Chi Omega honors sorority sister with ice cream philanthropy


Photo: Nicole Wiegand/Iowa State Daily

Members of Chi Omega women’s fraternity welcome new members with balloons Thursday on central campus. Bids were extended to women participating in formal recruitment at the conclusion of the week on Aug. 18. 

Mary-Kate Burkert

In September 1985, Liz Kirke was a senior at Iowa State studying graphic design when she was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension.

“[Liz was] a darling person with a persistent attitude, which motivated her to finish out her final term at school and remain in the Chi Omega [sorority] house as her fatal condition progressed,” said her mother, Loral. “She was vivacious and enthusiastic, and all who knew her would consider her a best friend with her ability to make people feel good.”

Liz’s condition progressively got worse, and it was only about three-and-a-half months after Liz had been diagnosed when she passed away on Jan. 15, 1986. The Kirke family lost two children to pulmonary hypertension; Liz’s older brother had passed away at 16.

Her father, Robert, said that all of the Chi Omega members came to Liz’s funeral and each put a flower on top of her casket. He said the family was extremely touched by how much love and support their daughter’s sorority sisters showed their family and that they will always have a soft spot in their hearts for the women of Chi Omega.

A few months after Liz’s death, Chi Omega paired up with Tau Kappa Epsilon and created a Veishea float in her memory. This sparked the idea of starting a scholarship fund in honor of Liz, and every year since then, Chi Omega’s philanthropies have helped raise money for the scholarship. In the past, they have hosted events such as barbecues, kickball tournaments and chili dinners.

Liz’s younger siblings, Katie and Matt, both members of greek chapters at Iowa State, were active in helping with philanthropies and raising money for their sister’s scholarship fund. The scholarship is meant to help aid a design student each year who is chosen by faculty members based on certain qualifications such as GPA, work ethic and financial need for the scholarship. Every year, the Kirkes attend the award ceremony to congratulate the scholarship recipient.

“The scholarship is very touching to our family because it reminds us of our daughter,” Loral said. “It means a lot to us to see a young student with such potential – especially in the field in which Liz was interested and dedicated to – carrying on the enthusiasm and passion she held while attending Iowa State.”

This year, Chi Omega is hosting its first annual Chi-O Cones, an all-you-can-eat ice cream bar, to raise money for the Liz Kirke Memorial Scholarship. The event runs from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Thursday at 227 Gray Ave., and tickets cost $4.

Members of Chi Omega are committed to making Chi-O Cones a success because of the inspirational life Liz lived.

“This event is important to me because it represents how Chi Omega believes in helping others out in the community,” said Chelsea Schwiesow, philanthropy chairwoman and senior in dietetics. “This scholarship is used to help out a hard working student and someone who deserves the financial assistance.

“Liz Kirke was a Chi Omega that believed wholeheartedly in these values, so I think it is wonderful that her legacy still continues and is honored in this award.”