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Kappa’s University of Illinois Chapter has Weathered Many Storms Since 1899

(Education) Permanent link

Beta Lambda’s Early Years

Katharine Lucinda Sharp, former Grand President and the first director of the library school at the University of Illinois, and Frances Simpson, a student at the new library school, wished there could be a Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter at Illinois. They both had been members of Kappa’s Upsilon Chapter at Northwestern University.
Secrecy about plans was maintained until 1899, when six students were approached. A second petition to university officials was heartily approved, covering material was sent to Kappa’s Grand Council, and the waiting period brought the group close in spirit. In the spring of 1899, a charter was granted to Beta Lambda Chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma, with Installation on April 28.


Meetings were held in Miss Sharp’s home until the first chapter house was purchased in 1900. A 1902 move was made to 404 East John Street, Champaign. Meals could be served there, and in 1905, an addition was built to accommodate 18 girls.
The next few years saw a series of Kappa houses as membership increased. Records of 1913 show how each girl earned $10 for the newest house by making curtains, canning fruit, and “hiring out to family.” Two other moves were made before the chapter made its home at 1102 South Lincoln Ave., Urbana, in February of 1928. After remodeling and additions, the house accommodated 63.
In 1929, the Kappas were “blown out” of the house during a blizzard—a defective gasket on the furnace caused an explosion. A scarlet fever epidemic began with a Kappa—Valentine’s Day was celebrated in quarantine; all Kappas received candy.

The 1930s:

In the 1930s, the Kappa boiler burst, the Mothers Club was formed and proceeds from the sale of holly wreaths helped purchase linen napkins for the house. Alumnae gave a silver pitcher on which the names of members with the most improved scholarship would be engraved. Active Lorama Wiese (Boggs) left for Hollywood after a scout saw her in a University of Illinois production. The chapter library was started with donations and alumna help. Radio tea dances were popular.

The 1940s:

Wartime shortages were common and baskets were filled for needy families. Rag dolls were made for the YWCA Doll Show—Kappas won the show just before the Chicago fire. Bettie Teetor (Audron) was the first Beta Lambda to present a thesis before the Illinois Academy of Science. 
Live music became a war casualty; a radio victrola was used instead. Red Cross and USO were popular with volunteers, and first aid was widely taught and practiced. The chapter newsletter was printed on newsprint due to the paper shortage.
The report on scholarship was not encouraging, and Beta Lambda was placed on social probation; rushing was allowed but no male-attended functions. Announcements: No dates in house before 4 p.m. … Girls are not to carry on conversations from the upstairs with boys who are downstairs … Quiet hours start when the sandwich man comes.
Many veterans were back on campus in 1948. The chapter’s 50th anniversary was marked by a two-day reunion. Beta Lambda received the Scholarship Improvement Award at the General Convention (1948).

The 1950s:

Beta Lambda finally reached first place over 27 other chapters on campus with a 3.916 GPA on a 5-point system. Kappa dads contributed to the unfurnished dining room. The only living charter member, Lucy Willcox Wallace, presented a plaque to the chapter in memory of Katharine Sharp (1959). The pledge pin of Maude Straight (Carman), first Beta Lambda pledge, had been designed by Miss Sharp and the design adopted by the Fraternity.

The 1960s:

Difficulties within the Fraternity system reflected a national trend; many houses decreased in membership, but Beta Lambda (nearly always) had a full house. Kappa and Phi Kappa Psi volunteered at Champaign County Nursing Home. Two fire engines rushed to the Kappa house (1966); firemen broke down the kitchen door—somebody had burned the supper!

The 1970s:

Homecoming: The campus was surrounded by the National Guard and state police. Students were marching against the Cambodian involvement, Illiac, Kent State, and the death of Edgar Foults. Many of those same students were soon constructing house decorations and preparing for the return of alumni.
By 1970, each girl had her own phone number. (Champaign-Urbana was one of four communities in the U.S. having more telephones than people.) By 1972, each girl had her own door key. There was 24-hour university visitation and relaxation of alcohol regulations. Dress for dinner could include slacks but not blue jeans with holes or patches. No more closet space was needed for petticoats and formals, but still there were space problems. The dorm remained cold, but there was a new sun deck and a TV in the rec room.
Beta Lambda’s Centennial was held at Champaign Country Club. Kappa Pickers entertained at special events. An anonymous male caller phoned with a bomb threat—police found nothing (1971).

