Miller’s Meanderings – Fraternities Founded at Miami University

RJMBy Robert J. Miller, Historian

I suspect the average person will tell you that three, maybe four, fraternities were founded at Miami University. Of course, Phis are not average persons, and many of them would promptly correct that statement for, actually, there were eight fraternities founded at Miami. (The Greek affairs office at Miami University claims that forty, or more, fraternities were born on the campus. If accurate, the other thirty-two-or more did not amount to any historical importance.) It is interesting that not a single fraternity in the Honor, Recognition and Professional categories was founded at Miami.

The first fraternity founded at Miami was Beta Theta Pi (male) in1839, followed by Phi Delta Theta (male) in 1848 and Sigma Chi (male) in 1855. ( Actually, the founding name was Sigma Phi until the members learned that a fraternity by that name had been established at Union College in 1827.) The three became widely known as the “Miami Triad”  just as the first three fraternities founded at Union College became the “Union Triad.”

In 1902, a women’s group was created by the name of Delta Zeta. Brother Phi, Guy Potter Benton (Ohio Wesleyan ’86), was president of Miami University at the time. He assisted the young ladies to the extent that he helped them write the ritual, thus he was considered a member of the Fraternity. (It was standard procedure in those days for the women’s groups  to be known as women’s fraternities.) To this day, he is revered as the Grand Patron of Delta Zeta. If you are interested in the rest of the story, check out Miller’s Meanderings #3.

In 1906, Phi Kappa Tau (male) came along. This was the fifth and final organization founded at Miami that is in existence today, although others live on as part of Delta Zeta. Delta Sigma Epsilon (female) came to life in 1914 and it was headquartered in Oxford, on Campus Avenue, a couple blocks from the Phi Delta Theta Headquarters. Its 52 chapters were merged with Delta Zeta in 1956.

In 1921, five young men founded Delta Sigma Rho, the name of which was changed to Sigma Delta Rho to avoid confusion with a recognition society of the same name. Fourteen years later(1935), it disintegrated. Three of its nine chapters joined Alpha Kappa Pi and one went with Pi Kappa Phi. The other five gradually disappeared.

The final founding (I know you will appreciate the name) was Pi Delta Theta (female) in 1925-26. Several alumnae of other sororities met to form this new group in 1925 but it was 1926 before the first chapter saw the light of day. In 1941, the nine chapters of this organization merged with Delta Sigma Epsilon and were part of that organization when it became part of Delta Zeta.

Now you know the real story.

Miller’s Meanderings – The Convention Map (Mural)

RJM_ConventionBy Robert J. Miller, Historian

Thousands of Phis and visitors have seen the mural map (convention map) exhibited behind the speaker’s podiums in the assembly halls and banquet rooms at conventions since 1940.  The map measures eight feet in height and twelve feet in width.  The top of the painting displays portraits of the six founders along with the coat-of-arms, Phikeia pin and Fraternity badge.  A painting of Pallas decorates the left side and the Fraternity flag adorns the right side.  All chapters, in existence at the time, are highlighted by stars.

First mention of the map appears in the minutes of a General Council meeting conducted in early March of 1940 at the Nicollet Hotel in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  The minute reads:

“The Executive Secretary presented a plan for the production of an attractive pictorial map of the Fraternity.  The large original painting will be used for decorative purposes at the 44th Biennial Convention and then be hung permanently in General Headquarters.”


The following minute of a meeting held in August at the same hotel, immediately preceding the General Convention, reads:

“The General Council was unanimous in its approval of the new mural map of Phi Delta Theta painted by Brother John Garth, Washburn ’12…and it was further decided that small lithographic reproductions should be produced and made available to members upon order at a price to be determined later.”

A print of the map first appeared on the inside back cover of the September 1940 Scroll (in a single color) advertising color reproductions of the map (17” X 22”) to be available for $1.50 postage prepaid.

