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Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Greek Life

FSL & TAMUK Greek History


The History of College Fraternities

The first Greek-letter society in America was formed when Phi Beta Kappa was founded by five students at the College of William & Mary on December 5, 1776. The Phi Beta Kappa members took an oath of secrecy with an objective to foster friendship, morality and literature. In 1780 a decision to expand the fraternity to other colleges began and a second chapter was formed at Yale. While expansion continued, a popular movement opposing secret societies influenced the chapter at Harvard to remove all of the vestiges of secrecy in 1831. This caused the fraternity to evolve into a purely honorary society that recognizes academic achievement. Although Phi Beta Kappa does not compete with social fraternities today, it is considered to be the forefather of the whole fraternity system.   

In 1824 at the College of New Jersey, renamed Princeton University in 1896, another secret society was organized which bore the name Chi Phi Society. The faculty quickly abolished this group and the name disappeared. Chi Phi Society would form again in 1854 and later merged with two other independent groups named Chi Phi.

1825 - 1855

The birthplace of the Greek-letter system really began in 1825 at Union College in Schenectady, New York. The establishment of a Phi Beta Kappa chapter there in 1817 encouraged a group of men to form a competing fraternity when the Kappa Alpha Society was established on November 26, 1825. While this new fraternity adopted many of the practices of Phi Beta Kappa, it clearly made fellowship its primary purpose making it the first social fraternity in the nation.

Despite meeting with much opposition, Kappa Alpha Society became secretly popular with the students and was imitated in 1827 by the formation of Sigma Phi and Delta Phi. These three fraternities became known as the “Union Triad”. Of these, Sigma Phi was the first to expand to another college when a second chapter was established at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York in 1831 making Sigma Phi Society the first “National” fraternity. Union College is also where three additional fraternities were created. Psi Upsilon, the fifth oldest fraternity (1833); Chi Psi (1841) and Theta Delta Chi (1847) making the Union the birthplace of six fraternities, the most of any college. 

THE UNION TRIAD

Kappa Alpha Society (1825) 

Sigma Phi Society (1827)

Delta Phi (1827)

The fourth oldest fraternity to organize was Alpha Delta Phi when it was formed at Hamilton College in 1832, the year after Sigma Phi had planted a chapter there Alpha Delta Phi has the distinction of being the first fraternity to expand to the Midwestern states when they chartered their second chapter in 1835 at Miami University in Ohio. Four years later Beta Theta Pi was formed at Miami to challenge Alpha Delta Phi. That was followed with the formation Phi Delta Theta and Sigma Chi. These three fraternities became known as the “Miami Triad” as they quickly established chapters throughout the western states as well as the South and grew into large national fraternities.

THE MIAMI TRIAD

Beta Theta Pi (1839)

Phi Delta Theta (1848)

Sigma Chi (1855)

frat history 1


The Impact of War Between the States (1855 - 1875)

Fraternities continued to expand their chapters at a very rapid pace prior to 1860. However, this growth began to slow as sectional tensions increased. Two northern fraternities, Delta Kappa Epsilon and Phi Gamma Delta, had planted successful chapters at the University of Alabama but were soon challenged when Sigma Alpha Epsilon was formed there in 1856. Sigma Alpha Epsilon quickly established a second and third chapter at Vanderbilt and the University of North Carolina respectively, making them the first national fraternity founded in the South. Sigma Alpha Epsilon grew to 15 chapters throughout the South prior to the War between the Confederate States of America and the United States of America in 1861. But the war suspended most collegiate activity. Fraternities would see chapters become dormant or fold. War also divided fraternities, as brothers from the same chapter would enlist with both armies. In the South, many fraternities would see their chapters enlist as one fighting unit. 

The only national fraternity to form during the War Between the States was Theta Xi, which was started in April of 1864 at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. Theta Xi was initially formed as a fraternity for engineering students only, thus making it the first professional fraternity. It eventually evolved into strictly a social fraternity. It was also in April of 1864 that the Confederate capital in Richmond, Virginia was captured by Union troops and Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered marking the end of the war. Colleges in the South were slow to reopen and many that were destroyed had to be rebuilt. As Confederate soldiers transitioned from the battlefield back to the classroom, many had no desire to restart northern fraternities. This spawned the development of seven new Southern fraternities over a five-year period. The hub of this activity was centered in Lexington, Virginia where Virginia Military Institute and Washington College were located. VMI was a military college many considered to be the “West Point of the South”. Located next door was Washington College, formerly Liberty Hall Academy, a school whose footnotes in history include being the college where it is believed the first black college student in the United States earned a degree in 1795 and where George Washington bequeath $20,000 in 1796. The school added to its history when Robert E. Lee accepted the post of president in August of 1865. His difficult challenge to reopen a looted Washington College equaled the task VMI faced, whose buildings had to be reconstructed after being burned by the Yankee army. 

