Friendship for the Ages

Kappa Alphas maintain close ties

1980 letter that launched annual tradition

Brothers for life: 1980 letter that launched annual tradition

For more than three decades, a group of Kappa Alpha (KA) fraternity brothers—many of whom served in World War II and attended Duke on the G.I. Bill—have been meeting annually to swap stories and share memories. This year, the group planned its reunion around the Duke-UNC football game in November.

Folgers, Sapp, and Knotts, from left, at 15th reunion in 1994

Folgers, Sapp, and Knotts, from left, at 15th reunion in 1994.
Courtesy Carl Sapp '49

“We’re a unique group in that a bunch of us went off to war and came back, so that by the time we were seniors, we were twenty-five years old, while the freshmen were seventeen and eighteen,” says Carl Sapp ’49. In 1980, Sapp and a few other KAs decided to bring together all Kappa brothers who graduated between 1946 and 1952. They’ve been meeting annually ever since. Among the group are a number of well-known varsity athletes, including football player Ernest “Bear” Knotts ’47, football and baseball letterman Fred Folger ’49, and Sapp himself, who played basketball on the 1946-49 teams.

Over time, what started as a casual gathering of frat brothers has deepened into a tight-knit community; it helps that many of the men’s wives also have close Duke connections. Robert Rosemond ’49, M.D. ’53 and his wife, Sally Hurlburt P.T. Cert. ’53, travel from Sanford, Florida, for the festivities. “The wives are like a band of sisters,” says Sally Rosemond. “A lot of these guys met their future wives at Duke, so it’s like a big family.”

With the exception of a couple of years in the North Carolina mountains, the group has always met in Durham. There’s a Friday night Happy Hour followed by a group dinner at a local restaurant—Hartman’s Steak House was the destination for years before it closed. On Saturday night, the group converges for a dinner catered by Shrimp Boats and a lively program with Sapp serving as emcee and master of ceremonies.

“At our largest, we had maybe eighty people, but the numbers are coming down,” says Sapp. “I’m eighty-seven years old. I remember serving as emcee for a reception they had when Hollis Edens became the new president of Duke [in 1949]. So there may be fewer people every year, but whether they get here using walkers or canes, everyone always has a good time.”

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