The Pennsylvania Alpha chapter of the Kappa Alpha Society is know as Kappa Alpha in Vniversitas Lehighensis or KA in VL for short. Kappa Alpha was founded at Lehigh on January 2nd, 1894, due largely to the work of James Emery Brooks, Henry Edward Kip, and Charles Frazier Maurice, all members of the class of 1895, and with help from Lehigh chemistry professor Dr. William H. Chandler, who was a member of the Kappa Alpha Society at Union College.
The new Chapter met for several months across the river in the home of the grandmother of Charles Maurice and then later moved to a house located on Cherokee street near Fourth. In 1901 a lease was signed for a larger house in the neighborhood.
As the Chapter continued to grow it was necessary to locate to larger quarters and in 1908 a lease was signed for the Sayre property. This house was occupied until 1916 when the sale of the property forced relocation back to Seneca Street and two years later to a house on Broadway. In 1922 a house was purchased at the corner of Seneca and Fourth. This was home until 1961 when the Chapter moved into the current Kap Lodge.
Through the years Kappa Alpha has carried forward the torch of true friendship and fellowship with a deep sense of responsibility of service to Kappa Alpha and Lehigh University. The undergraduates have followed in the steps of Charles Maurice and have been active in all phases of student life. The alumni, too, have served in various capacities in the Lehigh Alumni Association and Board of Trustees.
The Kappa Alpha Society was established on November 26, 1825, in Union College. It was the first of what would become known as the Union Triad, the other two members being Sigma Phi and Delta Phi, and it was the first social fraternity.
The Society was established as a “literary society”. Back in the 19th century college literary societies had a much broader scope than the term implies today. They were student run organizations that fostered lively debate of the issues of the times and pursued enquiries beyond the formal curriculum of the college. Union College had two such competing societies.
Kappa Alpha’s founding members were involved with these literary groups. However, they realized their strict rules of operation stifled the development of camaraderie and fellowship amongst their members.
These original Kaps consisted of the founder, John Hart Hunter, and a number of his fun loving friends. With Hunter as the principal architect, they conceived the idea of forming a social and literary group of their own that would fill the void and provide an avenue to the camaraderie they sought.
Indeed, the Society had its humble beginnings in the meetings of these friends in their dorm rooms. When they fleshed out the structure of their new enterprise they added an element of secrecy in order to facilitate a bond amongst its members.
Since then, the Kappa Alpha Society has spread to numerous schools and maintained the longest continual existence of any undergraduate social fraternity. To this day, we pursue intellect and continue to meet in the shadows of secrecy, continually building on John Hart Hunter’s legacy.