible verses, and I don’t think we’ll continue that. We’re hopefully going to have some of the same traditions with the sisters, but some things just don’t make sense to do in 2015,” Ackell said.
One of the most important traditions that Alpha Kappa Chi plans to keep is a tradition of sharing a meal together.
“I really like their idea where once a week they had a sisterhood dinner where everyone kind of gets together once a week and does something that’s organized. It’s a nice way to kind of relax, especially because Wellesley is so overwhelming,” Ackell explained.
Joy Price ’17 serves as the current secretary of Alpha Kappa Chi and also cited the sisterhood as one of her favorite parts of the society.
“I never knew that group of people, and I really like that it’s just another group of people that I can have lunches together, hang out together. It’s another group of sisters,” Price said.
This emphasis on sisterhood is an embodiment of one of Alpha Kappa Chi’s four different pillars: philanthropy, scholarship, classics and sisterhood.
The society also plans to include scholarship in their activities by helping professors in the History and classics departments plan and promote a lecture series on classical topics.
When the classics society was most active, it had several connections with professors in the Greek and Latin departments, which are now the classics department. However, as the society planned fewer activities, their connection with the academic departments also waned.
Professor Emeritus Mary Lefkowitz ’57 of Classical Studies recalled that in its declining years AKX did not interact much with the Classics department.
“They had a perfectly good relationship. It wasn’t terribly close,” Lefkowitz said to describe the relationship between the society and the department.
Because of the lack of activities, Lefkowitz remembers that as a student she did not find the Classics Society very interesting.
“They didn’t do much, whereas the Shakespeare Society put on all of these plays, so I joined the Shakespeare Society,” Lefkowitz said. “Several societies lost their meaning, so this wasn’t the only one.”
Ackell, on the other hand, intends for Alpha Kappa Chi to be an active society with a philanthropic purpose. The society is planning to do Relay for Life and volunteer tasks as a way of embodying this pillar of the society.
“We do have a small number of girls, so it’s hard to do anything substantial, but we all really hard workers. That’s what I’ve learned over the last couple of months,” Ackell said.
The original Alpha Kappa Chi was more oriented around theatre. Katherine Geffcken, a Professor Emeritus of Greek and Latin, recalls one of the last collaborations between the classics department and the society.
“In the 60s we did a play in the house, Pometheus, and that was clearly with the cooperation of the society,” Geffcken said. However, she said that when Alpha Kappa Chi put on productions of Greek plays, “In contrast with the department, they did them in English.”
The fourth pillar of the society, classics, is the common link between the old and the new Alpha Kappa Chi. Ackell believes that almost anyone can take an interest in classics because the effects of classical civilization are still felt today and the stories from the time are entertaining.
“I think it’s very easy to get interested in classics because everyone’s had a little bit of it in high school. The Greek and Roman legends are ridiculous and fun to read,” Ackell said.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Ackell ’17