Phi Beta Kappa fraternity is founded

Phi Beta Kappa fraternity is founded

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In Williamsburg, Virginia, a group of five students at the College of William and Mary gather at Raleigh’s Tavern to found a new fraternity, Phi Beta Kappa. Intended to follow strictly American principles as opposed to those of England or Germany, the new society engaged in the fervent political debate typical of student life at the college in Virginia’s capital. The fluent scholars of Greek and Latin who gathered to found the society, which was destined to count presidents and poets of the newly declared republic among its ranks, could not have differed more greatly from their Patriot fellows suffering as prisoners of the crown in British-occupied New York.

From the British stronghold, an officer writing on this day described his 5,000 American captives in Shakespearian terms: “…many of them are such ragamuffins, as you never saw in your life; I cannot give you a better idea of them than by putting you in mind of Falstaff’s recruits, or poor Tom in King Lear; and yet they had strained every nerve to cover their nakedness, by dismantling all the beds.”

While students toasted and the captured shivered, General George Washington pled the virtues of a standing army above those of an ad hoc militia. His missive to Congress came at the end of his notice that his batch of ragamuffins and their supplies were still in transit across the Delaware to Pennsylvania, protected from the rampaging redcoats by a rear guard at Princeton commanded by Lord William Stirling and General Adam Stephens.


Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest and the most distinguished of all collegiate honorary societies. For more than two hundred years, election to membership has been a recognition of academic excellence achieved in course of completing an education in the liberal arts and sciences at the undergraduate level. The objectives of humane learning encouraged by Phi Beta Kappa include intellectual honesty and tolerance, a broad range of intellectual interests, and a lifelong commitment to the pursuit of learning.Phi Beta Kappa was founded as a literary and debating society on December 5, 1776, at the College of William and Mary. It was the first American society to have a Greek letter name, and in its first meeting, the chapter adopted the emblem of the organization, the Phi Beta Kappa key. Among the earliest members, more than one fourth served with revolutionary forces in the American Revolution, several were instrumental in framing and bringing about the ratification of the American Constitution, and one of the early members, John Marshall, became first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.Since its beginnings, Phi Beta Kappa has changed substantially in its aims, membership, and organization. Originally a secret society, all secrecy was eliminated as early as the 1830s. In its early days a social club similar to today’s fraternities, it developed over the course of the nineteenth century into an academic honor society existing to recognize excellence in liberal learning, and admitting members only after they meet the highest academic standards. For many decades an only male organization, women began to be admitted in 1875, when the chapter at the University of Vermont admitted two women to membership, a step regarded by many at the time as revolutionary. In 1883, the first National Council began, and from that time the society increased steadily in size and stature, adding chapters at institutions carefully selected for the highest academic standards in undergraduate liberal arts programs. In 1905 Alpha of North Carolina chapter was established, the first North Carolina and one of the first chapters chartered among Southern universities after the Civil War.Today there are some 255 Phi Beta Kappa chapters on American college and university campuses, along with over fifty associated alumni organizations which promote the liberal arts and sciences through lectures, scholarships, and awards recognizing the academic achievement of high school and college students. The organization has almost a half million living members. A list of past and present members reads like a Who’s Who of American society, including six American presidents, twelve justices of the Supreme Court, and numerous artistic, intellectual, and political leaders, including notables such as Jane Addams, Leonard Bernstein, Pearl Buck, Samuel Clemens, Rita Dove, Henry James, Helen Keller, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Paul Robeson, Jonas Salk, Booker T. Washington, and Daniel Webster.

The national organization of Phi Beta Kappa and its chapters across the country, along with its alumni associations, carry out active programs to promote the liberal arts and sciences through awards, lectures, scholarships, and prizes. The organization publishes The American Scholar, a well known quarterly journal of American thought. And each year it raises and distributes over one million dollars to benefit students and scholars through its programs.


The key that all PBK members are privileged to wear is practically identical with the silver medal adopted by the founders in 1776. Some time later the stem was added for the purpose of winding pocket watches.

One side of the Key bears the three Greek letters PBK, the initials of the Greek Motto, Philosophia Biouy Kubernetes, which is interpreted to mean: “The Love of Wisdom, the Inspiration of Life”. The three stars indicate the three fundamental principles of the Society–Fraternity, Morality, Literature, and the hand pointing to the stars indicates the high aspirations of the members. On the reverse side the letters S P are the initials of the Latin words, Societas Philosophiae, which are in harmony with the Greek motto on the obverse. Above these initials the name and chapter of the wearer may be engraved.

The date, December 5, 1776, was engraved on the earliest medals, and indicates the time of the Society’s formal organization. All wearers of the Key are thus assured that they belong to one of the oldest college organizations in this country – the oldest Society formed for the encouragement of scholarship and the union of those engaged in scholarly pursuits.

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7 Oldest Fraternities in North America

Fraternities are a staple of college life in America and their practices are often referenced in today’s popular culture. While the earliest fraternities may not exactly resemble their modern counterparts, their core beliefs have been passed down. The very first Greek-letter society was formed in 1775 and influenced what are considered the first modern college fraternities that popped up in the early 19 th century. These first fraternities established the model for the fraternities that came after and they are still active nearly 200 years later.

7. Psi Upsilon

Year Established: 1833
Founding College/University: Union College (Schenectady, New York)
Type of Fraternity: Secret, Social, and Literary
Chapters: 49 (27 active)

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Like many of the first modern college fraternities, Psi Upsilon was established at Union College in the early 19 th century. Psi Upsilon claims that it was the first fraternity to do such things as, hold a fraternity convention (1841) print a membership catalog (1842) print its history (1843) print a fraternity song book (1849) and issue a fraternity magazine (1850). The fraternity has had several members who eventually became famous, including, President William Howard Taft, President Chester A. Arthur, and Vice President Nelson Rockefeller.

