Epsilon Theta Chapter was founded at University of Arkansas Little Rock (formerly Little Rock University) in Little Rock, Arkansas on November 9, 1963. The chapter closed in 1981.
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock was founded in 1927 as Little Rock Junior College under the supervision of the city Board of Education. That first semester there were eight instructors and about 100 students. By 1929, the college was accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, a status it has kept through changes in size and status.
Housed at first in public school buildings, the college moved in 1949 to its present location in southwest Little Rock on a beautifully wooded site donated by Raymond Rebsamen, a Little Rock businessman. The college was also by that time the sole beneficiary of a continuing trust established by former Governor George W. Donaghey.
In 1957, the institution began a four‐year degree program, became independent and privately supported under a separate board of trustees, and took the name Little Rock University.
After several years of discussion and study, Little Rock University in September 1969 merged with the University of Arkansas to create the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
The University of Arkansas merger began a period of rapid growth. UALR began offering graduate and professional work in 1975, and the UALR Graduate School was created in 1977.
The Epsilon Theta history really begins in 1943 when Zeta Phi, a special organization for women, was founded at Little Rock University, then a junior college, in Little Rock, Arkansas. On October 3, 1943, Zeta Phi was granted its charter, and during its 20 years of existence its members received every academic and social honor offered by the college.
In 1957, Kappa alumnae started an annual award for an outstanding girl, and in 1959 two alumnae discussed national fraternities with the college president. “Beginning in the mid-1950s or earlier,” one of these alumnae remembers, “as the junior college grew into a four-year institution, speculation arose as to the possibility of national groups … With university status acquired, the administration gave permission for NPC members to meet with the locals.”
“September 1, 1962, was the date when pledge groups might be formed. On August 31, the Kappa alumnae received a wire: ‘VOTE AFFIRMATIVE TO ACCEPT INVITATION LITTLE ROCK UNIVERSITY, CLARA O PIERCE FRATERNITY HEADQUARTERS.’ Kappa bid Zeta Phi local and two other groups became Tri Delta and Pi Beta Phi. Chi Omega colonized early in 1963. Marilyn McKnight Crump, Purdue, directed formation of our chapter and helped plan the formal Installation in November 1963.”
Local newspapers gave the installation ceremonies generous space, listing charter members, newly initiated alumnae of Zeta Phi, new pledges, speakers and special guests. Gamma Nu Chapter at the University of Arkansas and the Mothers’ Club presented special badges to be worn by the model pledge and the member with the highest scholarship. Mildred Moss, daughter of Cynthia Mills Moss, who at the time of her death in 1956 was the country’s oldest Kappa (initiated at Hillsdale, 1881) presented a badge to Rebecca Nolen (Dean) to be worn each year by the chapter President.
The first year meetings were held in alumna homes, then in a rented room of the Red Cross building. Then 2924 South Taylor became home for Epsilon Theta, with furnishings mostly bought from Gamma Nu. Since Epsilon Theta is not a housed chapter, the lodge was used once a week for meetings and occasional parties.
The year was one of excellent cooperation among leaders of all the sororities and the school officials. “We were all new at the national game,” said the first chapter President, “and we depended on each other. There was genuine respect, and there was healthy competition.”
Activities and honors were shared by the chapter’s first members. Fifteen members made the Dean’s List; four made Phi Beta Kappa and one of the Dean’s List girls, Pam Jackson (Cunningham) became Miss Arkansas 1964.
Many activities started by the first chapter became traditions. There is the pre-initiation breakfast surprise with lighthearted honors for “the brightest eyed,” etc. The Sweetheart Banquet, held first in 1963, honored a man voted “Kappa Sweetheart” by the chapter. The Monmouth Duo held by Kappa and Pi Phi was revived in 1972. There are the Sigma Nu Relays, and the Aulsing held at Christmas time with all sororities competing. The Aulsing started in 1964, and Kappa won the first three competitions.
Dean of Women Barbara Taegel, who was instrumental in the establishment of a national fraternity system on the campus, revealed that in the early years, the administration was uncertain of the wisdom of chartering national groups not knowing whether there would be enough support for a fraternity system on a commuter campus. Although the university will remain a commuter institution for some years to come, it is not expected that the women’s Greek system will lose status or viability. Rather than large residential houses for accommodations, the trend is more likely to be construction of lodges or an expansive Panhellenic complex for the use of all Greek groups on the campus.
A chapter adviser was asked about chapter problems and future plans. “Merger in 1969 with the University of Arkansas meant that Little Rock had become a state institution, dependent on legislative support … During this period, uncertainty regarding the future of fraternity groups caused rushee numbers to diminish somewhat, and for a while it was impossible to tell whether the system could survive on a state-supported commuter campus. However … the early 1970s have shown a marked increase in interested students. The future seems bright indeed.”
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.
At its June session, Fraternity Council approved the petition of Epsilon Theta to surrender its charter as of June 1981. The University was originally Little Rock University, a junior college, which grew to become a four-year school that merged with University of Arkansas in 1969. It is now a state-supported, commuter campus. The interests of students have changed and the climate for the Kappa chapter likewise. (From the fall 1981 issue of The Key.)