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Owen '74 to lead Kappa Kappa Gamma into its sesquicentennial

Duane Bonifer
Gail Simpson Owen '74 is pictured with Monmouth students Shelby Adams '19 and Hannah Callahan '20 at Kappa's June national convention.
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MONMOUTH, Ill. – For Gail Simpson Owen ’74, membership in Kappa Kappa Gamma was a life-changing experience. That’s why as she becomes its national president, she is eager to help the women’s fraternity continue to be a source of empowerment for women.

“It is an honor to be in a position where I can help people look back at what women did in 1870 at Monmouth College, and then be able to look ahead toward where we need to go so we can continue to be a viable, important organization for women in their lives,” said Owen, who lives in Peoria, Ill.

In June, Owen was elected president of the renowned women’s fraternity at its national convention, held in Denver. Owen, who has been the organization’s vice president since 2016, will serve a two-year term, leading into Kappa’s 2020 sesquicentennial celebration. Kappa Kappa Gamma was founded on Oct. 13, 1870, at Monmouth College, which was one of the earliest coeducational U.S. colleges.

Owen, who is the retired regional superintendent of schools for Mason, Tazewell and Woodford counties, said being a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma while a Monmouth student helped her find her professional calling.

“I would not have had the job I had, had it not been for Kappa and Monmouth,” said Owen, who is also a member of Monmouth’s board of trustees. “For me, Monmouth and Kappa served as an incubator where I could find my voice and figure out who I was. Kappa was truly a home away from home for me. It was a place where fellow women encouraged me and challenged me to attempt things I didn’t think I could do and also live a balanced life.”

Kappa Kappa Gamma has a total membership of more than 260,000 women, with 140 collegiate chapters in the United States and Canada and 307 alumnae associations worldwide.

Owen said that Kappa Kappa Gamma continues to honor its founders’ spirit by being an organization that empowers women and prepares them to be leaders.

“We’ve made enormous progress, especially in the areas of diversity and inclusion so that we can continue to meet the needs of women going forward,” Owen said. “We continue to raise the bar for women on campus and hopefully raise the bar for other Greek organizations on campus as well.”

One reason Owen is optimistic about the future of Kappa Kappa Gamma is because of new members she meets.

“The one thing I’m struck by is the young women I meet—they have so inspired me,” said Owen. “Kappa is in really good shape because the next generation coming up is full of bright people with incredible passion, drive and phenomenal dreams. I’ve learned a lot from listening to them.”