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The Centennial Anniversary of Sigma Gamma Rho: A Historical Look at the Sorority and Butler University

The Founders

Mary Lou Allison

Mary Lou Allison (Gardner) (Little) is recognized by Sigma Gamma Rho as its primary founder. A 1915 graduate of Shortridge High School, Allison earned her teaching certificate from the Indianapolis Normal School in 1918. Her career began in the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS). She attended Butler University part time from 1919 to 1924. Her many contributions to SGRho include authoring the pledge in 1925 and serving as the first Grand Basileus (national president) from 1925 to 1926. She taught in the Los Angeles Unified School District for 35 years, retiring in 1967. Allison died in March 1992. At each Boulé the Mary Lou Allison Little Loving Cup Award is presented to the Sorority’s most outstanding chapter.

Bessie May Downey

Bessie May Downey (Rhodes) (Martin) passed the normal training school examination in 1916. While studying for her teaching degree, Downey had also been caring for her ailing mother, who had worked hard to help pay for her daughter’s education. In 1918 Downey accepted a teaching position with IPS at William D. McCoy School (No. 24). Her mother lived to see her daughter’s career begin but she died shortly thereafter. Downey earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from Butler in 1943 and died in May 1947, having been a teacher in the same school throughout her career.

Hattie Mae Dulin

Hattie Mae Dulin (Redford) grew up in South Bend, Indiana. In 1920 she earned a Bachelor of Science from Indiana State Normal School (today Indiana State University) and a Master of Science in Education from Butler in 1939. She wrote her thesis about student government in the elementary schools of Indianapolis. After teaching one year in Terre Haute, Dulin spent 37 years with IPS. She retired from School No. 37 in 1958. Dulin died in July 1990.

Nannie Mae Gahn

Nannie Mae Gahn (Foster) (Johnson) designed the Sorority’s official pin. She graduated from Shortidge High school in 1921 and enrolled at Butler as a transfer student in 1925. She earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1932 and a Master of Science in Education in 1941. Gahn’s teaching career began in 1923 at IPS School No. 23. In 1948 she became assistant principal at School No. 26 and later served as principal at School No. 37 for ten years. Gahn retired in 1966; she died 20 years later.

Dorothy Hanley

Dorothy Hanley (Whiteside), a native of Tennessee, graduated from Shortridge High School in 1922. While attending high school Hanley worked as a newspaper carrier for the Indianapolis News. When she started her job in 1914, she was the first female carrier for the newspaper. Hanley was training to be a teacher when she met the other founders. During her career she taught in North Vernon, Indiana, and IPS Schools Nos. 4, 26, 37, and 87. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from Butler in 1942. She retired from teaching in 1970. Hanley died in June 1985.

Cubena McClure

Cubena McClure graduated from Shortridge High School in 1919 and later began teaching in the IPS at Schools Nos. 24 and 26. She hosted the Sorority’s first initiation in her home following the December 1922 incorporation. She also assisted Nannie Mae Gahn in designing the Sorority’s pin. In 1923 she attended Butler College for one term. As her teaching career flourished, McClure received a Gregg Scholarship, dedicated to advancing professional training for recipients, from IPS. It was designated for use at Columbia University. She would not get the chance, however, as she died a few weeks after an operation for appendicitis in August 1924.

Vivian Irene White

Vivian Irene White (Marbury) graduated from Shortridge High School in 1917 and then earned her degree from the Indianapolis Normal School. Her distinguished career with IPS included becoming one of its first female and Black principals. For 39 years she was principal at School No. 87. While working full time she earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Butler in 1931. White helped to establish the Butler Minority Alumni Council and was a charter member. The University awarded the Butler Medal, the highest honor given to alumni, to White in recognition of her service to the community and the world. She died in July 2000.