Did you ever stop to think about the meaning of the word “founder”? In celebrating the 142nd founding of our treasured Fraternity, it’s significant to take a look at its origins. “Founder” dates from the mid-fourteenth century Anglo-French word “fundur,” meaning “one who establishes, one who sets up or institutes something.” Admittedly, there is nothing surprising in that definition. But it’s also noteworthy to take a step back and review the etymology of the word “find.” The Gothic word “finban,” means “to come upon,” which may have also originated from the Proto-European-English word “pent,” meaning “to go, pass, path, bridge.”
Indeed, if we look back at our origins, a bridge was significant in establishing the beginnings of Kappa Kappa Gamma. Louise (Lou) Bennett and Hannah Jeannette (Jennie) Boyd walked across a little wooden one on campus, pausing to discuss their plan of creating an organization of women supporting women. The two soon shared their plan with Mary Moore (Minnie) Stewart, a vision that would ultimately lead to the founding of Kappa Kappa Gamma.
But the word “find,” and its past tense “found,” also elicit memories of trying to fit in during the fleeting years at our college or university. Why did we seek membership in Kappa Kappa Gamma? Many of us hoped to find: friendship, opportunities for leadership and philanthropy involvement, academic support, a social life on campus, and a home away from home. It’s not even too much of a stretch to say that during our first days on campus, when many of us were lost in a sea of unfamiliar faces and intimidating new responsibilities, we had a great need to be found, to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and our individual college experiences.
After graduation our membership in Kappa evolves, as alumna members we turn to Kappa to find a social outlet when moving to a new city, networking and career advice when entering (or re-entering) the workforce, service opportunities in our communities, and volunteer roles in the Fraternity that allow us to give back to an organization that has given so much to each of us. For many, Kappa Kappa Gamma continues to serve as that welcoming solace, and on Founders Day, we celebrate those six revolutionary women who made it possible for us to continue to find just what we need in our membership in Kappa.
Our Founders questioned why women should be satisfied only with literary societies, while male students on campus enjoyed full-fledged fraternity life. The world was moving too slowly for these women, and they believed nothing short of a Greek letter fraternity would suffice. “Our aim,” they said, “was to draw into the society the choicest spirits among the girls, not only for literary work, but also for social development.” Anna Elizabeth Willits, Susan Burley Walker and Martha Louisa (Lou) Stevenson were part of that pioneering plan. And so, Kappa Kappa Gamma started with six proud women walking into Monmouth Chapel on October 13, 1870, wearing badges in their hair.
Educated, intelligent, young women, ranging in age from 16 to 20, the six Founders loved learning and literature. According to The Monmouth College Courier, “They wear a little golden key, sometimes on their foreheads, sometimes on the little blue or red jackets, which very much become them. [The key] has on it: Kappa Kappa Gamma and also Alpha Omega Omicron. We have been able to count only six of them, and as has been intimated, they are on a voyage of discovery.”
One hundred forty-two years later, we celebrate our Founders’ vision and honor their resolution. Today, Kappa Kappa Gamma has grown to become one of the leading women’s fraternities, with 138 chapters, 311 alumnae associations and 247,112 members initiated since 1870.
As we continue to support and advance the vision of our Founders, we are ever mindful of planning for the Fraternity’s future. To that end:
- At General Convention, the Fraternity unveiled new branding, which includes the tagline, “aspire to be,” as well as a new blue fleur-de-lis logo. Included in the branding are the four tenets: Inspiring, Preparing, Impacting and Connecting. The Fraternity hopes that chapters and alumnae associations will incorporate these tenets into their goal setting and programming, and that members will also strive for them in their everyday lives.
- This summer, a brand new website was unveiled. The new website is easier to navigate and find what you are looking for, and is well integrated with Kappa’s online social media presence.
- Kappa Kappa Gamma will be installing our 139th and 140th chapters in early spring 2013 at Chapman University in Orange, California, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in San Luis Obispo, California.
- The Fraternity will continue to hold its successful GIRLS Academy retreats, which are scheduled to be held this year in Seattle, Chicago, Cincinnati and Minneapolis. GIRLS Academy stands for Girls Inspiring Respect, Leadership and Service. It provides opportunities for self-growth for middle school girls through a values-based curriculum, including facilitated discussions, small group mentoring, personal journaling and a community service project.
- Kappa Kappa Gamma continues to focus on academic excellence, and to work with chapters on comprehensive plans to support members in their academic pursuits.
- The Fraternity continues to support Reading Is Fundamental and literacy-related programs. However, chapters and alumnae associations are also encouraged to support local and national philanthropy programs that are special to them.
Each of us has found something in Kappa that has become the basis—the foundation—for who we are. Our six Founders paved the way for an organization of strong women, one that fosters good leadership, scholarship, service and sisterhood. And since sisterhood is for a lifetime, we can all continue to find relevant, inspirational opportunities in Kappa Kappa Gamma for our personal and professional lives. Happy Founders Day!
Written by Kelly Matyas Magyarics, ΓΕ, Public Relations Chairman