In recent years, a few chapters have drawn negative media attention, including the Cornell University chapter of Psi Upsilon. The chapter was indefinitely shut down in 2017 after several incidents involving sexual assault and racially charged assault.

6. Alpha Delta Phi

Year Established: 1832
Founding College/University: Hamilton College (Clinton, New York)
Type of Fraternity: Secret, Social, and Literary
Chapters: 34

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Alpha Delta Phi started out as a literary society founded by Samuel Eells (a 19 th century American philosopher, essayist, and orator) in 1832 at Hamilton College. It was the first fraternity to start a chapter west of the Appalachian Mountains when a Miami University chapter was founded in 1835. The house used by the Cornell University Chapter of Alpha Delta Phi in 1877, was the first house built in America specifically for use by a fraternity.

Alpha Delta Phi has over 50,000 alumni which include justices of the Supreme Court as well as former presidents and senators. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt are among the fraternity’s most famous members.

5. Delta Phi

Year Established: 1827
Founding College/University: Union College (Schenectady, New York)
Type of Fraternity: Social
Chapters: 13

photo source: Wikipedia

Delta Phi was the third fraternity established at Union College and is the final member of the Union Triad. Since Union College is the home of the first three official modern fraternities in America, the school has been called the “Mother of Fraternities.”

Along with the other members of the Union Triad (Kappa Alpha Society and Sigma Phi Society), Delta Phi was established during a time of anti-Masonic sentiment in the United States. People felt they could not trust these organizations because they were secretive societies at the time. In the 1830s, the president of Union College wanted to shut down all of the schools fraternities, but a member of Delta Phi convinced the school to let them continue.

4. Sigma Phi Society

Year Established: 1827
Founding College/University: Union College (Schenectady, New York)
Type of Fraternity: Social
Chapters: 9

photo source:

Two years after the first official fraternity was established at Union College, four undergraduates decided to form their own group called the Sigma Phi Society. It is the second fraternity that makes up the Union Triad, which are the three founding fraternities of North America.

Sigma Phi was the first fraternity to establish a chapter at another school. This second chapter was founded in 1831 at nearby Hamilton College, which makes Sigma Phi the first national fraternity.

Despite being one of the oldest fraternities, Sigma Phi’s growth has been selective and conservative. Today, there are only nine chapters in the organization.

3. Kappa Alpha Society

Year Established: 1825
Founding College/University: Union College (Schenectady, New York)
Type of Fraternity: Literary and Social
Chapters: 15 (9 active)

photo source: Wikipedia

Kappa Alpha Society is the oldest continuously existing fraternity in North America. The fraternity is credited as the forefather of the modern fraternity system in North America. It is one of the three oldest fraternities in America that form what is known as the Union Triad. These three fraternities all started at Union College and influenced the formation of other similar groups at colleges around the country.

According to the group’s history, the fraternity was formed as the middle link between secret societies, literary societies, and Greek-letter organizations. Although Kappa Alpha Society is nearly 200 years old, today, there are only nine chapters still active.

2. Chi Phi

Year Established: 1824
Founding College/University: Princeton University (Princeton, New Jersey)
Type of Fraternity: Social
Chapters: 57

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The Chi Phi fraternity was established when three separate organizations that were known as Chi Phi came together. Since the Chi Phi organization from Princeton University was founded in 1824, Chi Phi fraternity is one of the oldest fraternities in North America.

Although the fraternity says that the original 1824 organization is a part of its history, the modern line of the fraternity was not founded until 1854. This group was inspired to re-establish the Chi Phi fraternity at Princeton after its founder discovered the the records of the original 1824 organization. They decided to keep some aspects of the 1824 fraternity while adding their own values.

1. Phi Beta Kappa Society

Year Established: 1776
Founding College/University: The College of William and Mary (Williamsburg, Virginia)
Type of Fraternity: Honor Society
Chapters: 286

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

While Phi Beta Kappa Society is more of an honor society than a traditional fraternity, it was the first collegiate Greek-letter organization in the United States. Due to this, it is technically the oldest fraternity in North America. Phi Beta Kapa influenced several of the first modern college fraternities, which decided to also use Greek letters to form their names.

Phi Beta Kappa is a large nationwide organization and is recognized as one of the most prestigious honor societies in the country. The society’s goal is to promote and advocate excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. The group has chapters in about 10% of American colleges/universities and typically, about 10% of the Arts and Sciences graduates are invited to join Phi Beta Kappa.


Chartered in 1932, the Alpha of Arkansas chapter has inducted almost 3,000 PBK members since that time, including J. William Fulbright (1945). Early initiates and chapter officers included familiar campus names such as Futrall, Leflar, Waterman, Hotz, Holcombe, and Droke. For sixty-five years, the University of Arkansas's chapter was the only one in the state. A charter was issued for a Beta Chapter at Hendrix in 1997.

Pictured in the photo above:

First Row: Ina Knerr, Daisy Holcomb, Burnelle Boyce, Rena S. Duncan, Jobelle Holcombe, Lucille A. Long, Olive L. Mathis, ?

Second Row: Reed Sparks, J.S. Waterman, W.R. Hervey, Zilpha C. Battey, A.W. Wasson, S.A. Mitchell, George Vaughan, C.C. Fichtner (Pres.), J.C. Futrall, J.C. Jordan, G.W. Droke, D.Y. Thomas, Mary T. Anderson, H. Christine Nelson, Mary Jane Trebble, V.L. Jones, Fred L. Kerr (sec.)

