Omicron Kappa Upsilon had its inception with the class of 1914 at Northwestern University Dental School. A committee from this group submitted a petition to the faculty of the school which stated they were “desirous of organizing and funding a national honorary fraternity similar to other honorary fraternities now existing in the leading universities…but which shall consist of dental students exclusively; admission and membership to which shall be based upon scholarship and character as manifested by election by the faculty.”
Dr. Green Vardiman Black, Dean of the Dental School at that time, received the suggestion very favorably and appointed Dr. H.A. Potts, Dr. Arthur D. Black, and Dr. Charles R.E. Koch, as a committee to counsel with the students. A form letter was prepared by the student committee and addressed to the Deans of fifty-one dental schools in the United States and Canada. In their replies, the Deans of the various schools displayed much interest in the proposal and in most cases, were eager for more information regarding the proposed organization. A number of these replies are preserved in the Secretary’s records.
While correspondence was being carried on, the local committee was active in formulating plans. It was decided that the new organization should be known as OMICRON KAPPA UPSILON.
The following statement appearing in the Northwestern Dental Journal, March 1914, was prepared by Mr. John C. Burg, Northwestern University Liberal Arts, Class ’09, who was requested to select a name and design for the new Society.
“My duties and opportunities as Secretary to President Harris have been varied, interested and sometimes exciting, for I have been called upon to do many things. But the most original request was the one conveyed to me in a telephone conversation with Dr. Arthur D. Black when he asked me to ‘think up’ Greek letters for the new honor society in the Dental School, and to design a key as a badge. I wanted to please the doctor, and besides I felt that it was no small honor to have originated the insignia of a scholarship organization, so I undertook the task imposed.
“I first secured from Dr. C.R.E. Koch a statement outlining the ideals of the dental profession as he understood them. This I thought essential, as a basis. I know that his expression would fit, for few men have a greater knowledge of the history of the dental profession or a higher estimation of its purposes. I learned from him that the ideal of the modern Doctor of Dental Surgery is neither long nor tiresome; simply expressed, it is the conservation of teeth and health.
“I had, therefore, three words upon which to build the name-conservation, teeth and health. I then went to John A. Scott, Professor of Greek in Northwestern University, and asked him for the Greek terms expressing the three words, and he informed me as follows: SOTERIA is the Greek for conservation, ODOUS for teeth and HYGEIA for health.
“Using this information I selected the initials of the last two Greek words, that is- Omicron and Upsilon, chiefly because they were appropriate but also because they were euphonious and have now to suggest that the name for the new Dental Honor Society be OMICRON KAPPA UPSILON, - Kappa (K) being the initial letter of the Greek word for a (kai). Upsilon is the Greek letter which under certain conditions indicates the sound of the English letter ‘h.’
“My reason for the design submitted is obvious. Honor societies in other departments of education use the ‘Key’. When Phi Beta Kappa was organized in 1776 the key was not only ornamental but useful, for in those days the wearer used it to wind up his watch. Few, if any, watches are made nowadays requiring a key, yet the idea of a key as the symbol of an honor society has persisted and is being used by scholarship organizations in medicine, law and oratory, each one varying from the others only in shape. It seemed altogether proper to let it be also the basis for the symbol design of the Dental Scholarship Organization. I, therefore, used it. The shape suggested is different; that is about all I can say for it.
“If you will note the design, you will see that the most prominent letter is SIGMA which stands for conservation. OMICRON and UPSILON , the initial letters for the Greek words meaning teeth and health, appear as they should be, with in the larger symbol of conservation.
“ Of course, that which I submit is in the nature of a suggestion. I have enjoyed contributing toward the accomplishment of what I believe is good and useful, but I would not take amiss if the founders of the Society saw fit to change both name and design.
John C. Burg.”
In the Northwestern University Dental Faculty minutes of a meeting held on April 8, 1915, appears this statement—“In behalf of the Committee on Honor Society, Dr. Eisenstaedt reported by presenting a copy of the gold insignia for the Society for the approval of the faculty. The design and insignia were approved.”
OMICRON KAPPA UPSILON was to have as a standard for its membership certain ideals which are found in the preamble of the first Constitution. It reads as follows-- “To encourage and develop a spirit of emulation among students in dentistry, and to recognize in an appropriate manner those who shall distinguish themselves by a high grade of scholarship.”
The established date for this organization is 1914 , and the date on the certificate of incorporation by the State of Illinois is March 15, 1916. The original Certificate of Incorporation was signed by Thomas L. Gilmer, Arthur D. Black, H.A. Potts, Fred W. Gethro, and Charles R.E. Koch.
