Walking past 8 Elliot Street, you may have noticed an Academy sign that reads “KEP House” and wondered what KEP signified. Are K-E-P perhaps the initials of some administrator or alumnus from Exeter’s past? The answer can be found in the Academy Archives in the pages of old Exeter Bulletins and PEAN yearbooks. Here one discovers that KEP stands for Kappa Epsilon Pi and that the building at #8 was the home of the KEP fraternity, one of 6 fraternities that existed at Exeter about 100 years ago.
The history of the fraternity system at Exeter is an interesting story that reflects some of the social changes that have occurred at the school. In the 1870s, when many students lived in town homes, several “secret” societies were formed by students at Exeter as a way for them to gather and socialize. Because these societies began to pose a discipline problem, Principal Fish abolished them in 1891. However, in 1896, Principal Amen lifted the ban on these groups and allowed fraternities to form once again with closer faculty supervision. Eventually, there were 6 fraternities—Phi Epsilon Sigma, Kappa Epsilon Pi, Kappa Delta Pi, Kappa Beta Nu, Alpha Nu, and Phi Theta Psi—each of which rented rooms in various homes near the Academy.
Finally, in 1942, the faculty voted to close all fraternities. By this point, all Academy students were housed in dormitories, providing more opportunities for friendships and social interaction. There had also been an increase in the number of clubs and student organizations. The house in which KEP met on Elliot Street was purchased by the Academy in 1944 and is today a faculty residence.