Sixty Years of Kappa Alpha Theta Foundation

Category: Foundation

Noraleen Young

Alpha Chi, Purdue

“As chairman of this committee and with the approval of Grand Council, I move that the Convention authorize Grand Council to take the legal steps necessary to establish a foundation for Kappa Alpha Theta.” Wilma Trost Shattuck, Psi/Wisconsin, June 1960   

This motion was seconded and passed, thereby establishing Kappa Alpha Theta Foundation. Incorporated a year later, Theta Foundation brought all the existing philanthropic efforts of Theta under one umbrella, encouraging alumnae groups to continue making their traditional donations and also working to attract large individual donations.  

Theta already had a strong tradition of philanthropic activity.

  • As early as 1902, the Los Angeles Alumnae Chapter had established a Scholarship Fund that later became a Fraternity-wide project.
  • During World War I, Theta established the War Service Fund to outfit nurses at a base hospital unit in France, and in 1922, the remaining funds were used to establish a special DePauw library collection on women in professions. Today, Theta Foundation continues to support this almost-100-year-old project.
  • In 1926, Theta established the Friendship Fund to support Thetas in need.
  • Many chapters provided funds for the Foster Parent Plan during WWII and by 1954, Theta had donated over $111,000 to the Plan.
  • In 1943, the Relief and Rehabilitation Fund provided funds for libraries on US and Canadian merchant marine ships in honor of Thetas who died in service during WWII.
  • In 1946, Theta adopted the Institute of Logopedics as a Fraternity-wide project. The Institute provided speech therapy to child and adults.

In the 1950s, many fraternities and sororities established foundations to support the philanthropic work of their organizations. In 1959, Josephine Brossard Stansfield, Beta Theta/Idaho, a member of Grand Council, led a committee to study the establishment of such a foundation. Wilma Trost Shattuck assumed responsibility for the study later that year. Norma Anderson Jorgensen, Gamma Zeta/Connecticut; Evelyn Widman Tunnicliffe, Eta/Michigan; and Mary McCarthy Plummer, Alpha Nu/Montana, worked alongside Shattuck to research and recommend the structure for a Theta foundation. After the approval of delegates to Grand Convention 1960, Jorgensen, Tunnicliffe, Mary Hamilton Ackerman, Alpha Nu/Montana, and Constance Venable, Beta Iota/Colorado, along with other Grand Council members, met in Hot Springs, Arkansas, where the name, Kappa Alpha Theta Foundation, was chosen and the first board of trustees named. Tunnicliffe, Ackerman, Jorgensen, Shattuck, and Venable were selected along with ex-officio members Hazel Baird Lease, Alpha Nu/Montana, Elizabeth Whalton Little, Beta Nu/Florida State, and Helen E. Sackett, Psi/Wisconsin. Tunnicliffe served as the first president.

With its incorporation in 1961, Theta Foundation immediately began to raise funds to establish scholarships and coordinate the Fraternity’s philanthropic activities. In 1964, Theta Foundation announced a five-year project to raise $100,000 (more than $820,000 in today’s dollars) to establish the Founders Memorial Scholarship Fund for four scholarships, each named after a founder, to be handed out for the first time in 1970, the year of Theta’s centennial.

In 1972, Theta Foundation created Community Involvement Program (CIP) grants that were awarded every two years, beginning in 1974, to multiple college and alumnae chapters for projects within their own communities. In 1976, The Educational Trust Fund (ETF) program was established to provide specific scholarships to undergraduates. In 1994, a named trust was established by the Indianapolis Alumnae Chapter for alumnae support, the first of its kind. Theta Foundation began providing the opportunity for alumnae and collegians to apply for small grants to assist with their education development, now available on a quarterly basis.

A two-page announcement in the Winter 1961-1962 issue of the Theta magazine referenced the incorporation of Theta Foundation on June 1, 1961. “Announcing the Kappa Alpha Theta Foundation … Established to extend the charitable and philanthropic objectives of Theta.” Fast-forward to the Spring 2020 Theta magazine in which Theta Foundation reported that more than $35 million has been distributed since 1962 by the Theta Foundation. I imagine that the Thetas of 60 years ago would be proud of what we have accomplished!