The artist, John Garth, was initiated March 13, 1911 shortly after Kansas Beta was chartered in 1910. He  was assigned Bond # 59.  He graduated from Yale in 1914 and later changed his name from Wallace Hogarth Pettyjohn.  He was a member of the Professional Artists’ League in San Francisco and was included in Who’s Who in Art in America.  He was an Infantry Lieutenant in WWI.  He entered the Chapter Grand June 1, 1971.

There is no evidence that the map was ever displayed in General Headquarters.

December 7, 1941- A Day of Infamy

RJM_ConventionBy Robert J. Miller, Historian

There are thousands of stories, both verbal and written, about the influence the bombing of Pearl Harbor, by the Japanese, had on the lives of Americans.  The declaration of war on the United States four days later by Germany and Italy added to the legends. The history of Phi Delta Theta is no exception.

The September 1941 Scroll announced “The First Call For The 1942 Convention” followed by an article in the November 1941 Scroll by Executive Secretary Paul C. Beam praising “America’s Most Beautiful All-Year Resort”, the Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia as the site selected for Phi Delta Theta’s forty-fifth Convention.  The four-day meeting was scheduled to take place August 25-28, 1942.  Additional stories appeared in The Scrolls of March and May, 1942, months after the disaster in Hawaii.

The members of the General Council, at their March 1942 meeting, began to show concern about convention plans in light of the after-effects of the “call-to-arms” which was beginning to decrease the college enrollment of male students.  This was  expressed in a minute which read “the Executive Secretary was instructed to ascertain at once whether or not it would be advisable to change the dates of the Convention because of changes in academic schedules…the Convention will be reduced to three days August 27-28-29…”

Convention plans changed significantly in the three months that followed.  Note the following paragraph from a convention article that appeared in the June 1942 issue of The Palladium:

“The Forty-Fifth General Convention of Phi Delta Theta will be held at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, on August 26-28, 1942. The decision to transfer the Convention to Chicago has been reached after many disappointing and unavoidable delays, while hope was constantly held out that the White Sulphur Springs Convention site would be available as originally planned.  These hopes were shattered, however, when war was declared on the satellite nations of Germany, involving the internment at the Greenbrier of representatives of Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria.”

The newly designated convention site was highly praised in the remainder of the Palladium article but, alas, the final pre-convention issue of the Scroll was now history.  Even so, 438 Phis were in attendance at the meeting. The first guest speaker, Brigadier General Donald Armstrong, Columbia ’09,  talked about Phi Delta Theta in war.  “The most important subject in my life and yours, today, is WAR.”

The final convention speaker, William Mather Lewis, Knox ’00, closed the assembly with these comments: “…..let us join hands tonight going forward with courage to meet whatever life has for us—for our Fraternity, for our Nation, and for mankind.”  Little did anyone in that gathering anticipate that the next “biennial” convention would not be convened for another four years.

Miller’s Meanderings – Phi Delta Theta’s Five Chief Executive Officers

By Robert J. Miller, Historian

Between 1848 and 1880 the affairs of the Fraternity were in the hands the National Grand Chapter (Ohio Alpha), and State Grand Chapters (the first chapters chartered in each state) until the 1868 convention created an Executive Committee which had very limited powers.  All the foregoing were discontinued in 1880 when the Indianapolis convention provided for a General Council of four members.  A fifth member was added in 1896. This elected body was, in effect, the “chief elected officer” of Phi Delta Theta.

Due to the growing work of correspondence and record keeping the General Council conceived the idea of a paid employee to assist with the day-to-day details of fraternity management.   The Scroll for February/April 1919 listed, for the first time, a Central Office in Oxford, Ohio with the name of Fred R. Cowles, Kansas ‘04 as Assistant to the General Council.  In the same directory, Brother Cowles was listed as President of Zeta South Province.  The identical listing appeared in the Scroll through February 1922.  The April issue of the magazine announced the appointment of Arthur R. Priest, DePauw ’91 as the Traveling Secretary for the Fraternity and Cowles was no longer listed as a Province President.  In the interim, the headquarters office was moved to Indianapolis and the “Assistant to the General Council” became the “Executive Secretary.”

