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A Brief History of Kappa Mu Epsilon

The rapid growth of universities and colleges in the United States in the latter part of the 19th Century led to the development of professional societies in every field. Local clubs were formed in educational institutions to promote professional interests, and the desire for affiliation with other groups of similar ideals led to the organization of these local clubs into national and state societies. Various fields, such as law, medicine, science, engineering, teaching, eventually developed societies with large memberships.

In mathematics, Pi Mu Epsilon became the national fraternity for instructors and advanced students who were in educational institutions offering graduate work. Since the first fraternities open to mathematics students on the undergraduate level were organized by science departments, the need for a national fraternity that would attract such students through their mathematics departments was recognized. Kappa Mu Epsilon, was organized to fill this need, and Dr. Emily Kathryn Wyant is considered to be its founder.

Dr. Wyant was a graduate of the University of Missouri and was a member of Pi Mu Epsilon. In the Fall of 1930, she went to Northeastern Oklahoma State Teachers College, as a professor of mathematics. Her vigor and enthusiasm helped to transform the mathematics club, which had been in existence since 1927, into the first chapter of Kappa Mu Epsilon. Professor L.P. Woods, who was head of the Department of Mathematics and Dean of Men at the time, became a valuable co-worker concerned with many details pertaining to the project, including the first rituals used for the initiation of members and installation of officers.

Together Dr. Wyant and Professor Woods along with twenty-two other faculty and students became charter members of Oklahoma Alpha, Northeastern Oklahoma State Teachers college, Tahlequah, April 18, 1931. Since Dr. Wyant maintained an extensive correspondence with faculty members at other institutions, the second chapter of Kappa Mu Epsilon, Iowa Alpha, was installed at Iowa State Teachers College, Cedar Falls, may 27, 1931. Kansas Alpha, the third chapter, was installed January 30, 1931, at Kansas State Teachers College, Pittsburg. Then came Missouri Alpha, Southwest Missouri State college, Springfield, May 10, 1932.

Meanwhile, Mississippi State College for Women and Mississippi State College were preparing to inaugurate an independent fraternity. But rather than starting a competing organization, they agreed to unite with the other chapters of Kappa Mu Epsilon that had already been formed. Thus, Mississippi Alpha, Mississippi State College for Women, Columbus, was installed May 30, 1932, and Mississippi Beta, Mississippi State College, Mississippi State, was installed December 14, 1932, bringing the membership to six chapters in five states by the end of 1932.

Today Kappa Mu Epsilon has become a specialized honor society with one hundred fifteen or more active chapters, located in colleges and universities of recognized standing, which offer a strong mathematics major, in thirty-four states. The chapters’ members are selected from students of mathematics or closely related fields, who have professional merit and attain academic distinction. Approximately sixty thousand students have been initiated so far, and since Kappa Mu Epsilon was founded, they have helped it to become more than a group of isolated chapters devoted solely to the election of honor students to membership. Indeed, each chapter is encouraged to be a working organization throughout the academic year, functioning as an integral part of the mathematics department through worthwhile extra-curricular activities.

The chapter here at UW-Eau Claire was established in the spring of 1977 and chartered by the national organization on February 4, 1978. There are currently about 35 active local members.

Excellence. Our Measure. Our Motto. Our Goal.