Phi Kappa Theta - Iowa State University

Fall 2020 Newsletter

Iowa Xi Chapter of Phi Kappa Theta at Iowa State University

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FKQ CLONE Ames Phi Kappa Building Company P.O. Box 393 Ames, IA 50010-0393 Address Service Requested Creating a New Fraternity in Phi Kappa Theta Looking Back on the Merger Between Phi Kappa and Theta Kappa Phi T he year was 1959. World War II and the Korean War were recent events, the Cold War was well established, President Eisenhower was in the middle of his second term, gas was 25 cents a gallon, the space race with the Soviet Union was on (and the U.S. was behind), Alaska and Hawaii were admitted as states, hula hoops were a national craze, and Ames was home to Iowa State College of Agricultural and Mechanic Arts (Iowa State College for short). This was the backdrop to the merger between two Catholic fraternities, Phi Kappa and Theta Kappa Phi. n The Merger The two fraternities decided that the charter day of Phi Kappa Theta would be celebrated at Ohio State University on April 29, 1959, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the founding of Phi Kappa. It culminated work that began in 1937. At the time, the merger was the first of its kind in the history of the American fraternal system. The myriad details that had to be resolved by both fraternities for a successful merger shouldn't be underestimated. Understandably, some undergraduate members and alumni resisted. The primary concerns were fear of losing the identity and rituals extant in the precursor fraternities. Before the merger, the alumni of the Alpha Chapter of Theta Kappa Phi at Lehigh filed a lawsuit against their national organization to delay and potentially halt the merger. In the end, the court case did neither, but it does highlight that the merger wasn't without controversy. n Iowa Xi and the Merger At the Xi Chapter of Phi Kappa at Iowa State College, the merger seemed to have been accepted without dissension. Several alumni interviewed for this article didn't recall much fanfare surrounding the merger. A ceremony was held on April 30, 1959, at the chapter house on Lincoln Way. Iowa State College Director of Student Affairs Millard R. Kratochvil and St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Pastor Rev. James Supple were guest speakers. Father Supple provided pastoral care to Phi Kaps at Iowa Xi over several decades. Ronald Klocke '61 recalled that some of the older brothers in the chapter wondered what the merger would do to traditions and rituals. Would Theta Kappa Phi's traditions supersede their own and would the Phi Kappa ritual be changed? Jay Conover '58 didn't recall the merger changing day-to-day life at Iowa Xi, but he did recall there was some discussion about it. Jay was one of the brothers who had to update the Iowa Xi constitution to reflect the name and organizational changes. Within months of the merger, Iowa State College changed its name to Iowa State University in July 1959. n Still Going Strong Last year, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the merger and the 130th anniversary of Phi Kappa. Our brotherhood today and our history are testaments to the men who worked in the 1940s and 1950s to create Phi Kappa Theta. Their ideas, collaboration, and shared values exemplified brotherhood. They were successful in merging two large social organizations with different structural and organizational make- ups. They skillfully orchestrated the social engineering to not just merge engrained rituals and traditions, but to also get the lifeblood of the fraternities—the members and alumni—on board with the merger. The endurance of Phi Kappa Theta speaks to the strength of our brotherhood, resilience, and common values. INSTAGRAM: @ISUPHIKAPS FACEBOOK: Phi Kappa Theta Iowa Xi Alumni | Iowa Xi-Phi Kappa Theta 100 | Phi Kappa Theta-Iowa State University n We Would Like to Talk to You! The Iowa Xi Alumni Corporation History Committee is working on creating a perspective piece of the 1959 merger as part of its ongoing effort to document the history of the chapter for the upcoming 100th anniversary in 2024. We have been contacting and interviewing alumni from that era to build a picture of life in the fraternity before, during, and after the merger. While we have interviewed some alumni, we are looking for more perspectives. To that end, we are asking all alumni who were in the chapter from 1957 to 1961 to contact us via email, phone, or text so that we can schedule an interview with you. Please contact John Vonderhaar '14 at vonderhaarjohnathan@ or (563) 599-9759. Credits: 1. Wikipedia articles on Phi Kappa Theta and Iowa State University 2. Original research and interviews by John Vonderhaar '14 3. Ames Daily Tribune. 1959. "ISC Fraternities Combine." 4. Des Moines Tribune. 1959. "Change Name of Fraternity." Make Sure Your Contact Information Is Up to Date! Please review the inserted biographical update form and let us know if you have not been receiving emails about alumni news and events or if your contact information has changed. We would like to make sure we are reaching everyone possible for upcoming events. Send updates to Clayton Short '15 at or Paul Peterson '01 at

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