Upholding Tradition - Giving to UVA


T raditions are an important part of the fabric that binds the UVA community together. The Jeffersonian Grounds Initiative has attracted support from many friends and alumni, including the tradition-conscious and community-minded ribbon societies and Greek organizations.

St. Elmo Hall

1827 • Union College

  • Officially known as Delta Phi, the name “St. Elmo” was first used in 1889 at Yale University and was based on the interconnection of the historical St. Elmo and the Knights of Malta.
  • The nickname “St. Elmo” spread to several chapters, including the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University, and has also become synonymous on these campuses with Delta Phi.
  • The UVA chapter was established in 1908.
  • $100,000 committed to JGI.
  • The Maltese Cross was adopted as the fraternity’s emblem in 1833.

Kappa Alpha Theta

1870 • Indiana Asbury University

  • Theta’s four founders were forward-thinking women who were among the first ever admitted to Indiana Asbury University, now DePauw University.
  • The motivating force behind the group was Bettie Locke, who was allowed to wear the badge of a men’s fraternity but was denied initiation. In response, she helped found Kappa Alpha Theta.
  • The UVA chapter was established on April 3, 1976.
  • $1 million committed to JGI.
  • Theta’s colors are black and gold, and its flower is the pansy.

Eli Banana

1878 • UVA

  • In the 1870s, Yale students formed a group in New Haven called Eli Banana and they made some UVA students members. Upon returning to Charlottesville, the students founded a chapter at the University. The Yale chapter disappeared several years later.
  • This society is the oldest of the four ribbon societies original to UVA. With a focus on merriment rather than secrecy, the Eli Bananas don colorful robes and stage marches around Grounds singing irreverent songs and loudly banging on a big bass drum.
  • $600,000 committed to JGI.
  • The student head of Eli is called the Grand Banana.

I’m very proud of our association with the Jeffersonian Grounds Initiative. We’re doing a great thing for the University.”

—Frank Shea (Col ’72), president of the St. Elmo Club of UVA

T.I.L.K.A. Society

1889 • UVA

  • This ribbon society was founded to bring together a group of students who work to advance the ideals and preserve the traditions of the University.
  • T.I.L.K.A.—which calls itself an honorary society—includes members who strive to set examples of leadership not only while in college, but also in their lives after graduation.
  • Open only to men, T.I.L.K.A. extends membership eligibility to those who are in their fourth semester and who have spent all semesters at UVA.
  • $100,000 committed to JGI.
  • According to historian Virginius Dabney (Col ’20), T.I.L.K.A. is “reportedly an acronym for five mystical words, probably Hindu.”

Thursdays Society

Mid-1970s • UVA

  • In the mid-1970s, T.I.L.K.A. added female members. Shortly thereafter, they reversed the policy.
  • The women who had briefly been in T.I.L.K.A., including members of Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Pi Phi, and Delta Delta Delta, decided to start their own society.
  • Thursdays is considered a modern-day ribbon society, modeled after T.I.L.K.A. and Eli Banana.
  • $100,000 committed to JGI.
  • The society was so-named because the founding members all agreed to meet on Thursdays.
Jeffersonian Grounds Initiative

Woody Wingfield