At a General Council meeting on September 29, 1923, Brother Priest “was asked to take over the Central Office.”  At the following General Council meeting on October 7, 1923, Cowles was “dismissed” and Priest was appointed Executive Secretary.  During Priest’s tenure of 14 years he was assisted by seven Assistant Secretaries.  He was succeeded in 1937 by Paul C. Beam, Indiana-Illinois ’25. It is ironic that the retirement of Priest, the appointment of Beam and the death of Cowles were all reported, complete with photographs of each, in the June 1937 Scroll.  Brother Beam served for eighteen years until his death in July 1955. He hired a total of fourteen assistants, the last of which arrived in Oxford on the day of Brother Beam’s death.

Beam’s eleventh appointment was Robert J. Miller, New Mexico, 50 who came on board the Good Ship Phi in June 1951.  In the spring of 1953, Miller’s title was changed to Assistant Executive Secretary and in the summer of 1954 he was named Administrative Secretary.  He succeeded Brother Beam as Executive Secretary.  His title was changed to Executive Vice President in 1972   Miller employed 78 ”Field Secretaries/Chapter Consultants” during his 35 years in office, one of whom was Robert A. Biggs, Georgia Southern ’76.  Biggs was named Director of Chapter Services in 1978 and continued in that position until 1991 when he succeeded Miller.  This accounts for a total of five executive officers who have been responsible for the day-to-day affairs of the fraternity since 1919.

Miller’s Meanderings – Just Exactly Where Is The Phi Delta Theta Headquarters?

An editorial by Robert J. Miller, Historian

I have read the following quotation in several publications:

“From the founding of the Fraternity until 1920, all day-to-day affairs of the organization were undertaken by members of the General Council.  The Central Office was created by the General Convention of 1920, and the first such office was established in Indianapolis.”

I have no incisive argument with the first sentence although the second sentence is far from accurate.  It became apparent that Phi Delta Theta was destined to have a central office as early as 1915 when an article written by George Banta, Jr., supporting the idea, appeared in the October Palladium. (He suggested Chicago.)  The plan received additional support from Frank J. R. Mitchell, Past President of the General  Council, in a commentary printed in the June 1917 Palladium.

A report of the Special Committee on Reorganization of the Administration was presented to the thirty-third Biennial General Convention in Indianapolis on January 1, 1918.  The report went into considerable detail regarding a person who would be put in charge of a Central Office but avoided any mention of where such an office might be located.  That question was answered in the February and April  1918 issue (Yes, both issues were printed as one) of The Scroll when the magazine’s Directory listed THE CENTRAL OFFICE in Oxford, Ohio.

There are numerous references to the Central Office in future publications but without a specific address.  At the Birmingham convention of 1914-15, “legislation was passed whereby the general Fraternity took over the ownership of the chapter house of Ohio Alpha…”  Funds were raised from the membership at large to finance construction of the Memorial Chapter House; included in the house was the library of the National Fraternity where the Central Office was located, at 506 East High St.

The 1920 convention in Atlanta approved the recommendation of George Banta Jr. that “the Central Office of the Fraternity… shall be in some centrally located and easily accessible city…should be Indianapolis, Ind.”  The office was formally opened on October 4, 1921. The January, 1922 Palladium reported that “The Central Office is fast assuming finished proportions and by the end of May we hope to have everything in fine shape for work or inspection.”  The article listed the location of the new office at 819 Peoples Bank Building, 134 East Market St., Tel. No. Circle 8441. This became the second central office of Phi Delta Theta.

In October, 1923, the Central Office was moved to Detroit,

Michigan, first at 527 Majestic Building, 1029 Woodward Avenue before moving to 1216 Book Building in 1924.  In 1926 the General Council voted to move the Central Office back to Oxford where it drifted between four locations before reaching its destiny at 2 South Campus Avenue.

