Beta Chi Chapter was founded at University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky on February 12, 1910.
3,431 initiates (as of June 2018)
Kentucky, renowned in song and story, and immortalized in the pioneer history of America, is the home of Beta Chi Chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma. Right in the heart of the bluegrass country lies the city of Lexington, which houses the University of Kentucky and Beta Chi Chapter. On February 12, 1910, eight members of Chi Epsilon Chi, a local sorority of long and strong standing, became charter members of Beta Chi Chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma. Kappa was the second national women’s fraternity on the Kentucky campus, with Alpha Gamma Delta having preceded it by a few months. The installation took place at the Chapter house located on Limestone Street, just opposite Patterson Hall. Edith Stoner, the Grand President, was the installing officer. She was assisted by members of Delta Chapter, Indiana University.
In the May 1913 issue of The Key Magazine, Carolyn Barker, a Beta Chi member, wrote that the University of Kentucky opened a new department called "Household Arts." She explained in the article that the first year was entirely devoted to sewing, both hand and machine work, and to drafting patterns and fittings. The second and third years broadened out into all the other household arts. Barker noted that this new department was interesting to many women at the university during this time. Also in 1913, a Kappa tea was held at the Chapter house as a social event. The invitations were sent to the whole student body. The house was decorated with pink tulips, ferns, and was lighted with pink shaded candles.
Records show that the first few years of Beta Chi’s history were filled with problems such as housing, frequent initiations, and campus activities. The question of whether the Chapter could or could not keep the house was an ever-present and much discussed matter. The rent in 1910 was an extravagant one--$15 a month! On account of the financial difficulty, faculty pressure, or possibly a little of both, the house was relinquished the following year, and the Chapter was removed to Patterson Hall to hold meetings in a room reserved for that purpose. At this time, the Kappas moved almost annually. The trouble was neither bill collectors nor landladies, but a general feeling of dissatisfaction with the surroundings. The Chapter really preferred Limestone to any other place of residence.
In 1915, the Kappas were still located at Patterson Hall. Meetings were held at 3:30 on Monday afternoons. In October, the chapter rooms in the hall were prohibited by the dean, and meetings, initiations, and parties were held at the homes of various members. The Kappas considered opening a “lodge building” in connection with Alpha Gamma Delta, Kappa Delta, and Chi Omega, but the plan was abandoned for fear that difficulties would arise during rushing season. Despite the frequent moving days, the young Chapter went dauntlessly ahead with its activities. Initiations were held often in these early years in view of the fact that girls were eligible for initiation only a few weeks after pledging. Although a definite scholarship standing was not required for initiation, the Kappa initiates invariably made a good showing and were among the first on campus in scholarship. In addition to new pledges, many Chi Epsilon Chi members returned to school and took enough work to be initiated.
The first five years saw the establishment of many interesting social customs which have become traditional with Beta Chis. The minutes of 1911 record a hearty vote to present the Kappa Alpha Fraternity with a Kappa pennant on two different occasions. It was the custom to exchange pennants and shields as pledges of good fellowship. When the Kappas initiated four girls in 1915, the Kappa Alpha Fraternity sent them a congratulatory bouquet of four dozen roses. The girls responded with an “open house,” honoring the Kappa Alphas, and this event evolved into a monthly tea for all the men’s fraternities. Keys were in vogue as wedding presents. Pie knives for Kappa brides were substituted, and the custom of presenting a spoon with the Kappa coat of arms on it to the first Kappa baby was instituted.
Life within the Chapter was taken up with rushing, charity work, Kappa work, and financial regulations. The dues were gradually raised from the sum of fifty cents a month to a dollar and twenty-five cents a month. In 1912, the actives contributed fifty cents apiece for the Book of Ritual. Even before WWI, Beta Chi Chapter was doing charity and relief work. In 1916, it was customary for the girls to do a certain amount of settlement work each week. At Christmas time, they filled stockings busily to send to a mountain school. In early March, the Chapter assumed the obligation of dressing and educating a young Kentucky mountain girl of high school age. When she married, her place was filled by a French war orphan supported by the Chapter.
Beta Chi also aided during WWI. The girls knitted the usual socks and sweaters, and each member contributed something to the Belgian Relief Fund, the total being given in Kappa’s name. The girls worked in the Red Cross corps, bought Liberty Bonds, and sent a money contribution across the seas in the name of the Fraternity. To Mary E. Sweeny, leaving for the war front to do canteen work, the Chapter gave a radium-dial wrist watch as a parting gift. In 1918, instead of hosting a Women's Panhellenic banquet, the association gave $100 to the War Fund. In its place, a dance was given in the new Recreation Hall at Patterson Hall for all Greek women of the university. All the girls wore white and the "gentlemen" were designated by bands of red, white, and blue ribbon on the arm. Then there came a campaign for the women of the university to give $1,000 to the Student Friendship War Fund. Beta Chi responded, and pledge $150.
