Duncan Erskine Cull Enters Chapter Eternal

Lilly Steger

April 8th, 2019: Oxford, Ohio - Duncan Erskine Cull, Louisville ’56, entered the chapter eternal on March 26th, 2019. 

After graduating Louisville DuPont Manual High School in 1947 he joined the Marine Corps as a communications specialist and rose to the rank of Staff Sargent. He served two years in the Korean War. 

Following the military, Duncan worked at WAVE TV as an Electronics Engineer. He graduated the University of Louisville in 1959. He was hired by Bendix Radio and worked on missile guidance systems. He had a patent for miniaturized 2-way radios that was purchased by the U.S. Navy. He also worked at National Cash Register throughout the 60s-80s. While there, he created a Teleprinter used by the SKYLAB which allowed photo transmission to repair the Solar Umbrella Panel. He also created the “Mr. Microphone” Karaoke device. However most importantly he developed the touch-screen concept, now utilized in virtually all technology.

Duncan married his wife Elinor on March 30th, 1957, by whom he was preceded in death. Duncan passed away with his family at his side. He is succeeded by his sons William and Robert as well as his granddaughter Annaliza, his sister Jeanne, and three nephews Keith, John, and Matthew. 

The family asks mourners to consider donating to Hosparus or the Disabled American Veterans in his memory. 

Delta Gamma Celebrates Chapter 50th

Lilly Steger

On March 23rd, the Delta Gamma chapter at Ole Miss celebrated their 50th anniversary, a huge milestone for any chapter. When F. Harrison “Buzz” Green, Ole Miss ’66, returns home to Oxford, OH, from his trip to Mississippi, he makes a stop at the Executive Offices to tell us about it.  

Foundation Vice Chairman Buzz Green,  Ole Miss ‘66 , with National President Bill Brasch,  Louisville ‘67

Foundation Vice Chairman Buzz Green, Ole Miss ‘66, with National President Bill Brasch, Louisville ‘67

Now the Vice Chairman on the Foundation Board of Trustees, Buzz has been an active member since he became a founding father of the Delta Gamma chapter. When Phi Tau arrived at Ole Miss in the fall of ’66 they were called “The Group” because the University would not give them permission to use Greek letters. “The Group” spent a year fighting to prove to University faculty that there was a need for another Fraternity on campus. They were finally successful by the end of the academic year, when they were given permission to call themselves a Greek organization. It took another year from there to charter, which they did in the spring semester of 1969. 

As a colony, Delta Gamma purchased a chapter house they paid off in just 7 years. Buzz details some of the cost cutting measures they took to do this - the house would charge for 20 meals a week, he explains, but they would only get nine, and that ninth one would just be a peanut butter sandwich. They also did not have a big budget for social events. They wanted to have an open party - a big part of the Ole Miss social scene - but they did not have the funds to go all in. Instead, they hired a local high school band director. Expecting him to show up with a quartet, he brought a 35 member band and the party was a success. 

Founding members of the Delta Gamma chapter

Founding members of the Delta Gamma chapter

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Today, our Ole Miss chapter is 92 men strong. These undergraduates rallied together, with the help of their house mother, to put together a weekend-long celebration. It began on Friday with a reception at the Delta Gamma house, a newer one purchased in 1984. Phi Tau members and their guests were able to tour the property and see the way it has changed over the years. Saturday during the day the group met to discuss the future of the fraternity with the alumni. 

Saturday evening was the gala at the Oxford, MS, country club. There were 525 guests in attendance - when I expressed surprise at such high attendance, Buzz grins and says, “We’re loyal Phi Taus.” In addition to a band and food, there was a silent auction to raise money for a new deck on the chapter house. They auctioned off signed baseballs and jerseys, as well as Ole Miss items. One of the alumni in attendance agreed to match all donations up to $100,000, which he did. Several alumni received recognition awards, including a Phi award to Gary Thrash, Ole Miss ’69. 

One of the most special gifts of the night were several framed hand-painted photos of that original house, the one the founding fathers fought so hard to buy and pay off. Buzz, among several other people, received one of these special paintings. 

