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"Mom" Reaves

Elizabeth S. "Mom" Reaves (from the 1977 composite)

Elizabeth S. “Mom” Reaves (1907 – 1981) was Housemother of Epsilon Nu of Sigma Nu from 1966 until her death in 1981.  Sigma Nu was the last of the Miami fraternities to have a resident, “live-in” housemother.  Mom’s presence in The House contributed to our unique standing on campus.

Mom was a student at Miami in the late 1920’s and was also rumored to be Miami’s first female student to live “off-campus”, setting the tone for her progressive lifestyle.  She was an early member of the Alpha Chapter of the Delta Zeta sorority.

When Mom arrived at Sigma Nu, she was a 58 year old divorced mother of a grown son (Rusty).  She resided in the suite located off the living room and also maintained a small office off the living room, next to the fireplace.  Mom’s “official” responsibilities included meal planning and food procurement, maintenance of the alumni database and coordination and publication of The Serpent, our seasonal Chapter newsletter.  However, she was far more a symbolic figure than an employee. 

For most of us, our first formal introduction to Mom came during pledging.  At some point during the pledging program, each pledge was assigned to have a dinner in the House as Mom's guest.  The ritual went something like this:  The pledge would arrive 1 hour prior to dinner to meet Mom in her suite for an informal interview of sorts.  Mom would ask questions about the pledge, his family, his hometown, etc.  It was all very informal and very cordial, but as a pledge you wanted to impress Mom.  The pledge then joined Mom at the head table for dinner with the rest of the Chapter.  Within a week of that introduction, the pledge’s parents would receive a handwritten note from Mom indicating how great it was to meet their "wonderful and well mannered" son and offering a few words of assurance that he would “be in good hands living with the fine men of Sigma Nu”.

Although Mom was a full-time resident of 300 N. Tallawanda, she never entered the private living quarters of the Actives, confining her movements to her suite, the living room, her office, the kitchen and the dining room.  Occasionally, she would make an appearance in the Tube Room, but never sat to enjoy the TV.  In her later years, she developed severe arthritis, restricting her ability to walk the stairs, so the House installed an electric chair in the rear stairwell leading from the first floor to the kitchen.  This device would be known as “The Screamin’ Demon”.

When Mom was alive, lunches and dinners were held at specified times.  The entire Chapter dined together.  When meal time arrived, it was the Commander's duty to escort Mom down to the dining area.  The guys weren't allowed into the dining area until Mom had arrived at the Head Table, at which point the boys made a mad scramble for seats at the tables.  The men remained standing until the Chaplain offered grace, the Creed was recited in unison, and Mom was seated.  (see Meal Time for more information)

Mom Reaves was known to hang out with two other well known housemothers; Mom Clemons (Beta Theta Pi) and Mom Madden (Delta Tau Delta).  The three are pictured below watching the Greek Week Beer Chug contest from the back porch of the Sigma Nu House. (Mom Reaves on the right.)

"Mom" Madden (Delt), "Mom" Clemons (Beta) and "Mom" Reaves (EN) Watching Greek Week Beer Chug 1978.

The ladies would get together regularly.  Mom Reaves would host her annual Kentucky Derby Party in her suite and her housemother pals would be treated to a few of Mom's traditional Kentucky Derby Mint Juleps made with the fresh mint Mom grew in a small flower bed on the north side of the House.

Despite her physical ailments, Mom was a regular at all Sigma Nu “A” Team sporting events.  It was customary for one of the Brothers to escort her to these events where space was cleared to give her a front row seat.  Mom also made an appearance at most of our House parties to greet our guests.  It was tradition to have Mom draw the winning names for our well known “Fly Me” party (It was amazing that she always selected a senior with a well respected girlfriend to win the trip). It was also customary for an Active and his date to be assigned the task of visiting Mom in her suite and sharing a cocktail and enjoying some conversation while House parties and beer blasts were going on.

Mom (center right between Otis, Brawny and Shultzy) and the boys watch as EN racks up another win en route to the 1979 Puddle Pull Championship

Mom had two favorite events.  The first was Viking where, dressed in her Viking fur, she would greet all of the guests before retiring to her suite.  The second was her Christmas Party.  Held in the living room, Mom would dress up and the boys all wore jackets and ties.  Mom would serve a fierce holiday punch that rivaled anything we could ourselves create for Viking.  She would sit at the piano and play Christmas Carols.  It may seem a bit lame, but nobody minded dressing up for an evening and singing carols out of respect for Mom Reaves.

"Mom" Reaves Playing Christmas Carols circa 1979

Over the years, Mom saw and heard things that would have made our parents shudder.  However, Mom never judged or imposed her will or discipline on the guys.  She respected our privacy and understood that “boys will be boys”.  In return, the Actives maintained the highest degree of respect for Mom.  We may never have admitted it, but her presence was always in the back of our minds whenever we would think to do something stupid, especially within the confines of the House.

Mom Reaves’ tenure at Epsilon Nu of Sigma Nu is legendary.  She will always be known to us as "Sweetheart of Sigma Nu" Emeritus.