Following closely on the tragedy of the war was a terrible automobile accident in which four University of Kentucky men lost their lives. The influenza epidemic swept over the school in the same year, causing the university to close until January 6, 1919. Therefore, all activities were abandoned. During the break, however, several girls made hundreds of "flu" masks for an emergency Red Cross call and made surgical dressings. Some helped in the collecting and shipping of delicacies to sick boys in nearby camps.
The next five year period (1920-25) was a time of substantial reorganization of the Chapter in efforts to strengthen it. Systematic financial reconstruction made it possible to acquire a house during this period. Fan Ratliff, as Chapter President, led the Chapter in the work of reconstruction and fulfillment of national Fraternity obligations. The Chapter devised a system of pledge training, which included supervised study hall and Sunday afternoon “open houses” with the pledges acting as hostesses. Wednesday evening was established as the time for weekly meetings. Bible study groups were also formed. A pledge Honor Roll, to be read at every Founders Day banquet, was used for the first time. Establishment of the Senior Council and the Fraternity honor system assisted the pledge training. As a consequence of aid given by Virginia Rodefer-Harris, Grand Vice-President, Beta Chi scholarship standing on the campus increased. Elizabeth Kimbrough (Park), as Chapter President, efficiently accomplished the task of organizing a harmonious and successful Chapter during the first year in the house. A baby grand piano was quite an addition to the furnishings at this time, and the Sophomore class decorated the basement for a chapter room.
Beta Chi Chapter won the Scholarship Cup for the year 1919 and 1920. This cup was awarded to the woman's fraternity receiving the highest average for the scholastic year at the University of Kentucky.
The chief honor of this period came to the Chapter when Sarah Gibson Blanding, a Beta Chi alumna, was elected by the Board of Trustees as Dean of Women. “The Dean is gone, long live the Dean!” was the cry on the lips of the Beta Chis. She was only twenty-six years old, and the youngest woman in the United States to have the responsibility of such an office. She was a native to Lexington, Ky. After her high school graduation, she took a two-year course at New Haven Normal School of Gymnastics, which qualified her to become an instructor in the Department of Physical Education at Kentucky while still a freshman at the university. In her senior year of college, she was president of Beta Chi, president of the Administrative Council, captain of the varsity basketball team, and national vice-president of Mortar Board. She also served as the president of the alumnae association at Lexington.
Most of the social events of this era were Fraternity or Panhellenic affairs. The Founders Day banquet of 1921 was held in the Lafayette Hotel, which had just been completed. Fan Ratliff presided over the affair, which was cleverly planned as a musical banquet. The tradition of the Mother’s Day tea was inaugurated, and an agreeable custom of paying calls to patronesses was established. The patronesses and alumnae were honor guests at a Kappa picnic on the river banks in May of 1920. An invitation to a Province dance issued by Delta Chapter was recorded in the minutes of the same year. Rushing parties were continued as usual, except that the Fraternity abolished the house dance for rushees.It appeared that men rushing for other fraternities were spreading propaganda at the dance. The biennial formal dance was initiated at this time, and the first of a long series of these good times took place at the Phoenix Hotel. During the year 1920, the Kappas played the Chi Omegas in a basketball contest that has never been forgotten. So enthused were the fair opponents that the inter-sorority basketball tournament had to be abolished! Three new nationals established chapters on Kentucky’s campus --- Delta Delta Delta, Delta Zeta, and Zeta Tau Alpha. Beta Chi entertained each group at a tea. One interesting social event was a Pantry Party given at the house. Mothers and patronesses were invited to come and help re-stock the pantry shelves.
The Founders Day banquet on February 10, 1923, was held in the Lafayette Hotel. The predominant ideas of the program, a building fund for the future Kappa house, was a surprise to all. Among the eighty present, there were many out-of-town alumnae who showed a great deal of interest and enthusiasm. Twenty-three hundred dollars in promissory notes were received from those present. Later in the month, the Beta Chi held a bridge party at the Chapter house and a tea-dance at Patterson Hall. The decorations and favors were in keeping with George Washington's birthday.
In the spring of 1924, Beta Chi gave a big dance called the peacock affair. The whole ballroom of the Phoenix Hotel was decorated in peacock feathers, streamers, and painted peacocks. The girls' favors were peacock quill pens, while the boys were presented with small silver knives.
