Northeastern University Beta History
The Eta Zeta Chapter of Beta Theta Pi at Northeastern University was founded November 19, 2009 with the induction of a 46 man Founding Father pledge class. We immediately started to make an impact on campus from having the highest Fraternity GPA. Our presence began a shift for the Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) at Northeastern.
Within four years, Beta has become an integral player in IFC with members on the executive and judicial boards. We were also instrumental in influencing IFC to adopt its model of 365-day recruitment and have repeatedly swept first place in the annual Greek Sing competition. The Eta Zeta Chapter has also been recognized by the General Fraternity. In addition to receiving many awards, our ongoing education program has served as a spearhead for the model of a continuous membership education curriculum.
Since our inception, we have successfully educated and initiated seven new member classes with members in all areas of campus life, including athletics, service, and countless student organizations. Furthermore, Beta has expanded to not only affect FSL, but also Northeastern and the community at large. While we take immense pride in what we have accomplished and the recognition received for our efforts, it is the strong sense of brotherhood within the chapter and individual members that distinguishes us.
The Founding of Beta Theta Pi
On August 8th, 1839, Beta Theta Pi was founded at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. At this time, the college fraternal world consisted of only five secret Greek-letter fraternities spread through five states in the Northeast. A total of 135 male students and six collegiate professors made up the entire Greek body in the United States. When Beta was founded, Miami University consisted of only three main buildings including the Elliot and Stoddard dormitories, and the main academic building known as the “Old Main.” Students often gathered on Friday afternoons in the halls of “Old Main” as part of the Union Literary Society. It was there that the students critiqued essays, debated, and developed skills in public speaking. They sought to provide the members with mutual aide, the cultivation of fellowship, and promoted standards of conduct. John Reilly Knox served as President of the Union Literary Society in June of 1839 while David Linton served as the Treasurer of another society known as the Erodelphians. It wasn’t long before Knox and Linton, along with six others, would secretly meet on the third floor of “Old Main” in the halls of the Union Literary Society to form a new secret Greek-letter society known as Beta Theta Pi.
At nine o’clock on the evening of the eighth day of the eighth month of the year 1839, eight earnest young men, all students at Miami University, held the first meeting of Beta Theta Pi in the Hall of the Union Literary Society, an upper room in the old college building (known as “Old Main”). The eight founders in the order in which their names appear in the minutes were:
John Reily Knox, 1839 – Samuel Taylor Marshall, 1840 - David Linton, 1839- James George Smith, 1840- Charles Henry Hardin, 1841 -John Holt Duncan, 1840- Michael Clarkson Ryan, 1839 - Thomas Boston Gordon, 1840 “of ever honored memory”
Civil War Era
The Civil War caused the greatest crisis in the history of Beta Theta Pi. Over half of the Fraternity, now 24 chapters in existance, was in danger of dying out. The war tested the fundamental principal of the Fraternity: Brotherhood. The Civil War forced the Brothers of Beta Theta Pi to wage war upon each other. More than half of all the men in Beta were combatants, equally split between the Union and Confederate armies, with more than 300 Brothers serving on each side. During the Civil War, Beta Theta Pi had more men in uniform than any other Fraternity!
Matthew S. Quay, Washinington & Jefferson 1850, received the Medal of Honor for gallantry in action at the Battle of Fredericksburg, the first of six Betas to receive the Medal.
John Brown Gordon, Georgia 1854, became Lieutenant General in the Northern Virginian army and is credited with personally saving General Robert E. Lee’s life. He later served as a Govenor of Georgia as well as a United States Senator. (Fort Gordon, Georgia is named on his behalf!)
Founder John Holt Duncan, the first President of Beta Theta Pi, served in the Confederate Cavalry. During a raid, Duncan was wounded in the leg and had his right leg amputed as a result. The army could not transport him due to a Union surge, and left him with the family at a nearby farmhouse. The penalty for harboring Confederate soldiers was death. The Union soldiers dragged Duncan and the farmer outside and stood them against the barn and shot the farmer in full view of his family. The family pleaded to the soldiers and were able to convince them to spare Duncan’s life. He then settled in Houston and practiced law, making an adequate income. He lived by destitute means despite his salary, for Duncan donated almost every penny he earned to the poor farmers family, a true display of the Beta Spirit.
The fraternity continued to expand steadily until in 1879 a union with Alpha Sigma Chi was approved adding five new chapters at Rutgers, Cornell, Stevens, St. Lawrence and Maine. This provided the fraternity with an important presence in the East that it had previously lacked. By 1889 another union was consummated with The Mystic Seven Society adding chapters at Davidson, North Carolina and Virginia. In 1906 a significant milestone in Beta history occurred with the chartering of its first chapter in Canada. The Theta Zeta chapter at the University of Toronto was established making Beta Theta Pi an international fraternity.
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 her fraternal colleagues in the years ahead. The Beta spirit endured, grew stronger and by the end of the 20th century a renewed commitment to original Beta principles emerged with the Men of Principle initiative. The initiative was embraced by the members of Beta Theta Pi, born of necessity and nurtured by yet another evolution of young men who yearn for excellence and thrive on brotherhood.
Men of Principle
In August 1996, E.B. Wilson, St. Lawrence ’53, chairman of the board for St. Lawrence University, wrote a “Letter to the Editor” challenging Beta’s leadership to be more active in the identification of Beta’s true mission and vision, and work aggressively toward actually implementing policies and programs to achieve both. The Men of Principle initiative was established to further align Beta Theta Pi with its time-proven principles and obligations. In February 1997, the Board of Trustees appointed the Strategic Vision Steering Committee, 25 men and women, including collegians, to study the issues in the Greek community and chart a course for the future.?After 10 months of intense work by the dedicated committee members, the Men of Principle initiative was born. Guided by the Fraternity’s principles and obligations, the committee developed a mission and vision, focusing collegians and alumni on Beta’s original purpose. The committee also identified nine goals, which serve as guideposts for chapter programming. These collectively emerged as the Men of Principle initiative.
A Higher Commitment: The Men of Principle initiative is a commitment to the vision of our founders. A chapter that chooses to partner is making a public statement to pursue the Mission, Vision and Goals of The Initiative. Further, these chapters have committed to positive pledge education, alcohol-free recruitment and the promotion of the principles and obligations contained in the Ritual of Beta Theta Pi. It is a commitment to being who we say we are.
A Partnership: The Men of Principle initiative is an equal partnership between the undergraduate chapter, advisory team and the Fraternity’s staff/volunteer leadership. This partnership is grounded in self-governance and the principles of Beta Theta Pi to ensure long-term chapter success. From the outset, the Fraternity determined that the Initiative would never be used as a punitive measure. The Men of Principle initiative is not mandatory for chapters; chapters choose to partner. At least 80 percent of a chapter’s membership must agree to partner, along with 100 percent of the chapter’s five person advisory team.
An Influx of Resources: Adding form to the Mission, Vision and Goals of the Men of Principle initiative is an ever-evolving group of supporting programs within the Fraternity. These programs assist the chapter in living the Mission and seeking the Vision. The Fraternity works tirelessly to ensure that there is no division among its chapters. All chapters have access to the supporting programs. Partnered chapters are simply indicating an interest in increasing their support and involvement.
A Framework For Success: Men of Principle is not a cookie-cutter approach; it is not a manual to follow. It is a framework that facilitates complete ownership of the Mission, Vision and Goals. In essence, the higher commitment, partnership and supporting programs create a framework for success year after year.