Third Row: H, Hale, E. Wertheim, ? Anthony, V.H. Young, Robt. ?, D. Swartz, L.B. Hamm, H. H, Strauss (Vice-Pres.), A. Marinoni

Meeting was held at the Washington Hotel, Fayetteville, Arkansas

Phi Beta Kappa | University of Arkansas | ARKU 634| Fayetteville, AR 72701


Phi Beta Pi medical fraternity is a professional fraternity founded March 10, 1891, at the West Pennsylvania Medical College, a school that is now a department of the University of Pittsburgh). It was, at its beginning, an anti-fraternity society, reactionary to the more secret groups of the day. At formation it was known briefly as Pi Beta Phi professional fraternity, but changed its name because a woman's fraternity also known as Pi Beta Phi had prior claim to that name. [1]

Its Beta chapter was established at the University of Michigan on April 1, 1898, with its first national general assembly in Ann Arbor on January 6, 1900.

Baird's Manual (20th ed.) reports that Phi Beta Pi absorbed an early, secret medical fraternity named Kappa Lambda, which may have been the first professional fraternity of any account. It had been founded in 1803 at Transylvania University, in Lexington, Kentucky, extending chapters to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New York, to Rutgers University Medical School (NJ), the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, and elsewhere. It continued to be active in New York until the eve of the Civil War, to 1858 or later, "but having no useful purpose faded into oblivion." Baird's reports that what remained of Kappa Lambda consolidated with Phi Beta Pi under that name, even though Phi Beta Pi dates to 1891. [2]

Over three decades the Fraternity chartered 53 chapters. Growth slowed, adding ten more by 1955.

Growth was difficult, with probably the single biggest negative factor cited as being the consolidation and discontinuance of medical schools. In 1906 there were 162 medical schools in the United States and Canada, but by 1954 there were 79. Additionally, medical societies were in competition among themselves. Phi Beta Pi for a time gained from others' loss: In 1934 Omega Upsilon Phi medical fraternity, founded at Buffalo in 1894, merged into Phi Beta Pi, bringing with it an additional 24 chapter designations, some of which merged into existing Phi Beta Pi chapters, some closed, and with its Alpha chapter at the University of Buffalo leaving to join rival Phi Chi Medical Fraternity as its Omega Upsilon Phi chapter.

Later, in what was considered a merger of equals, Phi Beta Pi consolidated operations with Theta Kappa Psi, both contributing their remaining chapters to the combined group in 1961, and retaining the names of both national fraternities. Some chapters, notably those in Texas and Manitoba vigorously fought against this merger which at first would have required Theta Kappa Psi to give up its name. These groups began to organize a schismatic and similarly named international group, but this effort failed to launch.

Thirty years later, in the Spring of 1992, Phi Beta Pi-Theta Kappa Psi was dissolved. At the time of dissolution there were only nine active chapters in existence.

The only remaining chapter of Phi Beta Pi is situated at The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas. This chapter continues Phi Beta Pi's fraternity traditions of achieving academic excellence, promoting mentorship, organizing events for the student body, and providing charity outreach to the community. It has expressed an interest in rebuilding the national with additional chapters.

Its badge is a diamond of gold with emerald points and pearl edges. A black enamel center with gold skull and pelvis and the letters "ΦΒΠ." [1]

Below is a list of Phi Beta Pi chapters. [1] [3]

Chapter Institution Dates Notes
A University of Pittsburgh 1891-?
B University of Michigan 1898-?
Γ Starling-Ohio Medical College 1900–1905
Δ Rush Medical College (University of Chicago) 1901-?
Ε McGill University 1901–1908
Ζ Baltimore College of Physicians and Surgeons 1901-?
Η Jefferson Medical College 1902-?
Θ Northwestern University (Chicago) 1902-?
Ι University of Illinois (Chicago) 1902-?
Κ Detroit College of Medicine 1903-?
Λ St. Louis University 1903-?
Μ Washington University 1903-?
Ν Kansas City University Medical College 1904-?
Ξ University of Minnesota 1904-?
Ο Indiana University (Indianapolis) 1905-? Combined with Alpha Zeta to make Omicron Alpha Zeta
Π University of Iowa 1905-?
Ρ Vanderbilt University 1906-1944
Σ University of Alabama (Mobile) 1906-?
Τ University of Missouri 1906-?
Υ Western Reserve University 1906–1911
Φ University College of Medicine 1906-?
Χ Georgetown University 1906-?
Ψ Medical College of Virginia 1906-?
Ω Cooper Medical College 1906-?
ΑΑ Creighton Medical College 1907-?
ΑΒ Tulane University 1907-?
ΑΓ Syracuse University 1907-?
ΑΔ Medico-Chirurgical College absorbed by University of Pennsylvania [4] 1907-?
ΑΕ Marquette University 1907-?
ΑΖ Indiana University (Bloomington) 1908-?
ΑΗ University of Virginia 1909-?
ΑΘ University of Pennsylvania 1909-?
ΑΙ University of Kansas 1910-?
ΑΚ University of Texas (Galveston) 1910–Present [5]
AM University of Louisville pre-1921-?

Omega Upsilon Phi fraternity merged into Phi Beta Pi 1934. All active chapters became active chapters of Phi Beta Pi except Alpha which joined Phi Chi Medical Fraternity. [6]

Before 1776 in what would become the United States of America, collegiate student fraternal organizations that promoted scholarship, rhetoric, and ethical conduct existed only at Yale, the College of William and Mary, and The College of New Jersey. [1] Thereafter, literary societies came into existence at virtually all the colleges and universities in America. [2]

The Latin Societies were formal organizations, often with large assembly rooms. These organizations typically existed in pairs (two competing organizations on a campus), and took roughly half the students as members. At some colleges, students would even be assigned to a society by lot. The literary exercises of these societies usually consisted of a debate, and the meetings were open to the public. In addition to a debate, members could be assigned original poems, essays, fiction, to both compose and deliver. Each society had distinctive meetings, with more or less political, social, or religious discussion. [2] [3]

These organizations also often adopted mottoes in Greek or Latin, and some had Greek letter names, such as Phi Kappa society at the University of Georgia.

