LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 7, 2012) — In celebration of the University of Kentucky's upcoming sesquicentennial in 2015, the 22nd of 150 weekly installments on the university looks at the history of Greek organizations on campus.
Greek letter fraternities were slow to appear on the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Kentucky campus, partly because of opposition by the faculty to their establishment. In October 1887, the faculty received a request from students for permission to organize a "Greek society," described as a "secret society for promotion of morality, high class standing, etc.," but on the ground that secret societies were undesirable, the petition was rejected.
The request to add Greek organizations to campus continued to crop up at irregular intervals. Early in 1893, President James K. Patterson himself presented to the faculty a petition from some of the students who wanted permission to establish a fraternity. On this occasion, the faculty appointed a committee to study the question and at the next regular meeting recommended that the petition be granted. The report of the committee was then adopted by a 14-3 vote.
The university's first two fraternities, Kappa Alpha and Sigma Chi, established chapters on the campus, but seven years passed before others followed them. Then in rapid succession five additional groups appeared: Sigma Alpha Epsilon in 1900; Kappa Sigma, Phi Delta Theta and Pi Kappa Alpha in 1901; and Sigma Nu in 1902. After another seven years, Alpha Tau Omega established a chapter at State University, Lexington, Kentucky.
The women students were even slower than the men in establishing Geek letter societies. Several local organizations came into existence shortly after 1900, but not until 1907, when Alpha Xi Delta came to the campus, did a women’s group have national affiliations. A chapter of Alpha Gamma Delta received a charter in 1908 and in the year of Patterson’s retirement, a third national sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, established a chapter.
Honorary societies also began to pop up on campus. The first to establish chapters on campus were Lamp and Cross, Mystic 13, and Tau Beta Pi. The Agricultural and Mechanical College chapter of Tau Beta Pi, an honorary engineering fraternity, was established in 1902. Membership was based on scholarship and only students in the last two years of engineering were eligible to join. Toward the end of Patterson’s administration a fourth, Key Roll, was also established.
Today, UK is currently home to 19 sororities and 24 fraternities, including seven sororities and fraternities that are members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. Last year more than $427,600 was raised by the Greek community and given to various charities and more than 52,000 service hours were performed. The Greek community also teamed up with the UK chapter of Habitat for Humanity to build a Habitat house for a UK employee.
This story on UK's history is presented by UK Special Collections. Special Collections is home to UK Libraries' collection of rare books, Kentuckiana, the Archives, the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, the King Library Press and the Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center. The mission of Special Collections is to locate and preserve materials documenting the social, cultural, economic and political history of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
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