It was during this period that university administrators across the country were adopting a more laissez faire attitude towards student life based on the model of the German university. Students were encouraged to exercise their freedom as a means of developing personal responsibility, and extra-curricular activities grew in importance.
As a result of these changes, administrators began to see Greek letter societies as allies in overseeing the physical, moral, and social development of students. The University of Illinois was the first university to create the offices of Dean of Women and Dean of Men, removing the responsibility of overseeing student affairs from the faculty. The first Dean of Men, Thomas A. Clark (1901-27), encouraged the growth of Greek letter societies as a means of keeping in touch with students and establishing norms of conduct.
The construction of chapter houses at the Urbana Champaign campus was driven by housing shortages resulting from the antipathy of the German system towards providing room and board to students. Dean Clark thought that the construction of chapter houses assisted in the socialization process of younger members and the training of future leaders.
The Alpha Gamma Delta house is one of 27 chapter houses built during a second wave of construction between 1926 and 1930, following an initial wave of building from 1906 to 1917.
The architecture of chapter houses was seen as a way of educating students by exposing them to classical design. On the Urbana-Champaign campus, the majority of chapter houses were built by local architects in revival styles (e.g. Classical Revival, Gothic Revival, etc.) The Alpha Gamma Delta house was designed in the French Eclectic style as a means of setting it apart from other chapter houses in Urbana. It was designed by George Ramey, who had previously designed a number of other chapter houses, and built by Walter Villard, the father of member Leona Villard.
The French Eclectic style is based on French domestic architecture, particularly that of northern France, and is closely related to Tudor Revival style. The style became particularly popular in the United States after World War One exposed Americans to the elements of French design.
Notable exterior features include the asymmetrical plan, the central stair tower, and the grey concrete brick. On the interior, French details include the central gallery plan, the cast-plaster ornament of the ceiling, the stone fireplace in the living room, and the original wood doors.
The Sigma Chapter of Alpha Gamma Delta Fraternity
Alpha Gamma Delta was founded in 1904 at Syracuse University by a group of female undergraduates at the suggestion of Dr. Wellesley Perry Coddington. The Sigma Chapter was established at Urbana Champaign in 1917.