On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomatox. The great Civil War had ended and leaders on both sides turned their thoughts and efforts toward reconstruction. Lexington, Virginia became the educational center of the new South. General Lee accepted the presidency of the bankrupt and looted Washington College (later renamed Washington and Lee University) in August of 1865. Lee’s presence attracted the finest educators to Lexington. As a result, the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) was reopened on October 17, 1865.
In this environment, three fine fraternities were founded. Alpha Tau Omega was founded in Richmond, Virginia on September 11, 1865 and placed its mother chapter at VMI when it reopened. Sigma Nu was founded January 1, 1869.
On the evening of September 28, 1867, cadet John M. Tutwiler invited cadets James Gunnel Hurst, Kenneth McDonald and David Gamble Murrell to his room in the VMI Quadrangle to found a fraternity. The original name, “C.E.C. Fraternity”, was soon changed to Kappa Sigma Kappa, but the letters “CEC” did retain ritual significance within the fraternity (these letters can be found inscribed on the back of all Kappa Sigma Kappa badges). The Fraternity was built upon the principles of mutual confidence, trust, and fraternal cooperation.
It was Tutwiler who suggested the name, devised the ritual and designed the badge. The badge of Kappa Sigma Kappa was a gold Jerusalem Cross. The Greek letters of the Fraternity appeared in gold on a black enameled disc in the center of the badge. Twelve oriental pearls surrounded this disc on the jeweled badge. Seven gold dots appeared on each of the four white enameled arms of the cross. Each part of the badge represented certain mystical concepts revealed in The Ritual.
The second chapter was established at Washington College, and other chapters were subsequently chartered at Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University), the University of Virginia, Emory and Henry, Randolph-Macon, and other Southern schools. In the late 1880’s, however, antifraternity laws which were passed in the South forced some of the chapters of Kappa Sigma Kappa into inactivity. Others chapters, with the exception of one at the University of Virginia, merged with Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. Alumni from the Virginia chapter, which had refused to enter the merger, preserved the records of Kappa Sigma Kappa. The fraternity remained inactive for more than forty years.
In 1935 four students at the University of Virginia learned about Kappa Sigma Kappa and conceived the idea of reactivating the fraternity. The group, led by St. Paul Henstridge, investigated the history of the old Virginia chapter and found that a complete membership roll could be reconstructed from historical files in the University library. They learned that three members of the chapter were living, including two charter members. They discovered Founder Kenneth McDonald was still alive as well. The four students contacted these alumni and informed them of their intentions to revive Kappa Sigma Kappa. The alumni officially granted the four students permission, and in September, 1935, the rebirth of Kappa Sigma Kappa began.
The person most responsible for the reestablishment of Kappa Sigma Kappa nationally was George R. Jefferson, who became the fraternity’s chief executive in 1937. During his term, which lasted until the merger agreement with Theta Xi Fraternity in 1962, he oversaw the expansion of Kappa Sigma Kappa. Under his leadership, the fraternity roll grew from two chapters to a height of 45 in 1950. Beginning in the early 1950’s, however, the fraternity began to rapidly lose chapters for reasons which ultimately led to the merger with Theta Xi.
Upon completion of informal talks held between representatives of Kappa Sigma Kappa and Theta Xi in 1962, it was concluded that a merger would prove beneficial to both organizations. Kappa Sigma Kappa had three main reasons for favoring a merger. First, and most important, it had been unable to obtain National Interfraternity Conference (NIC) membership because several of its chapters were on unaccredited campuses. Some of its chapters had disaffiliated or lost host institution recognition as a result of the fraternity’s failure to obtain NIC membership (Theta Xi had been a member since 1911). Second, its membership expressed a need for stronger organizational structure with a sound financial footing, more uniform chapter operations, and a larger base of alumni volunteers. Last, the fraternity saw a need for a central office with paid personnel, including a full-time executive and traveling staff. Theta Xi could provide all of these needs. The two fraternities also seemed to complement each other, since there was no duplication of chapters.
Following a series of meetings the terms of the proposed merger were agreed upon and subsequently ratified by the governing bodies of the two fraternities. As part of the merger agreement, the Theta Xi Fraternity flower was changed from the white carnation to the blue iris, the fleurs-de-lis on the coat of arms were replaced with upright crescents and the title of the membership manual was changed from The Theta Xi Pledge Manual to The Quest For Theta Xi.
On August 20, 1962, twenty-one chapters of Kappa Sigma Kappa located at accredited schools were received into the Bonds of Theta Xi. Each of these chapters received a Greek-letter designation prefaced by Kappa. Seven chapters, which were ineligible to come into Theta Xi because they were located on unaccredited campuses, reorganized their national structure and continued under the name Kappa Sigma Kappa.