Alpha Phi Delta Foundation

Chapter Histories - Theta Chapter

Theta Chapter in General

Theta Chapter in 1927; the last year before its two-campus membership would come under the scrutiny of the Grand Council.

Theta Chapter is Founded: 1921

On December 10, 1921, our Theta Chapter was installed at the Washington Heights campus of New York University, located in The Bronx, New York. Theta Chapter prospered in the 1920s and 1930s. Since its founding, Theta Chapter had been recruiting members from both the Washington Heights campus in the Bronx and from the University's Washington Square ("downtown") campus. Theta was the only Chapter that had ever recruited from second campus of its university. This raised a number of administrative questions. 

With input from Theta Chapter, in 1928 the Grand Council established two Theta chapters at New York University which took the form of one chapter with a dual governance system. Theta Chapter thus took two forms: Theta “Uptown” and Theta “Downtown.” This pilot program had the two campuses placed under the supervision of the Grand Council. In 1929, the dual governance system program of Theta Chapter was extended for one more year by the Grand Council. The Council stated that that the question of what to do when a school has two campuses with brothers actively functioning as a chapter on both, would be decided in 1930.

In 1930, the Grand Council ruled on the Theta Chapter "dual-administration" model. The decision was that that model of dual-governance posed too many operational problems, especially as related to finances, member representation, and practical functioning. Dual-administration was eliminated, and the Council bifurcated Theta. That is to say, the Fraternity separated the two campuses, administratively, and established that Theta Chapter would be connected only to the Washington Heights campus, while "Theta Downtown," would be chartered separately as “Theta Beta Chapter” -- and would only be connected to the Washington Square campus. 

Theta Chapter in 1950; soon after its 1947 reactivation, the Chapter had recruitment issues that ultimately led to its closure in 1956.

Theta: Reactivated in 1947

Theta had ceased operations in 1943, with the United States involvement in World War II draining the number of men in U.S. colleges due to conscription. However, in 1947, Theta Chapter roared back to life  with 16 initiates in 1947, but there after the Chapter faltered, never able to regain its glorious days of the 1920s and 1930s. Most years after 1947, saw only one or two initiates per year (with the exception of 1950, when the chapter took in six new members, and 1952, when it took in no new members). In fall 1956, with numbers in low single digits, and recruitment elusive, the chapter was shuttered. There was hope by many, that the Chapter would be reactivated. In 1973, the issue of reactivating Theta became moot when New York University closed its Washington Heights Campus.

In all, Theta Chapter at the Washington Heights campus of New York University was active during the years of 1921-1943, 1947-1955 . Initiating a total of 199 brothers.

Theta Chapter - Individuals

John J. Freschi

Theta '25

Justice John J. Freschi was initiated as a graduate member of Theta Chapter in 1925, likely for his status as an alumni of New York University and his promotion of Italian heritage. 

John J. Freschi was born in Philadelphia in 1876 and spent the early years of his life on a farm near Hammonton, New Jersey. He later came to New York where, after graduation from high school, attended New York University and then the New York University Law School. He would later receive, in 1930, an honorary Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.) degree from the University of Palermo, in Italy. 

Prominent in Italian circles and a public speaker of considerable note, Freschi was appointed by the New York City Mayor (Gaynor) as a temporary magistrate in 1910. Then, from 1915 to 1925, he was a Special Sessions justice and during the last three years of that period served in the Appellate Term of the court. He headed the Italian-American committee for the re-election of Mayor Walker in the fall of 1925. In 1930, the Mayor appointed him, once more, to the Court of Special Sessions for a ten-year term.

On April 24, 1931, New York Governor Franklin Delano Rooosevelt appointed Freschi to the bench of the Court of General Sessions, filling a seat left vacant by the resignation of Justice Joseph F. Mulqueen. 

In his private practice, during his years not on the bench, he was connected with the firm of Hess, Elder & Freschi. Justice Freschi made his home on the upper west side of Manhattan, live at 37 West 93rd Street

Joseph Petrelli

Theta '21 (5th Grand Consul)

Joseph Vincent Petrelli, Jr., was born in New Haven, Connecticut, on December 29, 1900, to immigrant parents, Joseph and Stella Petrelli. He studied mechanical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, in Massachusetts. After graduating, he decided to pursue furthers studies to obtain a law degree at New York University (Washington Heights campus). While attending New York University, he became one of the original nine charter members (founders) of Theta Chapter. As an undergraduate brother of Theta, Petrelli served in various chapter offices.

At the 1922 National Convention, Brother Petrelli was elected to serve as the Grand Tribune. In his role as Tribune, he established the first contract with Balfour (the Fraternity’s official jeweler for many years). Likewise, he approved the first designs for the Fraternity’s official membership certificates and Chapter charters.

Elected Grand Consul in 1923, Petrelli rented the first Central Office location for the Fraternity’s business operations. The office was located at 57 Chambers Street in New York City. Petrelli was also the first Grand Consul to invoke penalties against delinquent chapters.

In terms of expansion, Brother Petrelli’s administration established the Fraternity’s foothold in “The West.” This was no easy task back in 1923 when the basic mode of transportation was the railroad. Thus, three separate excursions to our western frontiers (which then extended to Michigan) represented something more than a similar task today.

But President Petrelli’s strategy paid off. As a result of his westward push, the Fraternity saw some significant expansion in two states in which Alpha Phi Delta had not yet been established (Michigan and West Virginia) and added new expansion in another (Ohio). The establishment of Xi (Ohio State University), Omicron (University of Michigan), and Pi (West Virginia University) Chapters, along with the already existing Kappa Chapter (Western Reserve), strengthened the Fraternity’s western realm.

Brother Petrelli married the former Madeleine Quinn; the couple had one child, a son, Joseph III. Raised in Connecticut, Brother Petrelli moved to Meyersville, New Jersey in the early 1950s to make a new home for young family. Petrelli worked in the insurance field in the area of claims management. He was employed by Chubb and Son, Inc., from 1926-1966, when after 40 years on the job, he retired. In 1973, Brother Petrelli’s wife, Madeleine passed away, leaving him a widower. On August 13, 1981, Petrelli passed away at the age of 80; he was buried from St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Stirling, New Jersey.