In the summers, members of Beta Chi often held a Kappa Camp on the Kentucky River. During the camp, they spent the night, and the entertainment included fireworks. Barge dances, stunts, swimming, canoeing, and refreshments followed.
On February 13, 1925, Beta Chi had their Founders' Day banquet at the LaFayette Hotel. They borrowed the idea of the powdered hair and candle light from the Kappa Convention. Tiny blue and blue feather fans were chose as favors and the alumnae were presented with pink roses.
Running down the list of students at the University of Kentucky from 1925 to 1930, there is a long line of Kappa names in every activity. The first fraternity woman to be elected President of W.S.G.A. on Kentucky’s campus was Beta Chi's Eugenia H. Herrington (Green). In 1927, Sarah Lynn Tucker was elected Vice-President of the Sophomore class. Cynthia Hammond Smith won the Chi Omega prize for the best Sophomore record in home economics. Three campus beauties were also chosen from the Kappa Chapter at this time. During the 1927-28 school year, Kappa Kappa Gamma made the highest scholastic record of any social fraternity on campus, and was awarded the scholarship cup. Fraternity honor came to the Chapter when Fan Ratliff was elected President of Gamma Province.
The most marked progress in chapter life was made in this period when the Kappas moved into the house at 179 East Maxwell Street. At last, the Beta Chis had a home of their own. The Lexington girls had passed the previous summer painting and decorating. It has been estimated that in more than sixty-three years since its founding, Beta Chi has owned, occupied, or met in twenty-six different sites in Lexington. The fondly remembered “little white house” on Maxwell represented one of its longest tenancies.
Frances L. Smith (Dugan) was Chapter President at this time, and under her guidance, the Chapter meetings included interesting talks, Bible readings, and individual weekly reports of activities. Members with below C-averages were required to study at the house for two afternoons a week. Another visit from Virginia Rodefer-Harris resulted in great enthusiasm over the National Convention to be held in California, at which Beta Chi was represented by Louise Palmer Jefferson. In the early part of 1927, Helen Farst-Wallace, the Province President, visited the Chapter.
By 1930, with Beta Chi having developed from a sturdy child to a young, energetic adult, Frank L. McVey, father of two Chapter members, was President of the University, and Sarah Blanding was Dean of Women. Beta Chi members were serving as President of the Women’s Administrative Council and as class officers. There were seventeen fraternities and ten sororities on the campus. Beta Chi boasted forty-one active members.
During the 1930s, intramural sports began on the campus to strengthen ties between sororities. A new student union building was also created. Beta Chi Chapter was host to Mu Province convention during cold and wet weather, with a robbery to add to the excitement! During the economic crisis of the 1930s, sorority expansion halted at the University of Kentucky, but Beta Chi weathered the Depression.
In true Kentucky style, it was written of Kappas in the 1934 yearbook, the Kentuckian: “Traditionally a very high class stable, always a goodly number of nifty thoroughbreds.” The next year’s entry read: “The Kappa Gams manage to pledge a beauty queen every so often…they also manage to grab a share of the military sponsors without the aid of campus politicians. They suffered very little opposition with their rushees this year, and walked off with a number of nifty thoroughbreds.”
In 1939, Beta Chi had its first College of Law graduate, Bettie Gilbert (Wiglesworth). She was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Delta Phi, and editor of the Kentucky Law Journal.
During World War II, Beta Chi, eager to serve on a campus where only ten percent of the student body consisted of civilian men, contributed its iron grille fence to the scrap metal drive. The Maxwell house was sold and the Delta Tau Delta house on Audubon Park was rented. During the war, men’s fraternities were vacant. Many Kappas, who were victims of gas rationing, thumbed their way in and out from the main campus. After the war, the house at 232 East Maxwell Street was bought and lived in for the next ten years.
The achievements of Beta Chi’s honored member, Sarah Blanding, who was the recipient of the Alumnae Achievement Award in 1947, are nationally known. However, perhaps only Beta Chis remember that she was honored as an undergraduate in 1922 by being unanimously elected to play Santa Claus for the annual Christmas party. Blanding Tower, as well as the low-rise Blanding I, II, III, and IV dormitories on the University of Kentucky’s campus, are named after Sarah Blanding.
Housing: In the 1950s, plans were developed for a chapter house, and lots were purchased. However, complications arose, and another house was bought---238 East Maxwell. By the fall of 1960, the chapter moved into the renovated mansion.
