The History of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity from the 1959 TEKE Guide
On January 10, 1899, Joseph L. Settles, Owen 1. Truitt, James C. McNutt, Clarence A. Mayer, and C. Roy Atkinson, students at Illinois Wesleyan University, met in the room of Mayer and McNutt, at 504 East Locust Street, Bloomington, Illinois, and organized a society under the name of the "Knights of Classic Lore," whose avowed purpose was to aid college men in mental, moral, and social development. Although Settles was the leader of the organization, Atkinson was the first president and McNutt the first secretary. James J. Love, George H. Thorpe, and Edwin A. Palmer were, respectively, the first, second, and third initiates. It is significant that four of the first eight members entered the Methodist ministry. Apparently, however, the study of the classics was interspersed with the good fellowship so characteristic of college men.
The Age of Petition
Soon after the society was organized, some of the alumni of Illinois Epsilon Chapter of Phi Delta Theta, whose charter had been surrendered in 1897, saw in the new group an opportunity for its restoration and, ac¬cordingly, interested themselves in converting it into a true local fra¬ternity for the purpose of petitioning the F?T national organization for the Illinois Epsilon Charter.
At the suggestion of Richard Henry Little, one of the prominent Phi Delts, the name was changed to Tau Kappa Epsilon, and as a further step, the first chapterhouse on the Illinois Wesleyan campus was rented and occupied. Petitions for the restoration of the charter of Illinois Epsilon of Phi Delta Theta, with the energetic backing of Adlai E. Stevenson and the other strong Phi Delt alumni living in Bloomington, were unsuccessfully presented to the national conventions of Phi Delta Theta in 1902, 1904, 1906, and 1908. It is probable that but for the death in an automobile accident of A. J. Barr, the most active of the Phi Delt alumni, the effort would have been successful.
"Opportunity Out of Defeat"
On October 19, 1907, however, at a banquet held for the purpose of making plans and arousing enthusiasm for the fourth of these attempts, speeches were made by Wallace G. McCauley, William Wilson, and other TKE's advocating the abandonment of the petitioning policy and the substitution of a campaign to become a national, which, while arousing bitter opposition at the time, ultimately reduced the fourth petition to but a formality, which "only cost the price of a postage stamp."
As a result of the speech of Frater McCauley, the publication of a quarterly magazine, called The Teke, was immediate decided upon, and the first number published in January, 1908, with Clyde M. Leach as the first editor.
At the annual initiation banquet on October 23, 1908, a committee was appointed to draft a national constitution, which in January, 1909, was submitted to the graduate and undergraduate membership.
The First Conclave
On February 15, 1909, at the regular undergraduate chapter meeting it was found that only four votes, out of a possible sixty-six, had been cast against the new constitution, and it was accordingly declared in force on that date. Under the new constitution the Prytanis and Grammateus of the undergraduate chapters were ex-officio delegates to the conclave of the Grand Chapter, and accordingly, on February 17, 1909, Clyde M. Leach as Prytanis and Orric Reeser as Grammateus of the Alpha Chapter, met in Leach's room in the chapterhouse at 801 North Main Street and held the first conclave of the Grand Chapter, electing a full slate of national officers and appointing a committee to revise the ritual.
The first Grand Officers were: Grand Prytanis, Lester H. Martin; Grant Epiprytanis, William Wilson; Grand Grammateus, Clyde E. Leighty; Grand Histor, L. W. Tuesburg; Grand Crysophylos, James J. Love; Grand Hypophetes, Arthur A. Heinlein; and Grand Pylortes, Clyde H. Meyers.
Nationalization in fact did not lag. On April 6, 1909, a delegation visited Chi Rho Sigma Fraternity, a local at Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois, with such persuasive effect that a petition was written out in longhand, on a Decatur YMCA letterhead, immediately signed, and unanimously approved by the Grand Council. Eleven days later, on April 17, 1909, Beta Chapter was installed.
The second conclave was held in the reception hall of the chapterhouse, at 801 North Main Street, Bloomington, on February 11 and 12, 1910, three grand officers and two delegates each from Alpha and Beta Chapters being in attendance. Business was transacted with all the seriousness of a large meeting. Frater Martin was again elected Grand Prytanis and Frater Wilson, Grand Epiprytanis.
