Beta Mu Chapter was founded at University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado on April 5, 1901.
4,239 initiates (as of June 2018)
The frontier mining settlement of Boulder was still grazing land for wild game and hunting ground for the Arapahoe Indians when an act of the territorial legislature established the University of Colorado in 1861. It was not until 1877 that the university became a reality.
No state university could claim more humble beginnings. On the windswept plain of sage and buffalo grass a lone four-story brick structure rose incongruously to mark the campus. Two instructors, one of them the new presidents, and 44 students assembled that fall of 1877. It is significant that among the goals restated each year by that first class, none was more urgent than a sidewalk to town to escape the sea of mud. The goal was realized for the first Commencement.
Colorado has become a major university in a magnificent setting. Colorful sheer rock forms a backdrop for the buildings of Colorado sandstone in Italian Provincial architecture. "Old Main" still stands at the center.
By 1901 the campus had grown to a half dozen buildings, including a "Cottage Number One for Women, with Boarding Table". There were four national men's fraternities and two women's. A local group, the Althea Society, rejected by Kappa Kappa Gamma in an early petition, was inspired to two more years of work to meet requirements, and finally was so enthusiastically endorsed by the Denver Alumnae Association that the usual inspection by Grand Council was waived- the history of Beta Mu had begun.
On April 5, 1901, 19 young women in long woolen skirts walked to the tiny train station on the prairie, nearly swooning with excitement as the train pulled in, bringing members of Sigma. Kappa's grand secretary, May Whiting (Westermann), Sigma-Nebraska, was among the 20 who were to initiate Beta Mu's charter members.
It was a glorious occasion. The other campus Greeks had an afternoon reception, and there was a banquet at the Brown Palace in Denver. Initiation was at the home of Edith Delong (Jarmuth, Smith), a new member with a Pi Beta Phi mother. In 1974 a remarkable lady in Denver recalled clearly the events of the installation. Nettie Schwer Freed at 93 was Beta Mu's only living charter member. She was a two-year president of the early chapter, and continued all her life to bring honor to Beta Mu. Another initiate, (Mabel) Mae Carroll (Fry), first president, was to figure long and prominently in chapter history. First meetings were held in her room at the cottage, or at the Delong home, but by 1905 the chapter was able to rent a house at 1221 University Avenue, which was to be the Kappa house for nearly two decades.
Beta Mu's development paralleled that of the campus Panhellenic Society, founded in 1903 as a member of the National Panhellenic Congress. For a time it was possible to pledge in September and initiate in October; then pledges were required to pass the number of hours necessary to stay in school. Finally Kappa and other national sororities set their own requirements for initiation, in line with those established by the campus Panhellenic.
In 1914 Beta Mu was hostess to the general convention at Estes Park and Estelle Kyle (Kemp) was made grand registrar...later she became grand secretary and grand vice president and served as delegate to the National Panhellenic Congress.
Routine and traditions were swept away by World War I. Fraternity houses became barracks and coeds volunteered daily hours of work. By Commencement, 1918, all able-bodied men students had been called to arms and the class history was delivered for the first time by a woman, Beta Mu's Katherine Knisell (Cunningham).
Despite curtailed activities the chapter was to play a major part in Kappa expansion in the west helping with the installation of Gamma Beta in 1918. In time, Beta Mu played a part in the establishment of Gamma Omicron, Delta Zeta, Delta Eta, and Epsilon Beta Chapters.
Dreams of a permanent home began to take shape by 1920 when lots were purchased and plans made for the present house at 1134 University Avenue at a cost of $21,000. Mae Fry, at one time a member of the Colorado legislature, was president of the newly formed Building Committee, supervised house construction and furnishing, and continued her interest in the chapter for many years.
Others brought distinction at this time. Pattie Field was United States vice consul to the Netherlands (the second woman and the first from Colorado to be accepted in the diplomatic corps). Lucia Cassell Patton, illustrator, and Estelle Rust Dinwoodey, etcher, gained national recognition. Poet and scholar Irene McKeehan, Ph.D., was a distinguished professor of English at the University of Colorado for over 30 years. Boulder resident Margaret Read has had a long and eminent career as an architect and was the Fraternity architect when property in Florida became Kappa's Hearthstone in 1938.
