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ALPHA DELTA KAPPA
In 1947, three former Baker students and a friend founded an honorary organization for women teachers. The organization has grown steadily over the years and has honored over 125,000 exceptional educators. This is the story of these outstanding women and the organization they founded.
Alpha Delta Kappa is an international honorary organization of women educators dedicated to educational excellence, altruism and world understanding. It was founded in 1947 in Kansas City by three Alpha Chi Omega sorority sisters from Baker University and a fourth women from Joplin. Marie Latimer Neal, Marion Reid Southall and Hattie Justice Poppino, who attended Baker and Agnes Shipman Robertson who attended Missouri State and Peabody College in Nashville were the signers of the incorporation agreement that established the organization. The four women had close ties. Marie Neal and Agnes Shipman were friends both having grown up in Joplin and Agnes worked with Marion’s husband, Thomas, at a publishing company that worked with schools. Marion Southall and Hattie Poppino were first cousins who grew up next door to each other on East 31st Street in Kansas City. Marie, Marion and Hattie attended Baker in the 1917 to 1921 timeframe and lived together at the Alpha Chi House for part of that time. The organization’s first headquarters was at Marie’s house and Marion’s husband, Richard, was the organization’s attorney. All four women had teaching credentials and worked in teaching or publishing related to schools.
The four women were also the leaders of the organization in the early years. Agnes was the first Grand President from 1947 to 1955 and the Executive Director from 1955 to 1985. Marie served as the Executive Secretary-Treasurer from 1947 to 1969 and Marion was the first National Vice President and head of the Executive board from 1947 to 1956. Former Executive Administrator, Opal Lunsford had this to say about how things worked in early days: “In Alpha Delta Kappa "Agnes was the promoter, she did the traveling. Marie Neal kept the records and handled the money in her office at home." Often, "Tom and Marie would go with her to install chapters. Agnes carried the initiation material in the trunk of her car. They would take cookies and get punch for the initiation ceremonies."
The organization has grown substantially over the years. From the Alpha Delta Kappa website: “Over 125,000 women educators around the world have discovered the many opportunities provided by membership in Alpha Delta Kappa – opportunities for recognition of commitment to educational excellence, for personal and professional growth and for collectively channeling their energies toward the good of schools communities, teaching profession and the world.” The organization is still headquartered in Kansas City at 1615 West 92nd Street and oversees chapters in towns and cities in every state in the U.S. and around the world in Australia, Canada, Jamaica, Mexico and Puerto Rico. In 1961, a men’s organization, Alpha Delta Kappa Association, committed to the support of Alpha Delta Kappa was founded by Marie’s husband, Thomas Neal Sr., and J Ernest Hill of Alabama.
Jessie Marie Latimer was born in Joplin, Missouri, on November 16, 1898 to William and Myrtle Dennis Latimer. She was known to her family, friends and associates as Marie. Her father was a conductor on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway. Marie grew up in Chanute and the family moved to Joplin when she was in her teens. She attended Baker and graduated in 1921, receiving her teaching certificate in high school history and economics. While at Baker, Marie served two terms as treasurer of Alpha Chi Omega sorority. Marie’s belief that a fraternal organization could create a strong bond between women, an idea so important to the founding of Alpha Delta Kappa, began with her collegiate sorority experience.
Marie married Thomas Hoard Neal of Kansas City in Joplin on October 12, 1921. Thomas was also a graduate of Baker and was Vice President of the Marshal Hughes Publishing Company in Kansas City. Marie accompanied him on all of his business travels during their first year of marriage. As her husband’s company worked closely with the public schools, Marie had the opportunity to meet many teachers and educators. Through her acquaintances, Marie realized the need for an organization like Alpha Delta Kappa and her role in its founding and management reflect both her interest in fraternal organizations for women and her concern for women educators.
Marie and Thomas had two sons, William Latimer Neal and Thomas Hoard Neal Jr., both of whom attended Baker, William graduating in 1947 and Thomas in 1949. Both were members of Sigma Phi Epsilon and both served as Presidents of their fraternity. William married Marian Elizabeth McDaniel on December 28, 1946. Marian was an Alpha Chi in the graduating class of 1947 and served as President of the Alpha Chi house corporation board for a number of years.
Marie served Alpha Delta Kappa as Executive Secretary-Treasurer from 1947 until her death May 20, 1969. From its founding in 1947 until 1956, the organization operated out of the Neal home. Marie’s husband, Thomas, was one of the founders of the Alpha Delta Kappa Association, a men’s group committed to supporting Alpha Delta Kappa.
Marion Louise Reid was born in Kansas City, Missouri on July 27, 1897 to John Edward and Carrie May Gies Reid. Her father was a mail clerk for a railroad and Marion and her older brother Donald grew up in midtown Kansas City. Marion graduated from Baker in 1918 with a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies. She was a member of Alpha Chi Omega along with Marie Latimer and Hattie Justice. Upon graduating from Baker, Marion was employed by a local publishing house where she was in charge of proof reading and accounting.
On October 20, 1920, Marion married Richard Columbus Southall in Kansas City at the Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church. After their marriage, the couple lived in Richard’s hometown of Memphis Tennessee where their two children, Richard John Southall and Carolyn Reid Southall were born. By 1930, the family had moved back to Kansas City where Richard was a credit manager for a farm implements business and Marion continued her career as a proofreader. Sometime in the 30’s Richard got his law degree and opened a law practice. Son Richard attended Baker where he was a Sig Ep and majored in business, graduating in 1943. Daughter Carolyn also attended Baker where she was an Alpha Chi majoring in English, graduating in 1945.
When Marion helped to found Alpha Delta Kappa in 1947 with her Baker Alpha Chi sorority sisters, Marie Latimer Neal and Hattie Justice Poppino, she became the first National Vice-President and head of the Executive Board. Marion was also active in her Alpha Chi Omega alumnae chapter, and various church and civic projects. Her husband, Richard C. Southall, attorney, acted as general counsel to Alpha Delta Kappa. The official song of Alpha Delta Kappa, "The Lamp of Alpha Delta Kappa" was composed by Marion’s children, Carolyn and Richard Southall. Richard wrote the music for "There is a Sorority in Our Town" as well.
Marion was killed in a car accident on May 16, 1971.
Hattie Ella Justice was born in Kansas City, Missouri on February 11, 1897 to John Jefferson and Ella Hattie Gies Justice. Hattie’s first cousin was Marion Reid who was later her sorority sister at Alpha Chi Omega at Baker and co-founder of Alpha Delta Kappa. The two families lived next door to each other on 31st Street just east of Main until Hattie’s family moved to Olathe when she was in her teens. Hattie attended Baker for two years before leaving to become a bookkeeper and stenographer for a dry goods company. In July 1918, she moved to San Francisco to marry James Wayne Poppino who also attended Baker for two years and was serving in the Navy there. Hattie and James had three children. She returned to school and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Emporia State Teachers College. She also completed summer study at the University of Chicago.
A teacher for many years, Hattie taught commerce and library at Garnett and Chanute, Kansas, before becoming the librarian at Argentine High School in Kansas City, Kansas in 1945. Hattie was a member of several professional associations, including the National Education Association, Kansas Teacher's Association, Kansas Library Association, and the Kansas Association of School Librarians.
Hattie’s classroom teaching experience was instrumental in formulating the policies and aspirations of Alpha Delta Kappa. Hattie passed away September 22, 1986.