These organizations figure prominently in the development of fraternities and sororities because many early fraternities were considered simply 'private' versions of the 'open' Latin societies, and the format of the meetings was derived from the Latin societies exercises.

The Latin Societies thrived until the American Civil War. It is suggested that the later college fraternities undermined them. There were attempts to restore some of these organizations in the 1870s. A few do survive, either in the original society, or with one or more breaks in their history, at the University of Georgia and Yale.

Phi Beta Kappa Edit

The Phi Beta Kappa Society, founded on December 5, 1776, at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, was the first fraternal organization in the United States of America, established the precedent for naming American college societies after the Greek letters.

The group consisted of students who frequented the Raleigh Tavern as a common meeting area off the college campus. There is a persistent rumor that a Masonic lodge also met in the same place, but there was a different building used by the Freemasons at Williamsburg. [4] Whether the students organized to meet more freely and discuss non-academic topics, or to discuss politics in a Revolutionary society, is unknown the earliest records indicate only that the students met to debate and engage in oratory, and on topics that would have been not far removed from the curriculum. [5]

There were Latin-named literary societies at William & Mary, which were large debating societies, which, according to the founders of Phi Beta Kappa "had lost all reputation for letters, and [were] noted only for the dissipation & conviviality of [their] members." The new society was intended to be "purely of domestic manufacture, without any connection whatever with anything European, either English or German." [5] The founders of Phi Beta Kappa declared that the society was formed for congeniality and to promote good fellowship, with "friendship as its basis and benevolence and literature as its pillars." [5] At first the only secrets were the mysterious letters used on the badge. [5]

The society was given the motto, Philosophia Biou Kubernētēs or "Philosophy is the helmsman of life," now officially translated as "Philosophy is the guide of life". [6] Greek was chosen as the language for the motto because Heath, "was the best Greek scholar in college." [5]

One official historian of the society, William T. Hastings, and others, believes that the "S" and "P" on the badge, which meant Societas Philosophiae, Philosophical Society, was the original name of the Society and that the name Phi Beta Kappa only came to be taken as the society name over time. The heading on the original list of members states: "A List of the members, who have been initiated into the S.P. alias Phi Beta Kappa Society." [5]

Later, in May 1777, two new signs of recognition were designed: "a salutation of the clasp of the hands, together with an immediate stroke across the mouth with the back of the same hand, and a return with the hand used by the saluted" these new gestures were for the purposes of distinguishing Phi Beta Kappa members "in any foreign country or place." [5]

By a stroke of good fortune, the society initiated a Yale student before disbanding at the advance of British forces. This student brought Phi Beta Kappa to Yale and Harvard, and from there the society was able to continue. As Phi Beta Kappa developed, it came to be a very influential association of faculty and select students across several colleges. The chapters became larger and focused on rhetoric and class elections while abandoning the close social bond that had defined the first chapter. Membership was becoming more of an honor and less part of a functioning society.

However, Phi Beta Kappa was very different from a typical college fraternity of today in that the membership was generally restricted to upperclassmen, if not seniors, and faculty, (made members earlier in their careers) played an active role. The annual Phi Beta Kappa exercises at Yale were public literary exercises, with as many or more faculty members of the society than undergraduate.

Early groups Edit

No other Greek letter student society was formed until the inception of Chi Delta Theta, a senior class society at Yale, in 1821. This group, like Phi Beta Kappa had now become, was largely focused on literary debates and elections. Similar groups without Greek letter names (but still clearly inspired by the Greek language) had already been formed like Hermesian, Adelphi, and Philalethean. [7]

The fraternity system develops Edit

The first national, secret, Greek letter social fraternity is considered to be the Kappa Alpha Society, established at Union College in Schenectady, New York, on November 26, 1825, by John Hart Hunter. Kappa Alpha's founders adopted many of Phi Beta Kappa's practices (Phi Beta Kappa had been established at Union College in 1817 [9] ), but formed their organization around fellowship, making the development of friendship and brotherhood their primary purpose. Students liked the organization but the faculty was opposed to the small secret society. [9]

Following the establishment of Kappa Alpha Society, an untimely event occurred that would come to shape the public perception of fraternities for decades. In 1826, a man named William Morgan professed himself to be a high-ranking member of the Freemasons and said he intended to publish their secrets. He then disappeared and was assumed murdered or abducted. Public interest in the case led to a severe anti-secret society sentiment. Fraternity members faced expulsion and general suspicion which only increased the secrecy of the early organizations. [9]

Meanwhile, Union College was firmly established as the birthplace of the North American fraternity and sorority system when the Sigma Phi Society formed in March 1827, followed by Delta Phi in November. Kappa Alpha Society, Sigma Phi, and Delta Phi would constitute the so-called Union Triad.

Sigma Phi became the first "national" fraternity when it opened a satellite chapter at Hamilton College in 1831. A failed 1830 attempt by Kappa Alpha to expand to Hamilton sparked the founding of Alpha Delta Phi, the first Greek letter fraternity founded outside Union. [10] The trajectory of national expansion continued with Kappa Alpha Society's successful expansion to Williams College in 1833. [11] The Mystical 7 at Wesleyan (1837) expanded to Emory University and the University of Georgia in the early 1840s, spreading the concept to the South, where for two decades before the Civil War, these kinds of organizations were called "Mystic Associations". The Mystical 7 was also the first society to initiate women as members. In 1833, the Skull and Bones Society was organized at Yale University among members of the senior class as a burlesque of Phi Beta Kappa. This spawned other similar secret societies that differentiate themselves from Greek-lettered societies.

