By the turn of the century, two important features of Beta Theta Pi had become apparent. The first — Beta character — had already manifested itself in stories such as that of John Holt Duncan and the men of the Michigan chapter who refused to forsake their membership and their badge.
This character was accompanied by a high standard of exemplary conduct, known as “moral and social culture” in Beta’s Objects, which all Betas were expected to maintain.
The second feature was illustrated by the Fraternity’s volunteerism and in her singing, best described by Willis O. Robb, Ohio Wesleyan 1879, in his “Beta of the Future” address in 1906:
“Again, the Beta is distinguishable and distinguished from all other kinds of fraternity men whatsoever by just a little warmer and stronger, just a little tenderer and more enduring fraternity feeling than any of them can attain to.”
Describing the strength of the Beta Spirit, Robb concluded: “We cannot doubt that in this, as in other respects, our ‘future will copy our past,’ and that in the world of fifty years from now, as in that of fifty years ago — as in that that lies around us today — the first mark of a Beta will be his Beta spirit.”
Expansion into Canada
A significant milestone in Beta history occurred in 1906 when the Fraternity chartered its first chapter in Canada, Theta Zeta chapter at the University of Toronto.
On Feb. 9, 1911, the Beta Theta Pi Club of New York City hosted a banquet in honor of the four Betas then members of the United States Supreme Court: Associate Justices John M. Harlan, Centre 1850; Horace H. Lurton, Cumberland 1867; Willis Van Devanter, DePauw 1881, and Joseph R. Lamar, Bethany 1877/Washington and Lee 1878. Lamar was a former General Secretary of the Fraternity.
The event proved to be one of the most memorable in Beta’s history when Justice Lurton recounted the events of the revival of the Cumberland chapter exemplifying the Fraternity’s triumph over the crisis caused by the Civil War.
This celebration provided an outstanding example of the achievement for which Betas had become noted. Not only have more Betas served on the United States Supreme Court, but Betas outnumbered every other fraternity in members of Congress as well as having legions of men serving in state legislatures, governorships and many other professions.
Betas of Achievement
So numerous were the Betas listed in Who’s Who that the 1913 Convention approved the plan for William Raimond Baird to create a book detailing biographical sketches of outstanding Betas. This book, Betas of Achievement, published in 1914, contained sketches of more than 1,200 Betas.
Other serious periods of trial in the life of the Fraternity came with involvement in two World Wars. While the existence of the Fraternity was not threatened as it was during the Civil War. Beta Theta Pi was established strongly, and there was no division in either war which pitted brother against brother.
Nevertheless, World Wars I and II posed definite problems to chapter life by the serious reduction of personnel and the use of houses as military quarters, hospitals and student residences.
Toronto Chapter Fund
Prior to 1917 and the call to arms in the U.S., a dramatic incident occurred in the life of Beta Theta Pi known as the “Toronto Chapter Fund.”
Shortly before Christmas 1915, the General Secretary received a letter from Theta Zeta chapter at Toronto telling how most of its men were already serving in the Great War and the few who remained were preparing to enlist. The letter told how other fraternities at the school were closing and how Theta Zeta would be unable to meet its mortgage payments and would lose the house. To keep the house open and to cover chapter expenses, $2,500 was needed.
General Secretary Francis W. Shepardson, Denison 1882/Brown 1883, announced the crisis in his January 1916 General Secretary’s Bulletin:
Shall Beta Theta Pi prove its great strength as a fraternity now with a splendid illustration of the possibilities of mutual assistance?
Shall Beta Theta Pi keep open its chapter house at Toronto when other fraternities have closed theirs?
Shall the equity in the Toronto chapter house be saved to Theta Zeta and for Beta Theta Pi?
Shall Beta Theta Pi preserve its Toronto chapter in this extraordinary situation, when its life is threatened, not only because of a lofty and heroic patriotism which has led its members to lay "upon the altar of their country their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor?"
Shall Beta Theta Pi give the college and fraternity world an incomparable illustration of the strength of its organization, the power of its sentiment, the faith of its members in their brothers?
It is up to you. Here is the situation such as has never faced us before. Here is an opportunity to prove what Beta Theta Pi, what fraternity, means. here is a Macedonian cry that should stir every loyal Beta heart. "Come over into Toronto and help us!"
