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Withrow History – Social Clubs

By Bob Linnenberg ’63

From the day Withrow opened in the fall of 1919, social clubs were part of the fabric of high school life. Chapters of existing fraternities and sororities from other Cincinnati schools were quickly established by incoming members at Withrow. In the 1920s, new social clubs were established; and chapters of organizations from Hughes and Walnut Hills were added. Fashioned after college fraternities and sororities, the groups had secret rituals, initiation ceremonies and traditions that presumably would bind the members together. These clubs were not sanctioned by the Board of Education and members met out of school, often secretly. However, pins and other insignia could, and would, be worn by member students at Withrow.

The clubs remained “underground”, or unsanctioned, until November 1949, when the Board of Education accepted the social club rules that had been established after long and careful consideration. It was not without controversy that the Board decided to let the clubs exist inside the schools. Technically, high school fraternities and sororities were illegal in the state of Ohio. Cincinnati Mayor Murray Seasongood and many others vehemently opposed them as insidious, undemocratic organizations. The Board of Education, desiring to exercise control over the social clubs, determined how the clubs could be in compliance with Ohio law and went forward with their recognition.

When the social club rules were accepted by the Board in 1949, 24 percent of the girls and 19 percent of the boys at Withrow belonged to social clubs. (This percentage was far exceeded by Walnut Hills, where 72 percent of the girls and 83 percent of the boys belonged.) The takeover of school social life at Withrow was immediate. Many dances and parties held by the clubs were opened to all Withrow students. Intramural sports contests between the groups continued, but now could be reported on in Tower News. The social clubs could now be featured in the Annual, at a cost of course, as they had to pay for the spots just like any other school organization.

As part of the conditions laid down by the Board, social clubs were now overseen by faculty advisors. The club’s constitutions had to be approved and accepted by the Board, and membership in any organization could not exceed 48 students. Under the agreement, academic rules were established and members had to maintain a “C” average to be allowed to participate in club activities. If a student member failed a course in a grading period, they were suspended from the social club until the next grading period. Club schedules for social events had to be approved by the advisors, so as not to conflict with another club’s activities. If a club had an unscheduled activity, the entire club was suspended from social events for a grading period. Illegal activities such as drinking or gambling would bring a suspension. Chaperones were required at all fraternity/sorority events. The faculty advisors enforced these rules as best they could.

As a byproduct of the academic rules, social club members often maintained a higher grade point average than non-members. As with intramural sports competition, there was also stiff competition among the clubs for scholastic superiority. The clubs also played an outsized role in the life of the school. Usually social club members were the most active in extracurricular activities such as Tower News and the Annual and held most leadership positions in many organizations throughout Withrow. Indeed, in the senior girls service organization Dux Femina, 87 percent of the girls selected for membership during the “legal” period belonged to a sorority. In fact, almost 40 percent of the girls belonged to one particular sorority. Between 1950 and 1963, 72 percent of the boys in the senior service organization Sigma Gamma were fraternity members; and half of these boys were members of the one fraternity whose rules forbade smoking and drinking in high school.

One of the requirements laid down by the Board was the continuation and encouragement of charitable works by the clubs. Many social clubs raised money for charity, provided and distributed Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets for the needy and visited shut-ins and the sick. Several of the clubs had been established for this philanthropic purpose in addition to providing a social network for the members.

However, after 14 years of school supervision and guidance, a new round of studies by the Board recommended that the decision of 1949 be reversed. There was also the threat of a lawsuit challenging the support of such clubs, which the Board wished to avoid. Social clubs were to be banned effective September 1,1963. It had been determined that public funds could no longer be used “to nurture, regulate or control the formation and operation of such clubs.” Unlike in 1949, when the clubs had been flourishing, membership in social clubs had been declining for years. Those clubs remaining at Withrow in 1963 either chose to disband or go back “underground.” Membership under student and parental direction continued for about a decade, but social clubs no longer held the sway they once had.

