Our University of Illinois History since 1891
Kappa Sigma was the first fraternity established at the University of Illinois following the removal of anti-fraternity restrictions at the school. Its charter was granted October 15, 1891.
The Chapter, given the name of Alpha-Gamma, came into existence a month later when its first members were taken into the fraternity under the guidance of Robert Lackey, a Kappa Sig from Purdue (at left) who had come to Illinois that fall to become the University's second football coach. He accepted the position merely for the opportunity that it would present him to establish a chapter of Kappa Sigma. In his position, he was thrown into personal contact with most of the male students at Illinois. For the January 1892 issue of the Kappa Sigma Caduceus, he described the situation:
"Finding excellent material at Illinois and being thrown into personal contact with the best men in the school I soon began to talk 'fraternity' to one or two of the college leaders and found them willing and anxious to welcome the Greeks. At this time there were no fraternities there. It was not long before we had ten men who were willing to go ahead although the fraternity restrictions had not been definitely removed."
In the later years he wrote: "I soon came to know Robert Carr and recognized in him a personality of unusual ability and charm. I mentioned the question of college fraternities to him and especially talked Kappa Sigma and found he was favorable. Together we looked over the field and soon had a dozen men of the University allied with us." (According to a chapter history prepared in 1895, only nine were pledged at first.)
A petition for a chapter was prepared and nine men signed this. It was mailed to Herbert Martin, then National Secretary of Kappa Sigma, but to help matters along, because he expected they would be obliged to wait some time before it was acted upon, Lackey sent a telegram to Martin stating that the petition was on its way to him. Lackey had sent his message the morning of October 15th and it was with a great deal of surprise that he received that afternoon following lunch a telegram from Martin saying: "Go ahead and install chapter: Frank D. Arms, George H. Atherton, George P. Behrensmeyer, James D. Metcalf, William G. Miller, James Steele, and William E. Steinwedell."
As the football season was drawing to a close, Lackey knew that he would soon have to be returning to Purdue. So, he decided to initiate some of the men at once. He conceived of the idea of administering the oath and the secret signs to four of the men and then he could properly organize a chapter in due form.
It was finally decided to draw lots to determine which of the pledges would be the original four. Accordingly, a meeting was held in the room of Harless W. King one night about the first of November to decide the order of initiation. The four selected were: James David Metcalf of Gerard, Illinois; William George Miller of Chicago, Illinois; William Ernest Steinwedell of Quincy, Illinois; and George Henry Atherton of Streator, Illinois. Their initiation was held on the night of November 17, 1891 in the room of Metcalf and Atherton at 402 West Church Street in Champaign.
About this time, the University trustees met and, as expected, removed the fraternity restrictions. It was then quietly rumored over the campus that Kappa Sigma would be installed on the campus. Lackey was informed of the trustees' actions and came from Purdue to aid in the official installation which took place December 16th, 1891. As no permanent rooms had been secured by the fraternity up to this time, the G.A.R. hall at 23 Main Street, was rented for the occasion and five more men were initiated that night.