Close to 75 per cent of Beta Mu's membership at this time was from Denver, the rest mainly from Colorado towns, providing a strong base in rush. Nearly every rush plan had been tried during Beta Mu's first 25 years and by the 1930s it had become a complicated system of summer parties and formal calls preceding the fall week of teas and dinners. Expensive decorations, costumes, and entertainment were required, and rivalry was bitter.
Increasing membership called for a house addition in 1939, a large recreation room which brought new informality to the Colonial structure. The Building Committee was now incorporated as the Beta Mu Building and Alumnae Association, and included dedicated Boulder alumnae (association chartered in 1937) among House Board officers.
In 1939 Dr. Robert L. Stearns became the University's sixth president and brought inspired leadership for 13 years. His Beta Mu family included wife (Amy Pitkin Stearns) and four daughters (Judith Stearns Caughey, Amy Stearns Goodell, Marion Stearns White, and Barbara Stearns Wooten). Dr. Stearns was keynote speaker at the 1940 Sun Valley Convention, and Beta Mu enjoyed one of its finest hours by winning the Standards Cup.
During World War II years Beta Mu instigated the equipping of all sorority houses as Red Cross relief stations, and limited social functions to buy war bonds. House decorations and Homecoming floats discarded in favor of patriotic decorations for the student union. To provide for the new Colorado University Navy schools an accelerated program was inaugurated. Students returned the end of October with a weekend for rush and the second day of classes for pledge day. Beta Mu sent gift boxes overseas and to Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver, and during the campus drive for supplies for war-torn Europeans, assembled the largest contribution.
In 1946 Nettie Schwer Freed, after long service as a county superintendent of schools, was, at 65, elected Colorado State superintendent of public instruction. She served until the age of 70 when she received a special citation from the governor.
During the 1940s Dorothy Martin, Ph.D., began a distinguished career, becoming professor and chairman of the Psychology Department. In 1962 she received the Robert L. Stearns medal for superior teaching and exceptional service to the university.
Enrollment had soared at the end of the war and Beta Mu membership changed to 49 per cent out-of-state girls. Numbers forced a simpler rush- ice water teas replaced elaborate entertaining. Panhellenic urged affiliation and chapters grew top-heavy with pledges. Increased officer and adviser vigilance were called for. A special upperclassman retreat for evaluation began then and became a tradition. It was a difficult period but the chapter learned the art of assimilation.
During this time the Fraternity Council acquired two more Beta Mus. Eleanore Goodrich Campbell served as director of Alumnae 1948-52; and director of membership 1952-56. Josephine Yantis Eberspacher was Fraternity vice president 1952-54.
By Spring, 1956, the chapter was back on top, winning both the campus and Denver area Panhellenic Scholarship Cups, with the highest average ever attained by an organized group at Colorado University. At the 1956 Convention, Beta Mu was runner-up for pledge training, and two years later won the top award. The 1956 Convention brought the chapter its finest honor: Eleanore Goodridge Campbell was named Fraternity president.
By now the chapter was providing room and board for its first foreign student, from Norway. Since then others from Sweden, Hungary, Austria, Finland, Germany, Greece, and the Netherlands have made Beta Mu their home for a year.
With two rented annexes space was needed again, and by the sale of debentures to alumnae, another additon was made possible. Once again the house board was commended. The dedicated Boulder advisers, the two alumnae groups, and the Mothers' Club have together met every need of the chapter. Alumnae are kept abreast of active news by the news sheet, the Beta Mews.
Beta Mu is versatile, represented always in class honoraries, campus productions and publications, and class and university offices. Four have been president of the Associated Women Students, four have been name outstanding senior woman. Prizes fill the trophy case, with grand prize for Homecoming house decorations three successive times. With 14 queens and attendants in one year, Kappa's yearbook page was titled "Home of Royalty."
Beta Mu won the first Fraternity Appreciation Award at the 1960 Convention. Another winner that year was Wilfreda Heald Lytle who received an Alumnae Achievement Award for her work in civil defense. Earlier she had been name outstanding woman of Delaware and had been a member of the state legislature. By now four Beta Mus had been graduate counselors: Elizabeth Irvin (Farris), Marjorie Cross (Bird), Elizabeth Nelson (Hutchinson), and Colleen Jacobsen (Voshall). Three had been field secretaries: Marjorie Cross (Bird), Ruth Wierman (Hamilton), and Judith Ann McCleary (Jones). Marj Bird has given outstanding service as scholarship chairman and worked as assistant to the director of chapters for advisers. Anna Mitchelle Hiett Pflugh is Fraternity chairman of the chapter public relations program, chairman of chapter newsletters, and active chapter editor of The Key.
