The OmaKron Fraternity celebrated its fiftieth anniversary October 15, 2005,
in Bowling Green, Kentucky in conjunction with the Homecoming festivities of
Western Kentucky University. The Omakrons were founded in the Fall of 1955,
and ended May 1965 when they became Eta Rho Chapter of Sigma Nu Fraternity.
A total of 124 men were initiated into the Omakron Fraternity, and 103 are living as
of this writing October 2005.
This is the first known effort to document the history of the fraternity, based
primarily on the recollections of members. Although several scrapbooks have been
preserved, little in the way of written records have been found. Many members contributed
information for this history, with special thanks to Joe Clifton for compiling
the membership lists and many other facts of interest.
It is intended that this will be a living history and will be revised and expanded
as information becomes available. All additions, corrections, or suggestions will be
Chappy Rice (OK 109, HP 16)
October 15, 2005
CHAPTER ONE – THE COLLEGE
The Omakrons were all students at Western Kentucky State College, so let’s look at the
history of the college. In 1906 the Kentucky General Assembly authorized the establishment of
two teacher training institutions, then called “normal schools,” in the state. One location was
Bowling Green, where the Southern Normal School and Business College had existed since
1892. The owners, Henry Hardin Cherry and his brother Thomas, sold the teaching school
to the state, and the business college to private investors, which became Bowling Green Business
University. This school, often refered to as “BU,” was sold to Western in 1963, and played
a part in Omakron history that will be discussed later.
The State Normal School kept Henry Hardin Cherry as its first president. Over the next
several years it merged with other schools, moved to the present site on the hill, and went
through various name changes until it became Western Kentucky State Teachers College
in 1930. President Cherry died in 1937 at age 72, and was succeeded by Dr. Paul Garrett.
In 1948 the name was shortened to Western Kentucky State College, which was the name
through all the Omakron years. President Garrett died in 1955 at age 61, and Kelly Thompson
became Western’s third president, serving until his retirement in 1969. Thompson’s fourteen
years saw a great deal of expansion and reorganization, with student enrollment more
than quadrupling. Perhaps Thompson’s most significant accomplishment took place June 16,
1966, when WKSC became Western Kentucky University.
Social fraternities and sororities were not recognized by the college until 1962, but
their existence goes back to 1934, when “The Barons” were founded, followed by “The
Thirteeners” in 1939. These groups maintained cabins and other property and held many
social events, but were not welcome “on campus.” It is well known that Henry Hardin Cherry
had a dislike for fraternities, believing such “secretive, selective” clubs to be “elitist,
undemocratic, and especially incompatible with the training of young teachers,” and in 1930
directed the board to officially outlaw fraternities and sororities on campus. World War Two
and the Korean War caused a hiatus with most fraternity activities at Western, but by the midfifties
they were back, setting the stage for the creation of The Omakrons.
CHAPTER TWO – THE FOUNDING
There is no precise date or event associated with Omakron’s founding, although
October 1955 has been the traditional birthday. This period in the 1950’s is remembered by
many as a time of peace and prosperity, even though “modern times” had not quite arrived..
Air conditioning was a rarity, television was a couple of channels of fuzzy black & white.
Rock and roll was in its infancy (“Rock Around the Clock” was #1 in July, but Elvis would
not hit the charts until May 1956). The typical college student of 1955 was born during
the Great Depression, spent his childhood during World War Two, and probably high school
during the Korean War. As the Fall 1955 semester began, Kelly Thompson was beginning
his fourteen year term as President of the college, and there were just over 1800 students
enrolled at Western. Omakron’s founders were among them.
The eight founders were a diverse lot, coming from six states (Florida, Ohio, Virginia,
New Jersey, Connecticut, and three from Kentucky). These eight men became close friends
and would have left it at that, but two of them were being recruited to join the Barons Club,
the oldest fraternity in the area. They were interested, but wanted to bring the others with
them. This was not acceptable to the Barons, so the offer was declined. Meanwhile, having
seen the advantages that a club like the Barons enjoyed, they decided to form their own club.