Both colleges eventually opened and fraternity activity quickly began. The first fraternity to form was Alpha Tau Omega at VMI in September of 1865. In December, Kappa Alpha Order organized at Washington College. Lexington was also the birthplace of Kappa Sigma Kappa in 1867 and Sigma Nu in 1869, started at VMI. Two other fraternities were founded during this time in nearby Charlottesville, Virginia. Pi Kappa Alpha started in 1868 and Kappa Sigma in 1869 at the University of Virginia. One other national fraternity to form after the War was Alpha Gamma in 1867 in Tennessee at Cumberland University. Five of these seven fraternities started during this period grew into large and successful national fraternities. Two, Kappa Sigma Kappa and Alpha Gamma became casualties of an anti-fraternity movement years later and folded.  

southern fraternities

THE FIRST SOUTHERN FRATERNITIES

Sigma Alpha Epsilon (1856)

Alpha Tau Omega (1865)

Kappa Alpha Order (1865)

Pi Kappa Alpha (1868)

Sigma Nu (1869) 

Kappa Sigma (1869) 

frat history 2

The fraternity system once again grew as colleges enjoyed the impact of post-war economic expansion. In 1877 President Rutherford Hayes withdrew the federal troops from the occupied South and removed the military governors. Northern fraternities started discussions about revitalizing dormant chapters in the South and Southern fraternities began to consider expansion to the north and west.  

The Anti-Fraternity Movement (1876 - 1889)

But the fraternity system would once again face a hardship when the nation experienced a severe economic depression following the effects of the financial Panic of 1873. The Long Depression as it later became known would last until the mid 1890’s.    

Another challenge fraternities would have to endure would be growing opposition to secret societies. Many college administrators began to forbid students from joining fraternities, which had a devastating impact on the local fraternities and forced the national fraternities to close many of its chapters. Several states began to pass legislation making secret societies illegal. Some fraternities folded, others had to merge with each other just to survive and some simply operated underground. 

Expansive Growth - Dawn of A New Century (1890)

In the mid 1890’s the anti-fraternity movement began to subside and the long economic crisis came to an end. Many new state-supported colleges were formed and student enrollments surged as co-education opportunities became available. The impact of this caused phenomenal growth in the Greek system as fraternities and sororities became very popular. Old established fraternities were rapidly planting new chapters while new national fraternities were being created overnight as they absorbed the hundreds of local fraternities that had been formed. Three fraternities that successfully used aggressively expansion policies to grow were Tau Kappa Epsilon, organized at Illinois Wesleyan University in 1899; Sigma Phi Epsilon, which began at Richmond College in 1901; and Lambda Chi Alpha who formed in 1909 at Boston University. Tau Kappa Epsilon, Sigma Phi Epsilon and Lambda Chi Alpha have grown into the largest of all of the Greek-letter social fraternities today in membership. 

The outgrowth of this created a need to form organizations to assist in communication and collaboration among the fraternities and sororities. Sororities were the first to hold a joint meeting when representatives of seven sororities gathered in Chicago in 1902. This meeting resulted in the formation of the National Pan-Hellenic Conference. A similar meeting with representatives of 26 fraternities in New York City in 1909 ended with the founding of the National Interfraternity Conference.


Fraternities again faced the challenges of war when World War I began. However, there was minimal impact since American participation was limited. Fraternities again experienced tremendous growth after the war and through the rest of the 1920’s. Then the stock market crashed in October of 1929, which was followed by the Great Depression. College enrollments plunged and fraternities were paralyzed as they watched chapters close overnight. Some national fraternities disappeared altogether while others merged their memberships just to survive. Fraternities that managed to continue would soon have to face their next obstacle with the outbreak of World War II in 1941. Although most college activity was suspended, few fraternities lost chapters during the war. Fraternities that somehow survived the shakeout of the Great Depression managed to weather this next storm. The War ended in 1945 and the return of soldiers to the classroom allowed fraternities to once again expand. Fraternities enjoyed several decades of steady growth until the late 1960’s through the early 1970’s when they experienced a slight decline due to the political unrest at some colleges. However, this was short lived and fraternities have since seen continuous growth and are today are considered a vital part of most colleges. 



TAMUK Greek Life

The First Fraternity

Fraternity life at TAMUK was destined to be an early success with the formation of Kappa Sigma Nu local fraternity prior to World War II when the university was known as Texas College of Arts and Industries following a name change in 1929. Kappa Sigma Nu would remain active as a local fraternity through the war and continue to thrive on campus. They became an affiliate member of Kappa Sigma Fraternity and received their charter in 1965, making them the first national fraternity on campus.

 As student enrollment increased, Kappa Sigma Nu would not be alone in our Greek community. Alpha Sigma local sorority was founded in 1927 and the two would prove to pave the way for our university’s Greek Life system when higher education became desirable for households.


Local fraternity Beta Sigma Lambda formed in 1963 as a group of men who wanted to expand our university’s Greek Life under the national organization, Delta Tau Delta Fraternity and on January 24, 1966 they received their charter. Following them, Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity was chartered on April 30, 1966. As more interest in fraternities continued we welcomed the Zeta Pi Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity on March 19, 1967.