Formation of the Triangle
The third conclave was held at Decatur, February 10 and 11, 1911, the same three grand officers, and delegates from the two chapters, being present. William Wilson was elected Grand Prytanis, serving two terms. On January 22, 1912, nearly three years after the installation of Beta Chapter, a petition was received from an unnamed organization at the University of Illinois, organized by alumni of Beta Rho Delta, a local at Lake Forest College, and on February 31, 1912, the triangle was completed by the installation of Gamma Chapter, which took place, not at Champaign, but at the Alpha Chapter house in Bloomington.
The significance of the location of these three chapters, closely approxi¬mating an equilateral triangle, was at once realized and has been symbol¬ized ever since by the traditional position and shape of our badge.
Gamma was represented at the fourth conclave, held at Bloomington; February 9 and 10, 1912. This conclave ordered a revision of the ritual, provided for inspection of chapters, created the very important Judiciary Committee, created the system of traditions and adopted several, amended the constitution to give each Past Grand Prytanis life membership in the Grand Chapter, and approved the present pledge button.
As the result of a letter of inquiry received by Gamma Chapter on October 14, 1912, from an organization at Knox College, whose local name has not been preserved, Delta Chapter was chartered on the following November 22.
The fifth conclave, held in Decatur, Illinois, February 14 and 15, 1913, elected I. W. Tuesburg as Grand Prytanis, and he was reelected by the sixth conclave, held at Champaign, Illinois, on April 17 and 18, 1914. At this conclave the first complete code of fraternity laws was enacted under Frater Tuesburg's leadership.
Membership in the NIC
At this time, no new chapters were chartered for more than two-and¬ one-half years, although a voluminous correspondence was carried on with numerous prospects. However, a group at Iowa State College, known as the Seminoles, determined, as early as 1913, to petition as soon as faculty permission could be secured.
One of the first acts of the new Grand Prytanis, Lyle F. Straight, elected at the seventh conclave, held at Galesburg, Illinois, April 16 and 17, 1915, was to receive a petition from this group, which was installed by him as Epsilon Chapter, on May 28, 1915. Now having five chapters, Tau Kappa Epsilon was eligible for membership in the National Interfraternity Con¬ference. With this event, Tau Kappa Epsilon may be said to have acquired a truly national scope. It had, for the first time, crossed the borders of Illinois; it was admitted into the councils of national fraternities, had completed what may be termed the period of slow expansion, and entered upon an increasingly rapid growth. In six years it had added but four chapters. In the next two years, it chartered five: Chi Theta Psi, at Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, installed as Zeta Chapter on May 12, 1916: Eta Tau Epsilon, University of Chicago, chartered as Eta Chapter, Febru¬ary 17, 1917; Eta Sigma Rho, chartered as Theta Chapter at the University of Minnesota, March 10, 1917; Pi Alpha Theta, at Eureka College, Eureka, Illinois, chartered as Iota Chapter April 21, 1917; Delta Phi Upsilon, as Kappa Chapter, at Beloit College, Beloit, Wis., May 12, 1917.
The eighth conclave was held at Blooinington, April 28 and 29, 1916, re¬electing Frater Straight. The ninth meeting at Ames, Iowa, on April 27 and 28, 1917, in the month of America's entry into the World War, has in its minutes no recognition or even suggestion of that event save a single resolution adopted in its closing hours, "embodying the spirit of the fra¬ternity with respect to the war situation." Oscar G. Hoose was elected Grand Prytanis.
Up to this time the history of the fraternity, marked only by its annual conclaves and the chartering of new chapters, had been merely a somewhat routine record of slow, steady growth in numbers, chapter roll, fraternity consciousness, the accretion of a body of laws and traditions, the develop¬ment of a ritual, and a general welding together of its membership into a homogeneous fellowship.
With the entry into that "strange interlude" in the fraternity system, World War I, with its accompanying transformation of the colleges into the Students' Army Training Corps and the practical suspension for more than a year of fraternity activities on every campus, the spirit and outlook of Tau Kappa Epsilon seemed to change. The enactment of emergency war legislation, most of which became permanent, began a trend, ever since continuing, toward a strong centralized national organization and a compact and, at the same time, rapidly expanding fraternity.
