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A Century of Service

Over 100 years ago, Pi Beta Phi established the Settlement School in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, which grew into Pi Beta Phi Elementary School. It was during the 1910 Swarthmore Convention that Emma Harper Turner proposed Pi Beta Phi find, and maintain, a school in honor of the 12 founders. This was the first national philanthropic effort of any National Panhellenic Conference organization. 

Pi Beta Phi Elementary School is a true testament to the Fraternity’s dedication to education. Pi Phi was solely responsible for all education in Gatlinburg until the 1940s and continued to provide educational and financial assistance until 1967. After the Gatlinburg community took over the operations of the Settlement School, Pi Phi directed its philanthropic efforts to communities across the United States and Canada. Throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, Pi Phi chapters and alumnae organizations participated in community literacy projects. Programs like Arrow in the Arctic (1967) and Champions are Readers® (2003) provided additional ways of serving local communities. At the 2011 Convention, Pi Beta Phi announced the creation of our philanthropic effort, Read > Lead > Achieve®, which encompasses all Pi Phi literacy programs and reading initiatives. 

Pi Phi has continued this legacy of Philanthropic Service to Others for more than a century and a half. Today, Pi Phis participate, donate and advocate for literacy through Read > Lead > Achieve reading initiatives — just as sisters first did in 1912. Even still, illiteracy remains a barrier to success for too many people. Pi Phis must continue to build on the legacy of our past by strengthening our efforts today and in the future. 

Legacy of Literacy

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Our Story

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In November 2012, Pi Beta Phi held a centennial celebration in Gatlinburg to mark the founding of the Settlement School. Pi Phis from all over the country gathered to celebrate this momentous event.

Pi Beta Phi donated $10,000 to the elementary school, in addition to 700 copies of the book "Remember the Ladies: 100 Great American Women" and 10,000 Box Tops for Education®.

The celebration culminated in the unveiling of a centennial plaza dedicated to Pi Beta Phi Settlement School including a statue of the first Pi Phi teacher, DELLA "DELL" GILLETTE MORGAN, Illinois Zeta and her student, Max.

To find out more about our literacy efforts, simply click here!