Patterson Court and Service

Patterson Court, 1981 aerial photograph

Patterson Court, 1981

1980s: Patterson Court and the Push for More Service

The campus climate changed after its integration in 1962 and admittance of women in 1972. These students searched for their place on Davidson’s campus accompanied by societal and campus issues that could not be ignored. The Y Student Service Corps and Alpha Phi Omega, a national service fraternity, performed most of Davidson students’ community service for the latter part of the 70s and into the 80s. But by the 1980s, as local and national scrutiny pressured social organizations to reflect on their decisions, they became more cognizant of their identities and public image, which lead to an increase in community service by Patterson Court organizations.

Women and Minorities Lead the Charge

The Y Student Service Corps wanted to give “students a chance to break away from the me-ness of Davidson and develop the service attitude,” according to Corps president, John Spangler ‘82 (Dempsey). The Service Corps was mostly women and yet homogenous males dominated the fraternities and co-ed eating houses.

Students building solar greenhouse

Students building solar greenhouse

The Patterson Court leaders often failed to recognize the issues of the underprivileged and disenfranchised within both the Davidson College community and outside of it. Finally, in 1981 Rusk House, an all-girls Patterson Court eating house collaborated with the Y for a Davidson Town Day where they dedicated a solar greenhouse and had an ice cream social for the community.

In that same year, the Black Student Coalition became concerned about the possible racially insensitive connotation of Kappa Alpha’s annual Old South event where they would wear Confederate soldiers’ uniforms. In hopes of improving understanding between student groups, the administration granted the BSC with one of the vacant houses on Patterson Court.

SAE members and donation to the college library

SAE members and donation to the college library

A new all-girls eating house, Warner Hall, was granted the other. In September of 1982, Warner Hall was the first Patterson Court organization to produce a service calendar and appoint a service chairman; Laura Taft ‘85 was in charge of fund-raising and service projects for the house.

The efforts of minority groups forced other PC organizations to see the disparities right on campus and realize that inequalities existed outside of Davidson College. The move also diversified the influence on Patterson Court and moved the awareness of social issues toward the foreground. As the issues on campus became more pressing, service became more important to Patterson Court organizations.

However, by May of 1982, as seen in a Davidsonian, the student-run newspaper, article titled, What’s All the Frat About? – Davidson Professor’s Ideas on Fraternity Life“, service was still not a staple of Patterson Court organizations. Andy Wilson ’84 focuses the entire article on recruitment by social organizations. Even when asked what the strongest points of Davidson fraternity’s were, he failed to mention service.

"What's All the Frat About? Davidson Professors' Ideas on Fraternity Life" article from the Davidsonian

"What's All the Frat About? Davidson Professors' Ideas on Fraternity Life"

Public Pressure

As national skepticism of fraternities increased with the federal crackdown on hazing and underage drinking in 1982, the Patterson Court organizations struggled to determine their brand and portray a positive image to the community. Through service, the organizations sought approval and appreciation by the public.

In October of 1982, both noise complaints on campus and a national microscope on drinking culture put societal faith in fraternities in question. Patterson Court organizations responded positively by February of 1983 with Pi Kappa Alpha’s Kenya Fund where they raised $1,000 dollars, Phi Delta Theta’s UNICEF Halloween Party, and Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s bike-a-thon for muscular dystrophy. By April, a member of the Rusk House had defined her particular organization “as a college service organization as well as an eating house” (White).

After the drinking age was raised in 1984, fraternities were becoming known as a place for under aged students to drink. Trying to combat this notion, Phi Gamma Delta thought that buying an old school bus would prevent people from driving drunk. They used this same bus to transport neighborhood children to and from a free Halloween Party that they hosted.

The same fraternity pledged to improve its image by doing more community service after a February 1985 edition of the Davidsonian characterized them as drug-users. Despite the efforts to engage in service and improve their image in the 80s, trouble still remained for many Patterson Court organizations.

A Call for the Abolition of Fraternities article in the Davidsonian

A Call for the Abolition of Fraternities

A 1986 article by Steve Soud ‘84 highlighted the misconceptions of social organizations saying that fraternities were dominated by “sexual conquests”. The article, “A Call for the Abolition of Fraternities (link)” says that the community service of Patterson Court organizations is overshadowed by the community service of the Y-Student Service Corps. However, a follow-up article by Leland Park ’63 says that the Patterson Court organizations had raised over $90,000 for charitable causes.

