The Kappa Sigma Fraternity's origins can be traced back to Bologna, Italy in 1400. The scholar Manuel Chrysolorasfounded a society of students with five of his most devoted disciples at the the University of Bologna, for mutual protection against the corrupt governor of the city, former pirate Baldassare Cossa, who would often have students of the University physically attacked and robbed in the streets. After leaving Bologna, he later usurped the Papacy as anantipope under the name John XXIII.
The students used secret words and signs to protect their ranks from betrayal. These forms and rituals became the basis of their organization. It embodied their ideals and allowed for both the safety of their members and the strong unity of the society. The society slowly grew to large numbers, taking in those students who desired the protection it could offer. With a strong foundation in the loyalty and quality of its members, the ancient order grew into a strong organization. Over time, its strength and unity transformed the order from a protective society against Cossa into something much greater, a true brotherhood. The society continued to grow and spread its glory to the great universities of Europe, and continued to do so throughout much of the Renaissance.
Picture of an Italian wine jug from 14-15th century bearing a poem and the letters
On December 10, 1869, five students at the University of Virginia met in 46 East Lawn and founded the Kappa Sigma Fraternity in America. William Grigsby McCormick, George Miles Arnold, Edmund Law Rogers, Frank Courtney Nicodemus, and John Covert Boyd later become known as the Five Friends and Brothers. They took the traditions of the ancient order in Bologna and created a fraternity that aimed to continue in its noble cause, that of unending brotherhood.
In that same year, the original five searched for others who would complement their diverse personalities. They initiated two more in that first year, Samuel Isham North and John Edward Semmes. The following year, two of the original five left the University, as did Semmes, leaving its future in the hands of Brothers Arnold, Boyd, Rogers and North. They initiated three more into the order that year. On March 18, 1871 the entire active membership, consisting of seven, met to initiate William Cornelius Bowen. They did not realize at the time that the work of this Saturday night would ensure the future of the fraternity. Bowen was the only member to return to the University the following year, and it was placed in his hands to prevent the work of the original five from fading away.
Bowen worked quickly the following year to find prospective members. He, along with his first initiate, Goodwin Williams, began searching for new members who could fulfill the expectations of the founding brothers. Brother Semmes returned to the University that spring, and he discovered that Bowen had added five new brothers to the order.
The next year, 1872, marked a milestone in the history of Kappa Sigma. Three new initiates were welcomed into the brotherhood, including Thomas Wright Strange. The members of the chapter, known now as the Zeta chapter, decided that they wanted one additional member that year. Thomas Strange introduced the name of Stephen Alonzo Jackson. He was chosen for initiation into the order in 1872 despite personality conflicts.
On an autumn night in 1872, Jackson was initiated into the order. From the moment of his initiation, he began his work as a great leader in the order of Kappa Sigma. He helped in every aspect of the chapter operations, and later became Grand Master of the Zeta chapter at the University of Virginia.
Jackson's contributions to the fraternity stretch far beyond chapter leadership. He was given the nickname, "the Golden-Hearted Virginian." During his membership, he expanded and revised the ritual of Kappa Sigma. He created the Supreme Executive Committee (SEC), which now serves as the governing body of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity on a national level. Jackson also introduced the idea of a frequent, national convention of all Kappa Sigmas, a practice now continued by the bi-annual Grand Conclave, and characterized the event as "the finest hour" of Kappa Sigma.
These innovations in ritual and government helped to transform Kappa Sigma from a small, local fraternity at the University of Virginia into the international fraternity it is today. He worked with his chapter and friends at nearby university to establish new chapters of the growing order. Jackson's passion for the success of the fraternity still influences its actions to this day. Evidence of his work can be seen in the many milestones that Kappa Sigma has reached to this day. His ideals for recruitment and expansion can be seen in the 289 campuses that have hosted chapters of the order and the more than 250,000 men who have been initiated into the order since its conception.
Jackson's vision for the future was summed up in his "Apples of Gold" speech given at the Grand Conclave, 1878. "Why not, my Brothers, since we of today live and cherish the principals of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity, throw such a halo around those principles that they may be handed down as a precious heirloom to ages yet unborn? Why not put our apples of gold in pictures of silver? May we not rest contently until the Star and Crescent is the pride of every college and university in the land!"
46 East Lawn residence at the University of Virginia, site of the founding of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity
The Theta-Psi Chapter's beginning started as a vision of a group of alumni from Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma during the summer of 1966. Brother Gordon Hart, an alumni from OSU and the public information officer for OCU worked closely with other alumni to establish a Star and Crescent Colony at OCU. The first meetings were held during the summer where interested OCU students and Kappa Sigma alumni met to explore the possibility of establishing a chapter. Brother Hart worked with the OCU administration to obtain use of a university owned house located at the corner of 26th and Florida. Four OCU students, Joe Case, Carl Emmons, David Johnson and Paul Derby agreed to live in the house during the 1966-67 school year. The house was used as a meeting place for alumni and interested students to gather and form the vision of a new fraternity at OCU that emphasized scholarship and community amongst outstanding students and de-emphasized hazing. David Johnson, an OCU senior, chaired the organizational and colony meetings. The colony was officially established on February 13, 1967, by a joint team of actives from OU and OSU.
On May 13, 1967, the Chapter installation occurred at the First National Bank Building in downtown Oklahoma City in the private rooms of The Beacon Club. Eleven OCU undergraduates, one distinguished community member, Mr. John Kirkpatrick, and two faculty advisers, Mr. John Murphy and Mr. Don Rice, were initiated and Theta-Psi was officially established. Eleven actives were initiated in order of class and grade point average: Carl Willard Emmons Jr., Joe Paul Case, David Christian Johnson, Ray L. Price, Brian Cole, George Edmond Bohannon, Joseph Benjamin Walcher II, James Arthur Gondles Jr., Richard Evan Lynn II, and Paul Leslie Derby.
At the first chapter meeting the first officers were elected: Paul Derby - GM, Ray Lessley Price - GP, James Gondles - GMC, Richard Lynn - GS, George Bohannan - GT. An early indication of the energy and bonding that occurred with the early members was winning OCU's Spring Sing, beating the long established and much larger fraternities. Winning this event brought visibility to the chapter and showed the energy that has lasted still attracts men to the brotherhood.
The two bedroom house on Florida had a basement that was collapsing and limited space. The university made a 4 bedroom, 2 bath, 2 kitchen house available at the current location, 2412 N. Virginia. This move occurred in August, 1967. This "new house" became the focal point for the establishment of the fraternity.
*Special thanks to Brother Paul Derby for his contribution to the Chapter History.