‘Momma D’ keeps AGR on track

Live-in house mother cooks up meals and dispenses advice for fraternity brothers


Leah Sip

Donna Robinson has been the house mother for the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity for the past five years. “She’s pretty much like a grandma to the whole house,” one AGR resident said.

Katherine Moening, Reporter

Donna Robinson didn’t know she would be getting a whole new “family” when she answered a newspaper advertisement five years ago. But that’s pretty much what she got.

Robinson, known as “Momma D” around the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity at South Dakota State University, is the house mother for the young men who live at the AGR house. 

She lives at the house full time and works about eight hours a day cooking and baking for the chapter. Robinson said that she feels happy and blessed at the AGR house and hopes to be there for the chapter when they need it.

“I try not to overstep, you know. I don’t want to be over their head and be mom, but I just want to be sure they know I’m here,” Robinson said. “But really, I love what I do, and I’ll do it until I can’t do it anymore.”

One of Robinson’s favorite parts about her job is meeting the chapter members and getting to know them.

She has a hard time remembering all their names, especially when new members join, but still she enjoys developing relationships with them during their time at SDSU. However, at the end of the year, it’s always sad to see them leave.

“The hardest part of the job is when they graduate,” Robinson said. “I hate graduation day.” 

While it’s hard to see the guys go, Robinson makes sure she welcomes them and their families when they first join Greek Life and after they graduate.

“I get their name, their address, their parents’ names and I write a letter welcoming them to the fraternity and letting them know what goes on here,” Robinson said. “And then when I get to meet their parents at graduation it’s really kind of neat to put a face with the name.”

Robinson creates weekly menus and gives the chapter members a grocery list. Monday through Friday she cooks lunch and three nights of the week she cooks dinner. After supper time, Robinson is free to relax and have her own time but she often spends it watching the chapter members’ sporting activities. She tries to be there for them whenever she can.

She thinks having a house mother is a benefit for Greek Life houses because the residents have someone there for them when they need it.

Collin Powell, an AGR Noble Ruler, said he enjoys having a house mother for the cooking and support she provides. He likes having someone there to talk to about life decisions or career opportunities.

“She’s pretty much like a grandma to the whole house. Everyone loves her,” Powell said. “You can talk to her about anything. She’s always there for us.”

A house mother position isn’t an easy one to fill. The chapter must find someone who is willing to live with them. Robinson has her own section of the house connected to the kitchen and main living space.

To publicize the position, AGR put ads in the newspaper, Facebook and other social media platforms. As a chapter, they hired the house mother. The noble ruler, finance chair and planning chair in the chapter are in charge of filling the position when it’s vacant. They interview their potential candidates and decide as a chapter who to hire.

Robinson used to run her own daycare in Rapid City before moving to Brookings. She loved taking care of young kids and Powell thinks her job as the house mother isn’t really that different.

“The way I look at it, the chapter is pretty much adults that need that,” Powell said. “She’s still a daycare provider, but now it’s for 18- to 22-year-old men.”

This year will be the fifth year she has been with the chapter. Robinson is invited to weddings every year and enjoys traveling to see the young men who previously lived in the house. Her first set of “boys” she started with graduated last year.

“I think that was a big milestone for her that she really enjoyed seeing,” Powell said.