Gamma Epsilon Chapter was founded at the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on February 21, 1919.
1,717 initiates (as of June 2018)
The University of Pittsburgh was chartered in 1787 as the Pittsburgh Academy. It became Western University of Pennsylvania in 1819, and in 1908 was named the University of Pittsburgh. The Cathedral of Learning, focal point of the university, is a 42 story building occupying two acres. It contains the famed Commons Room, which is modeled after an English castle great hall, and the nationality classrooms, which are furnished with materials and decorations from the respective countries. The nationalities represented are those to be found in the make-up of the diverse people who built Pittsburgh.
Gamma Epsilon Chapter received its charter in 1919 and since then has stood continuity and innovative change in fraternity life at the University of Pittsburgh. A Panhellenic first in housing is listed among the innovative changes.
Epsilon Rho Omicron was formed February 22, 1916 with the purpose of petitioning Kappa Kappa Gamma for membership. On February, 1919, this dream came true when Grand President Lydia Voris Kolbe, Akron, conducted installation ceremonies for the fifteen charter members.
Home for Epsilon Rho Omicron had been a room in Carnegie Library, or a member’s house. As Kappas, meetings were held in Heinz House which is a building given by H.J. Heinz as a place of recreation for women of the university. In 1921 Kappas shared their first house at 4633 Center Avenue with the Chi Omegas. Neither could have managed alone. Gamma Epsilon moved into its first home, 272 Bellefield Avenue, on May 13, 1922.
The chapter loved this house but soon knew it needed a larger one, so in 1929 a move was make to 401 Neville Street, next door to the Theta chapter. These were happy years, but as the chapter continued to grow, the desire grew to own a house. The fall of 1938 found the group at 165 North Dithridge Street, a house that was bought later. The move was celebrated with a party for all Greeks on the campus and a visit from Grand President Elizabeth Bogert Schofield, Butler. All the women’s fraternity houses at Pitt were also student houses. There were many commuters and not enough Kappas living on campus to fill the house. Any woman student who was approved by the dean of women could live there. It was not until the 1959-60 school year that the house became all Kappa. By the time the mortgage burning celebration had been held for the house which twenty years before had been described as “the most beautifully decorated woman’s fraternity house on campus” and the future looked promising.
A bitter blow was struck in 1959. The university condemned the third floors of all the women’s houses as unsuitable for occupancy because of fire code violations. This made operation of the houses economically unsound. An so began the story of the building of the present Kappa house at 4401 Bayard Street, which is also the Kappa Alpha Theta house on Bellfield.
The first meeting of the Pittsburgh Kappas and Thetas took place at the suggestion of Executive Secretary Clara O. Pierce, Ohio State, on April 14, 1959. The decision of bother groups was that they did not want to move their chapters into the dormitory suites offered by the university so they chose to build together.
What seemed like hundreds of meetings later, money was raised by a joint Building Fund Committee. A Building Committee met with architects, builders and lawyers and the informal partnership became legal, establishing a Theta-Kappa Board of Management. Selling the Kappa house and tearing down the Theta house enable the cornerstone to be laid in January, 1964. On September 8, 1964, the two chapters moved into “their house.” It marked a Panhellenic first: the housing of two fraternity chapters in one building, financed by monies given by alumnae and actives of the two groups from all over the world.
The Kappa – Theta duplex provides identical, but separate units. Each unit contains a living room, chapter room – dining room, kitchen, ten bedrooms which house twenty girls, a house director’s room and bath, the usual storage rooms, powder rooms and bathrooms. The chapters share a central fire tower which separates one unit from the other, as well as the mechanical rooms, laundry rooms, sunken patio, roof, and driveway. Inside, except for the size, the rooms bear no resemblance to one another, for each group decorates according to its own wishes. From the outside the pink brick building has a “town house” appearance. The house’s rectangular shape and the corner lot enabled the Thetas to retain the old Bellfield address, while the Kappa entrance is on Bayard Street.
Even Dedication Day, October 4, 1964, was a joint Kappa – Theta affair, with each fraternity holding its own service, and then joining with an open house for all fraternity and university friends. Now, more than ten years later Kappas and Thetas continue to live happily in “their house”.
Through the years Gamma Epsilon have striven to maintain a chapter of which the Fraternity could be proud. There are members of Phi Beta Kappa, Mortar Board, Cwens, and many other honorary fraternities. Gamma Epsilon members have word the Homecoming Queen often, have been fraternity sweethearts many times, have been elected Senior Queen, and have served as president of the Women’s Self Government Association, Student Congress and Panhellenic members. Many editors of student publications have been Gamma Epsilons. Pitt’s Hall of Fame lists many Kappas, and each ear it is evident that Kappa keys are worn by student leaders. The chapter has taken first place in Greek Week, Greek Sing, and Homecoming, as well as other events. Gamma Epsilon has won both Fraternity and Beta Province awards for program and scholarship, including the Fraternity Finance Award and the Province Royalty Award.
