In the 1890s, the State Female Normal School (now Longwood University) in Farmville, Virginia, was fertile ground for the founding of women’s Greek letter organizations. The forward-thinking school was the first in the state to open its doors to female students, an idea not popular with many at the time, so it is no surprise that it attracted many intrepid, determined young women who were quick to organize formal societies in order to support and encourage their fellow students. Nine young women at the school, close friends who recognized the need for a new organization to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding student population, began meeting in the fall of 1898. They chose Themis, the embodiment of divine order, law, and custom, as their patron goddess, and for their motto, the inspirational, “Seek the Noblest,” and on October 15, 1898, they introduced the newest women’s fraternity to the campus of the State Female Normal School: Zeta Tau Alpha (Zeta or ZTA).
In the more than a century since its founding, Zeta Tau Alpha has evolved into a much sought-after womens' organization with more than 10,200 undergraduate members and 147 active chapters. Among the excellent women who call Zeta home, are many who posess the very same intellect and determination of the founders, using the support of their Sisters as a springboard to launch lives of serious achievement, including Erin Andrews (ESPN reporter), Brigadier General Margaret A. Brewer (first female General of the United States Marine Corps), Jenna Morasca (winner of Survivor: The Amazon), and Dr. Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (first female to win the Pulitzer Prize in music and receive a doctorate in music composition from Julliard). With Sisters like these, no wonder so many women want to wear the Zeta Turquoise Blue and Steel Gray.
Zeta Tau Alpha recognizes that breast cancer is one of the most wide-spread illnesses to affect women and their familes, and for this reason, the organization has made its official philanthropic focus breast cancer education and awareness. Through various channels, such as collaborations with the NFL, Yoplait's Save Lids to Save Lives initiative, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, and Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Zeta Tau Alpha helps educate countless people on the causes and detection of breast cancer, encourage breast health screenings, and raise much-needed funds to support breast cancer research. Through countless hours spent in philanthropic service, the Sisters of Zeta Tau Alpha raise funds and provide moral support to help improve the lives of thousands of breast cancer patients, survivors, and their families.
The high standards of the founders of Zeta Tau Alpha to "Seek the Noblest," are reflected in its membership to this day. Since the very beginning, the Sisters of Zeta have made it their mission to make a difference in the lives of their members by developing the potential of each individual through emphasizing leadership development, service to others, academic achievement, and continued personal growth. This committment to friendship and the future of its members has made Zeta an organization that women may call home for a lifetime, not just for their college years. By following the timeless example of the nine founding Sisters, the women of Zeta Tau Alpha are much-valued assets to their campuses, their families, and their communities.