The Gamma Theta
colony of Phi Kappa Tau originates from two sources. The fist is the local
fraternity of Beta Theta Upsilon at Western Michigan University, which
affiliated with Phi Kappa Tau in the early sixties. The second is the Gamma
Lambda Chapter at Central Michigan University. Each of these groups played a
part in the development of the Gamma Theta colony to becoming a chapter.
The Beta Theta Upsilon fraternity at Western was founded in the late fifties to promote fellowship among men at the university who were dissatisfied with the existing Greek system. The BTU fraternity flourished, and records indicate a strong membership of thirty men at the time of its installation as the Gamma Theta chapter of Phi Kappa Tau National Fraternity in 1962. Membership remained strong throughout the sixties and early seventies. Archived information at WMU indicates a quality group of men, devoted to social and academic pursuits. Membership paddles and other paraphernalia in and around the campus indicate a strong campus presence.
However, membership began slipping in the early seventies. The chapter house sustained extensive damage during a fire in November of 1971. This was the last permanent chapter house for Gamma Theta. After the fire programming quality and member interest began to wane. Having no central area where the members and prospects could gather made it difficult to recruit new members, thus membership slipped even further.
In 1974 only two members of the chapter returned to campus. At this time, communication between the national fraternity and the chapter ceased. The national office of Phi Kappa Tau shows the chapter closed in November or December of that year. A lot that had been secured for expansion in the WMU fraternity village was sold and the money placed into a trust to be used for a recolonization effort. This money was to remain in trust until 1997 under the custodian ship of William Parsons, Gamma Theta 1965.
In 1996, James Hahn, a member of the Gamma Lambda chapter of Phi Kappa Tau at Central Michigan University, contacted two of his friends who had transferred from Central to Western Michigan University. Robert Torp, and John Sabol, also a member of the Gamma Lambda chapter, was a defining moment in the history of the current Gamma Theta organization. John and Rob devoted considerable time and energy to encouraging men to join with them. They publicized their intention on campus through posters, flyers, and personal meetings with potential members. A colonization ceremony, presided over by brother John Chafin, was held at the Bernhard Center at Western. As a result of their efforts, thirteen men had joined with them by April of 1997.
The academic year of 1997-1998 was a challenging time for the fraternity. The colony gained sixteen new members. Almost half of these took seats on the executive board for the coming year. Although enthusiastic, the brothers were unprepared to handle many of the duties and responsibilities of the chapter. Todd Lucas from the National helped with the rush activities in September, but programming was still not well formulated. Todd's first training of officers helped the leaders begin to understand what was involved in organizing and running a successful colony. During this year six members lived in a rented house at 207 Allen Blvd., which was used for fraternity activities and meetings.
At this time the brothers also began to get involved with the larger Greek community and had its first one-on-one with the sisters of Pi Beta Phi in the spring of 1998. The membership also participated in campus organizations and several sat on executive boards for various groups. In the spring the colony received IFC recognition as a fraternity on WMU's campus.
By the summer of 1998 the colony secured a new house at 814 W. Kalamazoo Ave. where eleven members live. This house provides the fraternity with a large space for meetings and entertaining. Seventeen new members were associated after the fall rush period. The colony's membership is now 38, which fulfilled the national organization's requirement for installation. The group stressed academics in the fall of 1998 to make sure to attain the national's scholarship requirement. The colony also was active in community service through a mentor program. The group also was active in intramural sports, Greek sponsored events, and campus wide events, and continues to be active today.
Phi Kappa Tau fraternity was founded in
1906 at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Originally founded as a manner to
combat the control of campus political organizations by social groups, the first
incarnation of Phi Kappa Tau adopted the name, "Non Fraternity Association" at
their first meeting, March 17, 1906. The four founders: William Henry Shideler,
Dwight Ireneus Douglass, Clinton DeWitt Boyd, and Taylor Albert Borradaile, were
among those who made the decision on December 2, 1908, to change the
Association's name to Phrenecon. The Non Fraternity Association became the
Phrenecon Association on March 6, 1909.
1909 was a boom year for the Phrenecon Association. A house was rented, across the street from the current National Headquarters, and furnished. In 1911, the Ohio University "Barbarians," later the Ohio University Union, who served the same role as the Non Fraternity Association, combined with the Phrenecon Association at what is recognized as the first national convention of the fraternity. May 9, 1912, saw the Boosters Club of Ohio State become the third chapter in the organization. On March 7, 1915, Phrenecon officially became the Alpha Chapter.
On March 9, 1916, came the breaking of the association. The Miami chapter withdrew from the Phrenecon Association, and established itself as Phi Kappa Tau. At the 6th national conference in 1916, it was proposed that the fraternity establish itself as Phi Kappa Tau with Miami University as the Alpha Chapter. Miami accepted, and thus Phi Kappa Tau sprang directly from the Phrenecon Association.
More recent history of the fraternity reflects the state of the Greek system in general throughout the country. World War II devastated the fraternity between the years of 1941 to 1945. Following that, a resurgence occurred in the fraternity, with a record number of new initiates in the year 1967-1968. The war in Vietnam and increasing unrest among students were harmful to membership, ironically, including the Columbia University Chapter when Phi Kappa Tau brother Dr. Garrison Irk, then president of the institution, had his office seized by students during a demonstration.
Today, Phi Kappa Tau represents itself as a leader in the American Greek System. It ranks 22nd in size among the 64 American fraternities, and holds over 70,000 young men on its membership list.