U of A "Back Then"

Recollections from Helen Lippi Ullmann

Golden Arrow

University of Arizona, Arizona Alpha

"Are there any alums here who were in college when there were no hours and undergraduate women could live in apartments?"

Welcome to 1963-1967 at the University of Arizona in Tucson. 

University Policy (how it helped Pi Phi)

Until they were graduate students or at least 23 years of age, all women had to live in approved campus housing.  Translation-dorms or sorority houses.  The unintended consequence of this policy was that it strengthened the Greek system because living in a sorority house had advantages over spending all four years in a dorm.  

Still we had to abide by the same rules such as set times by which we had to be in at night.  

This was pre-women’s lib and the men could live off campus in apartments and did not have hours.  Official policy said no woman could be in a man’s apartment, a rule that was violated whenever there was a party at an apartment.


The Dean of Women told us that Tucson may be a winter resort for snowbirds, but that did not mean we could resort to wearing nothing.  All the coeds had to wear dresses or skirts to class.  (Claire Ribble (Kay, she is an alum who attended Purdue) same thing in the winter cold.)

When we were feeling daring or overslept, we wore buttoned up raincoats over our cut-off  jeans.

But for night classes, pants were allowed.  

Pledges risked the wrath of the actives if caught not wearing their pledge pins when going to class.  Most actives wore their arrows, too.

Football Games:

Due to the hot weather, home games were at night.  Oddly enough, we elected to wear dresses with heels to the football games.  When there was a nationally televised home game, it was moved to the afternoon, and the network insisted we wear casual cotton clothes to emphasize the difference between a game at Arizona and in the cold Midwest/East.

The House:

There were 14 sororities on campus and all had houses.  As was true of most of the sororities, all Pi Phi pledges lived in the dorms or at home until the following year. 

Every summer the House Corporation redecorated part of the house.  Before my sophomore year it was our rooms.  The alums had bought white desks and white overhead books shelves for everyone but used a different color scheme in each room.  I still remember how thrilled I was to move into the house the first time.  My room was red with some pink and a matching wall-to-wall shag rug.  Remember shag rugs?

 I could step out of the room onto a wrought iron balcony flanked by an orange tree. 

The Pi Phi house slept 50 all on a sleeping porch where it was always dark and quiet.

The house manager assigned roommates and rooms, and we moved each semester.  Only seniors could select their roommates and only second semester.  As a result, got to know members from different classes and while visiting with close friends became better acquainted with their roommates.


  Mozelle, the breakfast and lunch cook, ruled the kitchen.  At breakfast you came into the kitchen to tell Mozelle how you wanted your eggs, and she would prepare them to order.  Mozelle liked the big eaters but had it in for the dieters.  When some of them went on some demented diet that consisted only of hardboiled eggs and grapefruit for each meal, Mozelle grudgingly obliged but muttered under her breath each morning.  By the end of the week, she was less subtle, glaring and and practically hurling hardboiled eggs at the few still sticking to the diet.

While lunch was a casual buffet, dinner prepared by a different cook was sit down.  White coated college men (hashers) served, while the housemother presided. Before the meal we stood behind our chairs, and sang grace.  In between courses we sang Pi Phi songs.  

Half of the members smoked and etiquette required a smoker to ask permission of those at the table to have a cigarette at the end of the meal.  Permission was always granted.  As pledges, the smokers were taught the correct way for a lady to light her cigarette and the proper way to smoke it.

During rush, the hashers served water or iced tea, but they also checked out the girls.  One year a message was delivered to the rush chairman.  “The one girl we want to see coming through the lunch line is Nanette.  We pledged her.  

Kennedy Assassination:

When arriving for lunch one day in November my freshman year, I saw that no one was in the dining room…they were huddled in the little used date room watching the only TV in the house; the room was blue with cigarette smoke.  A pledge sister turned to me and said, “Kennedy was shot.”  The assassination of JFK was the equivalent of the bombing of Pearl Harbor had been for my parents, and 9/11 would be for my daughter.  Coincidently my parents, and my daughter, and I were all in college when these cataclysmic events occurred.  Just like everyone else, we will always remember how we learned the news.

50 Years/100 Years:

Founder’s Day in spring of my senior 1967 was special.  The Arizona Alpha chapter was founded in 1917, so it turned 50 and Pi Phi was founded in 1867, so it turned 100.


I am helping organize a reunion of the ’62,’63, and ’64 pledge classes, and sorority sisters will be traveling to Tucson in late April from as far away as Paris.  Among others, I will see Klaire, the senior, I roomed with my sophomore year when we shared room 8, the pink and red one. The smokers are all former smokers having long given up the habit.  At the reunion dinner, the dieters will savor the food because they have shunned fad dieting and have accepted their bodies.  We will visit the house.  Linda will point out one of the rooms and tell us proudly her granddaughter Lauren, a recent U of A grad and Pi Phi lived in it, too.  Susan will remind us that her husband was a hasher.  She will joke that he served her dinner every night and for 45 years she has been serving him. We will tell the current Pi Phi’s we hope they make life long friends. We will tell them we hope they have as much fun as we did, but we doubt it.