A group of undergraduate students at Oregon State College came together and called themselves the Beaver Club. Residing at 660 Madison Street, currently a bed and breakfast den, they were the nucleus of our Kappa Omicron chapter. A charter for the chapter was granted at the Birmingham Ekklesia on December 30, 1921. The installation of the Beaver Club members as Brothers of Phi Gamma Delta took place in May 1922. Carl Rickson, George Henerson, Earl Price, Robert Damn, Lloyd Cook, Gordon Giebisch, Alfred Clough, Ernest Arthur, Michael Duffy, Bert Babb, John Hall, Alexander Lowe, Otto Hathaway, and Hugh McKenna are the original charter members. Brother Hall went on to be speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives and later Governor of Oregon from October 30, 1947, to January 10, 1949.Professor Newins, a Fiji from Indiana, taught forestry at Oregon State. He was instrumental in convincing the Beaver Club members to try for Phi Gamma Delta.
Upon receiving their charter, the next step for the Kappa Omicron Chapter was to accumulate funds for the building of a Chapter House. Each member was asked to buy a $100 bond to start a fund for the house. In 1927, through the stimulus and direction of Faculty Advisor Earl Price, Purple Legionnaire E.C. Hobbs, Freshman Faculty Advisor F.A. Gilfillan, and Lyle Wilcox, plans got underway for the new Chapter House.A lot was bought 112 feet in width. Later, Doc Gilfillan was able to trade for an additional 45 feet to the south. Doc bought this lot with his own funds and at a subsequent date, when the Fraternity was financially able, Doc was reimbursed for the additional land. The architect for the Chapter House was P.D. Kennedy, and the contractor was Mr. Arthur, father of Ernie Arthur, one of our charter members. The original cost of construction was $42,000. In addition to the funds the chapter had, the remaining was borrowed from a local bank and a second mortgage came from Phi Gamma Delta Headquarters. With the new house almost complete and the funds depleted, the problem of furniture was the next hurdle. Earl Price’s father loaned the chapter $3,000 to buy furnishings. The actual construction started early in 1928, and the house was occupied by the beginning of fall term that same year.
During the depression years, many chapters of other fraternities were not able to continue and subsequently lost their houses. Kappa Omicron is proud to say that we were one of the few fraternity chapters that did not default on our mortgage loan.The college enrollment during the depression years was down to some 1,200 to 1,500 students. This low enrollment led to a temporary policy of non-duplication of courses between the University of Oregon and Oregon State University, then Oregon State College, eliminating all those enrolled in the School of Commerce, now known as the College of Business. During the spring of 1932, our chapter was operating at capacity with 48 members. However, by the spring of 1933, our numbers dwindled to 19. With such a low number of men in the house, it was decided to close off the third floor, which remained closed throughout the depression years.
From the beginning of spring term 1943 until January 1946, we did not have an active chapter in the Fraternity house. During the time of WWII, the army took over all dormitories, and the women from the dorms took over our Chapter House. When the women returned to the dorms, a group of Navy officers rented the house. They remained in the house until January 1946.In January of 1946, and for several years afterward, our chapter was made up of war veterans about 25 years old and 18 year old freshman students. The advanced maturity and independent attitude of the veterans mixed with the impressionable 18 year olds proved to be a difficult situation. This problem was prevalent in all the fraternities and probably led to the housemother program enjoyed for many years at Oregon State University. The housemother program was instituted in 1954.
In the 1995-1996 school year hard times hit Kappa Omicron. With a large burden of debt from unpaid house bills, poor academics, and plummeting membership, the House Corporation decided to close the house. All the members were put on “graduate” status and the house was temporarily empty. It was thought that many of these members would be allowed to rejoin the chapter when it reopened; however, due to hard feelings and significant differences in the vision for the chapter, no members returned when the chapter reopened.In the fall of 1997 the house was reopened as OSU’s only voluntarily alcohol-free fraternity with seven highly motivated brothers, known as the KO 7. The KO 7 consisted of Brandon Antoni, Andrew Ibert, David Klinkenberg, Kevin Long, Charles Woods, William Anderson, and Vincent Kimura. In 2001 Kappa Omicron received the Brennan Cup from the Interfraternity Council for Most Outstanding Chapter, recognizing the Best Fraternity on Campus. This set a new OSU record for the shortest period of time from reorganization to winning the award. Kappa Omicron excelled once again in 2002 and 2003 and 2006 winning the Brennan Cup for three consecutive years.