|Robert Baptiste & Curt Gillum
Elsie Peterson Book’s official title at Alpha Kappa Lambda was House Director. Informally and more popularly, she was known as "mom." It takes a special woman to be a fraternity house mother; it took an exceptional woman to be the house mother at Psi Chapter.
During pledging, new members of Alpha Kappa Lambda interview the active brothers to get to know them. One question often asked is, “What are your three favorite things about AKL?” Without hesitation, brothers overwhelmingly have one reply in common: mom.
There were the big, obvious things that Elsie did, such as running the kitchen, keeping us on task, and preparing our meals. Then there were the little things that never went unnoticed. Each dinner Elsie knew which men would be missing and where they were, whether it be night class, work, or a meeting. If she didn’t know where you were…she’d find out. She had a knack for finding things out. She’d always be sure to let us know, “you men don’t think I know. But I know.”
She also hosted an etiquette dinner at her home to teach us how to have formal dinners. She knew when you needed an ear to talk to, and sometimes even a shoulder to cry on. She never hesitated to sew a button or mend your coat. She went far beyond her call of duty and never fussed.
One of the first faces you’d see each semester was Mom’s. She was always excited to hear how our breaks went and to have the men back in town. She knew how many men had come through the house in her years at AKL, and she’d always say that she had that many sons in addition to her own daughters. In turn, Elsie was another mother for us. Girlfriends always strived to get Elsie’s approval--a task they heard to be daunting.
It was with widespread support that Elsie was given the fraternity badge near her 10th year of service to the fraternity. Alumni always looked forward to catching up with Mom, and it wasn’t uncommon that “Elsie stories” were shared among brothers with family, rushes, or even Mom herself.
The brick building on Knapp Street had long been a house, but it took Mom Elsie to make it our home.