One cannot deny that the social clubs were often discriminatory and elitist. Whether or not to join a social club was a difficult decision for many Withrow students. The rush period could be very stressful for prospective members. Until 1954, freshman rush occurred in the spring. With the opening of several junior high schools that year, sophomore rush was moved to the fall. One was not always invited to join the desired group. Indeed, singer/actress Rosemary Clooney wrote in her autobiography of the social tension of rush, and the fact that she was “blackballed” by a sorority at Withrow.

Nevertheless, social clubs helped foster strong, lasting friendships with people one might not have otherwise known in such a large school as Withrow. They provided a sense of place in the turbulent teenage years. An editorial in the Cincinnati Enquirer on January 10, 1963 averred “There is much evidence that the clubs contribute in a vitally important way to the social and civic development of the young people who choose to be affiliated with them.” Whether they were good or bad in the life of high school students remains debatable to this day.

Sororities at Withrow during the “legal” years were Aliquippa, Alpha Beta Kappa, Alpha Beta Chi, Alpha Delta Gamma, Alpha Theta Alpha, Altruist (Alpha Chi Delta), Beta Omega Chi, Chi Lambda Chi, Iota Sigma Chi, Ivyettes, Kytyves, Phi Gamma Sigma, Tally Ho (Gamma Delta Alpha), Theta Omega Chi, Sigma Delta Chi and Zeta Beta Kappa.

Fraternities during this period were Beta Tau Omega, Chi Omega Sigma, Chi Sigma Chi, Delta Sigma Chi, Iota Sigma Pi, Kappa Tau Kappa, Omega Kappa, Phi Beta Gamma, Tau Sigma, Tri Chi, and Triginta Optimi. Fraternities known to exist before 1949 include Beta Omega Beta and Delta Beta.

Withrow Class of 1969 Deadline Extended to July 2nd

You Asked For It !

       $85.00 Reservation Deadline has been extended to July 2nd!



    We Want To See You At The 50th Reunion


 Thanks for your assistance

 Karen Carroll Brentley

 On Behalf of The Reunion Committee

Withrow Class of 1969 Reunion Committee

July 12th-13th 2019

Withrow Centennial Gala


Join us for a Centennial Gala celebration of Withrow’s 100th birthday.

 Thanks to all Withrow Alumni – Over 50 Classes Represented

September 7, 2019
Jack Casino, 2nd Floor
Doors open at 6 pm
Dinner will be served promptly at 7 pm

Join your fellow alumni and friends
Need a hotel?

The Withrow Alumni Assn. greatly appreciates the support received from Withrow Alumni. The 700+ attendees represent over 50 class years from 1944 to 2010. This once-in-a-lifetime soiree will celebrate Withrow milestones and memories throughout the decades. The program will be hosted by our very own Tiger Alum Jenell Walton ’89, left, and CPS Superintendent Laura Mitchell, right, will be the keynote speaker. Pastor KZ Smith ’87 will offer a blessing. Invitations to other special guests are in the works. The program will commemorate 100 years of prolific Withrow history, as well as honor a few Tigers who made significant contributions along the journey. 

Proceeds raised from this event will benefit the Withrow Business Education Program

Follow our Facebook page WithrowHSAlumni  If you have any questions, send an email to

Need hotel room to stay:
Hilton Garden Inn – Cincinnati Midtown$125.00 per night plus tax – Free parking and WiFi
2145 Dana Ave, 45207

Reservation Instructions:
Hotel: Hilton Garden Inn Cincinnati/Midtown
Group Name: Withrow High School Centennial Group Block
Arrival Date: 06-Sept-2019 – Departure Date: 08-Sept-2019 

Two easy ways to complete reservations with your group rate:
Booking LinkYour exclusive web booking link is listed below. Simply input the travel dates, and the site will display your group rates. Then proceed with the online reservation.
Note: The entire URL must be copied and pasted for it to work properly:,WW,HILTONLINK,EN,DirectLink&fromId=HILTONLINKDIRECT

Phone Reservations –  A reservations line is available 24 hours a day. Simply dial (513) 361-9800 and press 1 to connect with reservations.
Be sure to reference Withrow High School Centennial Group Block when completing your reservation.

