Frances Elisabeth Cheney
Frances Elisabeth Cheney was born in Illinois on July 29, 1869, the eldest of nine children (including Almira, another Alpha Xi Delta Founder). In such a large family, Frances quickly learned the value of hard work, and at the age of 14, she held a job in a printing office. Deeply religious and with an urge to help the less fortunate, Frances sought to enter the Ryder Divinity School at Lombard College. Her education was delayed, however, by injuries sustained in a fall. She would suffer from severe pain for the rest of her life, making her studies and work difficult. Frances started at Lombard in 1891, graduated in 1895, and then began a brief career as a circuit pastor for the Universalist Church in Indiana and Ohio. Always frail, she died at the age of 32 on December 13, 1901.
One of Alpha Xi Delta's Founders wrote that "her serene and Christ-like faith interpreted and clarified the Fraternity ideals during the first, difficult months" of Alpha Xi Delta's existence. Frances served as the Alpha Chapter's first chaplain and was president during the winter term of 1893-1894. She was also known as an excellent storyteller and poet. Indeed, many of her poems were set to music and became some of the best-loved Alpha Xi Delta songs, including "Strong Are the Ties Which Binds Us."