In the mid-1960s, The Key “visited” Beta Chi chapter at the University of Kentucky, and the word from university President John W. Oswald was, “The university is proud to have this Chapter on our campus.” He mentioned three Beta Chi alumnae who had recently been in the ranks of seven women to receive Distinguished Alumnae Centennial Awards. These three were Sarah Gibson Blanding, president emeritus of Vassar College; Nancy Duke Lewis, Dean of Pembroke College and Director of the National Merit Scholarship Program; and Mary E. Sweeny, noted home economist and former director of the American Economics Association. The Dean of Women at the time, who pronounced Beta Chi a “welcome asset,” was Doris M. Seward, a member of Delta Chapter.
The 1960s was a decade of unrest, a feeling of frustration, and wanting to do one’s own thing. No doubt because of Kappa’s fine heritage, Beta Chi made it through the 1960s and into a new decade where the pendulum seemed to be swinging back to sanity and peace once more.
Most of the previous information was excerpted from The History of Kappa Kappa Gamma Fraternity, 1870-1930 and The History of Kappa Kappa Gamma Fraternity, 1870-1976. The information that follows has been gleaned from available resources including Chapter History Reports, chapter meeting minutes, letters and comments from chapter members and alumnae, the Kappa Kappa Gamma Fraternity Archives, and The Key. Each chapter is expected to update its history record annually. Contact Fraternity Headquarters at [email protected] with questions
The Beta Chi Chapter in the 80’s found themselves working very hard to improve their scholarship and they were successful in bringing up their GPA to the top 3 on campus. They set a goal to have a more positive image on campus and did this by more campus participation, intramurals and joint philanthropies. In this era of the 80’s they also had a great deal of work done on the house with redecorating and adding more space to the House. They also had a new IBM XT computer installed that made Beta Chi the first chapter on campus to conduct finances, chapter information and house funds on a computer. Recruitment was successful with meeting quota or above every year. In an effort to improve participation, pledge retention and overall positive attitude, they instituted a program with 3 groups…the owls, keys and fleur de lis who attended events together, etc. This program worked well to improve attendance and sisterhood. In 1989 they celebrated their 80th anniversary with alumnae. They closed out the 80’s with continuing their quest for top 3 on campus in academics and participations in their own and other Greek philanthropies.
The Beta Chi Chapter in the 90’s pledged to continue their pursuit of academic excellence. The also continued the practice of dividing the chapter into Owls, Keys and Fleur de lis . At every campus event at least one of these groups is in attendance. They won many intramural events as well as other all campus events and philanthropies. At the 1990 KKG Convention they won first place in Ritual. They had song practice or Ritual facts every Monday at Chapter Meetings several of these years. The House Board continued to make improvements to the house. Their recruitments we were always successful meeting or exceeding quota with outstanding young women. They also found ways to interact with the Alumnae in the area with Founders Day, babysitting their children, having bridge ”dates”. The chapter supported their own philanthropy events as well as other Greek groups’ events contributing to the welfare of the campus and community.
Beta Chi started the 2000’s more dedicated than ever to participate in all Greek on-campus events and be supportive of all philanthropy fundraisers. Many years we faced lack of participation and lack of feelings of sisterhood. With help of LC’s, alumnae and strong Chapter Councils, we feel like our monthly sisterhood events and philanthropy events have brought the chapter closer. In 2006 the Chapter Council amended the by-laws requiring each Kappa to attend on IGPA event each semester. This helped make Kappa more involved on campus. This has also helped as we have larger and larger recruitment classes and it takes all of us to get the best pledge classes on campus…and we have! Emphasis is always placed on academics. In 2004 we were awarded a pizza party for earning the most A’s out of all the sororities on campus. That year we also raised $7800 at Kappasta for rehabilitation services. A Focus Letter in 2008 was a blessing in disguise as we took everything the LC and Fraternity suggested and improved our attendance and participation by improving the moral of the chapter. Our adviser relationships are stronger than ever. The letter was lifted in 2009 due to our hard work to improve. In 2010 our chapter celebrated it’s Centennial with a brunch with all alumni, a ball, lots of good food and Kappa memorabilia. In 2011, the campus of UK was designated as a unified Greek system. This new unity has involved having Greeks join together for different events such as hazing forums and campus security. They also had the first Greek Ball.
Chapter Convention Awards:
2002: House Board Honorable Mention, Finance Honorable Mention
2006: Gracious Living Honorable Mention, Signature Event Honorable Mention, RIF Honorable Mention, Risk Management Honorable Mention, Excellence in Chapter Honorable Mention
2010: Excellence in Chapter Management Award, Honorable Mention in Standards, Risk Management, Signature event, Rose McGill and Chapter/Advisory Board relations