House mothers supervise, manage sororities
By Carolyn McGough
Jan. 8, 2008 11:01 p.m.
There is no resident assistant to watch over the students at the 11 sorority houses on Hilgard Avenue. No landlord dwells nearby to keep up the maintenance of the houses.
Instead, each sorority house relies on the work of one woman ““ the house mother ““ a behind-the-scenes presence who ensures meals will be served, houses are clean and a welcome atmosphere is fostered.
“Our house mom overlooks everything throughout the house,” said Anne Belden, a third-year history student and Kappa Alpha Theta member. “She makes sure the rooms are situated, overlooks the food and really oversees the entire house.”
More formally known as a “house director,” each of the 11 sororities has a house mother, such as Cacy Munson of Kappa Alpha Theta and Polly Magee of Kappa Delta at UCLA.
Both Munson and Magee, like all of the UCLA house moms, live within the sorority houses to work as supervising forces for the sorority members in order to ensure the houses’ needs are met.
Munson likened her position to that of a hotel manager, overseeing the staff, the house cooks and any maintenance staff employed throughout the year.
“I’m responsible for creating a happy, loving, safe environment for the girls,” Munson said. “It’s just like running a hotel or a restaurant. We make sure there are balanced meals and basically manage the house.”
In spite of the close quarters house mothers keep with the sorority members, Magee described the relationship between house mother and sorority sister as more like that of business partners than of family members.
“I just try to be a presence in the house, someone that’s encouraging and supportive,” Magee said. “As far as helping the girls with personal problems, that’s not really a part of it.”
Magee explained that, though her title is house mother, she truly is more of a director to the Kappa Delta members.
“The general rule is that they’re all young ladies, and they’re on their own. It is their house not just mine,” Magee said.
Sorority sisters, such as Belden, agreed that the house mother is not meant to be an intrusive person in the members’ lives.
“I like having Cacy around,” Belden said. “She makes the house more like a real home and is someone who is supportive and likes to know what we do in and outside of the sorority.”
To ensure separation from the minute details of the sorority women’s lives, each of the house mothers has her own separate quarters within the sorority house. They are provided room and board and a salary for their work, paid for by each sorority’s house corporations.
“Each sorority has a house corporation board which is made up of alumni of the sorority who hire the house directors,” said Troy Bartels, greek advisor for Fraternity and Sorority Relations.
The alumnae hire the house directors based on the individual requirements of the sorority, Bartels said. Each sorority’s house corporation also looks at the background of potential house mothers.
The background of each woman is a serious consideration for sororities in choosing house moms. As a result, each has a unique history.
Theta’s 73-year-old house mother Munson, for instance, formerly served as a flight attendant for United Airlines and as a high school recruiter for the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandise.
Initially the house mom at Theta’s University of Washington chapter, Munson has been at the UCLA chapter for nine years.
Magee’s history is quite different.
Before she came to UCLA, she worked as a Farmer’s Insurance agent in Texas and began substituting for house mothers who had to go away for the weekend.
Magee was hired in her current position as a house mother when two women in Wimberley, Texas, whose job it was to recruit suitable house directors for sororities, received her resume.
“House moms have conventions during the summer,” Magee said. “Each house director gets an invitation and normally the sorority board will pay for the house moms to go. They get together and learn ideas about how to run their house.”
Despite these conventions, most house directors leave with their own unique perspective on how to run their chapter house.
Just like each of the sorority houses is different, so are the house mothers, Munson said.
“Each house has its own idea of what their house mom should be like,” Munson said.
“House moms aren’t all the same; they’re all different, and it’s the unique personalities of the women that are house moms that make them different.”