We want a dollar from every active Beta contributed on "Pater Knox Night," when we think of our debt to the founders of our Fraternity.
Brothers, let us make this the great event of the college year, the greatest event in the long history of Beta Theta Pi. It is the opportunity that comes once in a lifetime. It is a chance to prove Beta Theta Pi is what some of us hope that it is, the greatest of American college fraternities.
I have faith in the Fraternity. I believe it will prove its power on Feb. 7, 1916. "Thus honor shall come to the badge that we wear and every true Beta that honor shall share."
The response was overwhelming, the house was saved, and the Fund became a monument to the Beta spirit and the aid and mutual assistance inherent in the Beta brotherhood. The appeals brought an excess of money, and, after the war, the remaining money became known as the Founders’ Fund which is now a part of the Beta Theta Pi Foundation.
The Rest of the Story!
When Shepardson went to Toronto in January as the appeal was being planned, another facet of the Toronto Chapter Fund story was just beginning to emerge: a story of the courage and sacrifice of the men of Toronto chapter.
In 1915 there were 107 names on the roll of Theta Zeta, founded in 1906. The men of the eight-year-old chapter enlisted in the armed forces when Canada entered World War I in 1914, three years earlier than the United States.
Many became heroes. Reg Elliot, after volunteering and twice being turned down, finally enlisted and became a veteran of the Royal Flying Corps.
Tan McDonald, with a wounded left eye and 13 shrapnel wounds, continued to fight.
Theta Zeta Founders, brothers Jan and Butz Herzberg, were both wounded. Each won the Military Cross, and both were promoted on the field for coolness under fire. Jan received the Distinguished Service Order; Butz was permanently crippled from his wounds.
Tommy Drew-Brook was flying 17 miles behind enemy lines when he was attacked by four planes; a bullet penetrated his spine and exploded sending pieces into both his spine and liver. He spent eight months in a German prisoner of war camp.
Thirteen men of Theta Zeta — more than 10% of the entire chapter roll and twice as many as any other Beta chapter — made the supreme sacrifice:
- Alexander Baird, having already earned the Military Cross and Bar on the firing line, died while leading his company in the capture of a machine gun nest during the first day of the Battle of Amiens.
- Galer Hagerty was killed by a shell while leading his platoon in the front line at Sanctuary Wood.
- Before his death, Robert Hamilton had been recommended for the Military Cross for rescuing a number of his men who had been buried by shell fire.
- James Hartney, Royal Flying Corps, died in a plane collision over France.
- John Turner Howard, Royal Engineers, was killed in a motor accident in France.
- Gerry Knight, Canada’s foremost aviator and recipient of the Military Cross and Distinguished Service Order for gallantry, was shot down behind German lines while engaged with superior numbers.
- Donald Morrison, a gun officer, was killed on the first day of the Battle of Amiens.
- Harry Nicholson, Royal Flying Corps, was shot down when attacked by three enemy planes.
- Chapter President Ernest Alroy Simpson was killed in the Battle of the Somme near Courcelette.
- Simpson’s brother, Joe, Brigade Major, won the Military Cross before being fatally wounded.
- Capt. Geoff Snow was wounded and later killed near Courcelette in the Battle of the Somme.
- Lt. George Stratford, after recovering from wounds, returned to the front and was killed in action five months later fighting in the trenches at Meetscheele.
“Never Mind Me, Carry On!”
Maurice (Mike) Malone, barely 21, led his men in the counter-attack at Observatory Ridge in the Battle of Zillebeke in Flanders on June 3, 1916. As they reached the farthest point of the advance, he was struck. When his men came to his aid, Malone, mortally wounded, uttered, “Never mind me, carry on!”
For years a plaque containing Mike Malone’s immortal words was displayed prominently over the fireplace in the Theta Zeta chapter house. The plaque has since been moved to Toronto’s St. Paul’s Anglican Church, visitors are thrilled by Malone’s stirring words, which continue to ring throughout the annals of history.
Among the many other Beta heroes in World War I, Emory J. Pike, Iowa Wesleyan 1898, who in September 1918, became the second Beta to receive the Medal of Honor, for gallantry in action near Vandieres, France.
Three months earlier, Major General Omar Bundy, DePauw 1881, initiated the month-long counter-attack to save Paris from impending capture by the Germans, beginning the offensive which became the turning point of the war. This offensive was begun in the outskirts of Paris when the Allied forces other than those under Bundy’s command were retreating.
