On May 27, 1951, the national office installed thirty-four students, three scouting advisors, six faculty, and four honorary members as the Iota Phi chapter of Alpha Phi Omega. Gamma Gamma chapter (UC Berkeley) and Chi chapter (UCLA) brought spirit and ideas of Alpha Phi Omega to Davis. Iota Phi flourished in its early days under its first president, William Aylett Sparkes. Its founding brothers include Harry A Laidlaw, Jr. (UC Davis Faculty), Claude Burton Hutchison (UC Davis Dean, 66 years of age), and Knowles A. Ryerson (UC Davis Professor, 59 years of age). Incidentally, these are the two same people that Hutchison and Ryerson Halls are named after on UC Davis’ campus. By the records, 26 of the founding brothers had graduated or would graduate by 1952. Apparently, the chapter graduated en masse, leading to the de-activation of the Iota Phi chapter in the mid 1950’s.
The spirit of Iota Phi rekindled in 1961 under the direction of Professor Harlan Pratt and his “Iota Phi Club.” The chapter eventually reactivated with nine initiated, including their elected president, Oliver Michaelis, on September 20, 1962. These inspired and dedicated men, tried desperately to build a strong chapter from which the spirit of humanitarianism would grow. The next pledge class brought forth 5 more brothers. The third pledge class of Iota Phi included the notable Emil M. Mrak (Mrak Hall is named after him) and a total of 12 more brothers, doubling the chapter size. The chapter went through its ups and downs until around 1979, when David A. Emery, Deborah Sloane, and Elizabeth Tom pledged. These three were critical in establishing ‘Families,’ a tradition which we continue to this day.
The reborn Iota Phi chapter has progressively grown in strength and number since 1962 and going co-ed in 1976, and it has developed a broad service program encompassing service to the nation, community, and campus. Some of its service projects include Santa For Kids planting in the Arboretum, Special Olympics, trick-or-treating for UNICEF, various projects associated with Picnic Day on campus, Examiner Bay to Breakers, among other noteworthy projects.
Alfred Sheets (pledge namesake some 13 years later) pledged on May 20, 1983; at that time, about 14% of the pledges were Asian. When Teri Grimm, Alfred’s future wife and future Region X chair, pledged in 1985, 40% of her pledge class was Asian. By 1986, 70% of the pledge class was Asian. In contrast, the first Asian brother who pledged Iota Phi in 1967 was the only one in his class. Since then, ethnic diversity has been a major goal in its Rush program.
By 1983, Iota Phi had established its long-standing tradition of three families: Close Family, founded by Elizabeth Tom; Loose Family, founded by Debbie Sloane; and Tight Family, founded by Dave Emery. These families were intended to help the chapter’s large membership build Brotherhood in smaller groups.
1990s to Present
From the 1990s and on, Iota Phi has done much to develop its service program. In Fall 1993, members collaborated with Head Start to create the annual Seasons of Giving project, also known as Santa 4 Kids. As a result of this project and its Spring counterpart started in Spring 2003, Spring Fling, Iota Phi strengthened its role in the Davis, Dixon, Woodland, and Sacramento communities. Later, in Spring 2004, the chapter began another annual tradition, Dance for Kids. This project offers children with special needs a night of fun at a prom-like event. As an extension of this event, members sometimes host Parents’ Night Out, an event in which members spend time with local special needs children, so their parents can have a few extra hours of free time and fun.
Since Spring 2004, Iota Phi has required that all members fulfill projects in the four fields of service: chapter, campus, community, and country. Alpha Phi Omega’s service program has become relatively large for the Davis community, with members regularly committing between 10,000 and 12,000 hours in total per year.