For more chapter histories or to add details to your chapter’s history, log in at www.kappa.org and visit Kappapedia.

--This information was excerpted and edited for length from The History of Kappa Kappa Gamma Fraternity, 1870–1976.


Aspire to Be ... Grateful

(Leadership, Sisterhood) Permanent link

By Guest Blogger Kelly Magyarics, Pittsburgh, Fraternity Public Relations Chairman / Web Editor

We all learned back in elementary school that Thanksgiving originated as a collaborative feast between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. Today, many of us associate it with indulgence: juicy turkey drumsticks and scoops of chestnut stuffing ladled with gravy, thick slices of cinnamon and whipped cream-topped pumpkin pie, and naps on the couch with the football game on in the background.
Certainly, there is a place for all of the above on Turkey Day, as these activities are shared with cherished family and friends. Expanding on that concept though, let’s all strive to make Thanksgiving a holiday about having an “attitude of gratitude”—being thankful not only for our relationships with loved ones, but the necessities (and niceties) that we often take for granted each day, and the connection we share with one another.
Kappa Kappa Gamma invests in a member’s personal development, preparing her to be a strong woman and a strong leader, who effects change for the better in her community, her family and herself. Here are some ideas—big and small—for expressing gratitude this Thanksgiving, and for helping those less fortunate:

  •  Cut out paper leaves from construction paper (or have kids trace and cut out their handprints). Set out the cutouts and a pen next to a clear vase or jar as your Thanksgiving centerpiece this year. Encourage guests to write something for which they are thankful this year, and take turns reading them out loud during dessert.

  •  Let small children say a Thanksgiving blessing or message of thankfulness before dinner. Kids are candid and honest, and their words can remind us how the simplest things can be the most important.

  •  Many families are still impacted by Superstorm Sandy. Emergency assistance is available through the Kappa Kappa Gamma Foundation’s Rose McGill Fund.  To learn more or to make a donation, go to https://www.kappakappagamma.org/Kappa/HtmlContent.aspx?id=1326. Another easy way to help is to text REDCROSS to 90999, which will donate $10 to the American Red Cross to help with storm relief. (If you wish to give more money, just send multiple text messages.)

  •  Veterans Day may be over, but our military members need assistance and gratitude all year long. Go to www.anysoldier.com to see what items our troops need, and enlist friends and neighbors to create a care package to send overseas. Don’t forget to include a card or letter thanking them for their service.

  •  Ask guests to bring canned goods or non-perishable items to Thanksgiving dinner. After the holiday is over, go to www.moveforhunger.org to set up your own food drive. The organization will arrange for pickup of goods and distribute them to where they are most needed.

  •  Send a notecard (not an email or ecard!) to a sister, friend or family member whom you haven’t seen or talked to in awhile. Let them know what they mean to you, and how much you are thankful for their friendship.

  •  Help elderly (or lonely) neighbors this season: offer to rake their leaves or take out their trash, or drop off a pumpkin pie with a note. Or better yet, invite them over for Thanksgiving dinner.




Leadership Academy by the Numbers

(Leadership) Permanent link

Leadership Academy is a special place for members to learn leadership skills … skills that they can use in their chapters, communities and lives. Leadership Academy is outdoor challenges and bonfires, friendship and fun. But what exactly does it take to put on a Leadership Academy? Well, start with dedicated staff, patient volunteers and excited participants. Then add:

3,405 hours of preparation

39 binders put together

254 participants (in 2012)

46 volunteers (in 2012)

256 sets of sheets

1 bazillion beads for values bracelets

45 bags of M&Ms

60 hours spent with Kappas

14 color groups

300 bandanas

720 cake pops

15 facilitators

5 leadership practices

2 47-passenger busses that make 5 trips to and from the airport

All of this adds up to

ONE AWESOME Leadership Academy!




