Opportunity out of defeat
At the annual initiation banquet of Tau Kappa Epsilon, still a local fraternity at Illinois Wesleyan University, held in the small dining room on the second floor of the Illinois Hotel, Bloomington, Illinois, Saturday, October 19, 1907, Wallace G. McCauley delivered this address, now accepted as a Teke classic. William Wilson, who afterwards became our second Grand Prytanis, accompanied Frater McCauley from Chicago to Bloomington on the afternoon of that day, and while on the Chicago & Alton train, this address was discussed by them prior to its delivery that evening.
Someone has said that most victories are defeats. As to the truth of that statement, numerous instances can be cited tending to establish it. But just as true is the converse of that proposition, that most defeats are victories, and I truly believe an instance of this was our failure to have reinstated the Phi Delta Theta charter of Illinois Epsilon. I believe this in spite of the fact that no one labored more zealously to that end during the first two campaigns than myself. And, too, no one felt the defeats at the time more bitterly than myself; but now, after an absence of a year or so, I am brought to the conviction that Tau Kappa Epsilon was indeed fortunate in her defeats, because thereby there was reserved for us a large opportunity.
Phi Delta Theta is indeed an honorable fraternity, and as a choice of perpetuating our own, there is no fraternity I would rather we could affiliate with than Phi Delta Theta. And to join with any lesser fraternity of which we have promise of success, I am unalterably opposed, for to me it would be like a governorship aspirant, after having failed, accepting the office of poundmaster. And while Phi Delta Theta is great, and her members adorn high positions in our nation, conspicuous among whom are the members of the Bloomington alumni who championed our cause and for whose efforts in our behalf we shall never be ungrateful, still Phi Delta Theta is not free from the same criticism which can be alleged against existing fraternities of today.
The Greekletter societies have degenerated from their original purpose of the cultivation of literary attainments to mere social clubs. They have put the social feature in the ascendancy and have let everything contribute to that end. As a result there has developed a school aristocracy with all that it means-show and pretense have been magnified at the expense of true worth; they have fostered extravagance among students when economy was required; they have made secretism a fetish and symbolism an idolatry; many of the palatial homes of the fraternities have been the scenes of ribald drinking bouts and excesses the worst imaginable, and too often their gruesome ceremonies have resulted in severe injuries and even the death of their initiates.
But the strongest indictment that can be brought against the fraterni¬ties of today, because of its far reaching consequence, is the decline of in¬terest in the literary societies of our schools caused by them. What is true of Wesleyan is true generally of our schools throughout the country. To be sure there are exception, as Beloit and DePauw, but what these small colleges have accomplished in literary attention should give us encourage¬ment of what Wesleyan can accomplish if we properly address ourselves to this subject. It is a matter of general observation that the fraternities have drawn interest from the literary efforts of our school life to the social feature. While fraternity men take an active interest in literary socie¬ties and quite often represent them, still this interest is spasmodic and occasional, whereas it should be continuous and persistent throughout the college course. The literary society is the laboratory of our academic course, and the student who gives that his attention will, in after life, become the leader in thought and voice of the great social problems which are press¬ing for settlement.
Then, to revive the literary feature of our fraternity, which was the original object of Greekletter societies, is the greatest opportunity offered us, and the main objective which would most rapidly build us up as a national fraternity. To that end let us build our organization upon the foundation of Christian brotherhood, with the common purpose of schol¬arship which is the chief reason of our being here, and literary attainment which will be the controlling motive of our association. Let us also, in appropriate articles, in fitting language, declare ourselves against clannish¬ness and exclusiveness, and declare for a fraternalism not to be practiced selfishly toward ourselves, but toward all men with whom we come in contact. Let us, too, pronounce ourselves against weird, awesome initiations, which may be innocent in themselves. but at the most are mere fol-de-rol and indolent waste of valuable time. In place of such let us compose a ceremony illustrative of the objects of our fraternity, open as daylight, and as expressive of the eternal verities of life as a beautiful landscape revealed by a newly risen sun.
Then let us issue a magazine, quarterly at first, name it The Teke, make it attractive and artistic in form. Let it be piquant and virile in tone, representative of our fraternity, and a reflector of student life generally. And in this connection we can realize the important bearing the literary forum of our fraternity would have on our fraternity organ. Publication in the magazine would furnish an incentive to literary endeavor, and in turn the best literary efforts of the forum would furnish the bulk of the contributions required. It is not extravagant to predict that in five years we would have the finest student publication extant, and our members would be successful representatives in the interstate oratory and debate contests.
For the high objects of a fraternity which I have outlined, Tau Kappa Epsilon has been peculiarly fitted. In the first place we have been fortunate in the choice of a name. It is a name to conjure with. The combination of initials are a few of the Greek letters which coincide with the English letters, so you see we have a name that is both suggestive of our own tongue with a Greek origin. The name falls readily in the combination Teke, which sounds even more euphonious and popular than Deke, the common name of one of the largest of the fraternities. To appreciate the real value of our name, we have only to ask the opinion of an advertising man.
And then we have been twice advantaged in the selection of our pin. No more distinctive or appropriate pin is worn by any fraternity man than the emblem of Tau Kappa Epsilon.
And last, but by no means least, we have been thrice fortunate in the securing of our members. It is indeed remarkable how we failed to "git," as Jake says, the men we didn't get, and got the men we got. truly they are the salt of Wesleyan and if Wesleyan should lose its savor, where¬with would it be salted.
Interwoven about the sentiments of our name and our pin, and in¬grained in the fiber of every member is the Teke spirit--a spirit typical of our fraternity-a spirit that does not shrink from sacrifice, that knows no defeat; a spirit indomitable. A spirit which is breathed into a national Tail Kappa Epsilon would spread our organizations throughout the schools of our country.
Now again concerning our joining another fraternity. To do so we would give up our name, throw away our pin, and dissipate a spirit, or turn it into another channel, which would never be the same as it was under Tail Kappa Epsilon.
But if we keep Tau Kappa Epsilon intact, the Teke spirit, like Tennyson's brook, will flow on forever. Fellow brothers, I have been a Teke for six years, we are assembled here as Tekes, and if you are in the same spirit I am tonight, we shall be Tekes until the "moon shall wax and wane no more."
In the choice of our name, in the selection of our pin, in the securing of our members, I cannot believe that mere luck brought us our good fortune, but rather I cannot help but recognize even in our small affairs the hand of an over-ruling Providence. And we may believe that the Providence that has attended us in the past, will conduct us into the promised land of the future.
Let us not lack faith in this project. Remember faith as a grain of mustard will overcome mountains of difficulty. The history of other organizations lend us encouragement. Phi Delta Theta was born a few years before the Civil War in a student's room of a building at Miami University, less pretentious than the preparatory building on the Wesleyan campus, and today Phi Delta Theta is the fourth largest fraternity in ex¬istence. The Modern Woodmen were organized less than 20 years ago and now are the largest fraternal-benefit order. And so I might quote other instances of equal and stronger encouragement than these.
Fellow brothers, Tau Kappa Epsilon was conceived in the early strug¬gles of our existence. The time is now ripe to start in on a national career, and we, its godfathers here tonight, when it has grown to be a strong and lusty organization, touching student life everywhere with the beneficence of its principles, will obtain a satisfaction inexpressible in the part we had in its inception.