A Surprising Sorority Boost for Alzheimer’s Research

Credit: Proxy Design via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)It might seem unlikely at first, but bear with me. The philanthropic association affiliated with one of the nation’s first sororities just gave $1 million to the Alzheimer’s Association. I know. I didn’t quite believe it at first myself. Why Alzheimer’s, and why a sorority? Forgive my rather dim view of Greek pursuits, but shouldn’t a sorority be more interested in sexy causes like, I don’t know, childhood education? Or dolphins?

But take a closer look, and it makes sense. Founded in 1874, the sorority Sigma Kappa was begun at the first university in the nation to admit women on equal standing with men (Colby College in Waterville, ME). From the start, the sorority movement was as much about coeducational rights and women’s rights as it was about sisterly bonding. So, naturally their bespoke foundation would share those values. And if you don’t think Alzheimer’s disease is a woman’s issue, think again.

Of the five million people living with Alzheimer’s, two-thirds are women. The gift will launch the Women’s Research Initiative at the Alzheimer’s Association, funding research into Alzheimer’s and dementia science.

The original $1 million pledge was made in 2014 by Caroyln Tieger, Foundation Trustee and Sorority alumna, with a 100 percent matching guarantee to be made within five years by Tieger. Except Tieger challenged her sisters to raise half the money—$500,000—in two years instead of five, and they rose to the challenge.

Tieger said, "I have never been more proud to be a Sigma Kappa. Our gift, achieved in record time, will jump start the Women's Research Initiative and provide hope to millions of Alzheimer's victims and their families."

"Since 1984, Sigma Kappa has donated $4.64 million to advance the fight against Alzheimer's disease," said Sigma Kappa's outgoing national president, Cheri De Jong. "We recognize the impact of this disease, especially on women, which is why our members are committed to this cause."

"This $1 million gift to the Alzheimer's Association completes the first phase of our $5 million Shared Hearts. New Heights. A Campaign for Sigma Kappa, focused on leadership, scholarship and philanthropy efforts for Sigma Kappa," added Foundation President Sarah Womble.