As a result of Patterson Court organizations often being the victims of such scrutiny, they turn to community service in an attempt to win back the trust and admiration of the community.

Patterson Court’s service during the 80s seemed primarily reactionary. Social changes on campus brought social awareness to campus and as a result, civic engagement became more important. Moreover, the social organizations of Patterson Court did not want to be seen as negative influences. They saw service as the outlet to increase beneficial community relationships and improve their public images.

1990s: More Problems and More Service

Unfortunately for Patterson Court, its bad image began to resurface in the early 1990s. Due to a number of events and discussions during the beginning of the decade, the service efforts of the Patterson Court organizations were often overlooked by other members of the Davidson community. The actions of the organizations, as well as the outside perception, slightly stifled the momentum Patterson Court had garnered in the late 80s.

However, Patterson Court persevered, as service remained to be a focus throughout the early 90s. Once again, the tough times also sparked a stronger investment in service during the subsequent years. Through this service, the court appears to have altered some of the negative views and allowed for future expansion.

A Rough Start

During most of the early 90s, Patterson Court was plagued with probations, suspensions, and discussions about the alcohol policy, which left many peers and faculty members with a negative image of the organization.  During this time period, service projects were completed both altruistically and as a means of apology.

In a great showing of campus unity, Patterson Court worked alongside numerous other student organizations in October of 1991, including the Student Government Association, the Chapel committee, and the Solidarity Committee, in a week of service known as “Into the Streets”.

Kappa Sigma members at Habitat build

Kappa Sigma members at Habitat build

In a week of almost twenty different service opportunities, Kappa Sigma, Phi Delta Theta, and Sigma Alpha Epsilon were all active contributors.  Kappa Sigma held their Homeruns for Habitat, a 100 inning softball game that raised money for Habitat for Humanity, while Phi Delta Theta and Sigma Alpha Epsilon both solicited donations for the CROP Walk (McEaddy).

Service was also used as a redemptive tool.  After complaints from a church in Matthews, North Carolina led to disciplinary action against members of Kappa Alpha, in December of 1991, the fraternity offered “to participate in any service project the church deemed appropriate (Price).”  Service in the 90s, like the 80s, became a method for improving an organization’s image.

The front page of the February 8, 1993 issue of the Davidsonian

The front page of the February 8, 1993 issue of the Davidsonian

There is More to Patterson Court

In the spring of 1993, the then Community Service Office began to select one organization a semester to be given the Patterson Court Service Award. Rusk eating house won the award in its first semester.

In their first semester back after a year-long suspension, Sigma Alpha Epsilon won the award for the fall of 1993.  In fact, a fraternity that had not been suspended previously in the decade did not win the award until the fall of 1998.

Manifested mostly as charitable giving, service began to become a highlighted practice for Patterson Court.  Kappa Sigma participated annually in the MADD Run, a 63 mile run from Davidson to Salisbury and back, in order to raise money for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (Moretz).

After more than a give year absence, Greek Week returned to Davidson in April of 1994 and brought service opportunities with it.  On the last day of Greek Week, Connor Eating House, founded in 1992, and Sigma Alpha Epsilon sponsored a fun run to benefit Easter Seals, an organization devoted to helping children with disabilities (Kent).

Through a brother who lives in Zimbabwe, Pi Kappa Alpha got involved in saving African elephants in 1998 through a very interesting concept with the Save Valley Conservancy.  The Conservancy is a privately owned organization in Zimbabwe led by wealthy land owners who have an invested interest in the wildlife of the country.

However, the fraternity gave its proceeds to the villages around the conservancy.  The villages bought the elephants and had the animals shipped to them.  The Conservancy then leased the elephants from the villages, which gave the villages the funds needed for schools and hospitals (Burk).

From Wishes of Elimination to Wishes of Expansion

In the early to mid 1990s there were many anti-fraternity articles in various publications, some even asking to abolish the fraternity system all together.  In a response to a previous Davidsonian article called “God Save the Court” in 1996, the Patterson Court Council stated, “The court is about leadership, service, and friendship.  The well rounded Davidson undergraduates it helps to produce are important…(Patterson).”

