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'We dedicate this house': Kappa Kappa Gamma makes new location official

Barry McNamara
When Kappa Kappa Gamma sisters Karen Barrett Chism ’65, Gail Simpson Owen ’74 and Gena Corbin Alcorn ’88 attended Monmouth College, they didn’t have a chapter house to call their own.

That officially changed on April 22, when the Kappa Kappa Gamma Alpha Chapter House at 915 E. Broadway was formally dedicated.

On a gorgeous spring afternoon, with current Kappa members in bright blue dresses lining the sidewalk and Kappa Kappa Gamma National President Beth Black in attendance, Chism and Owen took turns at the podium during the dedication ceremony. Alcorn, a Monmouth major gifts operations officer, helped raise funds to pay for the project along with her colleagues in the Office of Development and College Relations.

“It’s a wonderful day,” said Chism. “I want to thank all the sisters who had the dream of a house for Kappa Kappa Gamma. They made it a reality for current and future Kappas. … It’s a perfect location for the house. Everything came together. This has been many years in the making.”

Monmouth President Clarence R. Wyatt shared Chism’s sentiment during his remarks.

“I want to thank the many, many generations of sisters of Kappa Kappa Gamma who brought us to this moment,” he said. “There is no better location, no architecture more elegant, no grounds more spacious” than the new chapter house.

Founded at Monmouth College in 1870, Kappa Kappa Gamma is one of the earliest Greek-letter societies for women. (The women’s Greek-letter society started at Monmouth in 1867 with the founding of Pi Beta Phi.) The Alpha Chapter House overlooks the site of a wooden bridge where tradition holds that founders first met to secretly plan the organization, which today boasts more than 270,000 members. Kappa Kappa Gamma has 139 active collegiate chapters in the United States and Canada, and 251 alumnae associations worldwide.

The Alpha Chapter House, a grand Colonial Revival mansion, was built in 1896 and went through several owners until it was recently acquired to be the new home of the first Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter. The house, which has undergone extensive renovation, sits on a 33,062-square-foot lot that includes a tennis court and detached two-car garage.

Wyatt noted the house completes a project to provide the College’s three women’s fraternities – Alpha Xi Delta (2011), Pi Beta Phi (2016) and Kappa Kappa Gamma (2017) – with new homes.

Alcorn said many Kappa sisters answered the call to support the fundraising project for the house. More than 150 donors contributed nearly $432,000, and there is an additional $95,000 in near-term pledges.

“We have had donors from all graduation years (2015-1944), and they have given at a variety of levels, from $25 to more than $100,000,” said Alcorn. “The members and alumnae have embodied the values of the fraternity through this project, which has been about chapter and donor pride.”

Owen cited the “love, dedication and sacrifice of time of many Kappas of many different generations who believed in this house,” while officially making the charge during the ceremony to Kappa Kappa Gamma. The charge was accepted by the chapter’s vice president, Kelci Foss ’18 of Mount Morris, Ill.

Also representing the current Kappas at the podium was past chapter president Jessica Irons ’17 of Abingdon, Ill.

“It is absolutely amazing to have this space,” Irons said. “There’s a group in here every single night, whether it’s committee meetings, or studying, or just hanging out. It’s also perfect for initiation ceremonies, and we were able to hold both our fall and spring ceremonies here this year.”

A total of 21 members were initiated at those ceremonies, boosting current Kappa Kappa Gamma membership to 60.

With 3,516 square feet – including eight rooms and four bedrooms on the finished first and second floors – the new home offers the women’s fraternity a much larger space for meetings. Because the Alpha Chapter had outgrown its former house, some recent Kappa meetings were held in the College’s Center for Science and Business.

For Kappa alumnae like Chism, Owen, Alcorn and Michelle Merritt ’89, who delivered the Declaration of Purpose, being at the house on the historic day gave even deeper meaning to the lyrics of “On the Heart of Each Sister,” which was sung during the ceremony:

“It is here that we measure each day with new pleasure, our friendships outlasting our college-hood days.”