With the establishment of the Administrative Office and appointment of an administrative secretary in 1949, the stage was set for spectacular growth and a solid future for Beta Theta Pi and its fraternal colleagues in the years ahead.
Almost immediately, however, the Korean War took a tragic toll on the chapters, followed by the emergence of more independent collegians, quick to express themselves over the Vietnam War, often joined by their own faculties.
Nonetheless, the Beta spirit endured, grew stronger and, by the end of the 20th century, a renewed commitment to the Beta principles — the Men of Principle initiative — was embraced by Beta Theta Pi, born of necessity and nurtured by yet another evolution of young men who yearn for excellence and thrive on brotherhood.
By 1958, Ralph N. Fey, Miami ’40, had completed eight years as administrative secretary and stepped aside to devote full time to his insurance firm.
Succeeding him were four more Miami brothers: Frederick F. Brower ’50, 1958-65; Ronald P. Helman ’55, 1965-72; Peter W.C. Barnhart ’66, 1972-77, and Jonathan J. Brant ’75, 1977-82. These successive terms, reflected the intent enumerated by the Board of Trustees in 1948 — that the administrative secretary should serve briefly, not to assume the role of the Fraternity’s CEO.
Thomas A. Beyer, Nebraska ’80, headed the office from 1983 until his untimely death in 1989, followed by Todd V. McMurtry, Centre ’84, 1989-91.
Robert L. Cottrell, Miami ’54, who previously had served as vice president and trustee, 1971-74, undertook the role in 1991. He was succeeded by Stephen B. Becker, Florida ’69, 1998-2007.
Administrative Office Expanded in 1964
To improve the operation of the office at 208 East High Street, and to provide increased services to the chapters and general membership, an addition was built in 1964. Among the improvements were modern office equipment and a fireproof Archives room for housing and displaying the ever-increasing memorabilia of the Fraternity.
The office also displayed splendid portraits of some of Beta’s outstanding leaders — Knox, Sisson, Robb, Chandler and Shepardson — by the distinguished portraitist L.P. Czanto.
At the 125th Anniversary of the Founding, celebrated at the 125th General Convention on the Miami campus in August 1964, President Seth R. Brooks, St. Lawrence ’22, unveiled a new plaque affixed to the Campanile.
Unrest on campuses in the late 1960s, caused chiefly by opposition to the Vietnam War, resulted in efforts to change many existing customs and establishments. At some institutions, fraternities and sororities were major victims of this agitation.
Many Betas, however, served with distinction. Terrence C. Graves, Miami ’67, the most recent Beta to earn the Medal of Honor, sacrificed his life on Feb. 16, 1968, to save the men of his patrol.
In spite of troubled times, under the leadership of General Secretaries Burton W. Folsom, Nebraska ’49, and Col. Richard R. (Misty) Shoop, Denison ’41, and Presidents Francis M. Rich, Illinois ’25, and Peter F. Greiner, Minnesota ’51, Beta continued to grow with a proactive policy of expansion.
Fraternity Targets Expansion
For the first time in Beta history, certain campuses were targeted with a more aggressive approach to expansion. A new program of regional leadership training workshops was begun as an aid to chapter leaders and alumni counselors and advisors.
Because of their initial success, they were continued on a two-year cycle with four being held annually in eight different regions. This training format was changed in 1997 to annual district and regional conclaves which served a similar purpose but provided more regional training and chapter interaction.
To finance the leadership and scholarship activities of the Fraternity, a successful fund-raising campaign, the Beta Leadership Fund (BLF), was begun in 1971. Through the continued interest and unselfish generosity of alumni, the BLF has grown steadily each year, allowing greater participation in improved leadership programming.
This support led to the establishment in 1973 of a program for the training of outstanding rising sophomores from each chapter, known as the “Sophomore Fellows” program, offered at annual conventions.
In 1974, Beta Goals ’77, implemented at the 135th General Convention, contained seven goals for the Fraternity to attain by 1977. These goals related to chapter expansion, membership, finances and alumni financial support, scholarship, area alumni associations, alumni financial support, General Fraternity services and housing.