Through the use of service, Patterson Court, but more specifically the fraternities, was able to distance themselves from its past negative actions.  This attempt to change the perception has helped in the decision to expand the court.  The idea of Turner House, a fourth eating house, was brought to fruition in 1998.  The growth did not stop there.  Four more service based organizations were added to the Patterson Court community in the following thirteen years.

2000s: The Rise of Eating Houses and NPHC Organizations

The 2000s saw a rise in service and respectability for the Davidson College eating houses and the new NPHC organizations, historically Black Sororities and Fraternities. These organizations were giving Patterson Court a good name based on their active involvement in service.

On the contrary, Patterson Court Fraternities were less active in service than ever before in the early 2000s. In the mid-2000s, these Fraternities were often scorned for their lack of service which led to a surge of service in the beginning of the 2007 fall semester for all members of Patterson Court. This increase in service was led by the Patterson Court Council’s Day of Service initiative which required all members of Patterson Court organizations to take part in a day of community service.

Girl Power

Prior to 2001, Patterson Court all-girl eating houses took part in minor required service projects, much of which didn’t seem to leave lasting impressions on members. These service projects included co-sponsoring small events with fraternities. In 2001 a new type of service project would be introduced that would change the way PC eating house perceived service forever.

In 2000, four Connor House members decided to start an event which they would call Bosom Buddies. Bosom Buddies would dedicate its service efforts and raise money for Friends for an Earlier Breast Cancer Test (Connor).  These girls saw this as an opportunity to unite all of Connor’s service efforts around one cause.

The event would include catered food from sponsoring neighborhood restaurants and a silent auction using baskets with items donated by local residents and retail stores. In 2001 the event raised $3,000. Ten years later in March of 2011, Bosom Buddies raised over $80,000; more than any other eating house or fraternities service efforts combined. The success of Bosom Buddies encouraged the other eating houses to also get involved in big service projects that could raise substantial amounts of money.

In 2004 Warner House put on the first Warner Red and Black Ball, a charity gala which would benefit Metrolina Aids Project; around 500students, faculty, and community members were in attendance. Davidson College and Warner Hall co-sponsored the event, which included a silent art auction, speakers, a band, and desserts. Overall, the evening raised $10,700, surpassing the goal of $7,000 (Wesley).

Profits came mostly from ticket sales, the art auction, private donations, and funding-raising from members of Warner Hall. The Red and Black Ball takes place every year and has continued to raise around $10,000 each year for various Aids projects around the world.

In 2009 Rusk Eating House started their own large charity event, Dancing Through the Decades. The event took place in 2009, 2010, and 2011, and the house is planning on continuing this event annually. Dancing Through the Decades raises money for The Barium Springs Home for children, a place for neglected or abused children to find refuge (Community). Most recently, Turner House has decided to adopt its own cause by sponsoring a heart health awareness week. The week ended with a benefit concert on Friday hosted by Turner house which featured Davidson student groups. The event was very successful. As of 2011, all of the female eating houses had adopted important causes which they would dedicate their time and efforts towards which was unheard of before.

New Kids on the Block

Not only did the 2000s see a rise in eating house participation in community service, but the black fraternities and sororities on campus were making a statement with their serious community service involvement. Davidson’s first historically black sorority was chartered in 2008. Alpha Kappa Alpha is known for their service motto “Service for all Mankind.” The sorority initiated an ongoing service project to help educate students at Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) Charlotte Charter School.

The project, Achieving Creativity through Technology and Innovative Opportunities Now (ACTION), is a collaboration intended to educate students about environmental awareness and implement a recycling program at the school. The program, which began in 2009, gives sorority members the chance to work with students one on one a few times a month. Along with their major service initiative, AKA also collaborated with Connor House is 2010 for the first annual Breast Cancer Awareness week in October.