In the face of ever crowded conditions a final house addition was made in 1962 which included 19 double bedrooms. Eighty-two members could now be provided for.
The changing climate of the 1960s was by now apparent and such factors as the war in Vietnam, the new student life style, and the end of restrictions on university housing combined to create the chapter's greatest challenge. Within five years a decrease in chapter membership had created a house maintenance problem.
Since 1960 the Denver Alumnae Association has given an annual $500 graduate fellowship in honor of "Goodie" Campbell. Recently the association has donated $1,000 to the philanthropy program for undergraduate scholarships, in honor of Marion Smith Bishop, a Beta Mu with a long-time record of devoted service.
In 1968 Phyllis Brinton Pryor was elected vice president. She became Kappa's delegate to National Panhellenic Conference in 1971. She was the first recipient of the Denver Area's Panhellenic Woman of the Year Award for community and fraternity service. Nan Kretschmer Boyer served during that period as Kappa's extension chairman, was nominating chairman 1974, and is currently Fraternity Ritualist.
Recent years have brought recognition to such Denver-based Beta Mus as Jean Knight Bain who completed 12 years in the Colorado House of Representatives. She was succeeded in office in 1972 by Carol Packard Tempest, another Beta Mu. At Homecoming that year Besse Low Ireland, 50 year member, and her husband, Clarence L. Ireland, received an Alumnae Recognition Award for loyalty and service - the only couple ever to receive this honor. Their daughter, Betty Ireland Naugle, had earlier received the same award for her years on the Board of Trustees of Colorado State colleges. Another daughter, Edith Ireland Morris, is also a Beta Mu.
Despite the financial problems of a large house, the immediate future is bright. Renewed interest and fast increasing membership may signal a swing back to fraternity and the obvious advantages of congenial group living. A new unity and spirit pervades the chapter, and once again actives and alumnae share common goals of excellence.
The 1980”s found Beta Mu active on campus as well as enjoying each other’s company. The “preppy’ look was in, with corduroy pants, espadrilles and Izod shirts with the collars up. Saturday Night Live was popular on television as well as General Hospital. Landline phones were still in use and members who did not have phone service in their room would have to use the pay phone. The Beta Mu sun deck was often in use during warmer times of the year.
In the early part of the decade, the chapter faced some academic difficulties. With help from the Fraternity, the chapter was able to re-focus and move forward. Additionally, several chapter members dealt with anorexia and bulimia issues. In the latter part of the decade, Beta Mu and the entire Colorado University campus struggled with the effects of alcohol abuse. When a young woman died after attending a party hosted by Beta Mu and Kappa Alpha Theta, the Fraternity felt it necessary to place Beta Mu on probation for not properly following risk management guidelines.
Greek life continued to thrive at CU throughout the 80’s with the Greek groups participating in Songfest and each other’s philanthropies. The campus was active politically, with many Kappas making their voices heard on a variety of issues. The city of Boulder offered much to the students at CU, such as hiking at Chautauqua, skiing or snowboarding, and the Polar Bear plunge at Boulder Reservoir.
The 1990’s saw Beta Mu continue to do an outstanding job with recruitment. In 1992 the chapter was 170 members strong, with members from 30 different states. The new member classes hosted their annual Chili con Kappa events and the chapter held their very successful Kick for Craig soccer tournaments for the benefit of Craig Rehabilitation Hospital. Other philanthropic events included their annual Easter Egg Hunt, the Chinook Clubhouse Frisbee Tournament and the Race for the Cure.
A number of Beta Mu members were able to attend the Something of Value program, hosted by the Greek community at CU. This program helped participants clarify their personal values and the values of the organizations to which they belonged. The chapter also was responsible for helping the Greek community to understand the risk management necessary to have a safe social event.
Throughout the decade the chapter held numerous sisterhood events, including a Kappa Career Workshop, house appreciation dinner, and a chapter retreat at the YMCA Snow Mountain Lodge. These events served to remind the members how important it is to care for each other and enjoy each other’s company.