The incidents involving William Morgan had not been forgotten, however, and Phi Beta Kappa came under public scrutiny. The increasing influence of the society came to seem undemocratic and contrary to the free flow of intellectual ideas in American academia, and under great pressure, the undergraduate members at Harvard revealed the secrets of Phi Beta Kappa in 1831. [1] [9] In 1833, the Order of Skulls and Bones Society was organized at Yale University among members of the senior class to carry on the legacy of Phi Beta Kappa. [1] An unofficial but still very clear line was drawn between future secret societies and future Greek-lettered organizations.

In 1834, Delta Upsilon fraternity was founded at Williams College. Delta Upsilon was established as the nation's first open, non-secret fraternity in that it still to this day does not maintain secret admonitions, handclasps, etc. and does not safeguard its rituals, which are open to public speculation. Delta Upsilon was founded to counter what was believed to be the unjust dominance by secret societies of the time over the student affairs at Williams college. [12]

Beta Theta Pi was founded at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in August 1839, in response to the chartering of the west-most chapter of Alpha Delta Phi. Phi Delta Theta (1848) and Sigma Chi (1855), also founded at Miami University, emulated Beta Theta Pi's focus on establishing new chapters. These three constitute the so-called Miami Triad. Zeta Psi, founded in 1847 at New York University, similarly pursued expansion. Meanwhile, Theta Chi was founded at Norwich University in Norwich, VT, and Sigma Alpha Epsilon was started at the University of Alabama in 1856.

Union College continued its role as the Mother of Fraternities by establishing a second triad. This triad consists of Psi Upsilon (1833), Chi Psi (1841) and Theta Delta Chi (1847). With this second triad, Union College can claim the foundation of nearly half of the first 13 secret social national fraternities in the country. [9]

Influences from Freemasonry would still be explicitly clear in the development of fraternities such as Phi Kappa Sigma, founded 1850, and Delta Tau Delta, founded 1858. Organizations such as Zeta Psi, Tau Kappa Epsilon, Psi Upsilon, and Delta Psi would be similarly influenced by and all without officially retaining any ties to Freemasonry. [1]

As with men's fraternities, women's fraternities would largely be inspired or preceded by student societies with Greek-inspired names but without Greek letters. The Adelphean Society was established in 1851 at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, making it the first secret society for collegiate women. The Philomathean Society (not associated with the Philomathean Society of the University of Pennsylvania) was also founded at Wesleyan College in 1852. [13]

The first Greek letter women's fraternity, Chi Theta Delta, was formed in 1856 at Troy Female Seminary. It was formed by female students who had become so intrigued and impressed by the fellowship displayed by the men's fraternity Theta Delta Chi that they sought membership. This being an impossibility, the Delta chapter of Theta Delta Chi helped them form their own group which would last only a few years when Troy Female Seminary ceased being a board school. [14] 1856 would also see the establishment of Kappa Sigma (not to be confused with Kappa Sigma fraternity) at Elmira College. [13]

The Golden Age of Fraternities Edit

The early 1860s were unsurprisingly uneventful when it comes to fraternities due to the American Civil War. Many colleges, and subsequently undergraduate chapters, would temporarily close during the war. Only one organization, Theta Xi, was founded (at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1864) and it was the first professional fraternity. [15] One very important event during the war was the passage of the Morrill Act of 1862. This act would lead to new colleges, new educational opportunities, and greater student enrollment. [16]

After the war, the system would begin encountering racial, religious, and gender diversity and new colleges would be founded or reformed throughout the south and west. Growth in the fraternity system overall during this period would lead some to label the last third of the 19th century as "The Golden Age of Fraternities." [17]

The so-called Lexington Triad would begin its formation when Alpha Tau Omega was founded in 1865 at the Virginia Military Institute. Fraternities being founded at military-oriented schools in the south was unsurprising given the recent end of the war. The founding of Kappa Alpha Order at Washington and Lee University in 1865 and Sigma Nu at VMI in 1869 would complete the triad. [15]

Fraternity creation would slow for a time after 1873 when the third of three secret societies was formed at Massachusetts Agricultural College. The existing fraternities would now seek to expand. [15]

Sororities Edit

The founding of the Adelphean Society (later Alpha Delta Pi) at Wesleyan Female college in 1851 marks the establishment of the first secret society for women. Shortly after came the Philomathean Society (later Phi Mu) also founded at Wesleyan in March 1852. In 1867, a society called I. C. Sorosis was founded as the nation's first women's fraternity at Monmouth College in Illinois, and later became known as Pi Beta Phi. It was the first to begin expanding to different chapters, [18] although a few unauthorized city chapters existed for a short time in its early years. In 1870, Kappa Alpha Theta was founded, and was the first women's fraternity founded with Greek letters. [19] The 1870s would also host the founding of Kappa Kappa Gamma in 1870, Alpha Phi in 1872, Delta Gamma in 1873, and Gamma Phi Beta and Sigma Kappa in 1874. [13] [15] In 1888 the women's fraternity of Delta Delta Delta [20] was established at Boston University. The 1890s saw the founding of Chi Omega now the nation's largest women's fraternal organization. [21] With Alpha Xi Delta founding in 1893.

