Katherine “Kate” McReynolds Morrison - a student, teacher, civic leader and culturally conscious woman beyond her times - was initiated into the Alpha (DePauw University) chapter in 1887 at the age of 16. She had the honor of being pinned by Founder Estelle Leonard and was elected the sixth president of the Alpha chapter. While president, she pinned honorary member Madame Fannie Bloomfield-Zeisler, an Austrian-born U.S. pianist who was revered globally for her musical prowess. In 1891, Kate studied abroad at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Stuttgart, Germany. After receiving her artist’s and teacher’s certificate in 1895, she struck up a friendship with musician Fanny Koehle and founded the McReynolds-Koehle Music School in Washington, D.C.
In the summer of 1897, Kate stayed with world-renowned violinist and honorary Alpha Chi Omega Maud Powell. That same year she shared with The Lyre a paper she had written on the plight that Native Americans faced culturally, not only in musical terms but in political terms as well. She intended to awaken interest for Native American music, for readers to consider the future of the appreciation of this culture, and to change the way people regarded Native Americans.
From 1899-1900 Kate studied abroad once again in Berlin, Germany, at the Stern Conservatory, receiving another artist’s certificate. She immersed herself in the musical affairs of other cultures. As a result, she became one of the most renowned musical influencers of her time.
Kate was a key contributor to her local community as well. In 1913, she devised a plan for Washington, D.C. high schools to provide credit to students engaged in private music study. She explained, “The idea of a system in the Washington High Schools, granting a major credit for outside music-study with private teachers, originated with me, and the Board of Education turned to me for the plan, which … has benefited hundreds of music students and their teachers.”
She ended her professional career by closing her music school after 19 years when she married Hon. Martin Morrison, representative of the 9th District of Indiana. Now Katherine McReynolds Morrison, she continued her various social interests by becoming a member of the Congressional Club, a group for spouses of congressmen, in 1915. In 1920, she founded the Washington’s Pianist Club, about which she described, “The inspiration, preparation for public performance, and presentation of ‘star pupils of star piano teachers,’ in individual, artist programs … has proved of far-reaching benefit to both.” Because of her civic engagement, the Washington College of Music awarded her with an honorary doctorate in 1936.
While Kate only spent one year studying at DePauw, her involvement with Alpha Chi Omega lasted her entire lifetime. In 1935 she attended the Golden Jubilee with four members of her new member class and wrote an article for The Lyre detailing her college experience titled “Reminiscences of 50 Years Ago."
In 1888, Alpha Chi Omega offered Katherine McReynolds Morrison the opportunity to be a leader as chapter president; by seizing this opportunity, she set the course for a lifetime of success. She died on February 17, 1958, only four short years after receiving her 50-year Alpha Chi Omega milestone pin. Her wide-reaching inspiration impacted the world in ways only an Alpha Chi Omega could.