Our Right to Vote

(Uncategorized) Permanent link

By Guest Blogger Emily, Arkansas

My 18th birthday will always be memorable, mostly because of the surprise party my mother and my best friend threw in my honor. Dinner and cake, family and friends—it was a great party. But, as wonderful as the party was, it isn’t the most prominent memory from that day.  What I remember vividly is going after school to my county’s courthouse and walking into the county clerk’s office. The thought crossed my mind that less than a hundred years before, as a woman, my registering to vote would not have been possible. I wasn’t wasting any time!

When six young Kappa women banded together at Monmouth College in 1870, they faced a world much different than the one we live in today. Not allowed to vote, few women were even accepted as students in higher educational institutions. Fifty years after the founding of Kappa Kappa Gamma, the 19th Amendment was ratified—only then were women given the right to vote in the United States. When we exercise our right to vote, we are honoring all of the Kappas and women who came before us to establish our right to vote.

My friends can attest that I am passionate about voting. The only time I missed Election Day was due to a bad case of strep throat. When I know I will be unable to vote the day of, I register for an absentee ballot. I see voting as a right and a privilege. I encourage you to join me and make your voice known. If you need a little incentive, just remember not so long ago women were battling for what we now take for granted!

If you are not registered to vote and would like more information, visit the United States Election Assistance Committee for U.S. citizens and the Elections Canada for Canadian citizens.

A London Adventure

(Uncategorized) Permanent link

Guest Blogger Erin, Utah

On July 27, 2012 the world turned their eyes to London for the start of the 2012 Olympics. Just 10 days earlier, I had traveled home from London and the biggest adventure of my life. As a small-town girl from Utah, moving to a city as large as London was both terrifying and thrilling.

After 13 hours of traveling I was exhausted, but full of hopes, dreams and excitement, and ready for the adventure before me. (That mood lasted about an hour before I was in tears, on the phone with my mom, and ready to come home.) The apartment I had rented in London turned out to be in a bad area of town; I had no idea where I was, nor how to locate the landlord with the key to my apartment.

I finally got my key and went up to my apartment, only to find mold on the walls, dirt on the bedding and dust everywhere. After talking to my landlord and my mom, I realized I was going to be late to an internship orientation meeting. I tried to leave the apartment, but I couldn’t open the door. Rust was stuck in the hinges and I couldn’t get out. I had to bang on the door and call my neighbor to come take the door apart.  I grabbed my bags and made a run for it. I was homeless in London.

Before I found an apartment online (which looked nothing like the pictures posted!) I was accepted by Room for Tea, and organization that pairs interns and students abroad with people in London who are renting out an extra room. In exchange for cheaper rent, students help with household chores. I was leaving my orientation meeting when Room for Tea confirmed they had a place I could stay for the night, and if I got on with the woman I could sign the contract and stay the rest of my visit. I went, with my two big suitcases and a carry-on, to meet a woman named Zoe who became my roommate for the next three months.

Joining Kappa Kappa Gamma was a life changing experience; it has defined my college career and shaped me as a woman. Before London, I didn’t think I would ever find anything that changed me as much. Moving half way around the world and experiencing one disaster after another on my first day became a close second. My first few hours in London might have been terrifying, exhausting, and just plain awful, but the next three months more than made up for the rough start.

The Hinckley Institute of Politics arranged an internship for me in the Houses of Parliament working under Jonathan Evans, Member of Parliament. I got to work in buildings that were more than one thousand years old and attend meetings and sessions of Parliament daily. I ventured to Scotland and Norway, saw the city of Bath and Stonehenge, toured museums, castles and churches, watched the races in the Royal Enclosure at Royal Ascot and saw the Olympic venues. I met friends I will stay in touch with for the rest of my life. I met former President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and had the chance to hear them speak on humanitarian efforts and equality.  


I learned an incredible amount during my time in London, and throughout it all I was complimented on my poise, for which I have Kappa to thank. I met Kappas in London when I wore my letters and even got to see two of my own chapter members as they passed through London on their travels.


I developed a confidence in myself and what I stand for. In parting I’ll leave you with this: make plans, but know how to think on your feet when you watch them fall apart. Meet people—you never know how dramatically they will impact your life. Keep going, whether in Kappa or in life. If you quit you will never know what’s on the other side of the rough patch, and from my experience, the view is worth it.


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