All Omakrons were given “Pin Numbers” upon initiation. The founding eight were
all given #1, designated “Charter Members.” They are as follows: Lenny Booth, Charley
Campbell, Bob Hardin, Walt Litke, William T. Paul, Charlie Roberts, Bob deSpain, and Joe
Sharp. The first officers were President Joe Sharp, Vice President William T. Paul, Secretary
Bob deSpain, and Treasurer Lenny Booth. Probably the first order of business was naming
the fledgling club. One story is that Bob Hardin was given the task of choosing the name,
so he and his girlfriend at the time went to the library to study Greek words. They came up
with Oma-Kron, because “Oma” meant big, and “Kron” meant deal, symbolizing the “Big
Deal” that the club would become. Another story gives credit to Walt Litke, who also researched
Greek names. He proposed the Greek letter Omicron, which could be shortened
to O – K, because they were the “Okay” guys on campus. During the early years the club was
variously referred to as Oma-Krons, OmaKrons, Omakrons, O-K’s and simply “the Krons.”
Although the name was derived from Greek letter Omicron, apparently this spelling was not
used until college recognition in 1962, when the name was expanded to Omicron Kappa Alpha.
Credit for the design of the crest and pin goes to Lenny Booth, who is said to have
picked it out of a catalogue. The crest is in the shape of a shield, with a chevron shaped stripe
with eight stars, representing the eight founders, and a crown atop the letters O and K,
suggesting the Omakrons were “King of the Hill.” The pin was sort of a miniature of the crest,
with a chain and a “guard” indicating the year of initiation.
Letters announcing the formation of The Omakrons were sent to the established groups
in the area. Many responded with letters of recognition. Among them were The Barons,
The Thirteeners, Rho Omega Alpha (a fraternity at Bowling Green Business University), and
Beta Omega Chi sorority.
The Barons and Thirteeners had cabins, so the OmaKrons set out to acquire one as well.
The first was rented, but a lady who lived nearby got so mad about the noise and loud parties that
she bought the cabin and evicted the OmaKrons. Soon after that the club bought a cabin on
Barren River Road near Mcfarlands Ferry. No records have turned up, but it is believed that
the cabin cost about $5000. At first a few members lived there and paid rent to cover the loan.
As the club grew, dues of $4 / month covered the payments. At first it was called Omakron
Lodge, later Omakron Manor. All kinds of parties took place at the cabin. If kegs of beer
were provided, everyone chipped in $1. Since most girls lived in dorms, and had to be in by
midnight, the guys would often return to the cabin to finish off the keg. This activity was
known as “Fireside Theater.” The cabin was the central point of the club’s activities for
more than six years.
The first pledge class was formed in the Fall of 1955, and after a suitable period of
pledgeship led by Pledgemaster Bob Hardin, seven new members were initiated. They were
given Omakron Pin Numbers, as follows: John Coombs #9, John Drumm #10, Tony Fargnoli
#11, Bob Ferguson #12, Jim Gillians #13, Mike Hook #14, and Larry Wilson #15. The Spring
1956 pledge class, with Pledgemaster Lenny Booth, added the following six members: John
Conyers #16, Chester Corder #17, Bob Howell #18, Basil Jones #19, Bob Littrell #20, and
Bob Schwarzkopf #21. With membership now more than twenty, the Omakrons ended their
first year with a dinner-dance in May at the Old Fort on Louisville Road. This was not quite a
spring formal, but was a coat & tie affair, and a model for all subsequent formals. The tradition
of electing a Queen began here, the first being Bettie Joy Schuette.
Some discussion about membership might be in order. To be an OmaKron, one had
to be voted upon and finish pledgeship, of course. However, a few “associate members”
are on the rolls who, for one reason or another, weren’t pledged or initiated. One who deserves
special mention is Ferrel Miller, who was thought of as a Charter Member in every way, but
felt that membership might endanger his athletic scholarship. There were six more associate
members, as follows: Frederic Dow (1956), Adrian Hayes (1956), Edward Thurman (1957),.
Daniel Riley (1959), Travis Bicknell (1959) and Robert Collier (1963).
For the first several years, the OmaKrons limited membership to 25. It was said
that this was because 25 couples was about all the cabin could safely accommodate. Many
of the traditions of OmaKron pledgeship began in the first year or two. One was for all
the pledges to get dates, dress in some unusual manner, walk from Cherry Hall to the
Burger Basket and have dinner, attend a movie on the square, and walk back to Cherry
Hall. The significance of this is not clear, but every pledge class did it through 1964.
