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Gamma Theta Upsilon

Gamma Theta Upsilon GTU
Geographical Honors Society
South Dakota State University
Delta Zeta Chapter

Gamma Theta Upsilon (GTU) is an international honor society in geography. Gamma Theta Upsilon was founded in 1928 and became a national organization in 1931. Members of GTU have met academic requirements and share a background and interest in geography. GTU chapter activities support geography knowledge and awareness.


Eligibility for Membership

Persons seeking membership must be initiated through an established chapter of Gamma Theta Upsilon. A chapter is also maintained for Alumni after graduation. There are two classes of membership.

Regular Members

Initiates must have completed a minimum of 3 geography courses, have a GPA of at least 3.3 in geography courses, rank in the top 35% of their class and shall have completed at least 3 semesters or 5 quarters of college course work. Initiation fee and first year's dues are $40.00; this includes life membership status.

Honorary Members

Honorary membership is available only under extraordinary circumstances and upon approval by the Executive Committee for a person whom the committee feels has contributed to a marked advancement in any phase of geography. A chapter may apply directly to the Executive Committee to petition for honorary membership on behalf of the individual. The fees for Honorary membership are paid by the local chapter.

A Brief History of the Delta Zeta Chapter

By Donald J. Berg, Professor Emeritus

Delta Zeta Chapter at South Dakota State University in a direct sense grew out of the Alpha Rho Chapter at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, MO. There, Edward P. Hogan, who was a student at the time, had been active in the Chapter as its president. His wife, Joan M. Hogan, was also a member in the 1960s. The third person who would ultimately play a role in the formation of Delta Zeta was Lee A. Opheim, an instructor at Saint Louis University, who had joined the Mu Chapter at the University of Minnesota, Duluth in the 1950s.

The elements of a new chapter started to assemble in place at Brookings in 1967, when Edward Hogan became the first faculty member of the reconstituted Geography program. Geography courses had been taught at SDSU, but no departmental structure existed. Dr. Lee Opheim joined Dr. Hogan in 1969 in offering Geography courses at the University. Thus, by early 1970, Three GTU members were in residence in Brookings when the decision was made to petition to form a new chapter. Edward Hogan was designated as the sponsor and Delta Zeta Chapter became effective on March 2nd, 1970, with 19 additional charter members.

Delta Zeta quickly became one of the most active in the country, Its membership has helped to support other major Geography Department initiatives such as the South Dakota State Geography Convention. The first convention was held in the spring of 1970. The purpose was to bring geographers with other perspectives together at a meeting site near the crossroads of the Upper Midwest and Great Plains. "The Convention" developed into an annual occurrence in which hundreds of invited speakers have appeared and thousands of students and other friends of geography have attended its sessions and other activities. The Convention, now in its 48th year, is the longest running, student sponsored and organized such event in the U.S. A separate Geography Department was approved by the Board of Regents in 1972, and a graduate program established in 1974. Concurrently, a Geography Club was organized to help support the Convention and departmental activities.

Delta Zeta has initiated approximately 691 members through December 2015, most at ceremonies conducted during the Fall / Spring Picnic or at the Holiday gathering held in December.

Numerous Delta Zeta members have distinguished themselves over the years. One of these individuals is Mr. Thomas Loveland, who received his B.S. degree in geography from SDSU in 1974. He earned a Master of Science degree in geography in 1976. After graduation Tom was employed at the (Earth Resources Observation System) Data Center (EROS), near Sioux Falls. In 1994, he won two commendations, one from the U.S. Geological Survey (the Mendenhall Award) and the other from the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (the Alan Scott Award).

On March 2nd, 1995, a potluck get-together was held at the University Alumni Center to commemorate the Silver Anniversary of Delta Zeta Chapter. In addition to the more recent members, four of the Charter Members were in attendance. These were Dr. Lee Opheim and Mr. Joel Schneider, the first Geography Club-Delta Zeta President.

In the 1990s Delta Zeta Chapter has been distinguished by having two of its members receive the highly prestigious National Geographic Society Internships. N.G.S. Internships are awarded to approximately 24 students per year, based on nationwide competition, to work at the Washington, D.C., headquarters for 15-week periods. Delta Zeta recipients were Mr. Mark Ernste in spring 1993 and Ms. Ann Marie (Powalski) Elliott in spring 1997. Also, several Delta Zeta Chapter members have been awarded GTU scholarships over the years. These recipients include Doris Peterson, Catherine Lockwood, Rebecca (Mickelson) Laratta, Rachel (Kurtz) Clement and Christopher Bertram. The presenting of these grants helps to attest to the quality of the students in SDSU's Geography Department. Additionally, Rachel Clement was elected to the National Executive Board of GTU in the fall of 1996. For 1996-97 Delta Zeta was recognized with the Chapter of the Year Award.

In the 2000s Delta Zeta Chapter membership distinguished themselves with Patrick Abbott (2005) receiving a National Geographic Society Internship. Additional recipients of GTU scholarships were Christopher Laingen (2000), Richard Hunter (2001), Zok Pavlovic (2003), and Lindsay Bressler (2009).

Delta Zeta continues to be a vital component of the Geography Department at South Dakota State University and to advance the goals of GTU in all of its activities. The current faculty sponsor is Dr. Don Berg.

Join GTU

Why should you join GTU?

Gamma Theta Upsilon membership is earned through superior scholarship; it is an honor and a professional distinction.

  • Members receive a certificate, suitable for framing.
  • No further membership dues are paid to the national organization after the initiation fee.
  • Many members choose to remain active in GTU after graduation, by joining Omega Omega, the Alumni Chapter of GTU.

Benefits of GTU Membership

  • Most chapters sponsor speakers, campus-wide programs, field trips and social events and participate in service functions.
  • Members can participate in numerous extra-curricular activities.
  • Membership provides a network where you can become better acquainted with other geography students and can meet and talk with geography faculty informally.
  • Members can improve their expertise in the field of geography by learning things not normally dealt with in the classroom
  • Members are eligible to apply for Gamma Theta Upsilon scholarships.
  • Membership in an academic honor society is evidence of your dedication and competency in your career field. Some employers give hiring preference to honor society members.

The Geographical Bulletin

This scholarly journal is published twice a year by GTU. Articles concerning any area of geographical interest are solicited from students and faculty. Initiates receive two free issues after initiation and may subsequently renew their subscription.


Members of GTU enjoy the opportunity to apply for the four undergraduate and one graduate scholarships each year. All scholarship and award recipients must be Regular Members currently affiliated with an active chapter or the alumni Chapter, have excellent academic records, and have contributed significantly to their chapters.

The Purposes of Gamma Theta Upsilon

  1. To further professional interest in geography by affording a common organization for those interested in the field
  2. To strengthen student and professional training through academic experiences in addition to those of the classroom and laboratory
  3. To advance the status of geography as a cultural and practical discipline for study and investigation
  4. To encourage student research of high quality, and to promote an outlet for publication
  5. To create and administer funds for furthering graduate study and/or research in the field of geography
  6. To encourage members to apply geographic knowledge and skills in service to humankind

Visiting Geographical Scientist Program (VGSP)

The Visiting Geographical Scientist Program, funded by GTU and administered by the Association of American Geographers (AAG), provides an opportunity for chapters to host a distinguished geographer on their campus. The visiting geographer will give a lecture on a topic in geography and meet with faculty, students and administrators.

Chapters should contact the AAG for information about the Visiting Geographical Scientist Program.