Priscilla Murphy Gerde
Priscilla Murphy Gerde, Gamma Delta Chapter, Purdue (1949- )
As President, Pris Murphy Gerde, Purdue, (2004-2006), worked closely with the Fraternity Council to build upon the momentum and initiatives set forth at the start of the new millennium. With an emphasis on strategic planning, technology and communication, Pris led Kappa Kappa Gamma with unmatched professionalism and energy. Pris kicked off the new biennium by focusing on leadership at every level.
After a successful Leadership Academy pilot program in April 2004, which was made possible by a grant from the Kappa Kappa Gamma Foundation, the official Leadership Academy weekend took place in October 2004 with the purpose of cultivating leadership among sophomore and junior students who show potential for shaping our Fraternity and the world around us.
Promoting Kappa’s newly formed partnership with Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) was also a priority during the 2004-2006 Biennium. Alumnae associations and chapters were given suggestions on how to incorporate RIF activities and support into their philanthropic programs. Ideas and successful events were highlighted in The Key.
Utilizing the latest technology was another priority for Pris and her Council. The Fraternity Web site was redesigned to be more user-friendly and easily navigated. Online Convention registration allowed Fraternity Headquarters staff to improve efficiency, and the overall design of the Web site allowed visitors to find news and resources quickly.
Other technology-based improvements during the biennium included the online Chapter Finances program, which allows chapter Treasurers to complete and submit their financial reports to Fraternity Headquarters with greater ease and efficiency, saving time and money.
While Pris was busy carrying out the goals of the Fraternity, Mother Nature had plans of her own. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged the Gulf Coast during Pris’s presidency, and she and the Council, with help from Headquarters staff, acted quickly to account for members living in the affected areas and for members who were being evacuated. Information was posted on the Fraternity Web site for those who needed financial support or those who wanted to donate money to the Kappa Foundation’s Rose McGill Hurricane Relief Fund. Thousands of dollars poured in from Kappas to help Kappas in need.
With a strong desire for input from all members, Pris and the Council initiated a “Strategic Plan Survey” and related focus groups to gather input to assist Council in preparing a strategic plan for the next biennium. Questions such as, “How can Kappa distinguish itself from the other organizations that vie for your time and energy?” were asked in an effort to find ways to make Kappa more relevant for today’s members. One new chapter was formed during the biennium and a formerly closed chapter began its journey back to campus. Eta Iota Chapter at Creighton University was installed in 2005, and the process of reestablishing Zeta Upsilon Chapter at Georgia Southern University began in 2006. Also during the biennium, 12 new alumnae associations were formed.
For her 2006 General Convention message, Pris chose “Relationships—It all begins here,” as her theme saying, “In reflecting over the past biennium, I am reminded of how often what we do, the decisions we make and our motivations for our actions are tied to relationships. … The vibrancy and growth of Kappa Kappa Gamma is in all our hands.”
Eager to get each Convention attendee more involved with the Fraternity, a “Leadership Festival” was created by Council to allow participants to view all of the main areas of Kappa, including the Foundation, Headquarters, The Key, and Educational Programming to name a few. Fraternity officers and Headquarters staff members representing each area manned special display tables, answering questions and providing detailed information on how members could utilize everything Kappa has to offer as well as ways to get more involved. Another new addition to Convention was the “Afternoon of Service,” during which attendees worked together to decorate 700 book bags, 700 bookmarks and 700 hand-puppets, which were distributed to three Salt Lake City children’s organizations.
Although Pris chose not to seek reelection as Fraternity President due to her time-consuming career with Lilly, she shared these sentiments: “In no way is my decision meant to deter those who seek to balance Kappa in their busy lives. I am truly in awe and appreciative of the many volunteers who generously give of their time while caring for children and elderly parents, serving in leadership roles in their communities, managing a household and being employed outside the home. Such is Kappa’s Tradition of Leadership.
“One thing I ask of each of you: Please encourage others and enable them to see the value of volunteering for Kappa. We will need to continue to grow our talent to make sure we are a relevant and vibrant organization when we celebrate our sesquicentennial in 2020,” said Pris.
Known for creating an environment that fostered communication, Pris was committed to traveling and meeting as many Kappas as possible, conversing with and inspiring everyone she met.Among Headquarters staff and Fraternity volunteers, Pris was often praised for being a good listener who showed genuine concern for the needs and ideas of others.
An advisor in residence with the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University following a 37-year corporate career with Eli Lilly and Company, Pris served Kappa in some capacity every year since 1970. Following graduation, she served as an alumnae association officer. She moved to the chapter side as an advisor at Iota Chapter, DePauw, and then as Advisory Board Chairman and Chapter Council Adviser to Gamma Delta Chapter, Purdue, before being elected as Delta South Province Director of Chapters (1993-1996). Pris served as a Regional Director of Chapters from 1996-1998 before being elected to the Fraternity Council as Director of Standards in 1998. After two terms, Pris was elected Vice President in 2002.
A member of the Lafayette alumnae association, Pris resides in Battle Ground, Ind., where she enjoys country living. She is passionate about volunteer service through education, the arts groups and church leadership. Pris currently serves as faculty and chapter adviser to Gamma Delta Chapter. Other interests include gardening, attending sports events (especially at Purdue), and traveling. Pris has visited 49 state capitals and looks forward to someday visiting Juneau, Alaska, to make it 50.