Other traditions were for the pledges to give the actives a party, usually with satirical
skits. Pledges were referred to as frogs, and a bullfrog was elected by the pledge class..
Typically pledges met with each active several times, often performing tasks such as
cleaning apartments or washing cars, thus earning “work points.” Sometimes the pledge
class would be directed to perform a stunt. One class was told to kidnap a 13er, which
they did. Word of that got around campus and everyone was mad at the Krons.
Other pledge traditions come under the practice known as “hazing,” a subject of
much controversy, then and now. For this writing, details will be spared, but some will
remember the egg drop, olives on a block of ice, bananas in a bucket, the light socket,
the string, and of course the ubiquitous paddle.
CHAPTER THREE – GOLDEN YEARS
Fresh from the success of their first year, the Omakrons returned to campus for
the 1956-1957 school year with Charlie Campbell, one of the Charter Members, as
President, Basil Jones Vice-President, and John Coombs Treasurer. In the midst of
back-to-school parties, Chester Corder was elected Pledgemaster and three pledges
were chosen and duly initiated. They were Arnie Brown #22, Robert McElwain #23,
and Ron Mohler #24. The Spring 1957 pledge class brought in three more members,
Thomas Hampton #25, Bill Main #26, and Karl Sublett #27. On April 26, 1957 the
Omakron Fraternity Dance was held at the Moose Lodge, featuring music by The
House Rockers, 8 to 12 pm, tickets $2.00 advance, $2.50 door. It appears that this was
open to the public, perhaps as a fund-raiser. The 1957 Spring Formal was held May 18th
at Manhattan Towers on Louisville Road, with music by The Eddie Everett Combo. The
first Man-of-the-Year award went to Basil Jones #19, and the Queen (Sweetheart) was
The 1957-1958 year began with Charlie Campbell again President, with Basil Jones
taking over in 1958. Bob Schwarzkopf was pledgemaster for the Fall semester, bringing
in six new members: Lem Bledsoe #28, Tom Duffy #29, Jack Finck #30, Gene Kincheloe #31,
Donald McCubbin #32, and Rankin Powell #33. Arnie Brown was pledgemaster for the
Spring 1958 class, producing six more members: Kenny Bragg #34, Charles Fuller #35,
Walter Hougland #36, Robert Knaggs #37, and Ron Pond #38. This year is believed to be
when Launch the Fleet Day began, at which an old dilapidated boat was acquired and
“launched” from the cabin. A member was elected Admiral and driven around campus in
an appropriately decorated car prior to the launching. The 1958 Spring Formal was held at
the Old Fort on Louisville Road. Jo Ann Faulkner was elected Sweetheart.
There was a humorous incident with date uncertain that occurred about this time.
Believe it or not, Bowling Green voted out alcohol sales for three years, most of 1958, 1959,
and 1960. In order to keep the cabin stocked with beer, it was necessary to make frequent visits
to Tennessee. On the return leg of one such trip, a couple of Krons were stopped in nearby
Franklin, charged with bootlegging, and had their stash of beer confiscated. The trial was held
Thanksgiving Friday, so that most of the members could attend. The guys secured a famous
lawyer named Spears, who actually cried in court, saying “…how can you find these nice boys
guilty of anything more than having fun!” The case was won, and the boys got their beer back.
Chester Corder was President during the 1958-1959 school year. Pledgemaster Charlie
Fuller brought in the following four members: John Cunningham #40, Robin Goble #41, Sharon
McMillin #42 and Richard Roberson #43. Walt Hougland was the Spring 1959 Pledgemaster,
bringing in four members: Harold Brantley #44, Bob O’Nan #45, Clarence Schwartz #46, and
Harry Tate #47. The 1959 Spring Formal was held at The Old Fort, with Kenny Bragg elected
Man-of-the-Year and the sweetheart was Marita Sue Stice. Two more local fraternities formed
at Western in 1958, the Sigmas, who would ultimately become Sigma Chi, and the Lambdas,
that eventually became Lambda Chi Alpha.
