Beta Omega Chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma was founded on January 11, 1913, at the University of Oregon in Eugene with 10 charter members. Since then, the chapter has initiated more than 2,150 members.
The Early Years
The five collegians who had formed local sorority Gamma Delta Gamma applied informally for a Kappa Kappa Gamma charter in 1909. They had been inspired by their housemother, Agnes Leach Dunston, Omicron, Simpson, mother of one of the five, to make Kappa their goal.
For four years, the group maintained strength on the campus, and a second housemother, Maude Stinson, Beta Eta, Stanford, helped to keep the thought of a Kappa charter before them. In the spring of 1912, a formal petition was approved by Kappa Kappa Gamma Fraternity officials and sent on for chapter vote. On January 11, 1913, Beta Omega was installed by the Grand President, Eva Powell, Pi Deuteron Chapter, UC Berkeley, assisted by Beta Pi Chapter, Washington.
Although the group had had the security of a rented house near the campus from 1910 to 1925, the years before and after the installation were difficult. Yet early members of Beta Omega have been described as “vigorous-minded individual girls of active and varied interests,” distinguished by “strength and self-reliance.”
The 20 members of the Eugene Alumnae Association were of great service to the young chapter, helping with house rent and expenses, assistance to the chapter adviser, and January 11 birthday parties for the group. Portland mothers donated furniture and rugs.
Most of the members in the early chapter came from Portland and Eugene, and majored in education, journalism, art or music. Their scholarship, to quote Sally Elliott Allen, Eta, Wisconsin, the 1930 history chronicler for Beta Omega, “has been creditable and often superior, and they have always stood for a sincere and unaffected womanliness.”
A New House
Financial conditions were often poor; but these conditions improved steadily. By the fall of 1925, a new house at 15th and Alder Streets had been built at a cost of about $37,000 for the lot, house, furnishings and landscaping. In 1974, new additions doubled the size of the kitchen, provided an apartment for the housemother, increased the sleeping porch area, and included a sun porch. Fifty-eight members could live in the house comfortably.
During World War I, members devoted spare time to Red Cross work. During World War II, members donated blood, collected scrap metal and adopted a German war orphan to whom they sent letters and gift boxes. During the 1960s, fund drives and parties for underprivileged children were co-sponsored, usually with a men’s fraternity. In 1965, the chapter won the Oregon Citizenship Cup, given to the organization outstanding in scholarship, leadership and service to the university, community, state and national government.
In 1942, five of the six seniors in the house were elected to Phi Beta Kappa. The 3.003 grade average in 1965 was the highest ever achieved by an Oregon group. The chapter has received many scholarship trophies.
One year, the chapter was so small that it appeared that only two members would be back in the fall. Those two came to be known as Beta and Omega.
The independent spirit of the chapter was seen in a number of interesting ways. There was no brass nameplate on the door; the telephone was answered by a repetition of the number “204,” not “Kappa Kappa Gamma;” and every Tuesday “outside girls” were invited for dinner.
Chapter traditions included the joint Founders Day celebration with Gamma Mu, Oregon State; the Christmas Serenade with white candles, white collars and sacred songs; Apple Polishing, a party for favorite teachers; a Kappa–Pi Beta Phi dinner when keys were worn slanted and arrows straight; the blown-out candle to announce an engagement; and the spring awards banquet.
A revolving emergency loan fund was started by Eugene alumnae in 1945 in memory of Hazel Prutsman Schwering, Oregon’s dean of women, who was a Beta Omega. These alumnae contributed greatly to the house and to the morale of the chapter. The mothers clubs of Eugene and Portland and the Portland Alumnae Association continued to make utilitarian and decorative contributions.
The stamina that enabled Beta Omega to find boarders and to keep the chapter going when it was thought that only two members would be making up the entire group at one time, and the independence of spirit, which has characterized the chapter from the start, can be seen today.
—Excerpted from The History of Kappa Kappa Gamma Fraternity, 1870–1976.