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The History of Kappa Sigma

Modern day Kappa Sigma was founded one chilly evening in the fall of 1869, as five students attending the University of Virginia in Charlottesville gathered in the room of William Grigsby McCormick, at 46 East Lawn, and planted the seed of brotherhood. For many weeks the bonds of friendship had drawn these five together; now the need became clear for a formal structure to contain their feelings. Thus, not only did the Founders formalize their friendship, but they also created a fraternity steeped in the traditions of the past and dedicated to the pursuit of learning. The new brothers recorded their bond in a Constitution and in an Oath that set forth the ideals and principles to all Kappa Sigmas today.

The Five Friends and Brothers

William Grigsby McCormick occupied the room at 46 East Lawn in the fall of 1869. It was there that he, with four friends, Frank Courtney Nicodemus, Edmund Law Rogers, John Covert Boyd and George Miles Arnold, founded the Kappa Sigma Fraternity on that cold December evening. Founder McCormick was in his second year at the University.

Both in their first year at the University, Founder Arnold lived at East Range and Founder Nicodemus at 9 West Range. Founders Boyd and Rogers lived off the Grounds. Early records of the founding of the first American chapter of Kappa Sigma at the University of Virginia, called Zeta Chapter, leave much of the detailed description of the early meetings untold. However, we know that a constitution was composed by the Founders and was recorded in the handwriting of Founder Arnold.

The original Constitution names the Fraternity “Kappa Sigma,” describes the Badge, and gives significance to the emblems appearing on it. The original Badge was designed by Edmund Law Rogers and during the Christmas holidays of 1869, an order of badges was placed with Sadtler & Sons of Baltimore, Maryland. Upon their return to campus in spring 1870, the Five Friends and Brothers proudly displayed the Star and Crescent of Kappa Sigma for the first time.


William Grigsby McCormick

William Grigsby McCormick came to Virginia from a celebrated family. He enrolled at the University of Virginia in October, 1868, returning again in the year of the founding, 1869.

At the 28th Biennial Grand Conclave in Los Angeles in 1929, McCormick, the only surviving founder at the time, was elected to the position of Most Worthy Grand Master – the only Kappa Sigma to hold such title. He died November 29, 1941, and the era of the Founders came to an end.


George Miles Arnold

George Miles Arnold was born August 27, 1851, in Troy, New York and was raised in Mobile, Alabama. He entered the University of Virginia in 1869, his chief studies being Latin, French and mathematics. The first Grand Master of Zeta Chapter, he began a course in medicine at the University in 1870 but withdrew from Virginia in February 1871, to enter the Medical College of New York where he completed his medical education. George Miles Arnold was very active in the Fraternity during its infancy and throughout his life. One of the other Founders said of Arnold, “He gave nearly his whole time to the society.”


Edmund Law Rogers, Jr.

Edmund Law Rogers was born July 1, 1850, in Baltimore, Maryland to a prominent Maryland family. Rogers studied architecture and also developed an interest in acting. His graphic talent is apparent in the Badge of Kappa Sigma Fraternity, which Rogers designed.

He was quick of wit and possessed enormous charm. Rogers died December 19, 1893; he was buried in Baltimore, Maryland in the Buchanan and Rogers burial ground in Druid Hill.


Frank Courtney Nicodemus

Frank Courtney Nicodemus, a lifelong resident of Baltimore, was born January 8, 1853.  In 1885, Nicodemus became the treasurer of the Baltimore post office, and in 1891, he accepted the general agency for Maryland of the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company which he continued in until his death on May 25, 1919.


John Covert Boyd

John Covert Boyd was born December 24, 1850, near Bradford Springs, Sumter County, South Carolina. Throughout his career, he authored numerous reports on technical subjects. In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt designated Boyd to help incorporate the American National Red Cross. Venerated with McCormick in his final years, Boyd died July 7, 1927.


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