Buzz spoke about the history of the chapter at the reception, relaying the same stories he told me the following week. “I remember feeling so proud the day we put up the letters on that house,” Buzz recounts. “I just thought, ‘Wow, it’s happened.’” 

Congratulations to the Delta Gamma chapter for such a huge accomplishment! 

Beta Beta Undergraduate Receives "My Brother's Keeper" Award

Lilly Steger

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Houston Ray, Louisville '17, received the FSL "My Brother's Keeper" award for preforming CPR on a brother who had gone into cardiac arrest, due to a previously existing condition. A representative from the Beta Beta chapter said about the ordeal:

"The experience was terrifying to say the least. Brother Houston reacted in less than 30 seconds to begin CPR on Brother Jacob. There was around 35 brothers at the house that night when it happened and we all went to the hospital afterwards and stayed for around 8 hours until we knew he was stable. The doctors kept him in a medically induced coma for 48 hours, and he made a full recovery." 
#GoFar

Alumni Gather in Washington DC

Lilly Steger

The Lyndon B. Johnson room in the Capitol building where Phi Tau’s gather is not large but it’s ornate; from floor to ceiling the room is decorated in crimson, golds, and furnished with paintings, a towering glass mirror, and a golden chandelier. The idea to hold an alumni reception in collaboration with the following day’s National Council meeting had been decided a month earlier when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Louisville ’61, had suggested that a Phi Tau reception could be hosted in the Capitol building. It was a great opportunity to have an early Founders Day celebration and on March 13th, local alumni made their way to Washington to celebrate in one of the most iconic buildings of the city.

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There were over 90 guests in attendance from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and other surrounding states. Besides the location, one of the great allures of the event was the attendance of four Phi Tau Hall of Fame members, all of whom work in Washington, D.C. We were joined first by Leader Mitch McConnell, fresh off a vote on the Senate floor. He spoke to the crowd of guests about the current political atmosphere, drew a few laughs, then declared “I’m proud to be a Phi Tau.

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After Leader McConnell finished, CEO Tim Hudson, Truman ’97, National President Bill Brasch, Louisville ’67, and I travel back to McConnell’s office. Nearly everything in the Capitol is red, gold, or deep brown and McConnell’s office is no exception; it’s a beautiful room with old oak flooring and a large white stone fireplace that is the Leaders choice for a photo backdrop. On the wall there are portraits of Teddy Roosevelt, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush.

We were joined by Mississippi 1st District Representative Trent Kelly, Ole Miss ’87. Before being elected to the House of Representatives in 2015, Trent Kelly worked as a private lawyer for nearly a decade before becoming a city prosecutor. Following that, he was elected district attorney in 2011. Prior to his tenure as a lawyer, Representative Kelly had an extensive career in the Army Reserves which began during his undergraduate days. In the 1990s, he served as a Major during both Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield. He was promoted to Brigadier General in 2018, a position he still holds.

Also joining us was Brigadier General Terry Williams, UCLA ’87, another Phi Tau with an outstanding military career. After officer training through the Platoon Leaders Course, General Williams became a Combat Engineer at Camp Lejeune and deployed to Okinawa with the Third Marine Division, where he did a number of deployments around southwest Asia. For his second enlistment, General Williams served at MCRD San Diego where he was a Series Officer, commanding a platoon of Drill Instructors. He went on to be commanding General of MCRD Parris Island where he was simultaneously Eastern Recruiting Regions Commanding General before deploying to Afghanistan for a year. Now, he is the Director of Strategy and Plans Division at the Pentagon in Washington.

From left to right: CEO Tim Hudson, General Terry Williams, Leader Mitch McConnell, Representative Trent Kelly, and National President Bill Brasch

From left to right: CEO Tim Hudson, General Terry Williams, Leader Mitch McConnell, Representative Trent Kelly, and National President Bill Brasch

Representative Kelly was inducted into the Phi Kappa Tau Hall of Fame 2018 class in Cleveland and General Williams was inducted into the 2016 class in Sacramento. In Leader McConnell’s office - a 2006 inductee himself  -  they were presented with their Hall of Fame plaques.