The cutoff date for Withrow High School Centennial Group Block is August 16, 2019, and we ask that your reservation is completed prior to this date.


Proud Sponsors of the Withrow Centennial Celebration Weekend


Withrow Tower News – The First 50 Years


“If it happened—it’s here” was the winning slogan submitted by sophomore Jeanne LeFeber ’50 in a contest held by Tower News in the fall of 1947. She was awarded a $10.00 prize for her entry, which was to appear in the Tower News masthead for the next 30 years.

The first edition of East High School’s The Tower News was issued April 22, 1921. Printed at school, the newspaper contained no advertising and cost 5 cents. Student Horace Wersel was given credit for suggesting the name for the paper. The students at East High had chosen to have a newspaper instead of a magazine; and in this regard, Tower News remained the first and only public school newspaper in Cincinnati for almost a decade.

Published bi-weekly, the paper consisted of club news, stories, poems, essays, cartoons, and humor. All aspects of sports news, both male and female, were prominent. In the ensuing years, alumni news and events were heavily featured. By the late 1920’s, the paper expanded into a weekly publication and added more cartoons and gossip.

In 1929, it became necessary to print Tower News out of school, and the business staff was expanded to bring in advertising.

By the early 1930’s, with the depression at its worst, the paper was scaled back to bi-weekly and fears were evident that, due to lack of sales and advertising, Tower News would have to cease publication altogether. The student body rallied, and the paper continued throughout the Depression.

World War II brought the paper back to a weekly publication. War news and stories of alumni and former students in service were prominent along with the usual sports, clubs and activities, and gossip. Instructions for air raid drills, and the sometimes humorous results of air raid drills, were featured along with articles about the Victory Corps and similar war time activities. Times may have been difficult but the most copy was given over to the popular “swing” bands of the time. What the hit songs were and where and when the bands were playing in the Cincinnati area helped relieve the stress of wartime life. Weekly casualty lists were published on the first page throughout the war.

In 1944, Tower News held a contest for new school songs. Suggesting that “On Withrow” was a “parody” of “On Wisconsin”, the Editors wanted to replace it with something specific to Withrow. With the school name changed from East High to Withrow High in 1924, Tower News had sponsored the same  contest to get rid of the “On Wisconsin” tune. Both contests were unsuccessful. However, the 1944 contest for an Alma Mater had a winner. With Sigma Gamma awarding a $25.00 prize, junior Rowena Hezlep’s words remain the Alma Mater to this day. The song, with music by choral director Leo Grether, was presented on Class Day 1945.

Over the ensuing years, the Tower News remained a weekly paper. For special occasions, and for the year 1956, a six-page paper was possible. Special sports issues were common in the fall as was the Minstrel/Sounds of Withrow issue in the spring; an April Fool issue highlighted the wit of the Tower News staff. The Class Day issue at the end of the school year was prepared by the departing seniors, and the underclassmen took over the assignments for the next school year.

In the fall of 1965, the Board of Education bought Withrow a printing press; and the Tower News once again was printed in-house. It was reduced to a bi-weekly publication, but because advertising was no longer necessary, the content remained the same.

During most of its run, Tower News enjoyed an All-American or a First-Class rating from the National Scholastic Press Association. Withrow students knew they had good reason to be proud of their paper, and the national recognition was icing on the cake. And, after 50 years, the price may have doubled—but was still only 10 cents.

Withrow Memorial Gifts

Many Withrow alums are friends with other alums throughout their lives. When we lose alums and friends, many of us would like an opportunity to remember them and the origin of their friendship. Therefore, for those who want to pay tribute to a lost friend and alum by making a donation to the Withrow Alumni Assn., please click HERE. On the next screen, select Yes under the question “Do you wish to make a Memorial, Tribute, or other Special Gift?”, fill out the form and select the Donate Now button. You’ll be directed to a PayPal payment page to complete your memorial gift. Thank You.