At the first meeting of the chapter, Florence Finn, president of the society, presented a passage from Plato’s Republic in which Socrates asks the question, “Will they hold torches and pass them to one another...?” This idea, together with the symbol of a candle and the concept of sharing the love of learning with others, caught the imagination of the charter members.
The honor society soon became a national organization through the chartering of chapters at Purdue University in 1926, DePauw University in 1927, the University of Michigan in 1927, and at the University of Oklahoma in 1929. The first national convention was held in 1930 at the University of Illinois. Conventions were suspended during the depression years because of travel expenses. The third convention was held in 1938 at the University of Michigan. A decision was made at that convention to suspend holding a national convention and to invest those funds into establishing a graduate fellowship fund. The first fellowship was awarded in 1940 to Louise Houssiere for graduate study at MIT.
The Association of College Honor Societies was organized in 1925 to consider matters of mutual concern to member organizations; Alpha Lambda Delta has been active in the Association since its admission to membership in 1939. In 1976, in response to Title IX, the National Council voted for the Society to become coeducational. In 1981, the first two male members of the National Council were installed.
Alpha Lambda Delta has continued to be innovative and responsive in recognizing academic excellence by providing Senior Certificates and the Maria Leonard Senior Book Award since 1939, offering leadership conferences since 1978, recognizing outstanding chapters with the Order of the Torch Award since 1989, and recognizing an Outstanding Advisor of the Year since 1990.