Senator John Barrasso, Rensselaer ’71, from Wyoming joined us at the end of the night to receive the Borradaile Alumnus Award for excellence in his chosen field of endeavor. Senator Barrasso, a physician by trade, attended Georgetown Medical School and completed his residency at Yale. After finishing his residency in 1983, Barrasso moved to Wyoming where he would eventually become the Chief of Staff at the Wyoming Medical Center and State President of the Wyoming Medical Society. In 2002 he was elected to the Wyoming Senate. He was appointed to the United States Senate in 2007 and has served since. He was admitted to the Phi Tau Hall of Fame in 2008.

Senator Barrasso being presented the Borradaile Alumnus Award

Senator Barrasso being presented the Borradaile Alumnus Award

You can read more about Leader McConnell, General Williams, and Representative Kelly’s exemplary careers and relationship to Phi Tau in the upcoming edition of The Laurel, where they have been featured, expected to hit mailboxes in April. You can opt-in to receive The Laurel here.

The following day members of the National Council gathered for their spring 2019 meeting in downtown DC. Thank you to all of our members and their guest who attended to make it a memorable night!

View photos of the event here.  

Undergraduate Advisory Board Seeking Applicants

The Undergraduate Advisory Board (UAB) is a group of ten undergraduate brothers from chapters around the country who serve as the voice of all undergraduates to the National Council. Our members have direct access to the fraternity’s leadership and provide input, feedback, and ideas that impact the policy and decision-making from our elected National Councilors and Executive Offices.

A new function the UAB is developing has to do with fostering a chapter-to-chapter communication network for the sharing of useful information pertaining to recruitment, scholarship, and other best practices. Our greatest asset as a fraternity is the wealth of knowledge that our different chapters have and the UAB is looking to help share that knowledge on a peer-to-peer level.

The UAB is currently looking to fill 5 positions for a two-year term and 1 position for an interim one-year term. The selection process will be finalized and winners announced at Conclave this summer. The application is quick and easy, just looking to find out more about you as a candidate and why you are interested.

Application Deadline: Monday, July 1st, 2019

Click Here to Apply

Please reach out to the brothers below or the Executive Offices for more information:

Jonathan Zimmerman, President: zimmerman.jonathana@gmail.com

Ryan Lester, Vice President: rtlester@mtu.edu

The Accurate History of the Founding of Phi Kappa Tau

Lilly Steger

It’s true the founding of Phi Tau did happen on March 17th, 1906. And it’s true that the dorm rooms were inhospitably cold. 

But there’s much more to it than that. 

William H. Shideler had been visiting his family in nearby Hamilton, OH, during spring break of 1906. He went back to campus a day early to hang out with his friend Dwight I. Douglass, a senior who didn’t want to make the trip home to Illinois. They wanted to talk about the idea for a non-fraternity association, one they had been trying to organize with two sophomore friends, Taylor A. Borradaile and Clinton D. Boyd. They went wandering off to the Old Main Building, which was only a few yards away from the North Dorm rooms. 

The only room they could find unlocked in Old Main was the office of Dean Hepburn. “This was unlocked, so we entered and took possession,” Douglass said about the occasion. Douglass took a seat at the dean’s office chair and, while digging through the desk for a bit of scrap paper, uncovered a case of cigars. Douglass helped himself to one, lit it, kicked his legs up on the desk, and said to Shideler, “Well, Doc, let’s see what you have.” As they were in the midst of discussing their plans, cigar smoke pouring out under the door, Dean Hepburn walked back in. 

“He really could have made an issue of the affair, but he was a good old sport in addition to being a fine gentleman of the old school and at almost the age of eighty he still had an understanding an an appreciation of student’s problems,” Shideler recounted.

Dean Hepburn listened to Shideler and Douglass and, after hearing about their predicament, gave him his blessing. “Well boys,” Shideler recalls him having said, “I wish you all the success in the world!” 

The events that led up to this break in had been cumulating for some time. In the late 1800s, three other fraternities dominated Miami’s athletic teams, politics, and social life. By March 1905, the atmosphere was so toxic it was nearly impossible to participate in anything without admittance to one of the groups. March 5th of that year was the annual track meet, one that would become a catalyst for Phi Tau’s founding. Shideler and Douglass, coaches of the unaffiliated track team, were pushed out of any placing by other fraternities who had teamed up to dominate the competition. The fraternities that had collaborated to win took home the trials, the semi-finals, and the finals, and “nosed out” all the non-fraternity men. 