The south side of a duplex house, 111 South Beech Street, owned by Brother Karl Zwick Miami ’00, served as the beginning site.  The office was located on the first floor; bedrooms on the second floor accommodated the Fraternity professionals.  Within a year, arrangements were made to purchase a red brick home at 208 East High Street (Oxford’s main east/west thoroughfare).  For the next 21 years this building served as the General Headquarters.

Having survived the “great depression of the ‘30s” and World War II of the ‘40s, Phi Delta Theta’s leaders were ready to undertake a new adventure.  That “adventure” was the construction of a building designed specifically to serve the needs of a rapidly growing fraternity.

A property at the south-west corner of Campus and High Streets, less than a block from the existing headquarters was purchased.  The house on that lot was the birthplace of Carolyn Scott who married Brother Benjamin Harrison.   The property at “208” was sold to, and became the headquarters of, Beta Theta Pi.

The newly purchased house became the temporary office of the Fraternity until it was time to begin construction on the new building.  Again, it was necessary to find provisional office space; Headquarters was moved to 18 West Church St., a short distance away.  On December 15, 1947, Admiral Wat Tyler Cluverius, President of the General Council, turned the first shovel of dirt to officially begin work on a project that would be dedicated during the Fraternity’s Centennial Convention.  Note: GHQ moved, physically, from Church Street to the new building during Thanksgiving week-end, 1947.

Now you know the complete history.  During the past fifty years, Phi Delta Theta’s “Central Office/General Headquarters” has been in nine locations, the first and five others of in Oxford, Ohio.

Miller’s Meanderings – Volume 8

A Short History of the Phi Delta Theta Foundation

In June, 1951, Robert J. Miller, New Mexico, ’50, joined the Phi Delta Theta General Headquarters staff at the invitation of Executive Secretary Paul C. Beam, Indiana-Illinois, ’25.  Time in the office during the summer hours was spent, for the most part, processing chapter reports and cleaning up left over business from the prior school year, plus preparing the staff for the ensuing academic year.

During the summer of 1954, Miller found time to page through some of the magazines from other fraternities which were on display in the exchange rack.  It was common practice for fraternities (sororities) to exchange their publications with other Greek letter organizations.  An article in the Caduceus of Kappa Sigma Fraternity caught his eye, and he wasted no time marching into Brother Beam’s office with the question “Why doesn’t Phi Delta Theta have a scholarship foundation?”  An article in the Kappa Sigma journal reported on the scholarships awarded that year to members all over the country, and it appeared that at least one brother in practically every chapter received an honorarium even if it was only $50.

This led to a discussion of how to best approach the establishment of a fund, devoted to granting scholarship rewards, within Phi Delta Theta.  A provision would need to be included in the Code (Constitution and General Statutes); it would require the approval of a General Convention and legal help would be needed to be certain that the fund measured up to federal regulations.  It was too late to prepare an addition to the Code at this late date with the 1954 convention only a couple months away. Beam was inundated with routine work that required his personal attention so he turned the project over to Miller.

Paul Beam passed away very unexpectedly on July 5, 1955 and any thought of legislation for a scholarship fund was put on hold.  Following an executive search, Miller was eventually named Beam’s successor.

With the 1956 convention out of the way, plans developed rapidly for the new Foundation.  There was reluctance on the part of some members to authorize a new money raising fund because of legislation adopted in the early 1930s which provided for alumni dues in the amount of $2.00 per year “to be deposited to the General Fraternity Fund and be dispersed under the direction of the General Council…”  Obviously this income was used to administer the needs of the Fraternity.

The provision for volunteer contributions not withstanding, the 1958 convention in Asheville, North Carolina, gave unanimous approval for additions to The Code creating the Phi Delta Theta Educational Foundation.

The Foundation was incorporated in the state of Ohio on August 16, 1960, at which time six trustees were appointed and the board’s first meeting was held on September 1 of the same year.  In 1962, two scholarships of $500 each were awarded.

