Beta Theta Chapter was founded at University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma in 1914.
4,242 initiates (as of June 2018)
In 1912 six girls at the University of Oklahoma formed a local organization, Sigma Tau Omega, with the idea of petitioning Kappa Kappa Gamma. Other campus groups had petitioned unsuccessfully, but these girls had a quiet determination, and by the spring of 1913 were ready to reveal their plans. With the help of three faculty wives who had resigned as patronesses of other sororities, five leather-bound petitions were compiled; a Kappa national officer, Mary Rodes Leaphart, inspected the chapter; and at the 1914 Convention in Estes Park, Colorado, Beta Theta was installed. Beta Mu was the installing chapter.
The new chapter, having first rented the home of a professor on leave of absence, moved into a larger house in 1915. During the World War 1 years members of the chapter did Red Cross hospital work; worked at the Food Administration whose headquarters were at the university; and sent gifts and money to the Kappa project in France.
In 1918, the chapter won the Panhellenic Scholarship Cup for the third consecutive year. Shortly after that the Kappa furnace blew up and other Greek groups invited the Kappas to meals until the house was restored. A few years later, after a four-year rental of the old Sigma Nu house, a new Kappa house was built at 519 Boulevard. From 1923 to 1939 that was Beta Theta’s address.
In the fall of 1926 the chapter was cited for a rush violation, but the penalties imposed by the campus Panhellenic were declared unjust by the national Panhellenic, and reduced to a single restriction – that the Kappas should not be permitted to attend any Fraternity affairs for one year.
There was much controversy about cigarette smoking in 1928 and Beta Theta went into action with the first university approved smoking room. Other houses followed quickly.
The Hoover-Smith presidential race brought excitement to the Kappa Kitchen and Herbert Hoover, who had been a KKB, was officially invited by the Kappa Kitchen Boys to become an honorary Beta Theta KKB. The chapter was host to a smashingly successful state convention in the spring of 1929, its purpose to arouse alumnae support. A large pledge class of 37 in the fall of 1929 meant remodeling the third floor of the house, lovingly called thereafter “Seventh Heaven.”
Many girls could not return to school during the Depression, but Beta Theta continued to pledge in the high 20s. Some traditions begun in the 1920s have lasted. Faculty tea became faculty dessert in 1970. Kappas won campus stunt night time and again. The first two Engineer Queens were Kappas and there have been many winners since. Homecomings, Moms Day and Dads Day began in the 1920s.
In 1932 a new kind of rush, the party system, was adopted and the Kappa Monte Carlo Party was the best of all. In 1932 the dean ordered no more walkouts. (In the early 1970s the Greeks were having their own walkouts with Panhellenic approval and guidelines.) Walkouts are similar to class sneaks…a bus is rented and a cabin in the country or at a lake is the destination for a weekend of fraternity lore, group closeness, and song composition, both serious and foolish.
The social life of 1934 had the added attraction of an evening with the university president, his wife, and his mother, and two evenings with the dean of women. For the first year the chapter dance was held outside the chapter house.
The chapter newsletter, A Peek in Beta Theta’s Keyhole, was started in 1935, and was first a fortnightly, now an annual publication. Blind Dates for pledges were started in 1935, a custom which has varied from actual dates nightly for several consecutive nights to several 30-minute mixers in an evening. Blind Dates live on! The excitement of 1936 was placing third in a radio sorority singing contest. Another highlight of the year was planning a new chapter house. Kappa architect Margaret Read, Colorado, helped local architects, and in 1939 the Kappas moved into a new house. Although there would be an addition and occasional redecorating, this was to remain the chapter house for years to come.
The talk of the entire campus in the spring of 1939 was the fact that singer Jeannette McDonald had stayed in the Kappa house when she came to Norman for a concert.
With the 1940s came World War II. There was a naval base in Norman and Kappa philanthropic activities were centered there. It was a time of entertainment at the Naval hospital, of blind dates with cadets, open houses, and present-filled Christmas stockings. Knitting for the Red Cross was part of the war effort.
Frontier Week highlighted the 1945-1946 school year. Everyone wore blue jeans to class. Second semester started with a bang…a dance…and the boys were back on campus!
Beta Theta was proud in 1947 when it helped install Delta Sigma Chapter at Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University). The scholarship point system was inaugurated and members without a certain number of points could not vote. A scholarship fund was started and each girl donated $1 for a student in financial need. Beta Theta won the Panhellenic Scholarship Cup seven times between 1947 and 1953.