The track meet was actually not the first imputes towards organizing a non-fraternity group. In fall of 1905 Boyd and Shideler had organized two political groups on campus to give non-fraternity students a voice in the fall elections. Douglass and Borradaile lead the other. 

This led to moderate success - they were able to elect Ernest B. Southwick (a fraternity man but not part of the key “ring” on campus) as president and Boyd as vice president of the sophomore class. The second “test” against the fraternity men was the annual track meet again, where after bitter competition Boyd was able to win a gold medal - justice for the previous year’s bitter loss. 

Borradaile actually cites the the on-campus politics as the root cause for creating Phi Tau, rather than the track meet. He recalled Miami’s president as having called a meeting to work out the differences between the fraternity and non-fraternity men on campus. But when Borradaile and Douglass attended as representatives, they were told that without an organization behind them, they really did not represent anyone. 

Regardless of which drew more action from these young men, on March 17th, 1906, twenty one men climbed the steps of Old Main Building. Douglass made introductory remarks, then Clinton, Boyd, and Borradaile spoke to the assembly about the need for a permanent, non-fraternity organization to represent their needs on campus. They settled on the name “Non-Fraternity Association,” Douglass agreed to craft a constitution, and Borradaile was elected president for the upcoming year - and the rest is history. 

All of this information comes from Charles T. Ball’s, Miami ’82, book Old Main New Century. If you are interested in reading this book please contact Charlie at cball@phikappatau.org. 

Bethany Graduate Council Throws 95th Anniversary Party

Lilly Steger

The Phi chapter’s graduate council is one we have highlighted before for its exceptional organization and manpower. Years ago, Don Dallas, Bethany ’29, and Dick Mees, Bethany ’48, launched the Harvard Red and Old Gold Club, an educational endowment designed to help Phi Tau brothers. Phi alumni have also kept a detailed chapter directory, mailing lists, and host annual homecoming and fundraising events to keep the chapter engaged. Recently this dedicated group rallied together to host a milestone anniversary, one that will only be topped in five year’s time.

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Last October, alumni of the Phi chapter rallied together to collaborate their chapter’s 95th. “We weren’t sure how many would show up, since it was an odd year,” Tim Smith, Bethany ’75, said over the phone, “Our goal was 95 guests for 95 years and we got over 100.” From Friday, October 26th to Sunday, October 28th, Phi alumni gathered in Wheeling, West Virginia, some thirty minutes from Bethany College to celebrate their chapter’s legacy.

Attendees at the open Graduate Council meeting

Attendees at the open Graduate Council meeting

An event nearly a year in the making, it was decided October 2017 to host an event for the 95th. However due to some scheduling conflicts with Bethany, it had to be held at a hotel rather than on campus. Because it was held at a hotel and rooms had to be covered, organizers developed a “sponsorship” system where alumni could chip in during their own registration process to offset the costs for undergraduates. This system raised over $3,000 and all members of the Residents Council were able to attend.

Decor at the Saturday night banquet

Decor at the Saturday night banquet

The event kicked off on Friday night with a “Luau” party - a long standing tradition of the Phi chapter. This was held at the hotel and, despite some rain that canceled plans for a cookout and tiki torches - was huge success with many guests, good food, and custom anniversary Hawaiian shirts. Saturday Brothers and their guests took a tour of the Bethany campus as well as the Phi house, one they have had since 1983. They also had a Graduate Council meeting, open to all attendees, where they “passed the gavel” so all everyone could speak about whatever they wanted. That evening the Harvard Red and Old Gold Club sponsored a reception with speeches, a performance by the Warblers, and distribution of several chapter awards. Every brother that attended also received a new Phi Tau membership card. The event closed with a candlelight ceremony and singing the brotherhood banquet.

A performance from the warblers

A performance from the warblers

The Phi chapter will be celebrating their centennial in 2023 and preparations for the event will begin at least a year in advance. Congratulations to the Phi chapter on the milestone! #GoFar

If you are interested in hosting an event like this you can reach out to your Domain Director.

