A History of Fraternities: The University of New Mexico

Pi Kappa Alpha’s “Estufa” in 1910 on the University of New Mexico campus. The building was built originally for the Yum-Yum Boys, later known as the Alpha Alpha Alpha Fraternity which then became Pike.

Pi Kappa Alpha’s “Estufa” in 1910 on the University of New Mexico campus. The building was built originally for the Yum-Yum Boys, later known as the Alpha Alpha Alpha Fraternity which then became Pike.

In my last post, we closed with the founding of the National Panhellenic Conference, the North American Inter-Fraternity Conference and the first Multi-Cultural Greek organizations. Now, we will localize the topic and focus on Greek organizations at the University of New Mexico.

The University of New Mexico was founded in 1889 with the passage of House Bill No. 186. The bill stipulated that the university be located “at or near Albuquerque … within two miles north of railroad avenue in said town, upon a tract of good high and dry land,” which explains why UNM sits where it does.

William G. Tight was the University’s third president (1901-1909) and introduced many programs for students including fraternities and sororities. In 1903, the first fraternity and sorority both were established with Tight’s help. The first Greek organizations at UNM were the Alpha Alpha Alpha Fraternity (formerly the Yum-Yum Boys, or Yum Yum Society) and the Sigma Sigma Sorority (formerly the Minnehaha Social Club). UNM did not see any semblance of student government until 1908 and a representative council was not formed until about 1913.

In 1904, the first Greek social event was hosted by Sigma Sigma. They offered trolley rides to a soda fountain and to Old Town. Faculty also participated in their event. In the same year, Alpha Alpha Alpha hosted their first event which was an on-campus party that included a cake walk, games and dancing.

President Tight dreamt of UNM having adobe-style architecture across campus and around 1906-1908 taught the Yum-Yum Boys how to lay adobe bricks. They then built the Estufa which still sits on the corner of Redondo Drive and Martin Luther King Boulevard. The building is used today as Pi Kappa Alpha’s chapter meeting room. There is no door handle on the outside and it is believed that there is an underground tunnel that the group uses to get inside.

In 1911, Phi Mu was installed and became the first national Greek-letter organization to have a chapter in either New Mexico or Arizona territory. In 1915, the Alpha Alpha Alpha fraternity became the national fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha. In the same year, the local fraternity Sigma Tau became Sigma Chi. The first fraternity house was also built this year for the Kappa Sigma fraternity.

In 1920, UNM’s newest leader, President David S. Hill began to see a problem with social activities taking precedence over the intellectual. Hill gathered a Committee on Conduct of Women Students that prohibited dances Sunday-Thursday, required chaperones and put in place discipline for improper dancing. Hill also began seeing hazing as a problem with fraternities using methods of physical punishment.

In 1927, more than 50 percent of students belonged to fraternities and sororities. Today, about 10 percent of students are members of Greek-letter organizations at UNM.

Next week, I will begin delving into the history of my organization, Kappa Kappa Gamma.

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