A change in chapter organization took place in 1948, when the standards chairman became the vice-president. This was also a big football year at the university. A listening party, that is a party held in an especially decorated basement of “rec” room to listen to an out-of-town game, was a happy event. In 1948 the Oklahoma Sooners smashed North Carolina in the Sugar Bowl as many Kappa listeners cheered the Big Red team.
By 1950 the university carnival had become the Sooner Scandals. Competing acts satirized university life, and Kappa Doll House took first place. Being first was not news…there is a long-standing tradition of leadership in the chapter. In 1951 one girl stands out: Nadine Nortan (Holloway) was elected president of the Senior Class – an honor for her and for Kappa.
In 1952 Beta Theta received the Standards Cup at Convention and in 1955 the silver service of the highest average at Kappa’s State Day. Kappas won second place at the Sooner Scandals in 1956, and seven intramural trophies in 1958-1959. That year several bedrooms, an enlarged dining room, and a remodeled kitchen helped care for a growing number of Beta Thetas.
In the 1960s Homecoming was full of excitement. Not only were there queens, there were extravagant house decorations. One was a huge, revolving, musical birthday cake. When a Daily Oklahoman photographer asked to have the cake’s motor turned off so he could snap a picture, he was surprised to see it stop on its own, a move inspired by the 20 Sigma Alpha Epsilon pledges and 10 Kappa actives inside the cake!
Three annual dances of the 1960s were the Barbeque, the Christmas Formal, and the Monmouth Duo with the Pi Beta Phis. This started in 1960 as the annual spring party. The annual philanthropy became a Christmas party for mission children which was given with Delta Upsilon. There was much social activity among the Greeks: the Chi Omega pizza party (which became an annual Owl-o-ween celebration) and dinner exchanges. Greek Week was exciting, with exchanges, Greek Games, and awards banquet.
In 1963 lending a hand to neighbors became a social affair. Early that fall the ΣΑΕ house next door burned nearly to the ground and the Kappas did the neighborly thing and invited the guys-next-door to lunch. Kappas made lovely houseboys!
The campus turned in the 1960s to philanthropic involvement through Campus Chest. The chapter was cited several times for the best booth, and in 1964 the pledges’ marriage cave within a mountain took the honors. Having fun while helping others is one matter; there was also fun for fun’s sake. Fraternities developed contests for the afternoons of big spring parties and all sororities took part. Egg hunts (raw eggs); tricycle relays, pie-eating, tugs of war, pillow fights over mud pits, and later, beer-drinking contests were just a few. Nearly all involved slime and grime for the contestants. Kappas often won a muddy prize. It was all in fun!
Cars on the campus were growing in number and there was a parking problem, so in 1962 a parking lot was finished behind the house. After a “lot warming” members of Beta Theta Pi decided to share this wonderful facility. Finally the problem was remedied with a fence, a guard, and a few towed-away cars. The Kappa lot was called the meanest and most exclusive on campus!
In 1960 a record-breaking class of 53 was pledged. These were days of Panhellenic concern over scholarship and girls were required to stay in their rooms studying, with no talking, no music, no television, for nearly every hour they were not in class. Such campusing lasted for one week before finals.
A landmark year was 1964-1965, Beta Theta’s 50th Anniversary. There was a splendid banquet with all the remaining founders as guests of honor. The program telling of the chapter’s founding stirred pride in everyone there.
It was quite a year. One dark, stormy night there was a two-hour power failure and word came by special messenger that the chapter had won the Kappa Sigma trophy for “Sorority of the Year.” Everyone gathered for a spirit session with songs and cheering despite the storm.
A young Kappa made history in 1965 for the University of Oklahoma, as well as for her chapter. Vicki Gotcher was elected the second woman Student Senate president in the country. She was the first woman president at Oklahoma.
And so, the 1960s rolled along, the chapter continued in campus leadership; social events crowded study time; scholarship awards were won, with more Kappas in Mortar Board and honoraries than any other group. One year the presidents of three major honoraries were all Beta Thetas.
The Centennial Year of the Fraternity was entered into with pride as Beta Theta alumnae, old and young, joined actives for a banquet and heritage program. Those new to Kappa were awakened to the knowledge that they stood on the threshold of a second century with the challenge of making the second one hundred years as outstanding as the first.
The previous information was excerpted from 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.
