Becoming Kappa

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1928 image of the Gamma Pi chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma, with individual photos of 19 girlsWhen we say goodbye to buildings, we often say hello to interesting things that finally come out of them as their inhabitants prepare for demolition. Over the summer, we got to digitize one such discovery: a scrapbook of chartering documents from the UA chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma.

There are two common paths to creating a chapter of a national Greek organization. One is to do so directly, working with the organization to establish a colony, a probationary form of chapter. The other is to establish a strong local fraternity or sorority and subsequently seek chapter status from the national.

In 1926, the “local” Alpha Pi took that second path, petitioning Kappa Kappa Gamma national women’s fraternity to be brought in as a chapter. Part of that petition involved recommendations from peers, which they later gathered in a scrapbook.

From Fellow Kappas

The first materials in the book are from Kappa Kappa Gamma actives and alumnae who were near enough geographically to visit…and to have a vested interest in seeing the group spread further in the South.

Typed copy of letter from Lucy Sharpe, Beta Chi, 1925, undated

Letter from Lucy Sharpe, undated

For example, Elizabeth Van der Veer, of the Beta Omicron chapter (Tulane), writes to the national that she visited the girls at their request and “came away very much ‘sold’ on them.” They were “bright, energetic, enthusiastic, and attractive.” She adds, “We southern Kappas are few and far between, and we are anxious to have more chapters down our way.”

Lucy Sharpe, of the Beta Chi chapter (University of Kentucky), agrees, saying, “Kappa needs to come into the South. The best of Alabama’s young girls attend the University. There is no large national fraternity on the campus. Why can’t Kappa step in and take her place at this opportune time? The University wants and needs us.”

Letters were also sent from local alumnae originating in chapters at the University of Oklahoma, University of Cincinnati, and The Ohio State University.

From Fraternities

Men’s fraternities on campus were important witnesses to the character of the local. Letters went out from UA chapters of 12 fraternities: Alpha Tau Omega, Sigma Chi, Delta Tau Delta, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Kappa Alpha, Phi Delta Theta, Phi Kappa Alpha, Lambda Chi Alpha, Pi Kappa Alpha, Phi Gamma Delta, Sigma Nu, and Pi Kappa Phi.

Handwritten letter from Julien Smith, Jr., on behalf of the UA chapter of Phi Delta Theta, July 9, 1926

Letter on behalf of the UA chapter of Phi Delta Theta, July 9, 1926

According to Pi Kappa Alpha’s letter, “It would be difficult indeed to select a group of higher character and of greater promise than this particular group.” The Delta Tau Delta letter says, “if you should see fit to grant them a charter, we think you will always be glad of having done so.”

The Alpha Tau Omega letter reminds us that this is about the reputation of the national organization as much as the petitioning group: “Surely Kappa Kappa Gamma is desirous of having chapters in such institutions as Alabama not only promises to be, but as Alabama is today. …it is an ideal opportunity and one that in our estimation is very rare which should not be passed on lightly.”

The letter from Delta Kappa Epsilon provides some concrete background to situation. By their count, there were 500 female students and only 8 sororities. They find that “the limited number of Sororities is woefully inadequate as compared with the large number of girl students.”

From Other Sororities

There were, indeed, few women’s groups on campus at that time, but they all wrote to the Kappa Kappa Gamma national, perhaps with an eye to raising the overall profile of the campus. Letters were sent from the UA chapters of all 7 current sororities: Delta Delta Delta, Chi Omega, Alpha Gamma Delta, Alpha Chi Omega, Kappa Delta, Delta Zeta, and Zeta Tau Alpha.

Handwritten letter from Margaret Brown, on behalf of herself and the Nu Beta chapter of Chi Omega, July 12, 1926

Letter on behalf of the Nu Beta chapter of Chi Omega, July 12, 1926

Kappa Delta argues that given how women’s enrollment had “practically doubled itself in the part four years,” Kappa Kappa Gamma was needed. They assure the organization that they will find an easy path at UA: “The policy of the University official has always been one of welcome and aid to sororities and fraternities. This feature has helped to make the institution a stronghold for the Greek world.”

Alpha Chi Omega praises the group’s character, their leadership and “fineness of Southern womanhood.” The Alpha Gamma Delta province president notes their ability to maintain these high standards over several years and declares, “I feel sure that they would measure up to the responsibilities placed upon them.” Delta Zeta proclaims that the organization “will be well repaid” if it admits them.

Finally, Delta Delta Delta writes that the group is “worthy,”  and it is “looking forward to welcoming another member of the ‘Big Four’ to campus.”

It did welcome that group in 1927, when Pi Alpha became the Gamma Pi chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma, still active today. A more detailed account of the chapter’s formation and history can be found on the Kappapedia.

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