Sigma Kappa Triangle Winter 2017 : Page 20

A FOUNDER’S LEGACY Founder Louise Helen Coburn and her great-great-niece, Colby Choi . Colby is the latest in a long tradition of Louise’s relatives joining Sigma Kappa. By Kathleen Sturgeon , Kappa Tau Features Editor After a new member joins Sigma Kappa and gets initiated, she often feels a special connection with her chapter, alumnae and founders. It’s an extraordinary bond that more than 165,000 sisters worldwide share with each other, even when the majority of those women are strangers to each other. Although we may not have known our fi ve founders, we learn about their rich history and feel a close connection because we are all united through the Sorority. And now, that connection has been made even stronger for one sister whose family ties to Sigma Kappa reach all the way back to its founding. In fall 2016, Colby Choi , the great-great-niece of founder Louise Helen Coburn , joined the Mystic Bond when she was initiated into the Lambda Chapter at the University of California at Berkeley. “It was defi nitely cool to be initiated into Sigma Kappa, especially because I knew my great-great-aunt was the one who helped write the Initiation ceremony,” Colby said. “It defi nitely made me feel more connected to that side of my family and I was really excited to carry on the family legacy. I’ve enjoyed getting to know everyone in Sigma Kappa and I was really happy to be surrounded with such smart, cool and fun people.” Colby’s great-great-grandmother and Louise’s younger sister, Grace Coburn Smith , was initiated into the Alpha Chapter and eventually held the position of Sigma Kappa national president. 20

A Founder's Legacy

Kathleen Sturgeon, Kappa Tau

Features Editor

After a new member joins Sigma Kappa and gets initiated, she often feels a special connection with her chapter, alumnae and founders. It's an extraordinary bond that more than 165,000 sisters worldwide share with each other, even when the majority of those women are strangers to each other. Although we may not have known our five founders, we learn about their rich history and feel a close connection because we are all united through the Sorority.

And now, that connection has been made even stronger for one sister whose family ties to Sigma Kappa reach all the way back to its founding.

In fall 2016, Colby Choi, the great-great-niece of founder Louise Helen Coburn, joined the Mystic Bond when she was initiated into the Lambda Chapter at the University of California at Berkeley.

"It was definitely cool to be initiated into Sigma Kappa, especially because I knew my great-great-aunt was the one who helped write the Initiation ceremony," Colby said. "It definitely made me feel more connected to that side of my family and I was really excited to carry on the family legacy. I've enjoyed getting to know everyone in Sigma Kappa and I was really happy to be surrounded with such smart, cool and fun people."

Colby's great-great-grandmother and Louise's younger sister, Grace Coburn Smith, was initiated into the Alpha Chapter and eventually held the position of Sigma Kappa national president.

Because Louise did not have any children, her family's legacies stem from her sisters. Grace had five children, including Joseph Coburn Smith, Grace's only surviving son and Colby's great-grandfather. Joseph had a son named George Irving Smith, Colby's grandfather.

Colby's mother, Michele, urged her daughter to go through recruitment because she said large universities sometimes lack a feeling of home for students. Michele attended the University of California at Los Angeles and did not go through recruitment, which she later regretted.

"It was very hard for me to form friendships in college, so when Colby began at [the University of California at Berkeley], I knew that this would be a way for her to find friends and make a smaller, more intimate community out of a large university," Michele said.

Once Colby decided to go through recruitment, Michele didn't remind her daughter about the family ties to the sororities. In addition to being a Sigma Kappa legacy, both from her great-great-aunt and from one of Michele's biological sisters, Colby is also a legacy of Kappa Alpha Theta from another of Michele's sisters.

"I wanted her to experience each sorority without bias toward one or the other," Michele said. "I thought it was really important that she find a place where she felt comfortable, amongst friends, and that was her own choice."

By day five of recruitment, Michele knew that Sigma Kappa was still on Colby's list.