Soon after, Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity created a local colony in 1968, receiving their charter in 1970 as the Beta Epsilon Zeta Chapter. Another local fraternity, Gamma Delta Chi was formed in 1968 to later form as an affiliate of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, chartering in 1969. Father Casimir Jarzombok, Newman Club Director, recruited men to create local fraternity, Theta Delta Phi on May 5, 1969. Theta Delta Phi earned Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity colony status on March 4, 1970. They were then officially chartered as the Kappa Tau Chapter on May 5, 1973.

It was also during this time that our institution welcomed our first National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) organization. Omega Psi Chi formed as a local fraternity in 1971 and would later become an affiliate member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Rho Delta Chapter in 1972.

The Greek system now had the most fraternities in school history with eight. The 1960's proved to be a growing opportunity for our university.


Our university’s rapid growth of fraternities reached a stop during the rest of the 1970’s, mirroring other college campuses nationwide which saw a dramatic drop in participation as political unrest spread and a mood of anti-establishment prevailed.

The Greek system at TAMUK remained strong until the eighties/early nineties when membership became stagnant or declined. Our only NPHC organization, Omega Psi Phi closed its chapter in 1981 after almost 10 years. Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity was the next chapter to close due to a decline in membership on October 8, 1984.

Our oldest fraternity, Kappa Sigma Fraternity and Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity both closed their chapters in 1992 due to decreasing numbers. After being on our campus for more than 30 years, Delta Tau Delta Fraternity was able to keep their numbers above a few more years, before closing in 1996.

Sigma Chi and Lambda Chi Alpha were the only two chapters from the original run of our university’s Greek system to remain and battle the Greek system decline. Each falling to one member at times, both chapters were able to stay alive and remain active.

The university became a member of the Texas A&M University System in 1989 and changed its name to Texas A&M University – Kingsville in 1993.


As the Greek system on TAMUK’s campus was still recovering from the loss of almost every organization, the 2000s proved to be something of resurgence in Greek-letter interest. Omega Delta Phi Fraternity, Incorporated was our first fraternity to gain enough interest on campus to receive their charter in 2002. Following them, an interest group formed a local fraternity in 2005 that would later become Sigma Lambda Beta Fraternity, Incorporated in 2010.

After being gone for more than 20 years, Kappa Sigma Fraternity returned to our campus, reactivating their chapter in 2013. Expansion of the Greek system became a priority as the university has seen record-breaking enrollment numbers.

Delta Chi Fraternity was then welcomed to colonize in Fall 2016 and received their charter on November 3, 2018. Unfortunately, after 47 years Lambda Chi Alpha closed its chapter due to financial reasons. Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity was then welcomed and colonized in Fall 2018.



The First Sorority

The Greek system began when the university was still South Texas State Teachers College, when a group of women formed Alpha Sigma Sorority in 1927. This local sorority was able to continue and flourish independently even with the university broadening their mission and name change to Texas College of Arts and Industries in 1929.


Two local sororities were formed in 1960 that would eventually become affiliate members of Chi Omega and Zeta Tau Alpha. The Beta Gamma sorority started in 1960 and in 1964 would gain recognition as the Upsilon Theta Chapter of Chi Omega Fraternity. Zeta Tau Alpha began in 1960 as the Delta Theta sorority becoming the Zeta Epsilon chapter in 1964.

Following Chi Omega and Zeta Tau Alpha, our campuses oldest and only local sorority Alpha Sigma would become an affiliate of Alpha Delta Pi Sorority in 1965. That same year on October 30, we would charter the Delta Phi Chapter of Alpha Chi Omega Sorority.


After losing our only NPHC organization, Omega Psi Phi in 1981, that same year brought two other NPHC organizations to our campus. Sororities Delta Sigma Theta and Zeta Phi Beta each established chapters in 1981. Local sorority, Alpha Nu Beta was also established in 1988.

As our Greek system continued to grow and appeared to have no signs of stopping, membership in fraternities and sororities nationwide plummeted as an anti-establishment movement speared across campuses as demonstrations against the war and other contentious political issues caught the focus of many in college. TAMUK would not escape unscathed, as every sorority on campus would fold.

Alpha Chi Omega Sorority would be the first to close its doors on March 9, 1978. The others tried to hold out as long as they could but the active members of Chi Omega Fraternity would vote to relinquish their charter at the end of the 1985 school year. Following Chi Omega, Alpha Delta Pi and Zeta Phi Beta would each stop operations in 1986. Local sorority, Alpha Nu Beta would only survive their first year as an organization, folding in 1989. That same year proved to be the end of sororities on our campus with Zeta Tau Alpha and Delta Sigma Theta both ceasing operations.


With Sigma Chi and Lambda Chi Alpha prevailing the downward spiral of our Greek system, and Omega Delta Phi chartering in 2002, it appeared Greek Life for our university was on the rise. In 2003, our campus chartered its first Multicultural Greek Sorority, Kappa Delta Chi and our first NPC sorority in more than 10 years, Theta Phi Alpha. Just that next year, we welcomed Delta Phi Epsilon Sorority.

Later we would have local sorority, Psi Theta Upsilon form who would then become an affiliate of Alpha Sigma Alpha Sorority in 2009.