If the 1917 conclave was not war conscious, the tenth, held in Chicago, April 26 and 27, 1918, thought of little else than the war and its campus problems. Frater Hoose declined reelection because he expected to enter the service and Harrold P. Flint was elected to the first of three terms as Grand Prytanis. Much emergency legislation was enacted, such as the creation of provinces and province officers and Chapter Advisers, and the definition of their duties, the suspension of second-semester initiations, and the granting to the alumni the right of active participation in chapter affairs, whenever the number of undergraduate members falls below ten. The presence of "fraters in khaki and blue" and the consequent enthusiasm, was a prominent feature of this meeting, as was also the youth¬fulness of the delegates.
The record of Tau Kappa Epsilon in World War I was most creditable. Many men saw active service both at home and in Europe, while scores were enrolled in the S.A.T.C. Capt. Theodore Fieker was town mayor of Coblentz after the Armistice for a considerable time. Those who died in the service include Capt. Myron Chester West (Kappa), killed in action near Chateau Thierry; William Price Rothert (Theta); Arthur W. Nieder¬meyer (Beta); Lieut. Oscar D. Davidson (Epsilon); William T. Hoard (Theta); Jared H. Smith (Delta); Charles R. Gustafson (Theta).
The years 1919 and 1920 witnessed two rather uneventful conclaves, the eleventh, at Beloit, and the twelfth, at Minneapolis, and the chartering of Mu, Nu, and Xi Chapters. The Akela Club, at the University of Wiscon¬sin had become Lambda Chapter in 1918, the only wartime acquisition. Mu Chapter had been Sigma Alpha Phi, a local at Carroll College, Wau¬kesha, Wisconsin; and the Sequoyah Club, at the University of California, became Nu Chapter, the first on the Pacific Coast, after considerable dis¬cussion and misgivings over the long leap geographically it involved. Phi Omega at Washington University was granted a charter as Xi Chapter by the Minneapolis conclave and installed the following September.
The New Era
The year 1921 marked the beginning of a new era. The advantage of a central office had for some time been apparent, and now, with 14 chapters and the prospect of continued rapid expansion, its need was brought home to the Grand Officers, several of whom presented the matter in their annual reports. To Grand Grammateus Lloyd V. Ballard, however, can be given most credit for bringing the question before the fraternity so forcefully as to bring about the expansion of that officer into a national executive secretary, the creation of a central office, and the selection of Frater Flint, retiring Grand Prytanis, for the position. This epochal con¬clave was held at Madison, and refuting superstition, was the thirteenth. For the first time a contest was threatened over the position of Grand Prytanis, which was averted by the selection of William D. Reeve (Theta).
Under the system here adopted, the affairs of the fraternity were co¬ordinated, a new fraternal and national consciousness evolved, a highly centralized administrative organization developed, and the fraternity began to assume an importance and secure a recognition in the fraternal world which it had hitherto lacked.
The fourteenth conclave was held at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1922. The fifteenth, held in St. Louis, was the scene of the first contested elec¬tion for Grand Prytanis, in which Phillip H. McGrath (Beta) was elected as the fraternity's chief executive.
The sixteenth conclave was set apart for the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the fraternity, and this was its pre¬dominant feature. It was most appropriately held at Bloomington and was marked by the presence of all five of the Founders, who prepared an address which has been included among the permanent traditions, and the unveiling, with appropriate ceremonies, of a tablet in the Chapel of Illinois Wesleyan, commemorating the founding. Life membership in the Grand Chapter was conferred upon the Founders. The succeeding history of the fraternity, down to 1930, is one of steady, rapid growth, expanding both east and west, as well as in the Midwest. In that year, the conclave was held in San Francisco. It was at this conclave that Leland F. Leland was first elected Grand Histor, a post he was to hold for 25 continuous years.