"Colby said she had found some girls [she connected with] there and that she felt really good about it. I knew it was her number one choice. I then reminded her that we have a long family legacy to Sigma Kappa," Michele said. "I was really happy that not only had she chosen Sigma Kappa for its own merits, but that she continued a family tradition that stretched from its beginnings."

And before Colby even stepped foot into the Lambda house, the sisters there knew her history.

"I had only put my aunt Mireya [Ono, Epsilon Omega, California Polytechnic University-San Luis Obispo, Michele's biological sister] down as a legacy, but I didn't remember how far back Sigma Kappa had been a part of my family, just that we had a lot of Sigma Kappas," Colby said. "I personally did not think it was a big deal until I received the Alpha badge during Initiation and when I learned about my great-great-aunt in new member education meetings. I'm not sure what my sisters think about my legacy, but I do think it's funny that some of them knew my family tree better than I did."

Now, Colby feels like her connection to the sisterhood is even stronger.

"I think belonging to a sisterhood when you are a legacy makes it feel that much more like family. It ties everyone together," Colby said. "A sense of belonging and lifelong friendship is an important part of the college experience. I think each of my relatives' choice to keep the tradition of being a Sigma Kappa sister is based on valuing these."

After Colby became a new member, Michele's younger sister and Sigma Kappa alumna sent Colby a family-kept Sigma Kappa badge owned by Louise's niece, Helen Coburn Smith Fawcett, Alpha. Michele was told this might be the oldest badge related to Louise as it was adopted in 1915 and Helen attended Colby College in the 1920s. This means neither Helen's mother, Grace, nor Louise would have ever owned a triangle badge. This badge was subsequently given to Helen's younger sister when she was initiated into Alpha Chapter, then handed down to Michele's sister, then Colby.

In addition to Sigma Kappa, the family has ties to Colby College going back to the institute's beginnings. At one time, the family started a college preparatory school in Waterville, Maine, called Coburn Classical Institute. This school was to prepare students for Waterville College, now Colby College.

Louise's uncle Abner Coburn was instrumental in funding both Coburn Classical Institute and Waterville College, Michele said. Abner served on the Colby College Board of Trustees for over 40 years. Additionally, a number of Colby College buildings have been named after the Coburn family, including Coburn Hall.

"Abner Coburn was an incredible man," Michele said. "He was the governor of Maine, a generous philanthropist and smart businessman. During the Civil War, he and his brother bought up a lot of land and amassed most of Somerset County, which we still own a small portion of. Most of it was deeded to the state of Maine in a gift from our family to preserve free space and natural lands. The family still owns an area called Attean Lake with cabins on it."

Stemming from this admiration for the college is how the family decided on a name for Colby, before she was born.

"When I was pregnant with Colby, we were sitting around the table during a dinner with my parents, George and Teruko Smith, and we were brainstorming names," Michele said. "My dad said that he really liked the name 'Colby' to honor our family's Colby tradition and when I mentioned that I would consider it, my dad got very teary. My husband turned to me and said, 'I think we have to do it now.'"

So the family planned that the baby was going to be "Colby Hana" or "Colby James," depending upon the sex.

"In either case, we knew that it was going to be 'Colby' in honor of the college that we have had such a long and strong tie to, and that so many of our relatives have attended," Michele said.

Now, both Colby and Michele are enjoying Sigma Kappa by participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer's together, attending the Ultra Violet Ball and Founders' Day where they brought Michele's cousin, Grace Helen Fawcett, who was initiated into the Alpha Chapter.

And soon, the family could extend the Sigma Kappa tradition even more. Michele is considering becoming an alumna initiate of the Sorority, but wants to make sure Colby's time isn't overshadowed. So far, Colby is enjoying the experience.

"The girls are my favorite part of Sigma Kappa by far," Colby said. "I never feel like I have to try to be someone else and I feel really comfortable with all of them. It's nice to have a group of people I can talk to outside of class and have someone to turn to if I need help. I am so glad that I went through recruitment and that I will have four amazing years with these friends, and then hopefully a lifetime of friendship."

Read the full article at https://mydigitalpublication.com/article/A+Founder%27s+Legacy/2693749/378680/article.html.

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