During the first year and a half it appears that eight (8) new Component Chapters were organized. These were in addition to the national chapter (Alpha) as it was then known. Also, during the same period a temporary organization was accomplished. The temporary officers elected were: Dr. Thomas L. Gilmer, President; Dr. Arthur D. Black, Vice-President and Dr. Charles R.E. Koch, Secretary-Treasurer.
A meeting of the representatives of the schools in which Component Chapters had been established was held in Minneapolis, June 1916. Dr. Koch’s health was such that he did not attend this meeting, and Dr. Alfred E. Owre was chosen as Secretary pro-tem. The officers of the temporary organization were re-elected as permanent officers at the 1916 meeting. There is no record available of the proceedings of the Minneapolis meeting, although it is well known that our organization was effected at that time. Dr. Koch died in the summer of 1916, and after his death a thorough search of his office at the school and his private study revealed no sign of a record of the proceedings of the Minneapolis Meeting or of our organization.
Interest in the new organization was evidenced by the fact that the University of Pennsylvania dropped its proposed local honorary fraternity in favor of Omicron Kappa Upsilon. Minnesota, on the other hand, organized its own honor fraternity, but a few years later expressed a desire to join Omicron Kappa Upsilon, and a charter was granted them.
The distractions of World War I resulted in a lapse of interest in the new organization, although most of the original chapters functioned by conferring membership upon honor students. This is evident from chapter rolls of the Supreme Secretary.
It was not until 1921, during the meeting of the Teacher’s Association in Indianapolis, Indiana that representatives of the chapters known to be in existence were called together by Dr. Arthur D. Black, who acted as temporary chairman. The minutes of the meeting showed the organization was then revived and the annual meetings of the Supreme Chapter since that time have been held regularly with the transactions properly recorded.
The chapter roll as announced at the meeting in 1921 seems to have been as follows:
Beta—University of Pittsburgh
Delta—North-Pacific Dental College
Zeta—University of Southern California
Theta—Ohio State University
Eta—University of Pennsylvania
Kappa—Medical College of Virginia School of Dentistry
CONSTITUTION AND BYLAWS
The first Constitution and Bylaws were adopted in 1921. They had previously been presented in the form of a draft and discussed at length, but final adoption was delayed because of World War I. The Society functioned under this Constitution until the Chicago meeting of March 25, 1926, during which the officers were “directed to prepare revisions in the Constitution relative to rules for the conduct of Chapters for presentation at the next meeting.”
The committee presented its report at the Washington, D.C. meeting in 1928. The report may have been adopted, but a search does not reveal any Bylaws that apply specifically to the conduct of Component Chapters. It is obvious that Chapters were to have Bylaws that were in harmony with and approved by the Supreme Chapter. At this 1928 meeting, President Dr. H.E. Friesell and two additional designated persons were appointed as a committee for the revision of the Constitution. The appointed personnel to assist were Dr. A.D. Black and Dr. F.B. Noyes. The report of this committee was presented and adopted at the Chicago meeting, March 25, 1929.
The third revision of the Constitution and Bylaws was presented and adopted at the Baltimore meeting, March 16, 1937. Dr. W.H. Wright of Beta Chapter was responsible for this dynamic revision. During the Presidency of Dr. H.B. McCarthy, Phi Chapter, the Constitution and Bylaws were revised and approved during the Supreme Chapter meeting at French Lick, Indiana, March 28, 1950. Dr. Charles W. Craig, President, 1955, recommended that revisions were necessary and during the March 22, 1955 meeting the Revised Constitution and Bylaws were adopted.
On March 25, 1958, the Supreme Chapter, during the annual meeting in Detroit, Michigan, approved for printing and distribution to all members of the Component Chapters a brief summary of the historical data and other pertinent information of interest to the membership. This booklet was prepared by Dr. Erling Thoen, Secretary-Treasurer 1946-1955 and President 1957. As of this writing, this booklet is issued to each member upon election to our Society.
On March 26, 1963, the Supreme Chapter at its annual meeting adopted three amendments to the Bylaws. This was the last change in the Constitution and Bylaws until July 27, 1965 in Toronto, Canada, when “the Executive Committee, after considerable discussion, recommended a moratorium on amendments to the Constitution and Bylaws of the Supreme Chapter…this moratorium to extend until the March 1967 annual meeting of the Supreme Chapter…a Constitution and Bylaws Committee to be appointed by the President for the revision of the present Constitution and Bylaws.” The following committee was appointed by President Robert Biddington in October 1965 to study and recommend appropriate revisions: Dr. W. Arthur George and Dr. David Bixler, Committee Members and Dr. Robert Sausen, Chairman. Due to the untiring efforts of this committee and the continual guidance of Secretary, Dr. Charles W. Craig, on March 21, 1967, in Washington, D.C. the Constitution and Bylaws were approved and adopted.
