In a small town about 20 miles from Bloomington, Illinois, an adventurous young man is engaged in a personal debate. He is home for the summer and trying to make a choice of whether to finish out his academic career at Ohio Wesleyan University or transfer to a new school to start his junior year.
If he transfers, he would have the opportunity to play varsity football and further explore his academic interests in the field of chemistry. However, it would be simpler and more familiar if he returned to Ohio Wesleyan. But the easy choice isn’t always the right one.
Dwight Douglass made the choice to transfer to Miami University in the fall of 1904. Living in the same dorm as new-found friend Taylor Borradaile, the two began developing plans to create the Non-Fraternity Association along with Clinton Boyd and “Doc” Shideler.
These four Miami students—our Honored Founders—and the 17 others who joined them, started a revolutionary new student organization that would grow during the next 111 years, expanding to 156 campuses across the country and including nearly 100,000 members.
And ever since that “cold day in March 1906,” Phi Kappa Tau has been developing men of character into men of distinction.
Our Fraternity’s Ritual ceremonies are somber, symbolic, stirring—and secret. There is power within this secrecy, for it calls our membership to action. But it isn’t by our ceremonies but by our actions where we reveal to others the core values of Phi, Kappa and Tau—and where we reinforce them with one another. Our authenticity and timelessness flow directly from these core values. The fact that the Ritual behind these values are known only to members puts special emphasis on our ability to enact what we espouse.
Within the secrecy of our Ritual, however, there are limitations. Over the years, Phi Kappa Tau has found several ways to convey our values to various audiences while not revealing the specifics of the Ritual. Roland Maxwell, Southern California ’22, wrote the creed, the mission statement defined our aspirations, and the Constitution and Membership Manual delineated our purposes and objectives, respectively. Each item is important in its own right, and each has its own prudent way of providing a public affirmation.
Phi Kappa Tau develops men of character into men of distinction. So the question naturally follows, “What virtues make up a man of distinction?” Our answer: a man of distinction will lead men, inspire hearts and serve others.
Our stories and experiences related to our fraternity experience are very personal. When you assemble these stories of experience and season them with our rich heritage and our poignant Ritual, you find our identity in Phi Kappa Tau.
A General’s Journey
The Vietnam War enters its twelfth year, and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration is engulfed in managing the war effort. President Johnson searches for a new Commandant of the Marine Corps after Gen. Wallace M. Greene announced his retirement.
Knowing the importance of the job and the vital role it plays as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, President Johnson nominates the Assistant Commandant, a World War II combat veteran who was decorated for his actions in the Battle of Peleliu and the Battle of Okinawa. Upon confirmation by the U.S. Senate, Gen. Leonard F. Chapman, Jr., Florida ’33, became the 24th Commandant of the Marine Corps on January 1, 1968.
Gen. Chapman had led men for his entire career. He earned multiple honors, including three Distinguished Service Medals, two Legions of Merit and the Bronze Star for heroic service during the Battle of Okinawa.
His time as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff coincided with the final years of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. During his period in command, he traveled extensively to visit and inspire Marines stationed around the world. Ultimately, he managed the strategic withdraw of
Marines from Vietnam. Before his retirement, President Richard M. Nixon presented Gen. Chapman the Navy Distinguished Service Medal.
After a long life dedicated to leading men, Gen. Chapman died on January 6, 2000, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. He was eulogized by the 30th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Carl E. Mundy Jr., Auburn ’55, a friend, fraternity brother, and protégé—an example of the direct impact one can have in the life of another brother.
The virtue of leading men can manifest itself in many ways. Our Honored Founders led the Non-Fraternity Association through the early days of existence and created a lasting brotherhood that now spans over a century. Countless Phi Tau men since have distinguished themselves by providing leadership in the military, athletics, business, non-profits and government service.
Coach Pete Newell, UC Berkeley ’58, led the University of California to the 1959 NCAA men’s basketball championship. Jack Anson, Colgate ’47, was the executive director of the North-American Interfraternity Conference. Sen. Mitch McConnell, Louisville ’61, serves as the U.S. Senate Majority Leader. Nickolas Davatze, St. John’s ’60, created and developed the A&E Network and The History Channel.
Leadership begins on campuses, and it continues there today where young Phi Tau leaders are hard at work. From chapter presidents to student body presidents, and from IFC delegates to varsity athletes, the fraternity experience cannot be separated from leadership development.
A Comedian’s Struggle
Dealing with the untimely death of his beloved wife, a typically funny man struggles to understand. She was only 46 years old and passed away in her sleep. Unquantifiable grief is understandable, but as a dedicated father, he had to remain strong for his 7-year-old daughter.
