A collection once covered with dust in the basement of Hogg Hall now holds a prominent place in the Lafayette archives and in the history of Alpha Phi Omega, the international service fraternity that started at Lafayette in that very same building in 1925, thanks to the work of college archivist Pam Murray.
Murray was granted honorary membership to the national chapter of APO on Jan. 27 during the chapter’s rechartering ceremony for her work with the documents that hold valuable pieces of APO history.
On Saturday, Murray was under the impression that her role was to be facilitator of the historical records for the ceremony. All that changed when Tom Southard, sponsor of the Alpha chapter at Lafayette, introduced Murray to the President of Alpha Phi Omega, the Honorable John K. Ottenad.
“He was introduced to me here in the archives and he said, ‘Pam because of all the work you’ve done over the years for Alpha Phi Omega, we are going to make you an honorary member of the National Board,'” Murray said.
Honorary membership of the national chapter is a relatively rare occasion, Southard said, who said to his knowledge the honor hasn’t been given in at least thirty years. Murray said she is also the first woman to receive the recognition.
Murray was humbled by the honor. “Usually people just say ‘Thank you very much.’ So when John said, ‘Pam we’re making you an honorary member,’ I was really surprised because I realized what a big honor that was,” Murray said.
While Murray worked directly with the documents and their maintenance, she credits Director of Special Collections and College Archives Diane Shaw with saving the documents. When the charter was originally revoked Shaw immediately saved all the documents that she could from Hogg Hall to preserve that chunk of history in Lafayette’s archives.
In the nearly three decades since the Alpha chapter disbanded, Murray has become somewhat of an expert on the APO archives. She frequently shows the collection to visiting Alpha Phi Omega brothers, a term referring to male or female members, from various schools.
“A lot of Alpha Phi Omega groups come here as pilgrimage, and there’s a log in the collection that when groups visit we have them sign it. But the groups that visit the most are the Philippine groups…last summer we had people come from Europe, the Middle East, of course lots of groups from the Philippines,” Murray said.
Murray explained that it can be very emotional for brothers who get to see the original charter in person. Some cry when presented with their fraternity’s history, and they are always very grateful to her for her help, she said.
Murray herself has become somewhat of a star amongst APO’s most loyal, known far and wide for her extensive knowledge about the Alpha chapter’s history.
“Often people ask for me, and I didn’t realize that until the US National chapter said that [my] name is like a celebrity among Filipino groups,'” Murray said.
“One time a group came and they tried to tip me. And I said to them, ‘You know this is part of my job. You don’t have to tip me,’ but they wouldn’t take the money back,” she said. Murray donated the money to the Friends of Skillman Library.
On the same Saturday that Murray received her honorary membership, the 70 members of the Alpha chapter of APO at Lafayette, which lost its charter in 1991 due to low membership, received a new charter recognizing the names of the students involved in the effort. Over the past few decades more than a couple of attempts have been made at rechartering at Lafayette, but it wasn’t until the last three years the idea was put into action.
“Over the last few years students had been coming to us saying how they wanted to get the ball rolling so we could pull out all the stuff for them to look at but we didn’t really advise them, because that’s not our job, our job is acting as a steward for the records, but we would help them in any way they wanted,” Murray said.
“To be honest we were beginning to wonder if the chapter would ever get reinstated. Tom [Southard] and Lauren [Champagne ’19] and Ariana [Rothman ’18] came to visit us around the holidays and told us ‘it’s happening.’ And we were really shocked and thrilled,” Murray said. “Of course it’s very emotional for a lot of Alpha Phi Omega people because they really see this chapter as the mother, they take it very seriously.”
Southard said that is was not only Murray’s maintenance of APO history, but also her commitment to sharing the archives with APO brothers for so long that exemplified her worthiness.
“It’s not just that she saved it, it’s not just that she archived it, it’s that she proactively invited brothers onto the campus and gave them access to these documents. So for us we appreciate everything that she’s done but really she has shown her love and respect for the fraternity over many, many years even though none of us knew it by becoming an expert on the fraternity and sharing it with other people,” Southard said.