Sororities had, from the beginning, the difficult objective of proving the viability of coeducational studies. That women could perform academically as well as or better than men while maintaining the Victorian ideals of womanhood was a tall order. Sororities created high academic standards and monitored the social activities of their members from their inception. [22]

Gamma Phi Beta would gain notoriety in 1882 as the first organization to be called a sorority. Their advisor was a male Latin professor who coined the term. [17] The terms sorority and women's fraternity have always since been interchangeable with some using one or the other in only formal or informal contexts.

The social sororities were one of the few social outlets at most universities. While enrollment had opened to women at most institutions, student organizations like literary societies, student government, and other clubs were still free to restrict membership. Intense curriculum and mandatory religious involvements limited free time but the social sororities and social fraternities began a tradition of interaction. They would put together skits for entertainment, hold events for singing and waltzing after meetings were over, and held socials at the houses of local members. [22]

Professional and honorary fraternities Edit

Theta Xi was the first Greek letter professional fraternity but it would eventually become social. These groups would gain popularity before and increasingly after the turn of the 20th century. Membership in them could be coveted a great deal on some campuses. The membership requirements and purposes of honorary and professional fraternities would often overlap. [15]

Religious Organizations Edit

While the late 19th century held tremendous growth for the fraternity system, it was also a time of great discrimination against the minorities who were increasingly entering the universities. Informal agreements were often codified in bylaws to restrict membership only to white Christians (but not necessarily all Christian denominations). [17]

Christianity was a huge part of college life at this time. Training for the ministry was a common application of time in a university and attending chapel was often mandatory. Jewish students could rarely gain entry into any fraternities as, at the time, just one member could often block the initiation of any new member. Even Christianity was not enough for many as there was also much discrimination against Irish Catholics. Catholic students at Brown University would create Phi Kappa Sigma (not to be confused with the national Phi Kappa Sigma) in 1889. Three Jewish students, upset at any idea of religious discrimination, would found the non-sectarian (no discrimination against race, religion, or color) Pi Lambda Phi at Yale University in 1895. On the other end of the spectrum, fourteen students would form the Z.B.T. Society (later Zeta Beta Tau) in 1898 which was only open to Jewish students. [17]

African-American Organizations Edit

The establishment and evolution of fraternities and sororities for African-Americans partially mirrored the development of social fraternities and sororities. Literary societies with Greek letters came first: the Alpha Phi literary society was founded at Howard University in 1872. [23] Sigma Pi Phi, a non-collegiate fraternity for professionals, was founded in 1904. Next there were unsuccessful attempts to create collegiate fraternities, such as Gamma Phi fraternity at Wilberforce University (first official campus recognition in 1923 a 1923 yearbook entry reported operation as early as 1905), Alpha Kappa Nu at Indiana University (formation attempted in 1903, but involved too few registrants to assure continuing organization), and Pi Gamma Omicron at Ohio State University (formation reported in the Chicago Defender in 1905 organization failed to receive school recognition). In 1906, Alpha Phi Alpha was formally established as a fraternity at Cornell University by CC Poindexter, though it operated as a social study club in 1905. The eight organizations which made up the National Pan-Hellenic Council until 1996 would be formed over the next decade and a half. Black fraternities and sororities were based on existing fraternities and sororities but cultural additions were made including calls, open hand signs, and step shows though social in nature, many African-American fraternal organizations were formed with an emphasis on public service and civil rights. [23]

Organization Edit

The first attempt at organization between different fraternities began as a recommendation from members of Beta Theta Pi. Men representing thirteen fraternities officially and others present unofficially met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1883. They had intentions of having a conference the following year and several edits formed the Inter-Fraternity Press Association. Neither of these two ideas lasted. [24]

Kappa Kappa Gamma began the process of attempting to organize sororities in 1890. [13] The first Panhellenic Convention of Woman's Fraternities was held in August 1891. Committees were created and reports were drafted but little was done to continue the organization.

Fraternities and sororities united their efforts to make an appearance at the upcoming World's Fair in Chicago in 1893. They formed the Columbian Exposition Committee on Pan-Hellenism (the Chicago World's Fair was officially called the World's Columbian Exposition) and held a number of meetings on how to put together a joint exhibit. The exhibit never came together. [24]

Alpha Phi would take the initiative to inspire the first Inter-Sorority Conference in 1902. The conference was attended by representatives from Delta Delta Delta, Gamma Phi Beta, Alpha Phi, Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Delta Gamma, and Pi Beta Phi in Chicago. The next few conferences would establish rules and standards such as a student-run Panhellenic Association on college campuses with two or more sororities and the rotation of officers in these associations and in the conference. [24] The next decade would add many more sororities to the organization and it would be renamed the National Panhellenic Conference. [13] The decade would also hold a new emphases on community service, standardized house rules, fairness policies for member recruitment, and an official stance against all secondary school sororities. [24]

The social fraternities would create small Pan-Hellenic organizations in various cities in the late 1890s and early 20th century. George D. Kimball of Sigma Alpha Epsilon would take initiative and call for a true national Pan-Hellenic group during a meeting of the National Religious Education Association in Chicago in February 1909. The Inter-Fraternity Conference would begin with twenty-six organizations that November in New York City. Like the sororities, the conference would call for local student-run Inter-Fraternity Councils on college campuses with more than one member organization. [15]

Changes in the new century Edit

As fraternities grew, new issues appeared. Ideas over who should be a member (often tied to racial or cultural background) differed between chapters which now spread throughout the United States and Canada. The undergraduate membership continued to grow but alumni membership had grown even more. Alumnae of women's sororities who had fought hard to help establish the idea of coeducation now questioned whether the new generation of women really understood the value of the sorority. [22]

There were always those against the fraternity and sorority system but it was not until the early 20th century that a real impact was made on chapters at some campuses. In some cases, the development of fraternity and sorority housing is all that saved Greek life as some universities had far outgrown their student housing capacities. Some campuses would ban Greek letter organizations and others would study their merits. Detractors argued that the groups hurt intellectual development, affronted religion with secret oaths, and fostered inappropriate behavior. [22] The validity of these claims varied between campuses and organizations and, in many cases, the criticisms would remain but without any significant action for decades.

