Just as the start of the new year gives people worldwide hope for a fresh outlook, Founders Day gives Thetas around the globe a chance to reflect on the four women who changed our lives by deciding to start something new 146 years ago. On January 27, 1870, Bettie Locke Hamilton and her three courageous friends began the first Greek-letter fraternity known among women; what a wonderful way to begin the New Year back in 1870!
Founders Day gives Thetas the chance to be thankful for so many aspects of our organization:
Community: The founders were seeking community in an all-male university, and Kappa Alpha Theta was able to give them the support and courage they needed in their environment. Founders Day is a wonderful reminder to spend time with your sisters and enjoy the community around you. You may spend Founders Day at a chapter brunch or tea, or your chapter may be hosting another to celebrate! No matter what activity you are participating in, be sure to take advantage of the supportive community around you.
Mentorship: Our founders ranged in age, and their goal was to inspire those younger than them to set and accomplish high aspirations and to continue the success of Kappa Alpha Theta. Founders Day often brings together Thetas of all ages! This is an opportune time to get to know Thetas older than you and to establish connections with women in your interested career path. Who knows, you may be able to talk to an older Theta about a summer internship or get advice on your plans after college.
Ritual: Kappa Alpha Theta ritual connects Thetas today to the roots of our organization. Ritual is an aspect of the Fraternity that has not changed, and will not change. Founders Day gives Thetas from various college and alumnae chapters the chance to unite to perform ritual together. Ritual is such a special aspect of our organization, so what better way to honor our founders than participating in ritual together.
Each of these aspects was crucial to the development of Kappa Alpha Theta, as indicated by Bettie herself in a letter she wrote to Detroit area alumnae in January 1930: "I send love and Greetings to each and all Thetas, assembled tonight at your Founders' Banquet and want to take this opportunity to thank any Theta for helping me to make KAO what it is today—for if bright, courageous girls had not given us their support in the years following our first efforts in establishing the first Greek letter fraternity KAO could not be what it is today."
Whether your chapter plans to host a brunch, attend an alumnae chapter tea, or participate in service together, take the time to be thankful for the leading women who started it all and to be proud of the leading women around you!
October 19, 2015 marked the 165th anniversary of the birth of one of Kappa Alpha Theta's fearless founders, Bettie Locke Hamilton. In honor of this, members of Theta across the United States and Canada came together to spread the widest influence for good.
As educational leadership consultants (ELCs), we have the privilege of participating in a variety of Day of Service activities. For example, Ashlee Moody volunteered at CASA of the River Region with members of Theta Kappa Chapter at the University of Louisville, and Sam Golden sorted food and made sandwiches at a food bank with the women of Zeta Omicron at Wake Forest University. Aquene Kenerson visited Beta Chi Chapter at the University of Alberta while members raked leaves in the local community, and Ann Crary visited Epsilon Zeta Chapter at the University of Mississippi while they volunteered at a Buddy Walk for children with Down syndrome. Additionally, I had the opportunity to craft holiday cards for CASA children and their families with the women of Theta Lambda at the University of Rochester and members of the Rochester Alumnae Chapter.
Day of Service is about taking time out of our busy lives one day each year to give to those in need. With this said, imagine all of the wonderful things we could accomplish if all 200,000 living, initiated members of Kappa Alpha Theta came together in service throughout the year! Whether you are serving your campus or volunteering in your local community, there are multitudes of ways to celebrate Bettie Locke's life and vision for the Fraternity.
If you or your chapter made an impact in your community on October 19, we encourage you to enter the Day of Service photo contest! The winner will be featured in The Kappa Alpha Theta Magazine and on Kappa Alpha Theta's Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages.
As I travel from chapter to chapter, my favorite question to ask members is, "What was it that caused you to choose Theta?" and beyond this, "What experience caused you to stay?" Every member has a different story. Maybe it was the fellow new member with whom you attended every chapter event. Maybe it was while living in the chapter house, watching movies late at night, that you realized you had not only joined a house, but also found a home. Or maybe, it was the idea that a group of women could empower each other to be become better each day and strive to live meaningful and influential lives. Whatever the story, I am willing to guess Theta means something to each of us because of the connections we made along the way.
As new members join our chapters in these busy recruitment weeks, I have realized the value of true sisterhood. These new members finish an eventful, tiring, and exciting recruitment week and are happy to find a new home. What we commonly forget is recruitment is not over on bid day; we must help our new members find connections to each other, our college members, and Theta internationally. The new member period is a time of excitement, chaos, and happiness.
It is at this time I believe each chapter can slow down, focus on each other, and create true and lasting impressions. Whether this is through a sisterhood retreat, playing silly bonding games, or sharing personal stories, I believe we each have the potential to find connections and influence each other for good. In the end, this is exactly what Bettie Locke wanted for us all, as she put it: "I send greetings of love and a welcome to each of you as you enter the fraternity with the wish that your scholarship, zeal and loyalty will build up Kappa Alpha Theta to twice its present size and it will go down in its history what you have accomplished...."
