Theta President, Kerri Hemmelgarn, Represents Putnam County in Bicentennial Torch Relay


Accompanied by police escorts and surrounded by her fellow sorority sisters, DePauw University senior,  Kerri Hemmelgarn, ran across campus holding a torch.

Hemmelgarn is the current president of Kappa Alpha Theta and represented her sorority and Putnam County as the torchbearer for the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay.

The 92 county torch relay, which began Sept. 9, plans to cover 3,200 miles over a five-week period, averaging 97 miles per day with the goal of commemorating the Indiana bicentennial as well as Indiana history. The torch stands as a symbol to connect Indiana with its past and ignite its future.

Senior, Elizabeth St. John spoke about the event and Hemmelgarn’s role. “Kerri carried the spirit of Bettie in her enthusiasm for the event and inspired us members to honor the important role that Kappa Alpha Theta has played in shaping not only Indiana, but the broader historical representation of empowered female leadership,”  St. John said, referencing Bettie Locke Hamilton, the chief founder of Kappa Alpha Theta.

The president of Kappa Alpha Theta was chosen as the torch carrier due to the historic founding of the organization in 1870 on DePauw University's campus. When Kappa Alpha Theta was founded by Locke it was the first Greek-letter women's college fraternity.

“Theta and DePauw have such a deep history in Putnam County, it was cool to be able to represent all three of these things during the run,” Hemmelgarn said.

Kappa Alpha Theta National President, Laura Ware Doerre, spoke about the honor. "We are immensely pleased that the torch relay honors Bettie Locke Hamilton, not only for her role in Indiana's history, but also for her role in women's history," Doerre said.

The brief run, going down Anderson Street towards East College then north on Locust Street, was cheered on by fellow sorority sisters and onlookers stationed both by Rector Village and Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

“I was really excited when Theta headquarters contacted me about being a torchbearer in honor of our founder. Some of her descendants came to watch, and it was an honor to meet them,” said Hemmelgarn, “Plus how many times in your life do you get to run down a street with a torch and a police escort?”

The Bicentennial Torch Relay continues its journey across the state until Oct. 5 when it returns home to Indianapolis for a Bicentennial celebration at the Robert D. Orr Plaza.