Checka Leinwall, Ph.D.
- Initiated Spring 1981 as a Founder of the Gamma Psi Chapter, McDaniel College (formerly Western Maryland College); earned her Master’s degree from The Pennsylvania State University and her doctorate from the University of Virginia; served as Field Consultant.
- Currently Director of Campus Activities and Programs, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
- Home: Greensboro, NC
IT WAS A COLD WINTER DAY in February 1981. It seemed strange to be dressed in white in February, but it was Initiation Day.
After experiencing the first part of the ceremony the night before, I was eager for the final secrets and mysteries of Phi Sigma Sigma to be revealed to me. I was led into the dimly lit room – my heart racing, my eyes trying to take in every detail as they adjusted to the soft candlelight.
I found my focus: the grand archon of Phi Sigma Sigma herself, Louise Kriegsman Kier Zirretta, was presiding over my initiation into the sisterhood. I’m not sure if the full significance of the experience impacted me at that time, but I’ve always felt I was blessed in some extra special way because Louise was the one who brought me into the Pyramid. After initiation, a beautiful snow blanketed the campus in white, welcoming me into a new chapter of my life.
My journey with Phi Sigma Sigma began in my sophomore year when I pledged on a campus that hosted only local sororities. The chapter I joined announced its intention to affiliate with a national organization, and the search began. We chose Phi Sigma Sigma. I was elected archon at the end of my junior year. By the time I graduated, we had doubled our chapter size and were creating the legacy that resulted in Jennifer Holt receiving the Archon of the Year Award in 2009. I couldn’t be more proud of my Gamma Psi sisters.
As a young woman, I was so fortunate to have known some of the truly great women of the second half of Phi Sigma Sigma’s history. Louise Kriegsman Kier Zirretta took me under her wing and encouraged me to apply for the field consultant position that changed my life. Kim Hildred, grand vice archon for undergraduates, was my boss on the road. I think Michelle Green and I were her first field consultants. Later on when I served as a Division President, I had the honor of working with Beverly Block Parkes, the “Mom” of all Phi Sigs, and Jeanine Jacobs Goldberg, a role model and leader of the highest caliber.
I know it may sound trite, but Phi Sigma Sigma changed my life. Perhaps a more accurate description would be to say that Phi Sigma Sigma gave me my life. There are few greater gifts than having a job you love that loves you back. My work in higher education brings meaning and joy to my life everyday.
It was through my field consultant position that I learned about Student Affairs administration as a profession. By meeting with campus administrators as I traveled the country, I discovered there were Master’s programs to prepare students to become college administrators. I started my Master’s degree in Counselor Education/Student Personnel Administration the fall I got off the road for Phi Sig.
I’ve been working on college campuses for over 25 years. Thanks to the influence of Phi Sigma Sigma, I work everyday with undergraduate students to make a difference in their lives. From initiation to the present day, I have been truly blessed.
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