The success of the 1967 revision is attested by the fact that the Society continues to operate from the document which has been amended but a few times. Changes have been made to accommodate schools with self-paced curricula allowing early graduation. Chapter attendance requirements now allow a chapter to petition for an excused absence in advance of the annual meeting in question. Component chapters may now individually establish their quorum for a regularly scheduled chapter meeting. Since 1967 Dr. Sausen served nearly continuously as chairman of the Constitution and Bylaws Committee and was invaluable in providing ongoing interpretation of the document. Dr. Sausen retired in March, 1991.
At about the same time, it was discovered that the incorporation of OKU in Illinois had been involuntarily dissolved on June 4, 1937, probably because annual reports had not been filed. After seeking legal counsel, OKU sought incorporation in the state of Nebraska. Attorneys transformed the Constitution and Bylaws (carefully maintaining the intent of the 1967 revision and amendments) and changed the name of the Executive Committee to Board of Directors, both to conform with Nebraska state law. The changes were ratified by the Supreme Chapter delegates in March of 1992 at the OKU annual meeting in Boston. Additional revisions were proposed in 1998 and ratified in 1999. The most recent update to the bylaws was undertaken by the Board of Directors in 2004 and ratified in 2005.
The number of component chapters has steadily increased over the years. Although a total of seventy-two (72) chapters have been chartered, there are currently only fifty-nine (59) active chapters as thirteen (13) have become inactive when their affiliated dental school closed.
At the present time there is a component chapter at every dental school in the United States, with one (1) chapter located in Canada and one (1) in Puerto Rico.
At the annual business meeting of Supreme Chapter, Bal Harbour, Florida, March 29, 1966, President Robert Biddington quoted the bylaws reminding the members that one of the duties of the Supreme Chapter shall be: “To publish, if and when justified, the official organ of the Society, which shall be known as The Bulletin of Omicron Kappa Upsilon.” The Bulletin was born this date with Dr. Carrol G. Bennett appointed as Editor Pro Tempore.
The Bulletin has been published annually since 1966 with Dr. Bennett serving as its editor through 1973. From 1973 to 1986 the editor was Stephen H. Leeper. In 1986 Janet L. Harrison became Interim Editor and in 1987 was elected Editor. After ten years of dedicated service Dr. Harrison asked that a new editor be selected . In 1996 Richard Carr was elected to fill that position. In September of 1999 the first electronic version of the Bulletin was published. This electronic version was introduced on the OKU website at OKU.org. Elected in 2000, James Delahanty currently serves as Editor. We congratulate President Robert Biddington for the foresight and Dr. Carroll Bennett for getting the publication underway so successfully- as well as all these who have served to further its tradition.
UNITED STATES CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION
In 1964, the United States Civil Service Commission, Bureau of Recruiting and Examining, approved membership requirements of Omicron Kappa Upsilon; thus determining that our Society meets their special provision for grade GS-7 eligibility. This approval permits those becoming members of Omicron Kappa Upsilon and wishing to enter careers in government to be excused from examinations required for attaining grade GS-5 and be rated eligible for grade GS-7.
THE UPDATING OF THE SUPREME CHAPTER HISTORY
At the March 21, 1967 Annual Supreme Chapter Meeting in Washington, D.C., President William Gilmore requested that Dr. Harold Lantz rewrite and update the Supreme Chapter history. As stated by Dr. Abram Hoffman, “In view of the passing of time and men familiar with the early development of Omicron Kappa Upsilon, it seems fitting that many of the facts relative to the organization and early years of the Society be made a matter of record. Some of the earliest records have already been lost and many of the facts have been gleaned from incomplete records and conversations. It is important that these verbal statements should be noted and such records as we have be carefully preserved.”
Similarly, an attempt has been made to continue the excellent work of Dr. Abram Hoffman and Dr. Erling Thoen, that of making permanent record of facts.
In conclusion, to quote a statement made by Past President of the Supreme Chapter, Dr. Abram Hoffman, as a part of his Presidential address which he delivered at the March 1940 meeting of the Supreme Chapter: “Let us remember that our first duty in furthering the purposes of the Society is to honor dental STUDENTS for excellence in scholarship and character. If we concentrate our thoughts and efforts in behalf of STUDENTS then OMICRON KAPPA UPSILON will render a valued service in the educational program of dentistry.”
The material and information contained in this “Historical Reveiw” was obtained from Dr. Erling Theon’s 1958 booklet, and Dr. Charles W. Craig’s Supreme Chapter files. The Supreme Chapter expresses its sincere thanks to these two great devoted servants for their tremendous contributions and service to our Society.