Unacceptable to Our Country’s Honor
Bundy’s response, when ordered to retreat, is a much-quoted classic:
“We regret being unable to follow the counsels of our masters, the French, but the American flag has been compelled to retire. This is unendurable and none of our soldiers would understand not being asked to do whatever is necessary to reestablish a situation which is humiliating to us and unacceptaable to our country’s honor. We are going to counter-attack!”
For 40 days the German Armies hurled themselves against the Vaux sector, and for 40 days Bundy’s men time and again not only repulsed them but hurled them back, pushed forward and captured their strategic, strongly fortified German positions at Vaux, Bouresches and Belleau Wood.
For more than a month the battle raged. And when the Germans were thrown back, the Allies never stopped attacking until the Armistice. The French awarded Bundy the Croix de Guerre with palms. This heroic and historic action is celebrated in a poem by former Beta President Willis O. Robb, Ohio Wesleyan 1879.
Excellence in Scholarship
Beginning in 1926 the National (now North-American) Interfraternity Conference (NIC) began a survey which confirmed Beta Theta Pi’s excellence in scholarship. In all 16 surveys by the NIC before 1949, Beta Theta Pi’s overall scholarship exceeded the All-Men’s Average (AMA) campuses where there were Beta chapters. None of the other established inter/national fraternities could make this statement.
By 1935, Beta Theta Pi could claim at least 1,370 members of the scholastic honorary Phi Beta Kappa, more than 12% of all Betas receiving degrees from colleges where Phi Beta Kappa was located.
Planning the Centenary
During the decade 1927-37, the leaders of Beta Theta Pi planned and prepared for the close of the Fraternity’s first century. At the 1928 Convention, Gen. Harold J. Bailey, Amherst 1908, spoke of the age of progress of the Fraternity and urged continued development:
“The inspiration of the Fraternity’s past, its present prosperity and its high hopes for the future give us just pride in our organization and renewed courage and enthusiasm for the tasks which immediately confront us. The complete cooperation of the chapters and alumni represented here can make possible such progress during the next eleven years that our hopes for the distant future will seem insignificant when compared with what we shall presently accomplish.
“Our centennial will then be the occasion of rejoicing, and we can plan for the second century of Beta Theta Pi with the certain knowledge that your fraternity and mine is worthy of a place among the institutions that are contributing effectively to the upbuilding of our country and to the advancement and peace of the world.”
’Neath the Elms of Old Miami
President Shepardson died suddenly on Aug. 9, 1937. Many of the plans he had begun for the Centenary festivities, however, were fulfilled by the Board of Trustees and those immediately in charge of arrangements for the centenary celebration, held on the beautiful Miami campus, Aug. 4-8, 1939.
The Celebration Committee was headed by former General Secretary George H. Bruce, Centre 1899. Actively in charge of plans and arrangements was John R. Simpson, Miami 1899, director of the centenary celebration. More than 1,500 Betas gathered “’neath the elms of Old Miami” to pay tribute to the founders, “of ever honored memory,” and to honor Beta Theta Pi.
The Celebration included the 100th General Convention and a lengthy series of notable special events. The Convention, according to custom, was opened by General Secretary G. Herbert Smith, DePauw ’27, and was presided over by President Clarence L. Newton, Wesleyan 1902, also elected Convention president.
Westminster Peal of Four Bells
On Centenary Day, President Newton made the presentation to Miami University of the Westminster Peal of four bells, inscribed with the names “Beta,” “Theta,” “Pi” and “1839-1939.” They were mounted temporarily in the east tower of Old Main (also named Harrison Hall) where Beta Theta Pi was born. They were accepted for Miami University by its president, Alfred H. Upham.
The bells were first played at noon on Centenary Day, the program being broadcast by radio. The inspiring close of the program came with the address of Charles P. Taft, Yale 1918, and the singing of the Beta Doxology.
Other highlights of the Celebration included the frequent and beautiful singing of the Whitman chapter chorus; the address “Beta Firsts and Achievements,” by Gordon S. Smyth, Pennsylvania 1918; the Centenary Day vesper service which included the singing of the Centennial Hymn; the Centenary Poem, composed and read by Dean Jay Glover Eldridge, Yale/Idaho 1896; the address “Beta Eternal,” by John A. Blair, Wabash 1873; the singing of the Loving Cup, under the direction of the composer, Horace G. Lozier, Chicago 1894, and the Centenary Ball in the men’s gymnasium under the direction of Ewart W. Simpkinson, Cincinnati 1919.