Visits of Fraternity officers through the years have highlighted chapter meetings. A tea was given in honor of Helena Flinn Ege, Gamma Epsilon’s own charter member and former chapter president, when she became Fraternity president in 1948. Excitement, joy, and pride on such festive occasions were happily recorded.
The shape of the times is evident in the yearly chapter histories. They tell of banquets in the 1920s in the Schenley Hotel and the custom of making toasts. Members sold Fab soap to earn money to wallpaper a room. An influenza epidemic in 1928 forced cancellation of a formal dance. They tell of The Doll Cabaret used during rushing in 1929 when rushees were given French dolls to make and stuff by Kappas. Today owls are made for rushes.
The Kappa sponsored Sychor Club at Penn State, assisted in the installation of Delta Alpha in 1930 and in 1931, agonized over the Panhellenic ruling of “rushing without men.” The Gamma Epsilons purchased a baby grand piano in 1932, installing the first payphone in 1933, and christened it with a bottle of Coke.
The first annual Kappa –Delt reception for faculty took place in 1941. The Kappas sold Defense Bonds in 1942 and worked on benefit committees to earn money for the dean of women’s 12th floor. On its 25th anniversary in February, 1944, Gamma Epsilon helped install Delta Xi Chapter at Carnegie Institute of Technology (renamed Carnegie Mellon University in 1967). Chapter members attended the installation of Delta Phi Chapter at Bucknell University in 1948.
Pitt adjusted to the trimester plan in 1959 and the KKΓs lived in the dormitory suite while their house was being built in 1963. They rejoiced because the chapter limit was raised from 30 to 50 members and watched the demise of women’s self government and the establishment of student government.
Gamma Epsilon hosed Beta Province Convention in 1969 and celebrated Gamma Epsilon’s 50th anniversary at the same time, saying “thank you” to the wonderful alumnae who worked with the chapter as advisers and house board members through the years.
A Kappa was selected as the first Pitt Woman in 1972 and there was pride in the fact that the chapter president of 1969-1970, Patrica Nealon, was chosen to be a graduate counselor. Women students are important in the life of the university today, although it was not until 1895 that Pitt became coeducational. Today women are admitted to every school, and Gamma Epsilon members are currently enrolled in the schools of medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, and law, in addition to those working for undergraduate and other graduate degrees. Today women are members of the faculty, administration, and even Board of Trustees. In 1971 for the first time, a member of the student body was appointed to the University’s Board of Trustees. The student was a woman, a member of Gamma Epsilon. It is the hope of the chapter that it will continue to contribute much to the University of Pittsburgh, and that it will continue to instill into the lives of its members the high standards of Kappa Kappa Gamma.
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.
Housing: Paid off their mortgage in 1989
Chapter Convention Awards:
After looking through the chapter scrapbooks, it was obvious that the members loved spandex, big hair, and bright colors, specifically neon, and denim. Ronald Regan was elected president in 1980, and the chapter participated by campaigning as a sisterhood together.
In 1991, Gamma Epsilon became more recognized on campus by having four executives on Greek Week committee. High campus involvement continued after a sister was attacked in a campus building. The sisters ensured that campus was a safe place for studying and living with the help of Student Government to institute a shuttle and escort system. Sisters participated with MTV and their campaign “Rock the Vote” to get more students to vote.
Housing: 30-years after the house was built, each room received a facelift and the kitchen was renovated.
Philanthropy: Every year, the sisters of Gamma Epsilon volunteered at a Halloween party benefiting the Children’s Hospital. They also worked for several years to gain the Cathedral Award through being involved in volunteer activities.
In remembrance of the one year anniversary of September 11th, sisters attended a ceremony wearing their letters to show chapter support. The chapter continued to show a strong presence on University of Pittburgh’s campus through having a high GPA and in 2010, they were awarded External Relations Award at the Cathedral Awards.
Housing: In 2006, Gamma Epsilon bought the other half of their house and moved in. After an initial struggle of filling the house, the women were excited to have the whole house to themselves. To help in the housing transition, for Founders Day each sister created a quilt square that included chapter memories and inspiring quotes about sisterhood.
Philanthropy: In 2009, Gamma Epsilon continued to hold many philanthropy events including Bowl-a-thon.
