Sigma Chapter turns 50: ‘Sigma Chapter… a journey of 50 years connecting intellect, emotions and spirits of a lifetime of learning and giving with the heart at the center!’

Published 11:12 pm Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sigma Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, formed to promote the professional and personal growth of women educators and excellence in education in Lamar and Pearl River counties, will celebrate their 50th anniversary. The local group has enjoyed 50 years of service to the community and 50 years of fellowship among its strong women members.

This Saturday, May 2, the group will meet and share a special birthday tea at the home of member Diane Seal to honor the past and look forward to the future. Past and present members, along with state officers have been invited attend this celebration.

It was said on this same day in 1959, the first meeting of the group took place in much the same manner on a “beautiful spring day” at the home and garden of Irene Amacker of Poplarville. The ladies came with hats and gloves — a formality that lasted for a good many years — and a desire to promote the purposes of Delta Kappa Gamma Society International. Sigma, the 18th letter of the Greek alphabet, was assigned to the local chapter.

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The original 12 members of the group were Amacker, Nina Smith, Jo Leigh Lewis, Winona Weinmann, Katherine M. Furr, Thelma Batson, Maggie Berry, Dixie Clanton, Dorothy Coleman, Mildred James, Eunice McSwain and Lula Webb with Smith, Lewis, Weinmann and Furr starting out as members of the chapter in Hattiesburg.

As a charter member, Furr, who is still very active in the organization, said the club is everything to her — it has been her life.

She said what she has enjoyed being a part of the most, is the group’s scholarship efforts. Each year, the group fund raises within itself, to provide one scholarship for a Pearl River Community College student in the field of education. They also make contributions to state and international scholarship efforts.

Furr said that not much has changed over the years for Sigma Chapter with the exception of the loss of the group’s former formalities. Though the members no longer dress in hats and gloves to attend the six monthly meetings each year, Furr said she personally welcomes the more relaxed atmosphere, adding that she thinks it makes the club more accessible to today’s members.

Remembering the original women who got the group going 50 years earlier, Furr described them as a very talented cross-section of women. Of today’s members, she said, “I believe we have as much talent in Picayune, as any other chapter in the state.”

Throughout the years a couple of members earned themselves places in the other chapters but Juanita Reynolds is the only Sigma Chapter member to be named Zeta State President (1979-1981) and Zeta State Woman of Achievement (1984). Her husband, Lamar Reynolds, was a huge supporter of Sigma Chapter and together the couple would travel to state and international conventions while inviting others to travel with them.

Connie Sable, who has been a member of Sigma Chapter since 1978, said she enjoys the fellowship of the meetings. She said music is a big part of the meetings, they sing several songs at each, and the hostess committee plans the meals and decorates for the season.

She said she has also enjoyed the special projects outside of the scholarship programs, such as the group’s angel projects, which they do twice a year, contributing food or other items to a family in need and the goody boxes they prepare and send to women in the military overseas.

The executive board installed for 2008-2010, which will preside over the 50th anniversary, includes Barbara Lofton, President; Mary Williams, First Vice-President; Denise Pickett, Second Vice-President; Connie Sable, Recording Secretary; Jane Ann Handley, Corresponding Secretary; Althea Tavai, Parliamentarian; Cathy Henley, Treasurer and Mary Williams, Past President. Lofton is the local group’s 24th president.

Throughout the 50 years, Sigma Chapter has worked to uphold the goals of Delta Kappa Gamma and remain a source of pride for all of its members. May the rose — a symbol of the organization — continue to bloom for the next 50 years.