Kenny Bragg was President during the 1959-1960 school year. The Fall 1959 pledge
class brought in Charles Murphy #48, Charles Osborne #49, and Virgil Toone #50. Ron Pond
was pledgemaster for the Spring 1960 semester, bringing in the following six members: Jeff
Antle #51, Jimmy Brown #52, Donald Calhoun #53, William Hanratty #54, Jesse Henon #55,
and Charles Kinslow #56. The 1960 Spring Formal was held May 21 at Western Hills
Restaurant, with Janice Beard elected Queen.
The 1960-1961 school year began with Harry Tate as President. Charles Murphy
was Pledgemaster for the Fall 1960 class, bringing in Joe Clifton #58, Darrell Fox #59, Gary
Rucker #60, and Chester Watson #61. Harold Brantley was Spring 1961 Pledgemaster, and
brought in the following six members: Dan Dailey #62, Charles DeGrella #63, Jack Doyle #64,
William Hamilton #65, Whayne Hougland #66, and Brad Richardson #67. The location of
the 1961 Spring Formal is unknown, but Man-of-the-Year was Virgil Toone, and the Queen
was Mary Margaret Perkins. Another local fraternity appeared in 1960, Delta Kappa Nu, also
called the D-K’s. This group would eventually become Sigma Alpha Epsilon (the SAE’s).
The 1961-1962 school year began with Ron Pond as President, and Tom Duffy took
over as President for the Spring semester. Tom Duffy was the Fall pledgemaster, and brought
in the following seven members: Mike Abell #68, Bob Bristol #69, Bob Cox #70, Jack
Leech #71, Bill Monin #72, Jim Ross #73, and Gerald Wheatley #74. Charles “Mouse” Kinslow
was Spring 1962 Pledgemaster, bringing in four members: Tim Fuller #75, Gaynor Orndorff #76,
Dick Perkinson #77, and Hub Reese #78. The 1962 Spring Formal was held at Diamond Caverns
Resort in Park City. Kate Elizabeth Combs was elected Queen. In September 1961, the college
announced radical new policies that would ultimately require all off-campus fraternities and
sororities to seek recognition by the college, and to dispose of any real estate that they might own.
The 1962-1963 school year began with Chester Watson as President, and the impending
college recognition meant that many of the early Omakron traditions would soon be ending. Joe
Clifton was Pledgemaster for the Fall class, bringing in the following six members: John Adams
#79, Wayne Copas #80, Art Hamby #81, Frank Okruhlica #82, Jerry Scrivner #83, and Otis
Whitlock #84. The Spring Pledgemaster was Darrell Fox, who brought in seven members:
Randy Bowling #85, Larry Crockett #86, Joe Downing #87, Jay Horton #88, Jack Miller #89,
Bob Smythe #90, and Jerry Wilson #91.
Probably the saddest day in Omakron history was December 16, 1962 when
Jimmy Brown #52 was killed in an auto accident on a rainy night after a party at the cabin.
The entire fraternity is said to have attended the funeral in Crestwood, Ky.
Bowling Green Business University, better known as “BU,” located at Eleventh and
College Streets, was taken over by Western in 1962, with many of its faculty and students
moving to Western’s newly formed College of Commerce. BU had encouraged Greek
organizations for many years and had four fraternities and two sororities at the time of the
merger. Several men among the fraternities formed a local at Western that would later affiliate
with Sigma Phi Epsilon, and in like manner members of the sororities eventually
became a chapter of Alpha Omicron Pi. One of the BU fraternities was Rho Omega Alpha
( The “RHO’s) and there was a history of friendship between several RHO’s and Omakrons,
resulting in seven of the RHO’s being invited to join the Omakrons. They were not required
to go through pledgeship, as they had all gone through one of their own, but had a probationary
period concurrent with the Spring 1963 pledge class. These seven were given pin numbers
after the Omakron pledges. They were Ron Baker #92, George Church #93, Ken DeCray #94,
Thomas Hayden #95, Bob Jones #96, Phil Kirk #97, and Dean Quillet #98.
By the end of 1962, the Omakrons had been accepted by the college, adopted the name
Omicron Kappa Alpha, and reluctantly agreed to put the cabin up for sale by the end of the
Spring 1963 semester. The Spring formal was held at Manhattan Towers on Louisville Road
with Jeanette Lewis elected Queen.