Convention Awards: 2002 Risk Management Award 2006 Greatest Scholarship Improvement Honorable Mention 2006 House Board Award 2006 Panhellenic Honorable Mention
In the spring our chapter participated in Greek Sing with Pi Kappa Alpha, although we did not place in the competition. Our chapter did succeed however in winning a week-long philanthropy event in April, Derby Days, which was hosted by Sigma Chi. As a result of this win, our chapter received a trophy in recognition for our efforts and a donation to a charity of our choice. Additionally, we received the Gracious Living Award from Nationals in June, while our Vice President of Standards attended the convention. Also in June, our house underwent renovations that resulted in improved conditions in two dorm quadrants of the building and our study room.
In September, our chapter sponsored a member's mother's artwork exhibit titled "Portraits of Lupus" by raising money through a Lunch Box Auction with members of Delta Tau Delta. Our chapter participated in a second Lunch Box Auction with the fraternity in November. Our chapter also raised money for the charities which we support through our annual Hot Dog Days. This year, we raised more money than we have ever raised in the past. In terms of campus-wide events, our chapter had many members participate in Pitt Make a Difference Day. In terms of nation-wide events, our chapter witnessed the fall 2012 election resulting in the re-election of President Obama.
There have been a variety of changes this year on campus. The first of which was a series of bomb threats targeted at various university buildings. The threats began in February and persisted through April. Members of our chapter were forced to evacuate their classrooms multiple times per week. The threats were both a nuisance but also a legitiate concern to many of our sisters. The person responsible for these threats was eventually identified by the FBI and resulted in an arrest. Students on campus were relieved of the burden of having their belongings searched before entering classrooms when they returned to campus in the fall. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett came to campus this past spring as well to explain the severe budget cuts that higher education will face (including Pitt). Some positive changes on campus included a new football coach, who coincidentally is one of our newer sister's father. The university is also in the process of building a new dorm building for freshmen that wil be complete this spring.
Awards: Cathedral Standards of Excellence Risk Management Award
Special Events: Trip to Pittsburgh Zoo, "Welcome to the Sweet Life" Bid Day Celebration, Trip to Soergel's Orchard
Traditions: Dean's List Celebrations, Chapter Dinners, Founder's Day Celebration, Sister of the Week, Smart Cookies (sweets awarded weekly to sisters who have received an outstanding grade or employment/internship), Participation in Greek Sing and Pitt Dance Marathon
Philanthropic Involvement: Lunchbox Auction (fraternities bid for meals prepared by the sisters) and the Kappa Spelling Bee to benefit Reading Is Fundamental, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and Kappa Kappa Gamma Foundation; Participated in Pitt Make A Difference Day; Kappa Dog Days (sold hot dogs) to benefit Children's Miracle Network, Volunteer at Boys and Girls Club
Our chapter has grown substantially as a result of taking 33 new members during Fall '14 Recruitment. We're very excited about the diversity, creativity, and leadership experience these girls have brought to our chapter.
The chapter owns a house on Bayard Street which we acquired in full in 2006. Our chapter-owned house is occupied by approx. 35 sisters and a house mom. It is a 3-story building with a study room, TV room, dining room, formal room, and two kitchens. Our cook prepares meals for the sisters who live in on most days of the week.
Historical Badge: This badge is traditionally and currently worn by the chapter president. It once belonged to Olive Phillips, born 4/15/1815 and deceased 4/01/1915. Olive was initiated into the Rho Deuteron Chapter (Ohio Wesleyen) and as an "honorary" member.
Awards: Cathedral Standards of Excellence Risk Management Award
Special Events: Sapphire Ball, Mardi Gras Bid Day Celebration, Trip to Soergel's Orchard, Alien Invasion Greek Sing Theme, Movie night bonding event with Tri Sigma, Holiday Decorating Party
Traditions: Dean's List Celebrations, Chapter Dinners, Founder's Day Celebration, Supportive Sister of the Week, Smart Cookies (sweets awarded weekly to sisters who have received an outstanding grade or employment/internship), Parent's Brunch
Philanthropic Involvement: Participated in Pitt Dance Marathon and Pitt Make a Difference Day, Lunchbox Auction (fraternities bid for meals prepared by the sisters), hosted Kappa Dog Days (hotdog stand and block party), and volunteered to read to and play with children from the Boys and Girls Club. We support Reading Is Fundamental, Kappa Kappa Gamma Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Children's Miracle Network, and participate in numerous philanthropic events of other organizations.
A huge change that we had to adjust to was deferred recruitment. I order to switch from fall to spring, we had a formal recruitment in the fall for sophomores and ware gearing up for another one in January for freshman. This created a lot of extra work and innovation for our chapter as we had to make many adjustments to our schedule, housing, and budget. Additionally, changes were made to the housing board staff, we gained 10 new members in the fall, and we integrated the GYN system into our chapter to track study hours and maintain an accessible calendar.