Sisson Award Reinstated
In 1981, the Convention sought to promote many of the goals by reviving the Sisson award. Unlike earlier versions of the award, when it was presented to only one or two chapters deemed to be the best in the Fraternity, the new version enabled any chapter which met 100% of the established objective criteria to receive the award. That Convention also adopted a position statement opposing hazing.
In 1983, the Board of Trustees expanded the Administrative Office staff, providing for chapter management consultants to assist the increasing needs of chapters. Previously, one or two assistant administrative secretaries introduced the role.
The men serving as assistant administrative secretaries (1966-89), chapter management consultants (1983-96), education consultants (1996-2005) and currently leadership consultants are selected from the “best and the brightest” of graduating Betas. They function as consultants to alumni volunteers and the chapters in all facets of fraternity life and have been instrumental in revitalizing chapters where traditional volunteer aid needed augmentation.
Also in 1983, the Board instituted a toll free telephone number for the Administrative Office — 800-800-BETA (2382) — and strengthened the Fraternity with computerized record keeping equipment.
At the 145th General Convention, 1984, delegates took a major step, changing The Code of Beta Theta Pi to require that each chapter maintain a minimum Grade Point Average (GPA). The proposal first presented to the Convention called for a 2.30 GPA standard and contained several provisions modifying that standard for new members. While the delegates liked the concept of a minimum standard, they determined that modifications for pledges were inappropriate and that the proposed 2.30 standard was too low.
2.50 Minimum GPA
In 1997, convention delegates set the standard of at least a 2.50 GPA, on a 4.00 grade scale or its equivalent. Beta Theta Pi thus became the first fraternity to adopt a minimum standard of academic performance for its chapters — a move which some fraternity leaders predicted would never be successful. Beta’s pioneering leadership prevailed, however, and has since been followed by other fraternities.
At the 145th General Convention, too, was the presentation of the first Oxford Cups to former General Secretary and President Seth R. Brooks, St. Lawrence ’22, and Astronaut Joseph P. Allen IV, DePauw ’59. This award was instituted by the Trustees to recognize “Betas of Outstanding Achievement.”
Adoption of the Beta 2000 goals in 1985 by the 146th General Convention signaled further long-range planning. Its objective was to set the course for the Fraternity through the end of the century.
Beta 2000, reported by a committee of John J. Rhodes, Kansas State ’38; B. Hume Morris II, Centre ’68; Thomas A. Beyer, Nebraska ’80; Edward M. Brown, Miami ’31; Robert T. Howard, DePauw ’37; Michael D. Bloom, Georgia Tech ’68; Bruce M. Lloyd, Brown ’69/Pennsylvania ’77; George B. Dealey, Houston ’84; Michael D. Gates, Western Ontario ’86; James A. Mercadante, Columbia ’83/Pennsylvania ’84; Erik B. Nordstrom, Washington ’85, and John F. Schaller, Ball State ’85, was adopted by that Convention.
Among the Beta 2000 goals were to expand the number of chapters, increase the number of chapters qualifying for Sisson awards, maintain a strong volunteer corps assisted by a dedicated corps of support staff, expand chapter housing, build a new Administrative Office and Museum, become the best endowed fraternity in North America and demonstrate that true Beta Spirit and the Fraternity’s devotion to the Three Great Principles are ever-increasing in intensity. Many of the goals were achieved.
Risk Management Addressed
The 1986 Convention continued significant legislative developments by adopting a resolution condemning drug abuse; Beta Theta Pi became the first fraternity to take this action. The following year, the 147th General Convention outlawed open parties and adopted risk management legislation to address the ever-growing litigation against fraternities.
The 149th General Convention, Aug. 2-5, 1988, in Toronto, Ontario, held great historical significance, producing important legislation and setting the stage for the Sesqui-Centenary (150th) Convention.
The undergraduate delegates went on record prohibiting all “little sister” organizations. In addition, four new charters were granted, and a blanket insurance policy for all chapters was approved. The latter action was essential as many chapters had been unable to obtain liability insurance in recent years.