The 1963 edition of The Talisman, Western’s annual yearbook, for the first time
allocated fourteen pages to the newly recognized eight fraternities and five sororities. The
Omakrons, now Omicron Kappa Alpha, were on Page 104 with twenty members pictured,
and Dr. H. L. Stevens, head of the biology department, as advisor.
CHAPTER FOUR – LOCAL TO NATIONAL
Much of the credit for Western’s success in bringing the off-campus social clubs
under its control in a relatively short time goes to one man, Charles A Keown. Late in 1956
President Kelly Thompson promoted Keown, then an Agriculture teacher, to the position of
Dean of Students, with the unenviable task of regulating student’s lives. It can be said that,
despite occasional criticism for his tactics, Keown was quite effective in his job.
Western’s administration had for years been aware of the unofficial social clubs, generally
content to keep out of off-campus matters. But as enrollment grew, and the clubs became
more sophisticated, problems appeared from time to time. Keown was commissioned to make
a comprehensive study of the “sub-rosa” groups and their activities. In landmark reports dated
July 9, 1960 and August 3, 1961 Keown and his task force made several points: (1) Only about
250 students (8% of the student body) belonged to these groups, but among their ranks were most
of the student leaders, (2) 25% of the men, and 10% of the women members of these group
failed to maintain a “C” average, (3) The extensive social calendars of the groups, especially in
the spring, caused scheduling conflicts with College events, such as The Talisman Ball,
(4) The administration had no good answer to inquiries about Greek organizations at Western
from prospective students, incoming freshmen, or their parents, and (5) The administration’s
inability to resolve complaints from the public on matters such as trespassing, litter, or noise.
The task force made a sweeping recommendation to the Regents, the highlights of which
were (1) Permit national social fraternities and sororities to come to Western, (2) Permit
existing off-campus groups to petition for recognition, (3) Any existing group that does not
petition, or cannot qualify, must disband or face expulsion of its members. The petitioning
group must have at least twenty members, all members must have at least a “C” average, the
group must seek affiliation with a national fraternity or sorority, and the group may not own
or lease real estate. Existing groups were given eighteen months to dispose of any property that
they might own. Some sundry rules were also mentioned, such as each shall have a three-letter
Greek name, all meetings will be in campus facilities, all social events will be registered, etc.
Guidelines for the formation of an Interfraternity Council (IFC) were spelled out, which
would regulate rush, coordinate social calendars, and handle some disciplinary matters.
Everything recommended was passed by the Regents, and the Dean of Students was given
unprecedented enforcement powers.
Three groups came under the real estate rule, the Barrons, the Thirteeners, and the
OmaKrons. There was considerable resistance, but by January 1963 all property was sold.
The Thirteeners had a strong alumni association, who quietly arranged to maintain ownership
of their cabin, unbeknownst to the college. During Fall 1964 Homecoming, they were
caught having a party at the cabin. Keown’s office put them on probation for the rest
of the semester, forbidding them to have a pledge class or any social events. This firmly
established the college’s ability to control the fraternities. Years later, in a 1984 interview,
Keown mentioned that the forced sale of property that he engineered in 1961 would probably
not be legal today.
There was brief mention in the original task force recommendation that after the national
fraternities and sororities were established, that the college would assist any that wished to
establish houses. It was assumed that it might be years before this would come up, but in 1964
Alpha Gamma Rho, a national skewed toward agriculture students, expressed interest in coming
to Western. However, AGR required housing before they would affiliate. Keown’s office
quickly came up with guidelines for housing, specifying things like geographic boundaries
near campus, housemother requirements, etc. AGR promptly acquired a suitable house on
Chestnut Street, and Keown once again demonstrated his expediency. In March 1963
Jack Sagabiel was hired as assistant Dean of Students. For years to come, he would be the
contact person between the college and the fraternities.
As the 1963-1964 school year began, the Omakrons, now OKA’s were without a
cabin for the first time. Bob Bristol was President, and Jerry Scrivner as Fall Pledgemaster
brought in four members, Ron Morehead #99, Floyd Perkinson #100, Merle Stoner #101,
and Ted “Muggs” Thompson #102. A record nine pledges were initiated Spring 1964, under
Pledgemaster Jay Horton. They were Randy Beaman #103, John Bottorff #104, Fred
Dyrsen #105, Tom Hallberg #106, Jim Marshall # 107, Reed Morgan #108, Chappy Rice #109,
Bill Sroufe #110, and George Wilson #111.