This year, Gamma Epsilon had their first formal spring recruitment and informal fall recruitment. This past calender year we gained Spring 2016 and Fall 2016, making wonderful additions to our chapter. We received an award for parent and alumni engagement in Cathedral Standards of Excellence, as well as a Standards award at the Kappa convention. We had several successful sisterhood events; in October, we went to Sorgels, the local pumpkin patch, and in December, we had a holiday event where we decorated the house for the holidays and decorated cookies.
We participated in several philanthropy events hosted by other sororities and fraternities; we won Pi Kappa Alpha's wiffleball tournament, which raised money for one of their brothers that was diagnosed with Leukemia. We also placed first in Tri Sigma's Twister event, which raised money for their philanthropy. Our chapter has also focused a lot on enhancing our leadership skills. In order to improve on this, one of our upcoming Chapter Council members volunteered to participate in a Greek leadership academy, which taught Greek members how to be a supportive member, a strong leader, and handle conflict.
This year, our chapter really focused on trying to become more involved both in our Greek comminuty and on our campus with other non-greek organizations. One way we showed a great deal of support for greek life was by participating in the University of Pittsburgh's annual Pitt Dance Marathon. There, we had seventeen of our sisters raised over one hundred dollars each for Children's Miracle Network by either participating as a dancer (participants who stood and danced for the full sixteen hours) or dreamers (participants who remained active for eight hours). Through this, our sisters spent the day dancing and raising money with other greek organizations in order to raise money for the kids. Gamma Epsilon also wanted to support other clubs outside of the greek community, and one way we achieved this goal was by supporting one of Pitts improvisation clubs, Rukus. We collaborated with Rukus in order to support the arts and raise money for the club by sending almost half of our chapter to watch one of their performances and provide them with monetary contributions, part of which they donated to us to help support our philanthropy.
The year has brought many fabulous events for Gamma Epsilon and they are as follows by each month:
January World EventsInauguration of President Donald Trump Kappa Events: Successful Formal Recruitment, Bid Day (welcomed 39 new members, biggest pledge class yet)
February World Events: Super Bowl between the New England Patriots & the Atlanta Falcons with the Patriots winning, annual Stadium Series Penguins vs. Flyers hockey game with the Pittsburgh Penguins winning Kappa Events: BIG MONTH IN THE WORLD OF KAPPA! successful Big/Little Reveal, annual Date Skate, participation in Sigma Chi Wrap-Up philanthropy event, Valentine’s Day bake sale with Delta Chi, Dean’s List Lunch composites, Initiation of all the new members, 2 sisters participated for the Steel City Step Show for the second year in a row
March World Events: Celebrated St. Patrick’s Day and the beginning of warm weather FINALLY Kappa Events: Greek Week, partnered with Pike for this year’s Lunchbox Auction and raised $828
April Kappa Events: Senior Recognition Night, Bed Time Story themed Greek Sing with our partners Pi Kappa Phi, AEPi, and ZBT, participated in many panel events such as Delta Zeta’s soccer tournament and Pike’s volleyball tournament, annual PDM, Senior Date Party
September World Events: Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, heat wave in Pittsburgh Kappa Events: Apple Picking, Dog Days (raised $600)
October World Events: Las Vegas Shooting Kappa Events: Founder’s Day, Soergels Trip, KD Shamrock Powder Puff, sisters participating in Donut Dash, PMADD, Delta Chi Haunted House
November Kappa Events: DIY Box with ATO, Dinner with ADPi, Formal, slate nominations & voting
December Kappa Events: election of new Executive Board, Leadership Day
Awards: Risk Management
Special Events: Olympics themed Bid Day Celebration, Date Skate, Senior Date Party, Sapphire Ball, Trip to Soergel's Orchard
Traditions: Dean's List Celebrations, Chapter Dinners, Founder's Day Celebration, Sister of the Week, Smart Cookies, Participation in Greek Sing, Pitt Dance Marathon
Philanthropic Involvement: Lunchbox Auction, Participated in Pitt Make A Difference Day, Kappa Dog Days to benefit Children's Miracle Network, Volunteered at Boys and Girls Club, Sigma Chi Wrap-Up, Derby Days, Support Reading is Fundamental & the Kappa Kappa Gamma Foundation
Campus Events: Our chapter has grown by about 50% as a result of taking 39 new members during Spring '17 Recruitment. We're very excited about the what they will all individually bring to the chapter and the friendships and connections they will make along the way.