KDS Reunion attendees with balloons

Taking a Stand

The Founding of Kappa Delta Sigma

In 1969, the women of St. Lawrence’s Sigma Eta Chapter of Kappa Delta found themselves at the steering wheel of social and political upheaval in America by challenging the ethnic and religious restrictions on membership within the founding principles of their Kappa Delta national organization. Their chapter had opened the doors to a more diverse membership, and as Stephanie Gay Brown ’69 wrote in the 50th Anniversary memoir:

"We did not turn away from what might be a difficult confrontation with national Kappa Delta. The legitimacy and morality of vigorous civil rights actions were undermining the flawed principles and traditions of former years. Naively, many of us felt that surely the intelligent women of KD would understand that American life was changing for the better and the time for racial or religious discrimination was justifiably disappearing. Had you asked us in 1969, we would have been certain that within 50 years all discrimination would be long gone."

However, in 1969, the national Kappa Delta did object, and the conflict between local chapter and national organization intensified. Relations between local alumnae and current members became strained; eviction from the sorority house at 53 Park Street was a looming threat; and, negotiations with University leadership went into emergency mode. In the end, the chapter voted to embrace inclusion and risk expulsion. National declared the chapter dormant, and, with the assistance of the University, this group of St. Lawrence students chartered the local Kappa Delta Sigma sorority. 

The new KDS actively and openly embedded ideas of universal friendship and mutual respect in their public principles. When offered membership, 25 women consciously chose to join. The 50th anniversary celebration during the 2019 Reunion Weekend emphasized the continuing centrality and relevance of these inclusive beliefs.

With many in this cohort now in their 70s, Brown says, “We have all lived varied and sometimes exciting lives, but all of us are proud that when the time came for us to stand up and be counted for our ideals, we had the courage, energy, and intelligence to do so.”