Kappa Beta Phi

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Emblem of Kappa Beta Phi

Kappa Beta Phi (ΚΒΦ) is a secret society, best known for its Wall Street Chapter that is made up of high-ranking financial executives.

The purpose of the organization is largely social and honorific. The current honor society meets once a year at a black-tie dinner to induct new members. The current President is Alfred E. Smith IV.

History[edit]

Kappa Beta Phi lore, as told to initiates of the 1950s, was that it was the second oldest campus or Greek-letter fraternity following Phi Beta Kappa, that it also was founded in 1776, that it was founded as an alternative to Phi Beta Kappa to offer pub conviviality rather than salon discussions, and that its reversed Greek letters were chosen to signify that contrast. A membership card of the University of Michigan Chapter of Kappa Beta Phi for the 1952-53 college year supports this by featuring the phrase “Founded 1776.” An image of the Kappa Beta Phi key of that era is printed as background on the membership card and shows in the lower left corner a hand pointing at a stein in the upper right corner, three stars in the upper left corner, and a blank lower right corner. Membership was by invitation and open only to men belonging one of five, social, Greek-letter fraternities of which Psi Upsilon was one. The Michigan chapter's purpose was entirely social and revolved around several parties and picnics per year at which alcoholic drinks were always available. An all-day initiation was held once a year in a secluded farm field and involved excessive drinking.[citation needed]

By the 1930s dozens of chapters were in existence, primarily on college campuses. The society was known for being made up of men with a sense of humor. Many colleges and traditional fraternities fought to abolish Kappa Beta Phi, as it was often characterized as a fraternity solely for drinking and partying while making a mockery of academics and more reputable organizations such as Phi Beta Kappa. The Wall Street Chapter of Kappa Beta Phi was founded in 1929 prior to the stock market crash, and it is the only remaining chapter of the society. The stated purpose of the Wall Street Chapter is to "keep alive the spirit of the 'good old days of 1928–29.'"[1][1][2][3]

Traditions[edit]

The organization's name is a reversal of Phi Beta Kappa, and instead of a key, the members wear a fob tied to a red ribbon around their necks.

The organization's officers bear odd titles such as Grand Swipe (the President), Grand Smudge, Grand Loaf and Master at Arms. The annual dinner has been described by the Wall Street Journal as "Part Friar's Club roast, part 'Gong Show.'"[1] New inductees are expected to perform in a variety show to entertain the members, and many inductees benefit from professional coaches and writers to prepare them for their performances. Backed by a five-piece band, the inductees performed renditions of well-known tunes with lyrics modified to satirize Wall Street.[1]

Insignia[edit]

Kappa Beta Phi's insignia consists of a beer stein, a Champagne glass, a pointing hand, and five stars. The group’s Latin motto, “Dum vivamus edimus et biberimus,” roughly translates as “While we live, we eat and drink”.[4]

Members of the Wall Street Chapter[edit]

About 15 to 20 new members are inducted each year. Historically, the organization has inducted top executives of various Wall Street firms, including:[1][5][6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Karnitschnig, Matthew (2009-01-16). "A Wall Street Frat Parties On, Singing 'Bye, Bye to My Piece of the Pie'". Wall Street Journal. p. A1. 
  2. ^ "Hobart College: Kappa Beta Phi Men May Pay a Visit to Lehigh". New York Times. December 8, 1912. pSM19
  3. ^ "Kappa Beta Phi Dinner: Wall street Chapter to Revive Ghosts of "Good Old Days" Tonight". The Wall Street Journal. June 14, 1932
  4. ^ Roose, Kevin (January 20, 2012). "A Raucous Hazing at a Wall St. Fraternity". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ Michael Benson (2005). Inside Secret Societies: What They Don't Want You to Know. Kensington Publishing Corp.,. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-8065-2664-5. 
  6. ^ Roose, Kevin (February 18, 2014). "Revealed: The Full Membership List of Wall Street's Secret Society". Daily Intelligencer. New York magazine. Retrieved February 21, 2014.