While a students in the 1970s mostly wore straight leg Levi’s or bell-bottomed blue jeans to class, the women of Beta Theta chapter wore dresses to dinner two nights a week. It was a time when participation in the Greek system had declined in popularity, and chapter members rarely wore a Kappa T-shirt on camps, because professors were prone to discriminate against sorority and fraternity members. The houses were smaller and chapter members worked hard to prove themselves academically, on campus and in the community.
New members had to achieve a minimum 2.5 grade point average in their first semester in order to qualify for initiation, and Kappas participated in campus events like Homecoming, Sooner Scandals, the University Sing and intramurals. Kappas supported the Norman community with Head Start, and cheered on the Sooner football team, which was at its pinnacle during the mid 1970s, when Barry Switzer and his Wishbone offense winning two national championships back to back. Games were usually won in the first quarter, so Kappas would retreat early to the Kappa house to enjoy a post-game spread of delicious snacks, often with family and friends.
For the women of Beta Theta in the 1980s, the height of fashion meant Mopeds, madras, Cole Haan loafers, Laura Ashley, topsiders, big T-shirts or sweatshirts, and white Keds with bows in their hair. There were protests against the Shah of Iran in south oval, and members remember watching the first Space Shuttle Mission land from the television in the six-girl room.
Kappas were regularly first academically, and took on many leadership roles on campus, serving as Panhellenic presidents and cheerleaders, and one Kappa was even a Miss Oklahoma.
The chapter purchased the annex (the little house right behind the chapter house) to accommodate overflow, and it became a home for seniors. All chapter members were expected to live in the house for three years, as a sophomore, junior and senior. There was one formal meal a month with the chapter’s house mom, where the chapter members could learn formal manners.
There were many events with fraternities, and Pinnings were celebrated a lot: if a fraternity brother was dating someone seriously, he would pin her with his fraternity pin, a candle would be lit, and then he would be thrown into the duck pond by his fraternity brothers. Another popular event was Fraternity Lil Sis – when a fraternity would pick girls to be their “Lil Sis’s”. They’d come to the Kappa house during formal dinner in coat and tie, give a chosen girl a rose, and then serenade them.
Football continued to be big on campus, as the university continued to be national champs, and Brian Bosworth was the big man on campus.
In the 1990s, chapter members bobbed their hair, donned big hoop earrings and wore flowery skirts and dresses from Laura Ashley as they listened to Bon Jovi.
All the fraternities and sororities worked on becoming more diverse, a trend the chapter also followed. Kappas were awarded Outstanding Senior Women, and served as Panhellenic president.
The members of Beta Theta chapter continued to be a strong and very active presence on campus and beyond during the 2000s. Recruitment ranged from 60 to 80 new members per year, and the chapter consistently ranked in the top half of that all sorority GPA. The chapter led the Greek system in campus involvement. They participated in University Sing, regularly winning awards for their performance, competed in Sooner Scandals where they regularly won awards, and many chapter women served on Campus Activities Council Executive Committees.
Beta Theta actively supported philanthropies at other fraternity and sororities, and hosted two key philanthropy events each year. The Kappa Klassic annual golf tournament raised money for the JD McCarty Center in Norman, and the annual spaghetti dinner fundraiser raised money for the Rose McGill Fund. Beta Theta also rang bells for Salvation Army donation buckets at Christmas, volunteered at Oklahoma University gymnastics meets, and participated in blood drives and Big Event, a campus-wide community service project. Other highlights included building a Habitat for Humanity home for a Norman family, and reading bedtime stories to young children with developmental disabilities as part of the Fairy Tale Friends program at the JD McCarty Center.
There were several improvements to the house, which was always filled to the brim with Kappas. In 2007, alumnae donated a new building called Kappa Hall, which is used for chapter meetings, practice, banquets, and parents’ weekend, among other things. In 2008, new wood floors were laid in the upstairs hallway, the study room was completely redone, the dining room chairs reupholstered, and the walls repainted. In 2009, the house got a new heating and air conditioning system, a new sound system for recruitment, and a new ice cream machine. And in 2010, there were new wood floors.
Beta Theta hosted two events for alumnae and their children every year: a spring Easter egg hunt, and Halloween trick or treating at the Kappa House.
Chapter women were awarded Outstanding Sophomore, Big Woman on Campus and Homecoming Queen in 2004, and there was a homecoming queen finalist in 2005, 2006, and 2007. In 2007, there was also a runner up in the Lambda Chi Alpha rose pageant, and in 2008 a Miss Oklahoma University pageant runner up. There were also Lambda Chi Alpha rose pageant winners in 2008 and 2009.