Mother-daughter duo share sisterhood bond on Moms Weekend

Photo courtesy of Raena Rubenstein

By Bridget Hynes

Tears formed in Raena Rubenstein’s eyes, junior in ACES, when she was asked to describe what her mother, Vicki Rubenstein, 1979 University alumna, means to her. 

Raena and Vicki, who keep in touch through FaceTime every night, are separated by a 10-hour drive during the school year. While Raena goes to school at the University, her family lives in South Carolina. 

“I go to her with everything,” Raena said. “I could talk to her about absolutely anything and feel comfortable doing it. She is like my best friend … she is also supportive as my mom.” 

In addition to their close mother-daughter connection, Raena and Vicki share a bond of sisterhood. They both pledged and joined the University’s chapter of Pi Beta Phi. 

Vicki said she is “counting the days” until she can fly in for Moms Weekend with Raena. The two plan to attend a silent auction that Pi Beta Phi is holding, but Raena’s main focus is simply getting to hang out with her mom and talk, she said. She said the last time they saw each other in-person was over winter break. 

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When Raena was initiated into the sorority during the Fall of 2012, her mom came to surprise her at initiation, at a time when she was particularly homesick. It was her first semester away from home, she said, and she had just transferred to the University from Clemson University in South Carolina, a school that was only an hour away from her family’s home. 

“The weekend before, many of the other girls in my sorority had went home to the suburbs and I couldn’t do that, even though I was missing home,” Raena said. “I just burst out crying (when I saw her at initiation). I was so happy.”

Once mother and daughter were reunited, the feeling was indescribable for both, Vicki said. 

“We do share a few secrets that we can’t share with other people,” Vicki said. “And that’s kind of a cool thing beyond the mother-daughter aspect. It means that we both have chosen to believe in the same ideals—of our own free will—and we will both look out for each other no matter what. It just adds another nice, rich layer to our relationship.” 

During Raena’s rush experience, she said her mom did not push her to pledge Pi Beta Phi, and stressed that she should feel comfortable in the house that she ultimately decided to choose.

“Initially, deep down, I thought, ‘Oh wouldn’t it be great if she pledged Pi Beta Phi,’ but I’m also a realist, and I know that houses change over the years and girls change over the years,” Vicki said. 

When Vicki pledged Pi Beta Phi in the 1970s, pledge classes were much smaller, mainly because sororities only initiated as many girls as they could logistically house, she said. She estimated that her own pledge class in 1975 was around 26 girls. Raena’s pledge class has around 50. 

Vicki also shared her Greek experience with her sister, Valerie Fox, 1977 University alumna, who pledged Pi Beta Phi and lived in the sorority’s house on 1005 S. Wright St. during her sophomore, junior and senior year.

Although she acknowledged that some Pi Beta Phi traditions have changed over the years, Vicki said she thinks there are similarities between the girls in Raena’s pledge class and those from her pledge class. 

“I’m not just making that up,” Vicki said. “There were, and still are, a lot of characters there. It wasn’t a bunch of cookie cutter girls; there was a diverse group.”

She said one of the reasons she knew the sorority was so diverse was because she and her sister both pledged and “were kind of polar opposites.” 

“She was an art history major, (the) valedictorian in high school,” Vicki said. “I was a special education major and cheerleader in high school. I liked being able to see the diversity so that I could see I could fit in, too.”

When Vicki visits Raena at school, she often goes to the Pi Beta Phi house and recalls memories from her college years. Last time they went to the house, they were able to find old composites with Vicki and Fox’s pictures on them, she said. 

Both Raena and Vicki were involved in leadership positions in the sorority, as Raena is currently the Vice President of Member Development, and Vicki was the assistant rush chairman. Although Vicki’s position was more socially based than Raena’s, Fox said the mother and daughter are more alike than their positions with the chapter. 

“They are both very outgoing and they like to be liked, so they treat other people nicely,” Fox said.

Vicki loves coming back to her alma mater for Moms Weekend to see her daughter because much of the University has stayed the same, she said.

“I think that is so endearing,” Vicki said. “It’s steeped in tradition and it’s such a homecoming feeling.”

Bridget can be reached at [email protected].