Pi Kappa Alpha was founded on March 1, 1868, in Room 47 in West Range (The Range) at the University of Virginia by six graduate students:

Three of the Founders had been former cadets, having served on both sides of the recently concluded Civil War. One had been a Union hospital officer, another a Confederate veteran, and a third, a repatriate. Expansion was considered early in the fraternity's history on March 1, 1869, exactly one year after the Alpha chapter at the University of Virginia was formed, the Beta chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha was founded at Davidson College. [3] Its Gamma chapter was placed at William and Mary just two years later, and a total of seven chapters formed in the first decade. This period of early growth slowed though, and by 1889 only four chapters remained active. [4]

A call for a national convention was sent out, and delegates of three of the four active chapters met in what would become the "junior founding" of the Fraternity at what they called the Hampden–Sydney Convention, held in a dorm room at Hampden–Sydney College. This marked the start of a new wave of prosperity and substantial growth and the end of almost a decade of decline. Theta chapter, at Rhodes College, took over the responsibilities of Alpha chapter, granting chapters for a short period before this duty was taken over by an administrative office. John Shaw Foster, a junior founder from Theta chapter, helped to reestablish Alpha chapter at the University of Virginia. Theta chapter is the longest continual running chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha, having been founded in 1878. The four delegates to the Hampden–Sydney Convention are referred to as the Junior Founders. [4]

Pi Kappa Alpha was not originally organized as a sectional fraternity however, by constitutional provision it became so in 1889, and for twenty years would only open chapters south of the Mason-Dixon Line. [5]

Pi Kappa Alpha members have supported the nation's armed conflicts in large numbers. In WWI, one out of every six members of the fraternity served in uniform. In WWII, 15,000 of its 33,000 active members served, including General Courtney H. Hodges, a four-star general and commander of the US First Army in Europe. [4]

Sectarian and other restrictions that were in place during the early years have since been modified or removed entirely: Pi Kappa Alpha remained a southern fraternity until the New Orleans Convention in 1909 when the Fraternity officially declared itself a national organization. [6] [4] Like many other social fraternities at the time, Pi Kappa Alpha had limited its membership to white males. All race restrictions were removed in 1964. [7]

The Fraternity's rituals are based on those of Independent Order of Odd Fellows. [8]

Shield & Diamond is the official quarterly publication of Pi Kappa Alpha. It was first printed in December 1890 by Robert Adger Smythe, the then Grand Secretary and Treasurer, under the name The Pi Kappa Alpha Journal. The name was changed to Shield & Diamond in 1891. [6]

PIKE University Edit

Pike University is the name used for all of the fraternity's leadership programs. The program is administered by the fraternity's professional staff. [9]

Founded in 1948 as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization for charitable, literary & educational purposes. Events held by the university include International Convention, the Academy, the Chapter Executives Conference, and several regional Leadership Summits. Pike University grants more than $100,000 in scholarships each year.

The PIKE Foundation Edit

In 1948, Pi Kappa Alpha established and chartered the "Pi Kappa Alpha Memorial Foundation" as a 501(c)(3) organization. The foundation grants $350,000 in scholarships and grants to undergraduate members each year. It also provides funding to the fraternity and its chapters for leadership programs, scholarships, and chapter house facilities. The foundation grants initiation fee scholarships to undergraduates inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, Omicron Delta Kappa, Order of Omega, Phi Kappa Phi, and Tau Beta Pi honoraries. [6] [10] The Pike Foundation also maintains and operates the Memorial Headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee. This facility houses professional staffs, the Harvey T. Newell Library, and the Freeman Hart Museum. [11] The building is a war memorial built in 1988 to recognize the military services of members who died in the line of duty. [11] A Gold Star Memorial was dedicated on August 1, 2008. [11] [12] [13]

Despite policies put in place by the national fraternity to curtail hazing behavior, [14] local chapters have been involved in events which lead to deaths, sexual assault, and other misconduct.

Deaths Edit

Notable examples of misconduct which lead to death include the 1976 death of Samuel Mark Click, a pledge at Texas Tech University who was killed by a train while participating in a scavenger hunt as part of a hazing event. [15] In 2002, Albert Santos, a pledge at the University of Nevada at Reno, drowned in a lake participating in a hazing ritual. He and several pledges were told to swim in a lake in their underwear but Santos could not swim. [16] In 2012, Pi Kappa Alpha pledge David Bogenberger died of a cardiac arrhythmia triggered by alcohol poisoning. According to police, Bogenberger and other pledges at an unsanctioned Northern Illinois University event were pressured into drinking large quantities of alcohol in a two-hour time. [17] Bogenberger and 18 other pledges drank to unconsciousness. Five fraternity officers and 17 other members were convicted of misdemeanors in one of the largest hazing prosecutions in U.S. history. The chapter was suspended by the fraternity. [18] In March 2015, the chapter at the University of South Carolina was suspended after a Pike member was found dead in a private home near campus that had beer kegs and St. Patrick Day decorations on the porch. The Richland County Coroner's Office called it a "suspicious death". [19] In March 2021, a student at Bowling Green State University died due to alleged hazing-related alcohol consumption at a party held by the BGSU chapter off-campus. [20] [21]

