The John R. Kirk Chapter of Blue Key met for the first time on December 9, 1925, at
Kirksville State Teachers College under the temporary chairmanship of Mr. Tom Hutsell.
That afternoon the following men were elected as the first officers of the
John R. Kirk Chapter of Blue Key:
President- Thomas Hutsell
Vice President- Paul Coffee
Treasurer- Harold Rambo
Secretary- Nathaniel Reiger
Sergeant-At-Arms- Frank Austin
April of 1926 saw the official chartering of the John R. Kirk Chapter. Since that time Blue Key has weathered through all the university’s changes. Now, in the year 2012, Blue Key stands as the oldest service fraternity on Truman State University’s campus.
Blue Key sprung from a faith in sincerity and ability of college men held by Major B. C. Riley. The Fraternity has its foundation in his idea that real American college and university student leaders are God-fearing, law-abiding young citizens who believe that worthwhile progress can best be made through the orderly processes of evolution and not revolution. Second, in his belief that students are men and must be treated as such. That they are men willing to accept responsibility, willing to co-operate with faculty, willing to work with their fellow-students and capable of putting across ideas and ideals and creating the right attitudes do much to improve student life and welfare.
Blue Key had its beginning at the University of Florida in 1924. Major Riley organized the first group to meet an emergency. He had no idea of forming a national fraternity. The purpose came first, the organization later.
Dad’s Day and Homecoming, in 1924, was expected to exceed in attendance all former gatherings at the University of Florida, because the completion of several hundred miles of new hard-surfaced roads gave people from all parts of the state better opportunity for transportation than ever before. Every campus organization was making plans to entertain the visitors, and it looked as though confusion would result.
Dr. A. A. Murhpree, then president of the University of Florida, called on Major Riley to correlate and co-ordinate all of the plans for the entertainment of guests on campus.
Major Riley selected twenty-five outstanding student leaders, who by election or attainment, held places of prominence and confidence in the student body. These men were called together, and to each man was assigned the duty to look after some particular phase of the program. It was his duty not to interfere with anyone, but to report all activities in his field of interest, to see that there was no over-lapping of work, and to be sure that nothing was left undone. This committee met regularly in round table. And Homecoming, to the minutest detail, went off smoothly and well.
After the success of this attempt, the same students requested Major Riley to meet with them regularly to discuss other ways of improving student life and there was a noticeable increase of interest on the campus in all worthwhile student activities.
Because all of the men were active men, the only possible time of meeting for them was at luncheon. Here was a luncheon group, then, made up of student leaders, unconsciously organized very much like Rotary, functioning in the university life as Rotary and Kiwanis function in civic life. Blue Key has been called the college man’s Rotary Club, and is one of the few honor societies which are not content to rest on laurels already attained. Membership was coveted because it stamped men with the brains and ability to think straight, to act after due deliberation and to make their contribution to the university.
The progress and the results obtained by this group were amazing and there came the need for the exchange of ideas with similar groups on other campuses. No similar working organization could be found; therefore, Major Riley passed his idea along, wholly with the intention of co-operating with other schools. An honor society with a service slogan immediately appealed to men in other colleges and in 1925 began the phenomenal growth of Blue Key.
Other schools adopted the name, the constitution, the pledge, and the insignia which were all produced by Major Riley without suggestion or assistance from anyone else. The privilege of using these properties was given in the early days of the Fraternity by Major Riley without expense or other obligations to those groups which proved themselves to be made up of student leaders in recognized institutions. For the first ten years there were no national initiation fees or dues and the work of the Fraternity was financed by the founder.
As in the case of Phi Beta Kappa history was repeating itself and Blue Key which was now a loose federation of a large number of chapters, found that in order to enforce uniform standards and procedure it was necessary to organize a more closely-knit fraternity. To accomplish this, a convention was held in Chicago in December, 1934. One chapter assuming the right to dictate the re-organization, although it had never paid anything toward building or maintaining the national organization, was unwilling to abide by the decisions of the majority at the Convention or assume its part of the financial obligation for carrying on a strong national as demanded by it and withdrew from the Fraternity.
After the Convention, Blue Key gained much in strength and prestige. Many new chapters were added to the roster, and at the beginning of World War II, the fraternity had a total of seventy-eight active chapters with a total membership of more than 20,000 men. Four Nation Conventions had been held, a Fraternity magazine was being printed regularly, and the organization was on a firm national footing.
During the war, about fifty per cent of the chapters were compelled to become inactive on account of shortage of men in the student bodies, as well as the students being occupied with war activities. No magazine was printed during this period and no National Conventions held. During these trying years, the National Office kept in close touch with all schools which had both active and inactive chapters; and at the close of hostilities, concentrated efforts were made to bring the fraternity up to pre-war strength as quickly as possible. Out of the seventy-eight chapters, only three felt it was impossible.