When Kappa Theta Psi was founded at Simpson, it was the only Greek-letter men's organization. Four national fraternities had earlier chartered chapters at the college; Delta Tau Delta in 1872, Phi Kappa Psi in 1882, Alpha Tau Omega in 1885 and Sigma Alpha Epsilon in 1889. All of them, however, had died, victims of evangelical, anti-fraternity sentiment on campus.
The unofficial origin of Kappa Theta Psi began in the winter and spring of 1901 when three seniors and three sophomores began an organization known as "The Six." The men involved in the organization were: A. Graham Reid, Rex Kennedy, and John Harrold from the class of 1901; Cliffton Beatty, Loren Talbott, and Frederick Kennedy of the class of 1903. This organization took the form of a fraternity because of its secret nature, but the only bonds of brotherhood found were the ties of strong friendship. The chief function of "The Six," was to engineer the political events of the college without discovery.
With the graduation of the three seniors, the remaining three often talked of establishing a fraternity, but a year passed before anything was done. After much discussion, and the admission of thirteen more followers, it was decided that they were ready.
On November 10th, 1902, Kappa Theta Psi was founded in the room of Earnest Rea and Newton Colver at the residence of Mrs. C. W. Hopper. After presentation of plans for a fraternity, by general consent, all stood, shook hands and declared themselves a fraternal organization. Fredrick Kennedy was elected as the first Grandmaster. The name Kappa Theta Psi was adopted on November 12th, 1902. On November 15th, black and old gold were selected as the fraternity colors and the American Beauty Rose was decided upon as the fraternity flower. After much discussion around campus, the Kappas were finally recognized on campus by a joint reception given by Delta Delta Delta and Pi Beta Phi on January 30, 1903.
In December of 1904, Kappa looked for the first time to a national charter. The Alumni of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, which had only been gone from Simpson's campus for a few years, looked to the Kappas to revive their chapter. Sending three representatives to the national convention in Memphis, Tennessee, to petition charter, the Kappa movement was overlooked because of the granting of charters to Iowa State University in Ames and University of Iowa in Iowa City. Because the sigma Charter of Simpson College had not actually been surrendered and the chapter had not officially disbanded, the SAE alumni decided to initiate 19 members of Kappa Theta Psi into SAE on May 25th, 1905, even though they had been advised not to do so by national officers.
In the years of 1905 and 1906, the newly initiated SAE's returned to the Simpson Campus as a national fraternity chapter but were soon faced with many problems. In November, two representatives were sent to the district convention in Lincoln, Nebraska, to plead the case for the chapter. They returned with the ultimatum that the group could continue as Sigma Alpha Epsilon but no new men could be initiated, which meant the extermination of the chapter as soon as the men then in the chapter graduated. On December 9, 1905, this offer was rejected by the chapter and they decided to return to Kappa Theta Psi.
The fraternity occupied a number of houses during its many years of activity and participated in the plan for a fraternity row off E street in 1963. At that time, the college built three identical fraternity houses, one each for ATO, Kappa, and SAE. The alumni of Lambda Chi Alpha elected not to participate. Each of the three participating fraternities paid a large sum to the college in order to acquire a lease on a building and it agreed to assume the responsibility for furnishing and maintaing the basement floor where it would operate its own food service.
Two years after acquiring their own house, the undergraduate members of Kappa Theta Psi decided that their future would be better assured if they sought a charter of a national fraternity. While Kappa Theta Psi alumni were decidedly unenthusiastic about such a move, they did not attempt to prevent the nationalization scheme.
In 1964, the Kappa's accepted a charter of Delta Upsilon and was duly installed. Delta Upsilon existed a decade on the campus, but for a number of reasons its strength flagged and its reputation sagged. By 1970, it was forced to abandon its chapter house for lack of numbers and thereafter went from bad to worse. Finally the Delta Upsilon national organization, together with Simpson College authorities, decided that the Delta Upsilon charter should be suspended and the chapter cease existence.
The Kappa Theta Psi alumni had not spent this time inactive. The alumni held a large reunion that took place in Des Moines and Indianola in July of 1979. The Reunion attracted more than 100 Kappa alumni and their wives. The reunion was an enormous success and at a luncheon on campus the next day, Dr. Joseph Walt, taking advantage of the fact that so many alumni were present, on behalf of the college, formally invited Kappa Theta Psi to re-establish its chapter during the 1979-1980 academic school year. Enthusiasm of an enterprise among the alumni was high and the Grants, "Chick" and George, took the lead and organized a campus committee to oversee the project. Included were "Chick," Grant, Joe Walt, George Grant, LuJean Cole, Dean of Students Gary Valen and College President Robert McBride.
A few weeks after fall semester had begun, the committee approached Thomas Westbrook, an energetic staff member who had volunteered to help out. They discussed a number of undergraduate men who might be interested in reviving Kappa Theta Psi. They soon focused upon a strong leader from the senior class, Craig Collins. He and the committee selected the nucleus of men to reorganize the chapter.
On the basis of two interest meetings and any number of late-night dorm conversation, eight undergraduates were selected as the charter members of the new chapter. They also selected Tom Westbrook as their new adviser and insisted that he be initiated with them as their ninth member. The initiation took place on December 10, 1979 under the able leadership of Don Bowman and George Grant. Also present were Dr. Pete Martson, Phil Watson, Wallace McKee, Jim Richardson, and "Chick" Grant. Alumni took all the parts and presented initiates gold and black ribbons for badges had been ordered but had not arrived from the jewelers.