The five succeeding years record the struggle to keep the national organi¬zation functioning smoothly and the chapter roll intact under financial conditions which brought constantly shrinking financial support from all sources. The conclave which was to have been held in 1932 was postponed each year, until in 1934, the Grand Council, believing that conditions had at last turned for the better, provided for a meeting of the Grand Chapter in 1935, at the Hotel Baker, in St. Charles, Illinois. At this conclave, for the first time, a program of addresses during the sessions and at lunches and dinners was instituted.
The twenty-first conclave was held at Milwaukee in 1937; the twenty-second was held at French Lick, Indiana, September 7, 8, 9, 1939; the twenty-third was held at the Edgewater Beach Hotel, Chicago, June 18-24, 1942; the twenty-fourth at the Illini Union, Champaign, Illinois, September 4-7, 1947; the twenty-fifth at the Drake Hotel, Chicago, September 1-3, 1949; the twenty-sixth at Hotel Roanoke, Roanoke, Virginia, August 27-31, 1951; the twenty-seventh at the Hotel Savery, Des Moines, Iowa, in September 1953; and the twenty-eighth conclave at the city auditorium, Kansas City, Missouri, in September 1955.
The End of an Era
In 1941, Grand Grammateus Harrold P. Flint (Alpha) resigned his office after twenty years of service, bringing to a close a great period of internal development of the fraternity. At that time the Grand Grammateus, an elected member of the Grand Council, was ex-officio executive secretary and field representative. Past Grand Prytanis Lyle Straight (Alpha) was elected Grand Grammateus to manage the National Office which was moved from Lombard, Illinois, to Bloomington, Illinois, his home and the birth place of the fraternity. He served until his resignation in 1943 when the office was placed upon a part-time basis and moved to Champaign, Illinois.
The fraternity survived the depression which began in 1929 in remark¬ably sound condition and with its national budget balanced. In 1933, Alpha-Kappa Chapter at the University of Pennsylvania absorbed Sigma Zeta, and in 1934 to 1935 Tau Kappa Epsilon took over and received into membership many of the undergraduate and graduate members of Sigma Mu Sigma Fraternity. In 1946 the majority of the chapters of Alpha Lambda Tau, a national fraternity of twelve chapters, voted to affiliate with TKE, opening the South to Teke expansion.
Tau Kappa Epsilon also survived the difficult years of World War II in remarkable fashion, with never more than 60 per cent of the undergradu¬ate chapters becoming inactive because of the war's manpower drain.
No conclaves were held during the war period in conformity with gov¬ernmental orders and also to conserve fraternity funds. While the fraternity continued to function both locally and nationally and continued to give essential services to both chapters and fraters, all expenses were cut to the bone. A part-time Executive Secretary was hired for the first time in the person of Professor E. L. Theiss (Mu), of the University of Illinois, who set up the National Office at 631 East Green Street, hired a full time secretary (Miss Dorothy Engle), and continued for 18 months. At his resig¬nation the University of Illinois' Assistant Dean of Men V. J. Hampton (Gamma), was hired as part-time Executive Secretary. In December, 1949, Frater Hampton moved the office to 612 East Green Street.
The Teke magazine was suspended during the war in favor of a less expensive newspaper called Teke Life. This paper was sent to every Teke on record, regardless of subscription status, in order to help maintain the interest of Tekes everywhere during the period when many of their under¬graduate chapters were dormant. When publication of The Teke magazine was resumed after World War II, the policy of sending the national publi¬cation to every Teke on record was continued until 1951 when, because the number of alumni had doubled that of the prewar figure the cost became prohibitive.
During the early years of the war the Teke Loyalty Fund developed and each alumnus was asked to contribute the small sum of $3.00 annually so that a sizable fund might be set aside for postwar chapter reactivation and expansion. About $20,000 was gathered in this way and conserved and used after the war to hire several field secretaries for chapter reactiva¬tion and expansion. Although the original purpose of the Teke Loyalty Fund has been completely fulfilled, this yearly contribution by graduate Tekes is being continued upon the demand of the graduate representatives at the Golden Jubilee Conclave at Chicago in 1949. It is being used for worthy special projects year by year and gives alumni members an opportunity to share in the development in their fraternity. The contribu¬tion to the Loyalty Fund is, of course, voluntary.
