From the Archives: Psi Upsilon Sweethearts

Recognizing one’s partner has a long tradition in Fraternity and Sorority Life whether it be serenading, pinning or lavaliering. Most traditions would be specific to each campus, with some common themes: a fraternity or sorority member would give some version of their letters to a significant other – sometimes this would be the member’s badge, or a replica of it, other times this would be a lavalier necklace with the letters, or even a special pin created for just such a purpose and this person would be considered a “sweetheart” of the fraternity. Instances of this behavior go back to early days of fraternity life but didn’t become common until the 1900’s. Probably the most notable song of any fraternity is “The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi” which was written in 1911 and may be responsible for popularizing the term. Bing Crosby recorded a version of the song in 1941 and it was twice made into a movie in both 1933 and 1946.

The first reference to the term “Sweetheart” in Psi Upsilon dates to the 1891 edition of the “Songs of Psi Upsilon” and the song “The Origin of Psi Upsilon” written by Chas D. McGuffy, Iota 1863. One verse reads:

“And oft may the gem in its radiance gleam,
Thrice honored, on beauty’s breast,
Sister, or sweetheart, or darling wife,
The one of all loved best.”

The most notable Psi Upsilon reference to sweethearts, and one of our most popular songs, is “The Sweetheart Song”. It was first introduced to Psi Upsilon at the 105th Psi Upsilon Convention hosted by the Theta Theta Chapter at the University of Washington in 1947 during the closing banquet at the Rainer Club. The authors of the song, Dale Richardson, Theta Theta ’47 and Norm Schoonover, Theta Theta ’46, led the entire Theta Theta chapter in a choral arrangement of the song they had written. Based on the celebrated tune of the U.S. Naval Academy, “Navy Blue & Gold” this song quickly caught on in the fraternity. According to chapter reports from the Diamond it especially became popular with the Zeta Zeta Chapter at the University of British Columbia who in the 1960’s made it a regular entry into their campus wide songfest and would perform it for their dates at their formals.

Zeta Zeta (University of British Columbia) chapter alums sing Sweetheart Song at celebration of 50th anniversary celebration of marriage of fraternity brother for whom they were wedding party members.

“I’ve seen the golden sunset rays
blend with the twilight hue
And watched the searching midnight moon
above the ocean blue
And yet this beauty seems to fade
compared with beauty true,
The lovelight shining in your eyes
My sweetheart of Psi U.”

Interestingly enough, it was at the following 106th Convention in 1948 that officially authorized a “sweetheart” pin to be adopted by the fraternity. This pin is a smaller replica of our badge for the purpose of being given to a brother’s significant other. Since the Psi Upsilon Constitution allows only initiated brothers to wear the Psi Upsilon Badge, some chapters would commission local jewelers to create a smaller replica of the badge to be given, or ‘pinned’, to a brother’s significant other prior to this. This was controversial, though, and some interpreted it as a violation of the Constitution. In fact in 1950 the official sweetheart pin was removed and the convention bickered about it until the 1960’s. Today you can still order our Sweetheart pins through the fraternities website and lavalier pendants through our jeweler Herff Jones.

Today sweethearts still exist as a part of many of our Psi U chapters – sometimes there is a formal ceremony and announcements on social media accounts and it is not uncommon to see a chapter sweetheart on a composite. Many thanks to Brother’s Richardson and Schoonover for authoring such a great tune and influencing our fraternity!

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