Barry McNamara  |   Published March 09, 2015

Gift could pave the way

Funds from Chisms to purchase lot could lead to Kappa Kappa Gamma house
Monmouth College alumna Karen Barrett Chism is an active member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, and served as president of the historic women’s fraternity founding chapter in 1964-65. She says the college and Kappa helped develop her leadership talents that led to several successful careers in teaching, biology research, computer programming and, finally, her current career of auditing clinical trials for new therapeutic drugs.
           
Now Chism, a 1965 graduate and a longtime member of the college’s board of trustees, and her husband, Stan ’63, hope that a recent gift that they have made to the college will spark the interest necessary to construct a new residence for the Alpha chapter of the prestigious national sorority. Kappa Kappa Gamma was founded at Monmouth College in 1870 by a group of six female students.
           
The Chisms, who live in Palo Alto, Calif., noted during a visit to Monmouth that a property across the street from campus was for sale. They quickly moved to provide the funding for the college to purchase the house on South Eighth Street, with the plan that someday a spacious and modern new chapter house would be built on the property, which also includes the site of a current residence where six Kappa members live.
           
“I hope other alumni will step forward now and support the effort to raise funds to build a house there,” said Chism, who stressed the importance of the double lot’s proximity to campus. “I was recently on the second floor of the Alpha Xi Delta house, and the view of campus is beautiful.”
           
Chism is not only a proud alumna of the college, but she is equally proud of what Kappa Kappa Gamma symbolizes at Monmouth.
 
“It has a rich history that cannot be ignored,” she said of Monmouth’s status as the birthplace of two national sororities, the other being Pi Beta Phi in 1867. “It ties into a long history of advocacy for women’s education.  Since the 19th century, Kappa has promoted women to serve in leadership roles, both in their organization and for prominent roles in their communities.”
 
She added, “The Monmouth College founders admitted women students and hired female faculty – a forward-thinking idea in the 19th-century male-dominated society. As a birthplace for women’s sororities, Monmouth College was unusual in allowing the women to organize. The six young Kappa founders announced their secret literary society during an all-campus convocation.” 
 
In addition to its special history, Chism also remembers Kappa Kappa Gamma fondly for the “lifelong friends” she made as a member.  One such friend is local alumna Carol Macari Bowman ’60.
 
“Carol Bowman and I traveled to Sun Valley by train together to represent the Alpha chapter at the 1964 national KKG convention,” recalled Chism. “Carol was the wife of my faculty adviser, Professor (Milton) Bowman, which reinforces my view that at Monmouth College, students can interact with professors outside as well as inside the classroom.”
           
“Karen and Stan have long supported key initiatives of the college, including off-campus study programs for faculty and students, the biology department in the new center, and, in this case, the historic role of women on our campus,” said Monmouth College president Clarence Wyatt. “We are proud of that legacy of the empowerment of women, and we look forward to making that legacy an even more prominent part of the college’s future.”
           
The proposed chapter house is part of the college’s Greek Life Initiative, designed to celebrate and strengthen Monmouth’s Greek life community. As a first step toward this commitment, Phi Delta Theta was reestablished in 2008 and, in 2010, the project to create housing for the women’s fraternities was launched with the $2 million Alpha Xi Delta chapter house construction. Plans are currently under way to break ground for a $2 million chapter house for Pi Beta Phi. 
           
More information about the Kappa Kappa Gamma house project is available from MC’s development and college relations office by phone at 309-457-2231.
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