Now that the Foundation had become a reality, the work of the new trustees had just begun.  For starters, the General Council would not permit the solicitation of donations  from any member who, at any time, had made a gift to the Fraternity under the alumni dues program.  That meant that all soliciting had to be made in virgin territory, although brothers who had paid their “alumni dues” and wished to also give financial support to the Foundation were permitted to do so.

In due time the suggested gift of $2.00 was eliminated and later the General Council removed the restriction of soliciting from “dues paying members” with the provision that $25 of each gift would be credited to the General Fraternity account and the balance would be deposited in the Foundation account unless the donor requested an alternate distribution.  This was a boon to the Fraternity because the average gift had been below $25, and it was an asset to the Foundation because it opened the prospective donor base.

By 1982, the Foundation was awarding as many as 28 scholarships of $1,200 each plus a Priest Award to an outstanding undergraduate of $2,000.  The board underwent a reorganization in 1984.  The president of the board became the Chairman and the title of President was given to Miller who made arrangements with his Fraternity governing board  to devote 25% of his time to the Foundation.  Within two years the trustees began talking about underwriting Fraternity expenses of an educational nature.

During the first thirty years of the Foundation’s existence, income was used exclusively for scholarship grants to undergraduates.  Eventually,  the Foundation was enabled to grant money to the Fraternity for programs of an educational nature and, still later, cash awards were made available for graduate work.

From two $500 scholarships in 1962 the capability of the Foundation Trustees grew to $183,000 in Scholarships and Fellowships plus a grant of $200,000 to the Fraternity to help underwrite the education portion of the Emerging Leaders Institute, the Chapter Consultant Program, and similar endeavors for a grand total of $383,000 in 2009.

Perhaps we should say “thank you”  to Kappa Sigma for the initial inspiration.

Miller’s Meanderings – Volume 7

And You Thought You Knew the Meaning of Prime

With the return of Phi Delta Theta to the campus of Central College (now Central Methodist University) in March, 2007, the question arises “Why is this chapter designated as Missouri Beta Prime?  Why not Missouri Delta, following Missouri Gamma, the most recently installed chapter (1891)?  If it is possible for an answer to be both simple and complicated, this response fills the bill.

PRIME is one of those English words that has many definitions; “That which is first in quality; the best; the pick” to name a few meanings in Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.  It can be a noun, an adjective, a verb transitive or a verb intransitive.  In all probability, there is not one Phikeia who considered any of these possibilities when he saw the word following a chapter identification in The Roll of the Chapters as recorded in his copy of Phikeia: The Manual of Phi Delta Theta.  The word is used to identify four chapters in Georgia, Missouri, Ohio and Texas.

The1875 Phi Delta Theta Convention held in Danville, Kentucky adopted a report that put all chartered chapters (38 chapters at the time) in proper chronological order in their respective states whether or not they were in operation at the time.  That would have avoided the “prime” problem had it been let alone.  Alas, that was not to be.  The 1880 convention held in Indianapolis, Indiana elected to pretend that the Fraternity had no dormant chapters ( 56 chapters had been chartered by this date) and decided to transfer the names of the inactive chapters to the functioning chapters.  For example, the defunct Georgia Alpha chapter at Oglethorpe University became Georgia Alpha Prime while the very lively Georgia Beta chapter at the University of Georgia was renamed Georgia Alpha.

The editors of the 1894 Catalogue, Frank D. Swope, Hanover ‘85 and Eugene H. L. Randolph, CCNY ‘85  “without official authority” placed the word prime after the titles of inactive chapters and moved the chapters that followed, up one letter in the Greek alphabet.   In their defense, they used one of the adjective definitions of prime, “first in order of time”.  All four “prime“ chapters were, indeed, chartered prior to those chapters with the same Greek designation.

Prime chapters that remain inactive are Ohio Gamma Prime at Wittenberg College, Texas Prime at Austin College and Georgia Alpha Prime at Oglethorpe University.

Robert J. Miller

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