A Grandfather's Gift

Posted by: Jean Lloyd - January 24, 2018

Samantha Anderson has always been considered a daddy’s girl, but even more so her granddaddy’s girl. Her grandfather James “Ken” Wiley (University of Florida, 1961) had a profound influence on her life. “He taught me not to limit myself and to see the possibilities presented to me. He taught me that family comes first, always,” said Anderson.

In the fall of 2010, she visited her grandfather to tell him she had joined Delta Zeta Sorority at the University of Florida, his alma mater. By chance, her sorority letters, Delta Zeta, are the same letters that designate his Delta Tau Delta chapter at the University of Florida.

“He couldn’t have been more proud or excited for me,” said Anderson. “After recapping the ‘good old days’ in the Greek community, he went to his bedroom and came back with a little jewelry box. The box held his Delt badge, and he explained to me that in the 1960s you would pin your badge to ‘your girl’ to outwardly show your love and care for her. That day, he pinned me and made me forever, ‘his girl.’”

A few months later when Wiley passed away at age 72 after battling prostate cancer, Anderson relied on her new sorority sisters as she grieved. “I felt like I could be my true self with Delta Zeta. The women were sweet and caring, and wanted to get to know me for who I was,” she said.

Having found her sorority community, Anderson gained a deeper understanding of why her grandfather valued his Delta Tau Delta experience and why he was so excited for her to be involved in a Greek-letter organization.

“Joining a sorority or fraternity isn't for everyone, but it certainly was for me. I met some of my best friends and all of my bridesmaids through the University of Florida Panhellenic Council. I even met my wonderful husband through one of my sorority sisters. It just makes an overwhelmingly large university seem a little smaller. You see a familiar face everywhere you go and know that you're part of a community with people of similar values,” said Anderson.

As she planned her wedding, Anderson decided to bring together symbols of her grandfather’s values and influence on her life and her sorority experience. “I couldn't imagine not having him by my side on my wedding day, and my sisters who helped me overcome such a tragic loss, so I decided to incorporate both my Delta Zeta badge and my grandfather’s Delta Tau Delta badge into my wedding bouquet,” said Anderson.

Now a professional wedding planner in Charleston, South Carolina, Anderson often works with clients to incorporate family heirlooms and traditions into their wedding day. “This makes it unique to their wedding, and focuses the attention on their marriage instead of the grandeur of the wedding day,” she said.