Outside of the responsibility to his daughter, he is in a unique situation. His chosen profession calls for him to make people laugh and to lift their spirits, and he is among the best in his field. Through the struggle, he continues to provide millions of people with an outlet for laughter. He continues his art through Twitter, acting work, and a new stand-up comedy special.
After the nominees had been read aloud at the 2017 Grammy Awards for the Best Comedy Album, it was announced that Patton Oswalt, William & Mary ’89, had won for his Netflix stand-up special, “Talking for Clapping.”
Oswalt has inspired hearts through laughter in a long career. As a stand-up comedian, writer, actor and voice actor he has appeared in numerous television shows and movies. Primarily known for his breakout supporting role on the sitcom “The King of Queens” and for voicing Remy in the film “Ratatouille,” his distinct form of humor places him among the great comedians of our time.
He continues to inspire hearts day in and day out. In true Patton Oswalt fashion, at the end of his Grammy acceptance speech, he said, “This has not been a fun year for me and a lot of people, but I’m going to try to be as goofy and obnoxious as I possibly can.”
The virtue of inspiring hearts is not easily quantified but is universally understood and is at the core of Phi Kappa Tau.
It is the basis of true brotherhood. Inspiring others comes not only through laughter but also by instilling knowledge, caring about others and believing in something bigger than yourself. And our Honored Founders provided inspiration to the unaffiliated men at Miami to join together and create the Non-Fraternity Association.
Throughout our history, Phi Kappa Tau brothers have inspired hearts. O. Frederick Nolde, Muhlenberg ’18, was a human rights pioneer and contributing author of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Ned Brooks, Ohio State ’22, was the moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press.” John Dykstra, Cal State-Long Beach ’69, was the special effects lead on the original “Star Wars” film. Leroy Chiao, UC Berkeley ’79, is a successful NASA astronaut.
On campuses, today, you will find young Phi Taus inspiring hearts. From pre-med students to chapter chaplains and from debate team members to university ambassadors, the fraternity experience cannot be separated from the desire to inspire the hearts of our fellow man.
A Scientist’s Discovery
A physicist works late in a lab at Stony Brook University. He is among the first scientists to use nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy in the study of molecules, solutions and solids. He is beginning to apply the same technology to biological organisms.
He put his subject—a clam—inside a powerful magnetic field and collects the resulting radio signals that are emitted by atomic nuclei within the tissues. He discovers that by using a static magnetic field and varying the intensity of a second magnetic field across his subjects, he garners clearer signals, allowing better imaging of different tissues.
Years later, in 2003, Paul Lauterbur, Case Western Reserve ’48, is awarded a Nobel Prize for his pioneering work in the development of magnetic resonance imaging, better known as MRI.
Dr. Lauterbur gave physicians the ability to look inside the human body without using harmful radiation. Currently, more than 60-million MRI examinations are performed every year.
Dr. Lauterbur never stopped teaching and researching. He was a professor of chemistry and radiology at Stony Brook until 1985 and then moved to the University of Illinois, where he remained until his death in 2007. His influence is felt around the world every day, every time an MRI saves a life. His service to others—indeed his service to all of mankind—cannot be understated.
The virtue of serving others is fundamental to who we are as Phi Tau men.
Whether it be service to the community, to individuals or a universal service, it is basic brotherly kindness.
Discharging our obligation to others is the keystone to this service. Phi Taus are not only called to serve one another but to serve their family, their community and their world. And our Honored Founders served the greater good. Without them, you and the nearly 100,000 brothers of Phi Kappa Tau would not have had the fraternal experience we hold so dear.
Throughout our history, Phi Kappa Tau brothers have served others. Robert Meder, Miami ’36, gave the ultimate sacrifice to his country as a member of the Doolittle Raiders of World War II. Actor Paul Newman, Ohio ’43, gave of his time, talent and treasure to found the SeriousFun Children’s Network. William Aycock, North Carolina State ’34, was the president of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Sen. John Barrasso, Rensselaer ’71, serves as a U.S. Senator for Wyoming.
Young Phi Taus today embrace service like never before. From philanthropy events to book drives and from coaching youth sports to being their brother’s keepers, service is the key differentiator in today’s Phi Tau experience
When Phi Kappa Tau recently set out to find a concise and genuine way to capture the spirit of our Ritual, our creed, our mission, our purposes, our objectives and our current Strategic Plan (Phi Kappa Tau 2020), we found that who we are and what we do have been evident from the beginning. We develop men of character into men of distinction. And we do that by leading men, inspiring hearts and serving others. That’s Phi Kappa Tau. This may resonate with you as well. Looking back, it appears that perhaps all of this has felt like “us” from the very beginning.