cookie shines

In 1873, members of the Kansas Alpha Chapter held a great feast. The University Chancellor dubbed the event a “Cookie Shine” upon seeing the soiree of good food. By 1885, it had become a Pi Beta Phi tradition.

A Longstanding Tradition

The Cookie Shine originates from the first I.C. Sorosis party given by Kansas Alpha, in Lawrence, Kansas, on June 1873 at the home of the Richardson sisters. Flora, May and Alma Richardson were entertaining in honor of their sister, Sara, a charter member of the Illinois Beta Chapter at Lombard College.C-S-Iowa-Zeta-1891-(1).jpeg

It was through Sara’s influence that Kansas Alpha was established on April 1, 1873. Sara’s sisters were charter members of Kansas Alpha. John Fraser, the chancellor of the University of Kansas, was present at the party. When I.C.s began to lay their spread of good food, the chancellor dubbed the feast a Cookie Shine. Cookie Shine was the term Chancellor Fraser used for any kind of an informal social gathering brought together by accident or design. The term so pleased the I.C.s that they immediately took it as their own.

By 1885, nearly every chapter had adopted the Cookie Shine as a genuine Pi Phi tradition. Cookie Shines were a part of conventions and chapter life. The suffragist, Iowa Gamma Carrie Chapman Catt, attended Cookie Shines as did future First Lady, Grace Goodhue Coolidge. The founders, in their later years, had many occasions to share in Cookie Shines.

At the 1910 Swarthmore Convention, when the plan for the Settlement School was presented, Pennsylvania Beta entertained with a stunt party and a Cookie Shine. Cookie Shines have continued to be a part of Pi Phi celebrations at alumnae club meetings, conventions, Fraternity events, regional leadership retreats, anniversary celebrations and installations.

Many local versions of the Cookie Shine have developed over the years. In the early days, some chapters kept Cookie Shines very secret, while other chapters invited their friends. Some made it purely informal with no one knowing what the other would bring. Others have a set menu such as arrow-shaped sugar cookies and even fruit salad.

PA-Beta-1903-C-S.jpegDecorations and set-ups vary from chapter to chapter. Whatever the arrangement, the Cookie Shine set-up should be large enough for the entire chapter or alumnae club to gather around. Greek letters, arrows, angels and even the crest outlined with candies may be scattered about. In chapters where a big cookie is passed around the room, members often say a few words before they break off a piece of the cookie and make a wish. Many chapters have special Cookie Shine sheets, on which members write their names, often embroidering them afterwards. Some chapters have graduating seniors write their names on the Cookie Shine sheet. Others have the little sister sign under the big sister’s name, thereby keeping a record of family trees.

The Pi Beta Phi Cookie Shine is a tradition connecting Pi Phis the world over. Just as it connected the Kansas Alphas in 1873, it connects us today. In 1912 a Pi Phi collegian wrote in The Arrow, “The term Cookie Shine itself, and the occasion for which it stands, has become so inseparable as a part of social life of our Fraternity that it will always be held in unquestioned and loving regard by all of us.” Another testament to the history and legacy of the Cookie Shine is Indiana Beta Elizabeth Schrader’s thoughts on the tradition: “The homemade cookies are never the same shape or texture, the candies never taste quite the same and the smiling faces surrounding the Cookie Shine cloth change with each ceremony that passes. What does remain is the sisterhood this tradition represents. It reiterates the fact we are part of something bigger, and that Pi Phis new and old are all united by the bond of sisterhood.”

Cookie Shine MemoriesIL-Delta-Cookie-Shine-1908.jpeg

“Just yesterday I experienced what was my last time sitting in the center of the Cookie Shine, a bittersweet moment of course. I laughed, clapped and sang with my fellow seniors, grabbing my own messy piece of the arrow cookie I’ve watched passed around so many times before. We each grabbed our own needle and thread and one by one added our names to the tapestry of Ohio Beta. We laughed at the sewing prowess, or lack thereof, of ourselves and the women who came before us. Regardless of our skill with the needle, we are now a permanent part of this special tradition. More names will be added with each passing year, but we know that we will have left our mark. A part of us will always share this ceremony, and all it represents, with the women who follow in our footsteps.”
— Maureen Licursi, Ohio Beta

“The Pi Phi Cookie Shine is one of my favorite traditions. To see pure joy on each woman's face as the first Cookie Shine is revealed is like watching a kid in a candy store. The Cookie Shine always makes me feel like a child. Now that I am a junior, I love to help make the Cookie Shines and sing to the younger women so that they may have as wonderful of an experience as I did.”
— Megan Shea, Arkansas Alpha

“I love Cookie Shines ... and not because of those delicious arrow cookies with the perfect icing, although those are irresistible. It is because of the very special memories Cookie Shines create with our sisters. It is not exactly how a Cookie Shine is executed that make them so special but rather the unique, intimate experience created by the Cookie Shine that make them so memorable for us all.”
— Mari Lou Psihogios Diamond, Oregon Alpha

“I will never forget how excited I was flying to Austin, Texas, from Hong Kong for my best friend’s, Robin Hinton Hopkins, wedding. I had been there for work, and the entire 23-hour flight I was awake trying to come up with something I could do, as her maid of honor, that would be extra special for Robin. I thought back to how we met on Bid Day, the fun times we always had together at Mizzou and the friendship we shared. Of course that brought me back to Pi Beta Phi! I thought a Cookie Shine would be perfect and how special that would be on the night before her wedding. Robin’s little sister, Sarah Shoemake Doles, and I surprised Robin that night with a huge Cookie Shine with all of her favorite treats. I think we probably shed a tear or two, but it really symbolized so much. As the song says, ‘the joy of friendship true, the joy of having knowing you, will last your whole life through.’ And it has ... Robin and I just met for homecoming at Mizzou in October this past year and talked about all of our wonderful memories of Pi Beta Phi! Her friendship means the world to me and even though we don’t live in the corner room at 511 Rollins anymore, I know she is just a phone call away!”
— Michelle Mayo Fish, Missouri Alpha

The Cookie Shine Poem

True Friendships in the wine and blue,
Bring Pi Phi’s many things,
Disguised we are as angels,
As we sprout our own small wings,

We learn our great traditions
As pledges through the year,
Under careful supervision
Of the Sisters we hold dear.

The Cookie Shine — Pi Phi’s alone
Is a custom we love best,
Of all the history we have known
This stands out above 
the rest.
Kansas U was having a “spree”,
The girls laid out a “spread,”

This was June of 1873,
When Chancellor Fraser said, “This feast looks like a Cookie Shine,”
The girls laughed as they listened,
And thought this name was so very fine,
The “spread” was then re-christened.

And so from Coast to Coast it’s grown,
With no official version,
Each chapter has its very own,
And its favorite diversion
So, as the years ahead unfold,
And Pi Phi’s love you know,
May your Cookie Shines bring joys untold.

This Pi Phi Cookie Shine poem was written by Pi Beta Phi’s Poet Laureate Evelyn Peters Kyle, Illinois Alpha

Pi Phi Events

Pi Phi programs and events promote personal growth, provide opportunities for service and give collegians and alumnae a way to develop and practice their leadership skills. Our events are a way for members to establish meaningful connections with other Pi Phis, spanning distance and generations.

Learn More