Sexual assault Edit

Chapters have also been involved with sexual assault cases, such as in 1988, when three Pi Kappa Alpha members at Florida State University were charged in the sexual battery of a freshman female student. The victim was left in the hallway of another fraternity house. [22] The case made national headlines for weeks. [23] Also in 1988 several members of Pi Kappa Alpha were arrested for a sexual assault that took place at Stetson University. [22] In 2008, 10 Pike members were arrested at Tulane University for pouring boiling hot water on pledges, with the chapter having also been accused of drugging and sexually assaulting several female students at the fraternity's annual bacchanal. [24] Florida International University suspended the fraternity in 2013 after the discovery of photos on Facebook of hazing and drug deals, as well as sexually explicit photos of women taken without their consent. [25] [26] [27] In 2015, the former fraternity chapter president at Utah State University was charged with forcible sexual abuse, a felony, after allegedly inappropriately touching a female fellow student passed out at a party. [28]

Other incidents Edit

Fraternity chapters have been involved in various other notable incidents. In 2014, the leaders of the University of Arkansas chapter were asked to resign following an unauthorized Martin Luther King, Jr. Day party that incorporated racist stereotypes. [29] [30] From 2014 to 2018, the fraternity lost its charter at the University of Southern Mississippi following a hazing incident that led to the death of two mated flamingos. Pledges stole a flamingo from the local zoo, and in the struggle to defend its mate to her dying breath, the male was killed. The next morning, after being left on a bicycle path, the other died. [31] In May 2017, the chapter at California State University, Chico was charged with illegally cutting down 32 trees in the Lassen National Forest during an initiation of new pledges. They were also charged with possession of a firearm and conspiracy to commit offense or defraud the United States. [32] In October 2017, the chapter was sentenced to 9,800 hours of community service and a $4,000 fine after pleading guilty to cutting down and damaging trees in the Lassen National Forest by the U.S. District Court. [33]

Bowling Green State University chapter Manslaughter charges Edit

Eight members of the Delta Beta Chapter of fraternity at Bowling Green University were charged. Charges included: first-degree felony involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, felonious assault, hazing, failure to comply with underage alcohol laws and obstructing official business, third-degree felony involuntary manslaughter, tampering with evidence, and obstructing justice. The death of fraternity pledge Stone Foltz in March 2021 was described as a hazing incident involving copious alcohol consumption. [34] The international fraternity expelled all of the undergraduate members and revoked the chapter's charter. [35]


1982: Delta Tau Delta Founded

1986: Pi Kappa Alpha Founded

1988: Alpha Gamma Rho Founded

1982: Delta Gamma Founded

Delta Gamma joined the UW campus in 1982 after nationally being founded in Oxford, Mississippi on December 25th, 1973.

1982: Delta Tau Delta Founded

Delta Tau Delta joined the University of Wyoming in 1982. Nationally Delta Tau Delta was founded at Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia in 1858.

1986: Pi Kappa Alpha Founded

The Iota Alpha chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha joined the university in 1986. Nationally Pi Kappa Alpha was founded at the University of Virginia on March 1, 1868.

1988: Alpha Gamma Rho Founded

The Beta Omicron chapter of Alpha Gamma Rho was founded in 1988. On October 10, 1904 Alpha Gamma Rho was founded nationally at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.


On a quiet December evening in 1904 in Charleston, S.C., three friends&mdashAndrew Kroeg, Simon Fogarty and Harry Mixson&mdashmade a choice to lead. Those three men chose to start their own fraternity. The three grew to seven seven grew to eight eight grew to 11. From the College of Charleston, they spread to nearby Presbyterian in 1907&mdashand then to California in 1909. In just over four years, Pi Kappa Phi had become a truly national fraternity. Over the course of a century, a fraternity with humble beginnings has grown into a brotherhood of more than 120,000 strong.

For more information about national history, visit the national website .

Our founding was certainly not without setbacks. In fact, Pi Kappa Phi was originally founded as Nu Phi, which stood for &ldquonon-fraternity.&rdquo Our founders, disillusioned with campus politics being run exclusively by fraternities, created Nu Phi as a means to attain leadership roles within the Chrestomathic Literary Society. However, the attempt to seize control of the Society was thwarted when some of the Nu Phis proved to be disloyal. The loyal Nu Phis regrouped, and on the evening of December 10, 1904, the seven remaining men created a new group&mdashto be known as Pi Kappa Phi.

To this day, Pi Kappa Phi embraces its Nu Phi heritage. It manifests itself in various way and emboldens us as Pi Kappa Phis to confront issues with fresh, new approaches.

Beta Epsilon Chapter History

The Beta Epsilon Chapter was first established on the University of Missouri campus in 1949, but was rechartered in 2019. 55 undergraduate students took it upon themselves to redevelop the Beta Epsilon chapter, and upon rechartering, became Founding Fathers. Since the rechartering, Beta Epsilon has continued to grow. As of Spring 2021, Beta Epsilon will have around 100 active members, and we hope to continue growing and diversifying on the University of Missouri campus. Currently, the chapter house is located at 110 East Stewart Road, formerly the house of Kappa Sigma.

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The First Greek Letter Women&rsquos Fraternity: Kappa Alpha Theta

On January 27, 1870, Kappa Alpha Theta became the first Greek-letter fraternity for women. (Kappa Kappa Gamma was also founded in 1870, in October of that year.) Theta, which was founded at Indiana Asbury (now DePauw University), additionally holds the distinction of being the first US women&rsquos fraternity to expand internationally, chartering a chapter at The University of Toronto in 1887. Today, Kappa Alpha Theta has more than 145 chapters in the US and Canada, with nearly 220,000 initiates&mdashincluding famous sisters such as Tory Burch, Sheryl Crow, Laura Bush, Melinda Gates, Dylan Lauren, and Cindy McCain.

Watch the video: Why Join?


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