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Honor Above All Things

Kappa Delta Rho History

Kappa Delta Rho was founded in 1905 in the Old Painters Hall at Middlebury College. It formed out of the Commons Club, and had ten principal founders: George E. Kimball, Irving T. Coates, John Beecher, Thomas H. Bartley, Pierce W. Darrow, Benjamin E. Farr, Gideon R. Norton, Gino A. Ratti, Chester M. Welch, and Roy D. Wood. On May 17, 1905, these ten men met as the charter members of Kappa Delta Rho.

Before 1905, there were only three fraternities at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont. Chi Psi, Delta Kappa Epsilon, and Delta Upsilon founded chapters on the campus before the Civil War. No new fraternities formed on the campus, until a large neutral group founded the Commons Club. In 1905, the Alpha Chapter of Kappa Delta Rho formed out of the Commons Club.
In the fall of 1904, George E. Kimball, president of the Commons Club, and two other members, Irving T. Coates and John Beecher, met in Room 14 of Old Painter Hall. They discussed the formation of a new, more closely knit fraternity group. The Commons Club was large and not very congenial for intimate relationships then. After several meetings, they approached seven other members of the Commons Club who were very enthusiastic about the idea. They were, Thomas H. Bartley, Pierce W. Darrow, Benjamin E. Farr, Gideon R. Norton, Gino A. Ratti, Chester M. Walch, and Roy D. Wood. On May 17, 1905, the ten men met as the charter members of Kappa Delta Rho Fraternity in Room 14 of Old Painter Hall.

The exact circumstances are impossible to recount with the passage of time, but there were setbacks from the beginning. The announcement of the birth of KDR occurred at a faculty meeting in the fall of 1905. Someone asked, “What is the name of the new frat?” The reply was, “Some Greek combination ending in Rho.” Other remarks by the faculty indicated they thought KDR would have a “hard row,” or a struggle to exist. It wasn’t long before the faculty hoped that KDR would not pledge all the best men on campus.

Kimball, Walch, and Ratti met many times to draft a ritual, choose a motto, and write a constitution that fit the fraternity’s ideas and ideals. Walch created our secret motto and password. Unlike other fraternities, the founders named the officers of KDR after Roman titles, instead of Greek Republic titles. They wanted to emulate the Romans’ stern virtues. They also chose our motto, Honor Super Omnia- Honor Before All Things. Middlebury Blue and Princeton Orange became the fraternity colors, symbolizing justice and freedom. The founders appointed Ratti to design the coat of arms, since he had art experience. Then the founders focused on the ritual. Adopting a ritual caused a great deal of anxious thought. The founders intended the ritual to reflect the high ideals they wanted to follow.

With few revisions, the ritual has stood the test of time. The basic structure remains the same today. Subsequently, the red rose was adopted as the fraternity’s flower and became the symbol of love and incorruption for the fraternity of Kappa Delta Rho.
During the first year, Delta Tau Delta sent a representative to the campus to discuss absorbing KDR into their fraternity. This came about because the founders considered joining a national fraternity. In the words of Kimball, “(We) decided that we preferred to ‘paddle our own canoe’ and took no further action in the matter.”

In the beginning, there were no pledge classes or pledges, but delegations. In 1913, the fraternity attracted larger pledge classes of ten to fifteen men. The chapter used furnished off-campus meeting rooms for the secret conclaves, socials, and rush parties. Since 1905, Kappa Delta Rho has initiated more than 23,000 members. Currently, there are approximately 17,000 living alumni. The history of KDR is the individual history of all our undergraduates and alumni. That history continues every day, chapter by chapter, as undergraduates demonstrate their academic and chapter achievements. Our alumni are leaders in their professional fields, and the list of their achievements is endless. All of these achievements echo the ideals of the ten founders, Honor Super Omnia.