The exact circumstances are impossible to recount now that time has passed but there were difficulties as in any new organization. The birth of our Order was announced at a faculty meeting in the fall of 1905 and someone asked, "What is the name of the new Frat.?" The reply was, "Some Greek combination ending in Rho". Other remarks by the faculty indicated they thought they would have a "hard row", or a struggle to exist. Just a few years later, the faculty was hoping that Kappa Delta Rho would not get all the best men.
Founders Kimball, Walch, and Ratti set about drafting a ritual, choosing a name, motto, and constitution which fit the groups ideas and ideals. Chester M. Walch created our secret motto and password. The Founders named the officers after Roman titles instead of Greek Republic titles as many other groups do. They wished to emulate the Romans stern virtues. This brought forth our open motto of Honor Super Omni. The colors of blue and orange which typify freedom and justice were chosen and the coat of arms was later designed by Gino A. Ratti. The letters were chosen with no particular guidelines except that a distinctive letter be used. The letter was Rho. Therein the Founders wrote the ritual with intent to follow their ideals. With few revisions, the ritual has stood the test of time. Our basic structure has remained the same.
During the first years as an organization, Delta Tau Delta sent a representative to the campus to discuss absorbing the group into their order. This was due to the Founders consideration of joining a national fraternity. In the words of Founder Kimball, "...decided that we preferred to paddle our own canoe' and took no further action in the matter".
In the beginning, there were no "pledge classes" or "associate members", but "delegations". In 1913, large classes of ten to fifteen began to be obtained. The chapter used meeting rooms off campus which were tastefully furnished for the secret conclaves, socials, and rush parties. The first issue of The Scroll was published in 1909 for rush purposes. The total undergraduate and alumni circulation was about thirty. From a 1910 issue, one can get an idea of what social life the early KDR's enjoyed.
On April twenty-third we gave a Social Evening' in the frat rooms, and as a change from the usual cardparty and dance, we started off the evening by giving a farce entitled An Economical Boomerang.' This lasted about a half hour and all seemed to enjoy it very much. Following this, Bro. Davidson gave a reading entitled The Fourth at Mellenville.' Then the floor was cleared and dancing was enjoyed until 11:30 when refreshments were served. A few songs and yells and a walk home in the moonlight completed the evenings entertainment.
An annual event was the "Frat Ride." Following exams, the group, with dates, went to nearby Silver Lake for a luncheon and spent the day. Returning by train, they proceeded to the Fraternity rooms and danced until midnight. There was always a close association between alumni and undergraduates in those days. The alumni frequently outnumbered the undergraduates at the "Frat Ride" and the Initiation Banquet held in the fall. The banquet was held at The Brandon Inn several miles from Middlebury. All journeyed by train to the inn and returned via train the following morning. The rooms were decorated with our colors and with roses on the walls and tables. The evenings would go on with entertainment by the Brothers, the reading of letters from alumni, and toasts from seniors and alumni. These usually began and ended on a serious note.
Although traditional affairs are no longer the same, one can see that while by today's standards, the comradery is difficult to equal. The fun of the Fraternity conducted within a framework of self-discipline which is also unequaled today.
Our founders primary aim was that of attaining true standards of manhood and brotherly love. These were not merely high-sounding ideas, but guidelines for life. This was evidenced through the Plain virtues- unpretentiousness, sincerity, and humility and culminated in a high regard for each other's welfare. They were not egocentrics who sought false images of hyper-virility or alcoholic capacity. Following the ritualistic ideals was the test of manhood. Honor Before All Things as our motto was what assisted them with their success. The process which you learn on your own creates inward peace and satisfaction to assist brothers with their problems and deficiencies, and to learn a little more about your fellow man and in turn, allow the same opportunity for your brothers.
The early conservatives had four criteria for membership, they were: a. Membership is not an occasion for snobbishness or preference; b. Personal censorship of speech; c. Loyalty to college and church as well as to Fraternity; and d. Abstinence from alcohol and tobacco.
The principals of the early Fraternity were stated in the constitution in 1917:
The primary focus of the fraternity shall be the promotion of good fellowship among its members and the advancement of truth, justice, and virtue, as exemplified by our Latin Motto: Honor Super Omnia.
It is the faith of the Fraternity that its worth may ever be shown by the lives of its individual members.
The Founder realized that in its final analysis, the Fraternity would rise or fall based on the desire of the members to seek higher ideals or be satisfied with the status quo. Our challenge is to live up to and uphold these high ideals.