Beta Sigma Chapter was founded at Adelphi College (now Adelphi University) in Garden City, New York on May 20, 1905. The chapter closed in April 1954.
Total initiates: 417
Charter members: Grace Adele Broadhurst, Elizabeth Miller Brown, Mary Kirk Flagler, Ethel Harnet Gauvran, Juliette Geneva Hollenbach, Katherine Fitzpatrick Tobin, Edna Jessie Wakefield, Edith Belle Wall.
When Katherine Tobin Mullin wrote the history of Beta Sigma in 1930, she ended with “ … In about thirty-years one of those Beta Sigmas of the future will be asked to write something about the years of Beta Sigma in the ‘new Adelphi’.” It is somewhat eerie to read those words so many years later and to attempt to continue the history she lovingly and carefully compiled, especially since the chapter is no longer active.
Adelphi began as a young ladies’ academy in Brooklyn, New York in 1869; became a college in 1896; moved to suburban Garden City, New York in 1929; and attained university status in 1960. Additional buildings, faculty and students have filled the wide expanse of lawns. Dormitories are among these new buildings, though Adelphi is still largely a commuting school and draws most of its students from the suburban communities of Long Island.
The hope that became Beta Sigma Chapter began with Ethel Guavran (Smith) in 1903. She and a few special friends formed a little group called “Question Mark,” meaning “When will we be Kappas?” There was never any other thought in their hearts, and in 1905, their dream was realized when the chapter was installed. They were aided by a teacher, Elizabeth Rhodes, Cornell, in establishing the first Greek women’s fraternity chapter on the Adelphi campus.
Beta Sigma was known as “the singing chapter” and contributed songs that are still sung: “Kappa All Hail to Thee,” “Kappa Memories,” and “Not Thy Key, O Kappa.”
House party weekend was a chapter tradition. The members stayed at the country home of one of the girls and always enjoyed the opportunity to live and work together more closely. Senior Summer and Parents Tea were other annual events and supper meetings in the faculty dining room provided great opportunities for sisterhood, even if the culinary results were sometimes doubtful.
During the years of World War II, the chapter actively participated in service activities and fundraising, as well as contributing knitted articles to Nora Waln’s* collections for war ophans. Participation in May Day activities were a must and there were always Kappas among the queen’s court, if not actually reigning over the day’s festivities and competitions among the Greeks. Beta Sigmas served as class presidents; were active in sports; served on the yearbook staff; presided over Panhellenic; worked in the student association; were members and officers in many clubs; were elected to various honorary scholastic fraternities; were chosen for Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities; and served as Adelphi Alumnae Association officers and on the board of trustees of the school.
Despite the many varied and outstanding contributions of its members, the chapter found it increasingly difficult to function properly on the Adelphi campus. The alumnae found it difficult to support the chapter actively after its move to Garden City. Campus development did little to provide facilities, especially for women, after the school became coeducational in 1945.
Several school programs offered limited time on campus and lack of administrative planning for extracurricular activities in the overall college program eventually caused a lack of time, place and opportunity to meet and work together. Application to surrender the charter was made in April 1954, and the final acceptance came in September, 1955.
While Beta Sigma’s chapter history is complete, that does not mean that Beta Sigmas have disappeared from the scene. Since many bound archival volumes of The Key were damaged in a fire at Fraternity Headquarters, the issues for 1905-1928 stamped with Beta Sigma are displayed in the Fraternity archives. On the Adelphi campus, Waldo Hall is a visible reminder of the many Kappas who have contributed to the college and later to the world.
The charter may be gone, but the feelings, beliefs and sisterhood that the members of Beta Sigma Chapter have felt over the years continue.
The Nora Waln Fund for Refugee Children began in 1940, at the suggestion of The Key Editor Helen Bower, Michigan, when she learned that well-known author and Kappa Nora Waln, Swarthmore, would not be permitted to leave war-torn England to speak at Kappa’s 1940 General Convention.
Helen proposed that the money budgeted to bring Nora to America be used instead as the start of a fund, to be distributed by Nora to children and others in England who had been bombed out of their homes. Donations poured in as the project became a Fraternity-wide cause. After the war, Nora learned while on an assignment for the Atlantic Monthly that many Norwegian babies had only newspapers for swaddling clothes, and immediately promised that Kappa Kappa Gamma would create and send 5,000 layettes. (include electronic link to full story)