The Period of Expansion
Since the end of World War 11, the Teke picture has indeed been a bright one. Under the able direction of Dr. R. C. Williams, all but four Teke chapters were reactivated by the new field secretary program; twenty-eight new chapters were acquired during his term as Grand Prytanis. Following Frater Williams' retirement at the Golden Jubilee Conclave in 1949, Grand Histor Leland F. Leland was elected to the office of Grand Prytanis. Frater Leland continued the vigorous expansion program, and during his two-year term in office, Tau Chapter was reactivated and twenty new undergraduate chapters were installed. When Grand Prytanis Leland retired from the Grand Council following his term as chief executive of the fraternity, it brought to a close 27 years of continuous service on the council-longer than that of any other national officer in Teke history.
During Frater Leland's administration, extensive revision of the national constitution and bylaws was successfully completed. This long-needed overhaul of the basic laws of the fraternity was officially approved and adopted at the 1951 conclave by the passage of over a hundred separate amendments. One of the significant changes made at that time was the establishment of the office of Grand Hegemon to supervise and coordinate the work of province officers, which had been one of the many duties of the Grand Prytanis, and to serve as director of leadership conferences. Former Grand Pylortes James O. Logan was elected to this office.
Anticipating the development of a strong national-leadership-school pro¬gram, Grand Prytanis Leland appointed Howard L. Hibbs, then a Province Hegemon, to head the first national leadership conference. This school for undergraduate chapter officers was successfully held the day before the formal opening of the 1951 conclave and started the precedent for national leadership conferences preceding each conclave. These schools are in addi¬tion to the usual province meetings, which had long been held by TKE.
Frater Leland was succeeded as Grand Prytanis at the twenty-sixth con¬clave, held in Roanoke, Virginia, by Grand Epiprytanis Sophus G. Goth, a long-time member of the Grand Council. At the time of Frater Goth's election as chief executive, Tau Kappa Epsilon bad reactivated all but three of the chapters which had become dormant during the depression and war years of low college enrollments and had installed fifty-five new ones. Following the outbreak of hostilities in Korea, college enrollment again took a nosedive, and the Teke expansion program was greatly curtailed.
In spite of the fraternity depression of 1950-1953, however, Tau Kappa Epsilon granted its one-hundredth charter to an undergraduate chapter on February 28, 1953, when Delta Delta Tau, a local fraternity on the campus of the Colorado College of Education, Greeley, was installed as Delta-Delta Chapter. This important milestone in Teke history was commemorated by the publication of a special four-color issue of The Teke (Summer 1953), reviewing the history of Teke expansion and development from that day in 1909 when Tau Kappa Epsilon was launched forth on its national career.
To the Present
The twenty-seventh conclave was held in Des Moines, Iowa, in Septem¬ber of 1953. Grand Hegemon James C. Logan was elected Grand Prytanis, succeeding Frater Goth. This conclave was marked primarily by the estab¬lishment of a national housing fund to provide loans to undergraduate chapter boards of control for the construction and purchase of chapter¬houses. The fund was provided with a steady source of income by the allotment to it of a portion of active and pledge dues.
At the twenty-eighth conclave, held at the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Missouri, James C. Logan was reelected Grand Prytanis, making him the first frater to be elected to two full 2-year terms as Grand Prytanis. At this conclave, the Grand Council's expansion policy was reviewed and approved, following a spirited debate, and national alumni dues were instituted. A new design for the national fraternity flag was adopted, and the Grand Chapter officially approved the corporate seal used by the National Office on charters and certificates. At a meeting of the Grand Council during the winter following this conclave, plans were initiated for a permanent national headquarters building. Richard R. Hall (AO) was hired by the council to fill the new post of Administrative Secretary to direct the expansion and chapter-visitation programs. Later he became full-time Executive Secretary when the Central Office was moved to Kansas City.
At the twenty-ninth Conclave held in 1957 at Bedford Springs (Pennsyl¬vania), the purchase by the fraternity of the 21-acre site for the Teke Temple (national headquarters), was approved, as was a shrine marking the birthplace of TKE at Bloomington, Ill. The thirtieth conclave site was Detroit, Michigan, at the Sheraton-Cadillac hotel.