Theta Kappa Psi Medical Fraternity, Incorporated, (ΘΚΨ) was a defunct professional medical fraternity. Currently, the Beta Phi Chapter of Theta Kappa Psi in Galveston, Texas is restructuring the fraternity from its independent chapter.


Founding of Kappa Psi

The Society of Kappa Psi was founded on May 30, 1879 at the Russell Military Academy in New Haven, Connecticut. The original founder was F. Harvey Smith. The second chapter was established at the Cheshire Military Academy in Cheshire, Connecticut on November 30, 1879. A third chapter was established at Hillhouse Academy in New Haven, Connecticut on October 7, 1894. All three chapters had dissolved by the mid 1890s.

Kappa Psi Fraternity was reorganized on November 18, 1898 at the School of Medicine at the University of Maryland. The fraternity was organized by William C. Bennett, Perry L. Boyer, William F. Clark, James E. Cathill, Edwin J. Frosher, Thompson D. Gilbert, J. Dawson Reeder, Press W. Ethridge, and F. Harvey Smith. Several of the members involved in the reorganization had been involved with one of the prior three Kappa Psi chapters. The reorganized Kappa Psi was a joint medical-pharmaceutical fraternity, in which chapters would be chartered in both medical and pharmacy schools and colleges.[1]

Reorganization from Kappa Psi

At the 1924 Grand Council Convention of Kappa Psi, the decision was made to separate the fraternity into two separate entities: one fraternity for medicine and one fraternity for pharmacy. The split was effective on January 15, 1925. The pharmacy fraternity retained the Greek name Kappa Psi, and the medical fraternity became Theta Kappa Psi.

With the reorganization of the medical fraternity from Kappa Psi in 1924, it was necessary to assume a new name, rewrite and adopt a new constitution, ritual, coat of arms,insignia, badge, and pledge button. The medical group assumed the name of Theta Kappa Psi Medical Fraternity, believing that the addition of the Greek letter Theta greatly enhanced its ritualistic significance. The new constitution bestowed the national president with the title of Grand Prytan, the national vice-president with the title of Grand Vice-Prytan, and the Grand Secretary and Treasurer with the title of Grand Recorder and Bursar. The name of the new medical fraternity journal was The Messenger. The badge and coat of arms were designed by Richard Bliss. The insignia and pledge button were designed by R.C. Williams. Theta Kappa Psi (old iteration) split off from Kappa Psi in 1924. Then in 1961, Theta Kappa Psi merged to become part of Phi Beta Pi Medical Fraternity.

When the division of the pharmacy and medical groups was declared effective, January 15, 1925, Theta Kappa Psi Medical Fraternity began its fresh endeavors with 32 chapters. Four of these 32 chapters included both medical and pharmacy students. Nine of the 32 chapters were inactive. Within a short time the revised Ritual and Constitution together with the necessary forms and records and changed charters were issued to the chapters of Theta Kappa Psi.

Following the reorganization it was necessary that the Fraternity be reincorporated. Incorporation papers were filed for Theta Kappa Psi by Dr. M.I. Samuels, Delta, Wilmington, Delaware; Dr. C. J. Harbordt, Epsilon, Dover, Delaware; and W.O. Klienstuber, Beta Eta, Wilmington, Delaware, on May 6, 1926. The incorporation was completed May 7, 1926.

Initially, Theta Kappa Psi Medical Fraternity found progress to be very difficult since there were at least five strong national medical fraternities with which it had to compete. Also, many of the strong leaders of the old Kappa Psi Fraternity were associated with pharmacy schools and their interest in the new pharmacy fraternity was a strong factor in the rapid development of Kappa Psi Pharmaceutical Fraternity.

Following the reorganization, Delta Chapter did not prosper. The chapter depended upon transfers from other schools instead of working for themselves. The chapter also lacked leadership. It was necessary to withdraw the charter in 1930. Delta had furnished more Grand Officers than any other chapter and had always been the leader.

The first officers of Theta Kappa Psi Medical Fraternity were:

Ralph C. Williams Grand Prytan Jabex H. Elliott Grand Vice-Prytan A. Richard Bliss, Jr. Grand Recorder and Bursar Victor J. Anderson Grand Registrar and Editor Thomas Benton Sellers Grand Counselor

Beta Kappa chapter at Duke University in 1932.

The zenith of Theta Kappa Psi Medical Fraternity was undoubtedly during the year 1933. The national officers were Grand Prytan R.C. Williams; Grand Vice-Prytan J.H. Elliott; and Grand Recorder and Bursar A.G. Engelbach. Through their staunch leadership the Fraternity was weathering the depression and had a peak strength of 35 collegiate chapters and 25 graduate chapters. The year ended with the international convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, December 27–29, 1933. Following an exceptionally successful convention the delegates boarded their respective trains bound homeward, filled with enthusiasm for their Fraternity. Little did they realize that Theta Kappa Psi was destined never to reattain the heights it enjoyed those cold December days in Atlantic City in 1933.

