November 2020 Heritage News: 150 Years of Theta & Scholarship

Category: Heritage

Noraleen Young

Alpha Chi, Purdue

“To afford an opportunity for improvement in composition and debate and elocution." 1870 Kappa Alpha Theta Constitution

From Theta’s founding 150 years ago, Theta has had a strong commitment to supporting and encouraging scholarship among its members. While we do not call our studies “composition and debate and elocution” anymore, Theta still supports and provides opportunities for its members to develop and improve their scholarship skills.

It began early in Theta’s history. The earliest chapter meeting minutes of Alpha/DePauw reflect that commitment to scholarship as it includes references to members presenting their class papers to their fellow sisters to allow them to practice and improve before submitting and presenting to their professors and fellow classmates, all to ensure that they were doing their best.

Throughout the 130 years of the Theta Magazine, numerous articles encourage members to do their best in their coursework. The first issue in June 1885 included not only information about the Fraternity but articles on “Legal Novels” and “Hamlet” and some poetry, all included to broaden our member’s knowledge. Chapters reported on sponsoring “literary sessions” and attending special lectures offered on their campuses. Chapters also boasted about their members’ standing in their classes or those who were taking advance degree work.

In 1904, Thetas began an additional way to support its members by establishing a scholarship fund. Josephine Cook Lippincott, Kappa/Kansas, and the Los Angeles Alumnae Chapter launched the idea in the January 1904 issue of the magazine. She concluded that “we want our members to hold the highest positions eligible to women. Let us all give a helping hand toward this end.”

In later years, Theta supported the creation of chapter libraries to provide resources for its members and produced manuals to help members develop study habits. Theta recognized chapters and members making good grades from its earliest days and continues to do so.

Bettie Locke advised a young friend in 1925 that she should “try above all things to keep up a high standard of Scholarship [as] nothing will elevate ΚΑΘ like wonderful Scholarship.” Bettie’s guidance is something we as Thetas still hold dear.