All fraternities that had been recognized by the college were encouraged to select a
national fraternity to affiliate with as soon as possible. The OKA’s had no idea how to go about
this until Fall 1963 when Hub Reese #78 signed up for a speech class with a young professor
named Randy Capps. One day while visiting Mr.Capps in his office, Hub noticed a paperweight
with Greek insignia.. Capps was a graduate of Kentucky Wesylean College in Owensboro, where
he had belonged to a local that had become a Sigma Nu chapter a few years prior. Conversations
followed, whereby Capps, learning of the OKA’s quest for a suitable National, suggested
consideration of Sigma Nu, and the rest is history.
Sigma Nu Fraternity had headquarters in Lexington, Virginia where it was founded in
1869 at Virginia Military Institute. Randy Capps helped make contact with the appropriate national
staff, and after a couple of visits to Bowling Green to evaluate the college and the OKA’s,
the Sigma Nu High Council approved “colony” status for OKA, with Capps named advisor.
The rules were that after a year as a colony, following various formalities, the colony would
become a full chapter.
Sigma Nu was thought to be one of the largest and strongest of the various national
fraternities, full of rich traditions and symbols. Among them were the white rose, the rock upon
which the three founders are said to have stood, swords, a “white star” that forms the shape of the
attractive badge, a shapely crest full of hidden meanings, a coiled snake that occupies the center of
the badge, references to the “Legion of Honor,” and a poetic “creed” that is easily memorized.
The 1964 Spring Formal, titled “The Transition Ball,” was held May 16 at the Detrex Club.
Joe Clifton was named Man of the Year, and Suzie Williams elected Queen. Actually she was the
OKA Queen and the first Sigma Nu Sweetheart. The next day (Sunday Evening) ceremonies were
held in Diddle Arena committing OKA to Sigma Nu Colony status. Forty members participated in
the ceremony, before a crowd of 300. A reception followed in the Kentucky Building.
The 1964-1965 school year was the OmaKron’s tenth and final year, even if it was “shared”
with Sigma Nu. The officers, with Sigma Nu nomenclature, were Commander, Jack Doyle;
Lieutenant Commander, Phil Kirk; Recorder, Merle Stoner; and Treasurer, Joe Downing.
Co-Pledgemasters Chappy Rice and Jerry Wheatley had the largest pledge class yet, bringing in
thirteen members, who were the last to receive OKA pin numbers. They were Wayne Bivins #112,
Billy Ray Cartwright #113, Hugh Craddock #114, Jim Diuguid #115, Bill Fithian #116, Jim
Haynes #117, Forrest “Bucky” Lanning #118, Bob Mattthews #119, Pat Robison #120, Tom Ryan
#121, Joe Shackleford #122, George “Boad” Smith #123, and Ted Tiemann #124.
The Spring 1965 pledge class was not initiated until after the Chapter initiation, and was
considered the first, or “Alpha,” pledge class. Much of the school year was spent preparing the
petition, which was a magazine-style document that was mailed to all active Sigma Nu chapters
who in turn voted whether to accept us, based on the information in the petition. There were several
visits from the national office, particularly from Assistant Executive Secretary Roy Adams and
Division Commander Bob Cayce from Hopkinsville.
The 1965 Spring Formal was combined with the initiation weekend. Friday May 7 was
“Formal Pledging” (the colonization efforts a year ago were considered informal), and the initiation
ritual was held Saturday afternoon May 8 in a downtown church. Twenty-nine active members and
thirteen alumni were initiated. The Charter was presented that evening at the Installation Banquet,
a formal affair held at the Bowling Green Country Club. In attendance were several dignitaries from
Sigma Nu Headquarters and the High Council. All forty-two initiates signed the large charter
certificate, which designated the existence of “Eta Rho Chapter of Sigma Nu Fraternity.” Everyone
was given a Sigma Nu “pin number,” with Commander Jack Doyle becoming Eta Rho #1.
A dance followed, called “The White Rose Formal,” replacing the Spring Formals of years
past. A more casual after party followed. The activities of the weekend officially brought to a close
the active days of the OmaKrons and OKA.