The Sesqui-Centenary Commemoration
The Sesqui-Centenary Commemoration and 150th General Convention were held at Miami University, Aug. 4-8, 1989. An awe-inspiring occasion, there was record attendance of more than 1,500 Betas and guests. Five charters were granted, and a spirited debate ensued over the need and location of a new Administrative Office, proposed because the existing facility had been outgrown.
Keynote Speaker and U.S. Senator Richard G. Lugar (Ind.), Denison ’54, provided an historical perspective to the great Beta story and also received the Oxford Cup. Other events included a pilgrimage to the grave of Pater Knox in Greenville, Ohio; trips to the Air Force Museum in Dayton; a display of the works of Beta artists, including American artist George W. Bellows, Ohio State 1905, at Miami Art Museum, and recreation activities ranging from a golf outing to white water rafting.
Tennis legend Stan Smith, Southern California ’68, hosted a clinic for tennis enthusiasts. The Convention also introduced the new 150-year history of the Fraternity, The Faithful Home of the Three Stars, by Peter J. Floriani, Ph.D., Lehigh ’77.
Most memorable was the Marching Line to the Campanile on Aug. 8, Sesqui-Centenary Day, where President Burton W. Folsom, Nebraska ’49, unveiled a commemorative plaque.
New Office Completed in 1994
Following the Sesqui-Centenary Commemoration was the decision to build the new Foundation and Administrative Office in Oxford. Ground was broken on Oct. 23, 1993, and construction began on the project, funded almost entirely by contributions from Beta alumni. Over the next year, the beautiful facility was built under the watchful eyes of Administrative Secretary Robert L. Cottrell, Miami ’54.
The Foundation and Administrative Office occupies eight-acres, situated picturesquely on a wooded knoll looking south toward the Miami Unviersity campus, the Beta Campanile and the towers of Harrison Hall, site of Old Main, Beta’s founding site.
The new office has adequate space to meet the Fraternity’s future needs and includes an octagonal Knox Library as well as an eight-sided museum with more than a dozen unique displays and exhibits, including the original John Reily Knox Loving Cup.
At the rear of the office, three brick walkways, built with more than 5,000 bricks inscribed with the names of contributors, lead from three stars located at three rear building exits and converge at the symbolic wreath and diamond in front of the entrance to the Hall of the Chapters — a model chapter hall built to the plans of Major George M. Chandler, Michigan 1898.
Entrance to the Hall of the Chapters is limited to initiated Betas as a place dedicated to the concepts upon which the Founders conceived Beta Theta Pi.
So thoughtful is the architecture, Georgian, and the siting of Beta’s home that an imaginary line runs from the Campanile, bisects the main building and continues on to the Hall of the Chapters.
Dedicated in 1994
The cornerstone was laid and the Foundation and Administrative Office dedicated on Oct. 29, 1994. Among other highlights of the ceremonies were the presentation of the keys to the building to General Secretary Vincent Del Pizzo, Washington in St. Louis ’62/Missouri ’62, and dedication of the Grand Staircase, the Fireside Room, the John Reily Knox Memorial Library and the Hall of the Chapters.
In his dedication address, President B. Hume Morris, Centre ’68, discussed the eight great cornerstones of the Fraternity: undergraduates, pledges, alumni, Beta leaders, Beta Spirit, ritual, obligations and Three Great Principles.
During the 1995-96 academic year, the Board increased the Fraternity’s corps of trained alumni advisors. It established regional training programs for advisors, encouraged each district chief to appoint an assistant and created the new position of regional director — often former district chiefs or trustees, experienced trainers of chapter officers and advisors, who serve as resources for district chiefs.
Academic Standing of Individual Members
The convention strengthened scholastic performance by adding a requirement of each member. To maintain his own good status as a collegiate member, each Beta must have a cumulative GPA of 2.50 on a 4.00 scale. The objective was to encourage chapters to equal or exceed the local all-men’s average.
The 1998 General Convention enlarged the Board of Trustees to nine members and approved the new Men of Principle initiative, designed to improve chapters with nine goal-centered steps to excellence.