Published June 02, 2015

Pi Phi groundbreaking

Construction is under way at site of $2 million house
  • Pictured at the groundbreaking ceremony on May 15 are, from left, Harold “Knap” Knapheide and his wife, Ann; alumni Anita Ridge ’88 and Jackie Bell Zachmeyer ’89; President Clarence Wyatt and First Lady Lobie Stone; Amber Berge, a senior from Port Byron; three representatives from the architectural firm of Klingner & Associates – Cody Basham, Mike Klingner and Tony Chinn; and Mike Ernster of Russell Construction.

During commencement weekend activities at Monmouth College, ground was broken at the site of a new $2 million chapter house for the Pi Beta Phi women’s fraternity.
In honor of their late mother, Mary MacDill Knapheide ’35, siblings Harold “Knap” Knapheide III of Quincy, Ill., and Vicki Knapheide Wood of The Woodlands, Texas, made a gift of $1.2 million to Monmouth College. Knap was among the speakers at the ceremony, and he also participated in the official groundbreaking, along with representatives from the architectural firm of Klingner & Associates and Russell Construction.
“It feels good to do this in honor of my mother,” said Knapheide. “She was very proud of this college. Our ancestors that preceded her were Presbyterian ministers and professors who taught here. She was quite connected to Monmouth College in a number of different ways. Monmouth College was very important to her. Even beyond school, the Pi Phis were always a huge part of her life.”
The 15-bed house, which will be located on the northwest corner of Ninth St. and Euclid Ave., will be available for Pi Phi members in the spring of 2016. It is being designed in a modified Greek Revival style to pay tribute to the architecture of Monmouth’s historic Holt House, where two of the founders boarded and planned the organization. Founded in 1867 as I.C. Sorosis, it was the first secret society for women in the United States to be patterned after men’s Greek letter fraternities.
“We have a legacy of empowering women that did and continues to separate Monmouth College apart,” said Monmouth College president Clarence Wyatt. “I am proud to be associated with an institution that has done this since its earliest days. Very few colleges had women as students and faculty from the beginning like Monmouth did. Today is also a celebration of the Knapheide family. Mary was a leader while on campus and a great example of the type of person we want this place to produce.”
Anita Ridge, a 1988 Monmouth graduate and Pi Beta Phi member, said the new house will take the already positive relationship that she and her sisters have with Monmouth to another level.
“Having a physical bond strengthens the bond of alumni and their ties to Pi Phi and the college itself. In this beautiful home to be built here, future generations of young women will strengthen their bonds with each other and this institution.”
Amber Berge, a senior from Port Byron, agreed.
“Some of the best memories I have of my time at Monmouth have taken place in the previous Pi Phi house, which I have greatly missed this past semester. I can only imagine the incredible memories that will be made in our new home by our current members and many more women for years to come. This home will add value to our Monmouth College experience and will truly help us continue to grow and improve as a sisterhood.”
With a strong connection to Pi Phi, Mary Knapheide serves as a link from the organization’s very beginnings to this recent announcement. During her time as a Monmouth student, the 1932 initiate met four of the 12 founding members – Margaret Campbell, Clara Brownlee Hutchinson, Fannie Whitenack Libbey and Inez Smith Soule. Mary’s grandmother, Lessie Buck MacDill, was not far behind the founders at Monmouth, being the 44th woman initiated.
Due to the Depression, Mary left Monmouth midway through her junior year to take a teaching job. Ensuring that Monmouth students are able to afford the cost of college for all four years was the reason behind a previous gift the Knapheide family made to Monmouth, creating the Mary MacDill Knapheide Scholarship.
When the family made its next gift, Knapheide said, “We considered creating a new dorm, but a new Pi Phi house is more personal for our family. We have a strong connection to it. If my mother were here to see this today, she would enjoy this and be proud that we are helping these students.”
“The ceremony was more than I could have hoped for, especially in terms of reaching people on a very emotional level,” said associate development officer Jeri Candor, who led the organization of the event. She cited the sing-a-long to “Ring Ching Ching,” a century-old Pi Phi song, as one such highlight, along with current students breaking out into the more current chants of the sisterhood.
A video of the groundbreaking ceremony may be viewed at


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