A splendid record of the Centenary Celebration is preserved in a motion picture with the voice of Jean Paul King, Miami ’26, as the commentator.
One project not completed by 1939 was the construction on the Miami campus of the Campanile [Cam-pah-nee’-lee,] the Centenary gift of the Fraternity to the University, which was to permanently house the Beta Bells.
Sufficient funds were available by the time of the 1940 Convention, which authorized the completion of the project. Brother Simpson took charge of the supervision of plans for the construction. The cornerstone was laid during ceremonies Nov. 10, 1940; the Campanile was dedicated May 17, 1941.
Commemorating a Century of Achievement
The Campanile stands as a monument to the achievements of Beta Theta Pi during its first century. Today’s visitors to the Beta Administrative Office, north of Oxford, can view the Campanile through a telescope which is trained on the bell tower that peeks above the Elms a half-mile away.
A dramatic incident occurred at the 101st Convention, 1940, at Del Monte, Calif. The Convention banquet was held on the evening of June 28. Earlier, the delegates had been thrilled by the chant coming from loudspeakers, tuned to the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia — “We want Willkie!”
Just as the banquet concluded, the break came at Philadelphia, which nominated a great Beta as the Republican candidate for the Presidency of the United States: Wendell L. Willkie, Indiana 1913.
The Impact of World War II
The story of Beta Theta Pi following the Centenary Celebration is interwoven with World War II. The 1940 Convention barely had ended before a number of the Fraternity’s officers were called to active duty with the military forces to prepare for the war which the majority knew was inevitable. During 1940-41, war conditions did not affect the Fraternity acutely, but there was a spirit of restlessness in the chapters.
For the U.S. chapters, the fighting war came on Dec. 7, 1941. Two Betas, Lt. Frank S. Lomax, USNR, Nebraska ’39, and Ens. James W. Haverfield, USRN, Ohio State ’39, were killed in action and entombed aboard the battleship USS Arizona in the attack on Pearl Harbor. They were the first of hundreds of Wooglin’s sons to make the supreme sacrifice in the defense of liberty. John Perry Edwards, Kansas ’39, was the first to get a plane airborne in response to the attack and engage the Japanese in combat.
During World War II, three Betas earned the Medal of Honor — the highest medal for gallantry awarded by the U.S.: Thomas B. McGuire, Georgia Tech ’42, for gallantry in the air over Luzon, Philippine Islands (McGuire Air Force Base, near Trenton, N.J., is named in his memory); David C. Waybur, California ’42, for gallantry in action near Agrigento, Sicily, and Everett Pope, Bowdoin ’41, for heroism in action on Peleliu Island, Palau Group, South Pacific. Brother Pope has been the only one of the six Beta Medal of Honor recipients not to be honored posthumously.
The heroism of these and many other Betas is exemplified by Pope’s citations:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Commanding Officer of Company C, First Battalion, First Marine Division, during action again Japanese forces on 19-20 September 1944.
“Subjected to point blank cannon fire which caused heavy casualties and disorganized his company while assaulting a steep coral hill, Capt. Pope rallied his men . . . gallantly led them to the summit in the face of machine-gun, mortar and sniper fire.
“Forced by hostile attack to deploy the remnants of his company thinly to hold the ground won, and insufficient water, (weapons) and ammunition, he remained on the exposed hill with 12 men, determined to hold through the night.
“Attacked continuously with grenades, machine-guns and rifles from three sides . . . he and his valiant men fiercely beat back the enemy, resorting to hand-to-hand combat . . . still maintaining his lines with eight remaining riflemen when daylight brought more deadly fire and he was ordered to withdraw.”
All Eyes Were on the War
In spite of the hostilities, it was evident that Beta Theta Pi must hold its 1942 Convention for the purpose of placing the Fraternity on a wartime basis. This 103th Convention, the only one to be held during the war, was strictly a business meeting. Action was taken to delegate the powers of the General Convention to the Board of Trustees for the time during which it would be impossible to hold conventions. The Board was charged with the responsibility of carrying on the work of the Fraternity.
