Beta Gamma Chapter was founded at University of Wooster (now College of Wooster) in Wooster, Ohio on May 15, 1876. The chapter closed on February 14, 1914. Initially, the fraternity custom was to name a new chapter after a closed one, so that all 24 letters of the Greek alphabet were always in use. Because of this custom, the Chapter is called simply Gamma in early records. This practice ended in 1890 when Convention delegates voted to affix Beta to the name of a chapter to indicate it was the second and to affix Gamma on the second round, then Delta, and so on. The chapter at Wooster was the second chapter to be known as Gamma and, after 1890, it became known as Beta Gamma.
On March 1, 1913, Winona Hughes, dean of women at Wooster, wrote to Eva Powell, UC Berkeley, Fraternity Grand President, “… they (the Beta Gammas) have been large spirited and loyal, generous and absolutely lady-like, during the whole affair, and I am proud of them.” Dean Hughes was a Wooster member herself, and she had put in some difficult days. The letter was the least she could do.
The final chapter letter to The Key appeared in the May, 1913 issue. By then it was too late for an emotional outpouring, so it merely stated: “The result (on the fraternity question) was anything but gratifying… we have been having little social gatherings… the new initiates gave us a most clever little play…” The seven new initiates had caused a severe penalty. A doomed chapter is usually allowed to die slowly, carrying on without new members until all old ones are graduated, and all fraternities at Wooster were doomed. (“In order to retain the support of one of Wooster’s best friends who is not in sympathy with fraternities, the faculty asked us all to give up our charter.” The Key, February, 1913) On Domesday, February 14, 1913, Beta Gamma, the Pi Beta Phi and Kappa Alpha Theta chapters, also had hurriedly initiated girls who had received a bid and pledged that morning. The radical punishment for such insubordination was immediate surrender of charter, and on that busy day Winona Hughes had received Beta Gamma’s charter, in trust. Until the next year, and the Fraternity’s final acceptance of surrender, the chapter would not be allowed to function.
Yet official eyes must have been averted because on June 10, 1913, Wooster’s alumnae entered the chapter at the annual Commencement luncheon, the alumnae association was organized to perpetuate Beta Gamma’s name, and it was voted to spend money earned from the sale of the contents of the chapter rooms to the Kappa Scholarship Fund.
A much greater amount of money had, of course, been behind the ultimatum given the Wooster fraternity system. Simply put: Wooster needed money and the assistance of a Mr. L.H. Severance who said he would refuse financial assistance if “the caste system” were maintained. Protests and efforts of the national fraternities failed.
Twelve years earlier Mr. Severance, and Mr. Andrew Carnegie to a greater extent, had come to the relief of Wooster at a time of disaster, and at that time Mr. Severance was thought of as a hero. “The University is burned… Our all is gone!” It was the morning of December 11, 1900, and Wooster’s president, the Reverend Dr. L.E. Holden, sent telegrams of alarm to everyone he could think of: “Our building is burned… let us stand together until we build a new one.” In two and a half months nearly half a million was raised (Mr. Carnegie, $100,000; Mr. Severance, $75,000). Five buildings had escaped the fire, and five new ones, including Kauke Hall, containing lecture rooms and rooms suitable for social groups, were dedicated on the fire’s anniversary, December 11, 1902. At this dedication of “A Greater Wooster” the only woman taking part was Frances Glenn (Brewer) a Beta Gamma, who sang (and beautifully) “I Will Extol Thee, O Lord!”
It can be said now, parenthetically, that the name of Frances Glenn is only one of the many Beta Gamma names to bring honor to Wooster and the Fraternity. There is charter member Ella Alexander Boole who became president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union; Margaret Anna Frame, secretary of the China Council of the Presbyterian Church in Shanghai; Edith Reese Crabtree president of Kappa Kappa Gamma, 1952- 56; Edith Pennell, who was graduated summa cum laude in 1897, an honor never before conferred on one of its graduates in Wooster’s history… there was Margaret Moore who decided that the girls’ dormitory needed a library “and with her, to conceive a thing always means to take immediate measures to secure it, so the “we now possess a library charmingly furnished and well supplied.” Margaret Moore was already known to the Fraternity because in 1908, while the chapter was being visited by Kappa Grand President Edith Stoner [Robinson], Missouri, the talented student had been appointed chairman of a committee to design a Kappa coat-of-arms.
The first waves of anti-fraternity agitation had come to Wooster in the spring of 1908, but after “earnestness and eloquence” the groups had been spared. Anti-fraternity feeling and legislation was to be expected in a college founded on religious principles.
Wooster, under Presbyterian Church jurisdiction, had been opened in 1870 , chartered 1866, “for the promotion of sound learning and education under religious influences.” Beta Gamma, originally Gamma, the name part of a confusing system of calling new chapters after closed chapters, was chartered in 1876, a year after the Kappa Alpha Theta chapter. It was lively and successful from the start, with a weekly paper and meetings in members’ rooms—a literary meeting one week and a social meeting the next, “so that the members can get to know and like one another better.”
Wooster girls were “high class” and “lady-like”; they took pleasure in whatever blessings came their way; they obeyed university rules. Sometimes they rebelled—slightly. There was an instance on October 3, 1884, when the faculty refused to let the chapter visit the chapter at Butchel. “We think the decision severe, not to say unjust,” wrote The Key correspondent. But the word of the faculty was law, and the law was obeyed.
Housing After the “Greater “Wooster dedication it was the faculty that would be thanked for the greatest pleasure Beta Gamma ever had: its home. There had been a nice room earlier, papered in light blue with blue polka-dotted white curtains and a prized stuffed owl on the bookcase. But the room “which the faculty gave us for our little Kappa home;” on the second floor of Kauke Hall, was so lovely that it was almost impossible to describe. The Key correspondent did well though, and love is in every line: “… the predominant colors are rich red and green, as carried out by the wall paper and rugs. The paper is in three divisions, the lower is solid green, above a deep red border of conventional design, and above that solid yellow. The different colors harmonize well and give a rich air to the whole room.” The precious white owl sat on a library table “of the Frissian style.” The table was covered with song and school books and a guest book filled with witty sayings. “To snuggle down (in our great leather davenport) with Kappa pillows all around you is comfort indeed.” Another big chair and “some less imposing ones,” a piano, a large mirror, another couch with cushions, lace curtains “swaying lazily back and forth,” beautiful pictures and pennants, “old Kappa groups,” a closet where “our mysteries are locked from public view” and the chafing dish on its little table “… the most important and popular thing in the room,” made this “the dearest of all rooms.”
Could the feeling of coziness, the aura of special privilege, have made itself felt beyond the described, yet indescribable room, could it have touched more than the hard heat of Mr. Severance to feelings of wistfulness and doubt? He could not have been the only listener-in as exuberant fraternity members shouted for joy on spring evenings and the lady-like Kappas, merrier than most, yelled their “fine fraternity yell” : Ai ko, rai ko, ri, rai, ru, Beta Gamma, Kappa Gamma, Wooster U.! The “fine yell” should not have been allowed to grow too strong, It should have been stopped in the beginning by the conscientious churchmen and not 43 years later in the face of conditional demands.
The previous information was excerpted from The History of Kappa Kappa Gamma Fraternity, 1870-1976.