Between 1935 and 1940, Theta Kappa Psi lost eleven chapters. By 1940, the Fraternity had dropped to sixth place among national medical fraternities in number of undergraduate chapters. The problems confronting Theta Kappa Psi were not alone, for two other national medical fraternities, Phi Alpha Sigma and Alpha Mu Pi Omega, disappeared during the period. When World War II ended in 1945, Theta Kappa Psi was composed of only twelve collegiate chapters.

In 1955, at long last, improvement came. The ever-present R.C. Williams chartered Mu Upsilon Chapter in Miami, the first new collegiate chapter granted since 1944. Beta Epsilon Chapter at Ohio State University was reactivated.

Merger with Phi Beta Pi

The rebirth of Theta Kappa Psi, however, was short lived. By the Fall of 1959, Theta Kappa Psi's chapter roll had dropped to six. Several frustrated national officers began negotiations with representatives of Phi Beta Pi Medical Fraternity for a merger.

The last national convention of Theta Kappa Psi convened March 11, 1961 at the McAllister Hotel in Miami, Florida. During the meeting a motion was made to merge with Phi Beta Pi Medical Fraternity and the motion passed. Theta Kappa Psi Fraternity, as a distinct national entity, passed into history.

Theta Kappa Psi was officially invited to merge with Phi Beta Pi upon the condition that Theta Kappa Psi would surrender its name, rolls, and treasury to the national Phi Beta Pi office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Chapters would be allowed to add the prefix Theta to their chapter designation. These conditions were accepted. Both fraternities were allowed to maintain certain of their original identification features.

The two Texas chapters of Theta Kappa Psi -- Beta Phi in Galveston and Psi in Dallas—could not accept the action. The thought of sacrificing the Fraternity's name, history, and tradition was considered untenable. In the wake of this disgruntlement, the two Texas Chapters and Gamma Tau at the University of Manitoba wrote a new constitution and termed their seceding organization Theta Kappa Psi International Medical Fraternity. Legal action, however, threatened by Phi Beta Pi concerning the use of the name, caused no meetings to be held after 1962.

The surviving chapters of Theta Kappa Psi followed diverse courses. Beta Epsilon at Ohio State University continued as independent local fraternity until 1964 when poor finances caused it to fold. Psi Chapter at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas pledged members up until 1968 as a local independent fraternity. Gamma Tau at the University of Manitoba continued as an independent local fraternity until it became inactive in 1968. Beta Eta at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia was an active chapter in Phi Beta Pi until 1966. At that time the chapter lost all formal structure when it allowed non-members to live in its fraternity house. In the 1960s Beta Phi at the University of Texas Medical Branch, functioning as a local independent fraternity, emerged as the largest medical fraternity chapter in the nation with 130 members. The ritual, revised from the previous national initiation ceremony, was strictly followed. Gamma Kappa at the Medical College of Georgia affiliated with Phi Beta Pi after the merger. This chapter was extremely successful in the 1960s building a new fraternity house in 1966. Although listed as a chapter of Phi Beta Pi, the group considered itself a member of Theta Kappa Psi.

In the Spring of 1992, Phi Beta Pi-Theta Kappa Psi was dissolved. At the time of closing there were nine active chapters in existence. Of the 59 chapters installed by Theta Kappa Psi, Gamma Kappa Chapter at the Medical College of Georgia was the last to remain active.


Number Chapter Installation Date College or University Location Status
1. Alpha 1879 Grand Chapter Inactive
2. Beta 1900 Medical College of Virginia Richmond, Virginia Inactive
3. Gamma 1905 Albany Medical College Albany, New York Inactive
4. Delta 1898 University of Maryland College Park, Maryland Inactive
5. Epsilon 1901 Maryland Medical College Baltimore, Maryland School closed in 1913
6. Zeta 1902 Georgetown University Washington, D.C. Inactive
7. Eta 1928 Rush Medical College Chicago, Illinois Inactive
8. Iota 1905 University of Alabama School of Medicine Tuscaloosa, Alabama Inactive, School moved from Mobile to Tuscaloosa in 1920
9. Kappa 1906 Birmingham Medical College Birmingham, Alabama School closed in 1915
10. Kappa Phi 1908 University of Minnesota Minneapolis, Minnesota Inactive
11. Lambda 1907 Vanderbilt University Nashville, Tennessee Inactive
12. Mu Sigma Alpha 1888 University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Michigan Inactive
13. Nu 1907 Medical College of South Carolina Charleston, South Carolina Inactive
14. Xi 1908 University of West Virginia Morgantown, West Virginia Inactive
15. Omicron 1908 University of Nashville Nashville, Tennessee School closed in 1911
16. Pi 1908 Tulane University New Orleans, Louisiana Inactive
17. Rho 1908 Emory University Atlanta, Georgia Inactive


  1. ^ Bailey, Harold J., Ed. Baird's Manual of American College Fraternities. Fifteenth Edition (1949). pp 561-562