The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Glenda the good house mom

Glenda Harkness pushed open the swinging, double-doors to the kitchen and found 20 girls singing “Happy Birthday” around a tiny cake. Touched that the girls remembered her birthday, Harkness began cutting the cake and sharing stories.

Seventy-year-old Harkness has been the housemother of the Panhellenic House for 16 years. Divorced after 32 years and with four grown children, she grew tired of living by herself. One day, her sister called and said they’d closed the Zeta chapter at SMU. The school had decided to turn the house into a Panhellenic House, and was looking for a housemother.

Harkness went in for an interview and was offered the position the same day. The board explained they intended on having Zeta return in five years, and she would still be the housemother once they returned. Sixteen years later, Harkness is still here and it is still the Panhellenic house.

“I had three daughters and I missed them when they were gone. I like getting to know the new girls every year and keeping up with them over the years. I still get marriage and baby announcements and Christmas cards,” she said.

The Panhellenic House provides housing for 20 girls from any sorority house. Mostly sophomores apply to live in the house because they are unable to live in their own sorority house.

The position of the “official hostess of the Panhellenic House” has changed a lot over the years. In the beginning, the housemother had to know where each girl was going every night. The girls were also given a curfew. Now, the girls can come and go whenever. Harkness’ main duties include: making sure the house is clean, paying the bills and keeping track of leasing and contracts.

“The maids don’t come on the weekends so Glenda cleans the bathroom herself. She also provides us with laundry detergent and keeps the kitchen stocked with fresh fruit. She always goes above and beyond her job and really tries to make the house seem like a home-away-from-home for the girls. She also puts up holiday decorations,” said in-house girl Bethany Suba, a member of Chi Omega.

Although the house has a kitchen, the girls are not allowed to use the stove. While they are able to store food in the kitchen, they are encouraged to get a meal plan at their sorority house.

“I like having a meal plan at my sorority because I get to know the older girls a lot better. It’s nice to be on campus and within walking distance of your sorority because you’re over there so much,” said in-house girl Julie Amundson, member of Kappa Kappa Gamma.

Harkness has only moved out of the Panhellenic House twice. When the Kappa’s and Pi Phi’s were rebuilding their houses, the Panhellenic House was used as temporary housing for the girls.

Harkness moved to an apartment on Caruth and acted as property manager. If they needed repairs, they could call her and she would take care of it. Harkness also continued her part-time job working at Neiman Marcus.

She said one of her favorite things about being housemother of the Panhellenic house is that it gives girls the opportunity to get to know girls from all different sororities.

“One year, a Gamma Phi didn’t get along with her roommate and never wanted to be in her room. She then became really close with a Pi Phi and the two girls spent all their free time together. Years later, I received a picture from the Pi Phi’s wedding, and the Gamma Phi was in the wedding,” Harkness said, “I love being the housemother for such a unique house and watching the friendships grow. It makes my job more rewarding.”

“I really like living here and getting to know girls from other houses.” Amundson said. “I have become such good friends with girls I wouldn’t have known otherwise.”

Harkness said she spends her summer traveling with family and likes sharing the Panhellenic House with them on holidays.

“It’s been great for me because I feel safe over here, and I don’t like to live by myself. I usually have Thanksgiving here for my family and my children love coming over. My grandchildren especially love coming because they are so fascinated with the girls,” she said.

While Harkness plans on retiring from her job at Neiman Marcus she has no intention of giving up life as a housemother. She said she feels the Panhellenic House provides many positive opportunities for sorority women and wishes more schools would adopt the tradition.

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