John Sayers,  Bethany ‘78 , at the luau party

John Sayers, Bethany ‘78, at the luau party

16 Chapters to Compete in Service Showdown

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It’s Time for a showdown

16 chapters. 1 winner.

This March, 16 chapters have been chosen to compete in the first ever “Service Showdown”. Taking a note from NCAA’s March Madness chapters will compete weekly in a bracketed competition to see who can have the highest average of service hours per man. Each week the brothers will showdown, and the results will be updated weekly with the first round of elimination being announced on March 8th and the final winner will be announced on April 1st.

Download the bracket here. Share it online #serviceshowdown.

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Phi Kappa Tau Introduces Good Samaritan Policy

This past year, one of the Phi Kappa Tau’s largest focus areas has been on increasing prevention efforts and education.  Phi Kappa Tau has always strived to be a leader in educating its members on safety, wellness, and prevention efforts to ensure a positive and safe fraternity experience for its members and guests.  
 
On December 11, 2018, the Phi Kappa Tau National Council, officially adopted a Good Samaritan Policy joining their peer North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) men’s fraternities.  The policy has two components; both addressing individual members and guests as well as the chapter/colony itself. 
 
You can view the organization’s Good Samaritan policies on our website or by clicking here

Questions about this policy should be directed to the Executive Offices by calling (800) PKT-1906 or by sending us a message

Welcome Back to the Chi Chapter

Lilly Steger

Video by Logan Lukacs

On February 9th, approximately sixty alumni, representing ten chapters, and five Executive Office staff members gathered at the Hyatt Regency in Raleigh, North Carolina, to recharter the Chi chapter. From 8am Saturday morning until late that afternoon, Phi Taus took over 4 meeting rooms at the Hyatt to initiate 53 new members (8 new members of Chi chapter would be initiated later). 

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Following the initiation ceremony was an alumni reception, where National President Bill Brasch, Louisville ’67, gave a history of the charter and CEO Tim Hudson, Truman ’97, stood to read the charter, then facilitate the signing. Finally, Lanny Carruthers, Auburn ’98, spoke on behalf of new National Councilor Bob Ragsdale, Georgia ’66, and the Beta Xi chapter, offering kind words and advice to Chi chapter. 

A key component in any chartering, alumni volunteers should be especially proud of their role in the re-chartering of the Chi chapter. They helped run initiation rooms, facilitate the chartering, and bring life back into a chapter that has been closed. Undergraduates also participated - Phi Taus from Old Dominion’s Gamma Tau chapter made the three and a half hour drive from Norfolk, VA, to Raleigh to help initiate Chi members. Gamma Tau took care of nearly a quarter of total initiations, virtually running their own initiation room, and coming full circle from when Chi chapter helped Gamma Tau at its initial chartering in the 1960s. Members fro University of South Carolina’s Zeta Xi chapter helped with initiations as well. 

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The new initiates were full of enthusiasm for what they had gathered to do as well. Among the new member class was father and son duo, Ethan, North Carolina State ’19, and Ken Bunn, North Carolina State ’87. Ken was able to initiate his son into Phi Tau nearly 20 years after his own initiation. “Everybody says I’m exactly like my dad, so I was trying to distance myself from that,” Ethan explained. “He didn’t push me at all, but I went to a rush event at the house and immediately fell in love with the guys.” When he called his dad to tell him, Ken was secretly thrilled. “I gave him the dad talk - make sure you’re looking at all the right things, here’s the pros, here’s the cons, all the while I’m turning to my wife giving her a fist bump.” 

Ethan’s association with the Chi chapter gave him a new reason to get involved. “With all the years without Chi, I had move away from it and just lost touch with the chapter as a whole. I still have a core group, but this is just a great opportunity to pull us back in. When I found out he was interested, it made it even better; it was even more of a catalyst for me to come back and pull all the other guys with me.” 

Thank you to all of our alumni who helped make this chartering a success. We look forward to lots of success for Chi chapter! 

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Phi Tau’s next chartering will be held on March 9th, at Columbus State University in Georgia. If you are interested in volunteering contact Brandon Lewis at blewis@phikappatau.org