The Board of Trustees adopted a policy of not suspending chapters during the war, even though they might become inactive. Under the direction of the General Secretary, a Chapter War Committee was organized for each chapter, empowered to act for the chapter when conditions made it impossible to perform its regular functions.
Thirty chapters, nearly one-third of the total, had varying periods of inactivity during the war. The first chapter became inactive in September 1942, but the great problem came in June 1943. Twenty-seven chapters had too few men to carry on.
Chapters Come Back to Life
Chapters were reactivated as rapidly as conditions made it possible. By the time of the first post-war Convention in 1946, only six had not been reactivated. These six were re-established with the opening of the 1946 fall term. Veterans, initiated either prior to military service or during the war years, shouldered the bulk of responsibility for re-establishing the chapters.
The first post-war Convention was noteworthy for its great enthusiasm. There were no doubts in the delegates’ minds that “the spirit of Beta Theta Pi” had survived the war and that the Fraternity was in a strong position to move forward.
The Convention granted a charter to form the 91st chapter, Gamma Sigma at Willamette University. Willamette’s president at that time was G. Herbert Smith, DePauw ’27, former General Secretary and later President of the Fraternity. He was the third Beta to be president of Willamette.
Another significant contributor to that chapter was Mark O. Hatfield, Willamette ’43, who attended the Convention as one of its petititioners. He later was dean at Willamette prior to becoming governor of Oregon and later U.S. senator for five terms.
A Time of Great Growth
The first complete post-war year, 1946-47, saw the a record number of men initiated into Beta Theta Pi. This was Beta’s answer to those who predicted that men returning from the Service would find fraternity life childish and without appeal.
Not only had Beta Theta Pi survived the war, she was in a strong position. In fact, the Fraternity’s greatest concern became the increasing size of the chapters. The influence of the general officers focused on keeping chapters at a reasonable size so they could continue to provide opportunities for real friendship and brotherhood on which the Fraternity had been built and achieved distinction.
Like most other fraternities, there was not only growth in membership in the post-war period, but there was the greatest demand for new chapters in many years. New studies were conducted to establish a sound expansion policy, and in only six years, 1946-52, seven new chapters were installed.
During academic year 1948-49, Beta dropped below the AMA for the first time since the NIC began keeping records. In response, the 1950 Convention reaffirmed Beta’s dedication to the cultivation of the intellect by becoming the first fraternity to enact a minimum grade requirement (2.00) for initiation.
The most significant changes in the administration of the Fraternity in 50 years occurred in 1947, 1948 and 1949. In 1947, upon recommendation of the General Secretary, the Board of Trustees appointed Arthur C. Wickenden, Denison 1915, chairman of Miami University’s Department of Religion, as Keeper of the Rolls.
Administrative Office Established
Further, it authorized the General Secretary and Brother Wickenden to establish a clerical service office in Oxford as a membership records service to the general officers and chapters.
Prior to the opening of this office in December 1947, the administrative work of the Fraternity had been performed completely as a “labor of love” by the elected and appointed officers, who gave their time, often at great personal sacrifice, to handle not only the broad challenges but the details of administrative and clerical work as well.
In 1948, the Board of Trustees appointed a committee of two of its members — former General Secretary Edward M. Brown, Miami ’31, and former President Elmer H. Jennings, Northwestern 1912 — to develop a detailed statement of the authorities and responsibilities of a proposed administrative secretary and the reasons for creating such a position.
This report, approved by the Board and presented as a “special report” to the 1948 Convention, emphasized the need for an Administrative Office.
The 1948 Convention adopted the Board’s recommendations and authorized the appointment of a full-time administrative secretary with the Administrative Office to be located in Oxford.
The Convention emphasized that Beta Theta Pi had no desire to be placed under the control of an “executive” secretary, stating, “Let it be clear . . . that it is not intended that the administrative secretary be or become the executive officer of the Fraternity.”
On Aug. 1, 1949, District Chief Ralph N. Fey, Miami ’40, was appointed administrative secretary. Later, he would be general treasurer and president. In the preceding month, the Board had purchased the building and property next to the Miami chapter house as the new Administrative Office.
Under the capable direction of Brother Fey, the building was remodeled extensively, with the result that it became an attractive office structure. With the opening of the Administrative Office, it became unnecessary to maintain the Keeper of the Roll’s office.