The year 2008 was also a big one, for Kappa Alpha Psi Davidson’s second historically black fraternity was chartered. Kappa Alpha Psi, which currently only hosts six members, has done an immense amount of service considering the fact it only has six members. In the 2009-2010 school year alone, the Kappas took part in 13 service projects. Events include Dining with the Kappa’s, Adopt-a-Highway, and volunteering often for the Boys and Girls Club. The charity held closest to the Kappa’s heart is their Guide Right initiative. Guide Right is a Fraternity wide initiative to work within our communities to uplift at risk youth in a mentoring role. At the Ada Jenkins center in Davidson, the Kappa’s tutor members of the Boys and Girls Club.

Davidson’s oldest historically black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, was chartered in 2003. Alpha Phi Alpha takes part in multiple service projects throughout the year but is most focused on their attendance at an annual Alzheimer’s walk and their work with the Davidson IB Middle School. Each year the fraternity members attend The Memory Walk which raises money to cure Alzheimer’s. Along with the Memory Walk, the members of Alpha Phi Alpha volunteer their time at the Davidson IB School. The brothers help the school by acting as teacher’s assistants and help lead projects which help the young boys become young men.

Changing the Stereotype

For much of the 2000s, the eating houses took part in most of the service on Patterson Court. The fraternities did do service but none that would be considered high profile. In 2007 however, things changed. The Patterson Court Council was feeling a lot of pressure from outside sources to step it up when it came to service.

Students were making claim in the Davidsonian that Connor House Bosom Buddies and Warner House Red and Black Ball could no longer overshadow the rest of the eating houses and fraternities and that the others needed to step up and make more of an effort in terms of community service. A Davidsonian editorial ridiculed Patterson Court organizations for not being legitimate and only being about parties on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights (Moore).

These types of comments are what spurred the 2007 Inaugural Day of Service (Talley). On this day, all members of eating houses and fraternities were required to take part in assigned service. Each fraternity and eating house was paired up with another and sent to a location in which they would perform some type of necessary service. The day proved to be successful, and members were quite receptive. Community service no longer seemed as a hassle to fraternities and eating houses but was now praised. The day has taken place once a year since 2007 and has changed the way Davidson students perceive Patterson Court and service.

Works Cited

Burk, Buster.  “PiKA to Raise Money for African Elephants.”  24 Mar. 1998.  Print.

“Community Service.” Rusk House: Davidson College’s First Women’s Eating House. Web. 19 Apr. 2011.  <>.

Connor House Bosom Buddies. Connor House, 10 Mar. 2011. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. <>.

Dempsey, Jeff. “Town Community Center Begins Bartering for Services.” Davidsonian 8 Apr. 1980: 1+. Print.

Kent, Jeff.  “Greek Week Returns for Easter Seals.”  Davidsonian 4 Apr. 1994: 1+.  Print.

McEaddy, Catherine.  “’Into the Streets’ Promotes Awareness.” Davidsonian 14 Oct. 1991: 1+.  Print.

Moore, Chris. “PCC Must Own up to Reputation on Campus.” Editorial. Davidsonian 4 Apr. 2007. The Davidsonian Online. Davidson College, 22 Feb. 2009. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. <>.

Moretz, Mary Laura.  “Kappa Sig Runs to Support MADD: Fifth annual race aims to raise over $2000.” Davidsonian 4 Apr. 1994.  Print.

Patterson Court Council.  “On ‘God Save the Court.’”  Davidsonian 23 Sept. 1996.  Print.

Price, Walter.  “Students Disciplined After Being Caught With Their Pants Down.”   Davidsonian 9 Dec. 1991.  Print.

Talley, Samantha. “Patterson Court Runs Its Inaugural Day of Service.”  Davidsonian 7 Nov. 2007. Print.

Wesley, Sarah-Grace. “Red and Black Ball Raises over $10,000.”  Davidsonian 17 Mar. 2004: 1+. Print.

White, Elizabeth. “Town Day Promotes Community Awareness.” Davidsonian 29 Apr. 1983: 1+. Print.

Wilson, Andy. “What’s All The Frat About.” Davidsonian 7 May 1982: 1+. Print.


1980s: Patterson Court and the Push for More Service – Sherrod Davis  – 21 April 2011

1990s: More Problems and More Service – Brandon Sykes – 21 April 2011

2000s: The Rise of Eating Houses and NPHC Organizations –  Shelby Wagenseller – 21 April 2011

Related Entries:

Fraternities at Davidson

Patterson Court

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