Because detailing every measure of Bettie Locke's impact could take a lifetime, below are three ways Theta empowers college women:
1. Theta empowers collegians with leadership skills. The leadership skills gained in holding an office or being an involved committee member are skills a collegian can carry with her into the workforce. Teamwork, time management, and delegation are such necessary skills in any career. As a collegian, take the step to make yourself available for office and be a key member of a committee! It will make all the difference in your Theta experience and in the leadership skills you will develop.
2. Theta empowers collegians with professional development skills. One amazing aspect of Kappa Alpha Theta membership is that it lasts for a lifetime. Therefore, the membership is widespread! The professional development skills collegians can gain in networking and forming relationships with alumnae can mean the difference between getting—or not getting—the internship or job. The world is much smaller than one realizes, and if it can be made smaller through a Theta connection, that's even better! What better way to develop professionally than to network with a Theta alumna? A collegian can learn so much from a fellow sister who has had years of experience in the working world. As a collegian, take advantage of the network around you!
3. Theta empowers collegians with personal excellence skills. Personal excellence is one of the core values of the Fraternity, and this aspect can be developed in individuals simply through membership in Kappa Alpha Theta. It is enhanced by being a part of an organization that values scholarship and service, both facets of life that can only enhance one's personal excellence. As a collegian, don't forget the values the Fraternity holds dear, as they are our values for a reason. By aiming for highest scholarship and maintaining a commitment to service, you will be empowered to be a better version of yourself.
No matter how much you become involved in Kappa Alpha Theta or how much you choose to network with alumnae, you should feel empowered in calling yourself a member of Kappa Alpha Theta. How amazing is it, in remembering Bettie Locke today and every day, to be able to say the founder of your organization began the first Greek-letter fraternity known among women? Being able to say that in itself is indeed empowering.
-Bettie Locke Hamilton
These words, from our founder, Bettie Locke have always held a special place in my heart since joining the organization. Over the past seven months, I have had the pleasure of serving as the second year support consultant for the Zeta Chi/Johns Hopkins University chapter. During this time, I have frequently thought of the words above while watching this chapter grow during their second year of re-establishment.
Throughout my time with this amazing group of women, I have witnessed more accomplishments than I could have ever imagined. Without a doubt, the most memorable moment thus far was when the current executive recruitment board (ERB) submitted the chapter's bid list on preference night. While to some the evening may have seemed like it was just another ERB meeting, another list submitted and another late night, to me, it was much more. It was the moment I knew these women had truly transformed into the leading women Kappa Alpha Theta pushes us to be. The officers successfully lead the chapter through a long and tireless week of recruitment and were ready to welcome the next new member class.
Going back to Bettie Locke's words ". If it grows and multiplies, it may someday bring together into sisterly relationship women... who are all friends, because of Theta". This recruitment helped the chapter grow and nearly double in size. As I watched all the new members walk into Zeta Chi's bid day celebration, I knew wholeheartedly, these words were ringing true. From this moment on, these women would be welcomed into sisterly bonds and friendships with those who were previously strangers.
Just two and a half short months later, I am in awe each and every day witnessing the close friendships that have been formed. I am forever grateful to the Fraternity for allowing me to work directly with a college chapter during their second year. Being able to see this chapter further develop, I am able to continuously watch the Fraternity grow and multiply, just as Bettie Locke hoped it would.
How have you seen Kappa Alpha Theta grow?
It wasn't more than four days after arriving that we were talking to University of Louisville students about Kappa Alpha Theta. These women had every question in the book: asking about dues, social events, sisterhood events, the step show or simply what is Theta? But one question in particular made me think. I was asked "What are you most excited for about Kappa Alpha Theta at University of Louisville?" I stopped to think about all the things I could say to this adorable, eager freshman, and I think I surprised her when I said "I am excited for ten years from now, when one of our soon-to-be members is having her maid of honor and Theta sister zip up her wedding dress. Or for 15 years from now, when one of our soon-to-be members is driving to meet her Theta friends for dinner and she thinks to herself 'I am so happy that Kappa Alpha Theta came to Louisville's campus my sophomore year!'"
Bettie Locke Hamilton said it best: "I dream of endless possibilities for the good and close friendships that this fraternity make possible through the years, and it awes me a little to think that I have had a part in starting it. Just think, if it grows and multiplies, it may someday bring together into sisterly relationships women from all parts of the country who have never seen each other before, yet are friends because of Theta."
Establishing the Theta Kappa chapter here in Louisville has been the most trying, exciting, humbling and rewarding experience of my life (and I've only been her six weeks!). I am honored to be able to serve the Fraternity in this way and bring the support and sisterhood that Theta provides to University of Louisville. Go Theta! Go Cards!
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