Harvey Clayton Brill, the penultimate biography in our series of 17 founding members of Phi Kappa Tau, is sometimes called the “5th Founder” but has officially been a member only since 2010.
Harvey Brill was born December 28, 1881 in Greenbush, Preble County, Ohio, just north of Oxford to a large farm family. His grandfather had emigrated from Bavaria earlier in the 19th century. At Miami, he was involved in a long list of student organizations and clubs. He was business manager of the student newspaper, president of the Miami Union Literary Society and he followed Founder Borradaile as the second president of the Non-Fraternity Association. Interested in the sciences, he served as a student assistant in chemistry and physics.He graduated from Miami University with an A.B. in 1908; he received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1911. At Michigan, he was one of three of the foundation members to join a local fraternity called Pylon, which would be chartered as the Michigan chapter of Phi Sigma Kappa in 1915.
Brill returned to Miami to teach chemistry in 1911, and remained for two years before going to the Bureau of Science, Philippine Islands, for four years. He returned once again to Miami in 1917, there to remain as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Chemistry until his retirement in 1952. He served as guest professor at Harvard University in 1928-29. He received many honors during his career. In 1964, the Annual Harvey Clayton Brill Lectures in Chemistry at Miami University was established by former students and colleagues. A Miami scholarship and the University’s Science Library were named for him. In 1959, he received the Eminent Chemist Award of the Cincinnati Section of the American Chemical Society. His bibliography runs to more than 40 items. Among his numerous research interests was the treatment of sewerage. He put this technical understanding to practical use by serving for many years on the board of the Oxford, Ohio, disposal plant, and he also served two terms on the Oxford Village Council. Professor Brill was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and many, many professional organizations. He was a registered engineer in the State of Ohio. He became a member of the Chemistry Section of The Ohio Academy Science in 1937 and gained Emeritus status in 1962.
Brill was extremely influential in the founding of the Non-Fraternity Association and its early development. He is listed as one of five founders in early histories and in the 1920 edition of Baird’s Manual of College Fraternities but because he affiliated with Phi Sigma Kappa in 1915, when Phi Kappa Tau had yet to adopt a Greek-letter name, he was not added to the fraternity’s membership rolls, though he has always been listed as the 2nd National President. That oversight was corrected in 2010 by action of the 59th National Convention that posthumously granted him membership.
He married Gertrude Davidson, an art instructor, in 1913 and they had one daughter, Elizabeth Brill Morrow. His younger brother, Jesse Hugo Brill (1887-1971) was also a member of Alpha Chapter.
He died January 11, 1972, in Oxford, shortly after his 90th birthday. He is buried with his wife and daughter in the Oxford Cemetery.