Arts & Culture / Greek Life / Mosaic / November 9, 2011

A storied tradition lives on at Knox

The history of Greek organizations at Knox has been a long and mysterious one, spanning from 1855 with the founding of Beta Theta Pi in secret to the present. These are just a few profiles of active and inactive Greek organizations on campus.

Note: Due to the timeline of 1888 to 1940, the newer Greek organizations Alpha Phi Omega, Alpha Sigma Alpha, Kappa Kappa Gamma and Sigma Chi will be featured in the next installation of Greek history.


Pi Beta Phi

While almost all fraternities and sororities only have one chapter, Pi Beta Phi is the exception within Pi Beta Phi. “In 1872, Illinois Beta of Pi Beta Phi was enrolled at Lombard College and in 1884, Illinois Delta, at Knox. Then, when Lombard merged with Knox, the two chapters united to become what is at present known as Illinois Beta-Delta,” according to the 1937 Gale. At the time, “50 girls wear the golden arrow, making Pi Beta Phi the largest Greek letter organization in school” and continued to have a large amount of members for years to come.

Delta Delta Delta

Tri Delta was the second sorority at Knox after Pi Phi and was known as Kappa Beta Theta before coming Tri Delta. The first initiation of Tri Delta was held at the Phi Gamma Delta Hall on Thanksgiving Eve — exactly one year after the founding of the national sorority. In 1893, Knox’s Epsilon chapter held the first National convention of Delta Delta Delta.

Delta Delta Delta’s most famous aluma is Janet Greig Post, whom Post Hall is named after. “She has earned herself a place in the hearts of Knox alumni, faculty and student body alike for her untiring efforts toward the restoration of Old Main,” according to the 1937 Gale.

Sigma Alpha Iota

Sigma Alpha Iota began in 1923 after 15 girls on campus became interested in S.A.I. and formed the club “Emanon” — or “no name” spelled backwards. According to the 1940 Gale, the ladies of S.A.I. used to perform at Beecher Chapel, which Knox students occupied frequently. “The musical misses of S.A.I., one fine evening in March, the 21st to be exact, held their annual Formal Musicale in Beecher Chapel.”

Of the sororities, S.A.I. used to have one of the most “strenuous” practices for new pledges. “Pledges were checked on church attendance and had to obey sponsors. Approval of all dates was necessary and even then only two dates a week were allowed. No classes or practices could be cut and orders were given to improve their manners,” says the 1937 Gale.

Beta Theta Pi

According to the 1937 Gale, the date of Beta’s founding in 1855 “marks the founding of the first chapter of any national fraternity in the state of Illinois.” After being inactive for a number of years, in 1887, a new fraternity called Omnicron Eta Pi was created for the express purpose of reissuing the charter for Beta. After obtaining charter for Alpha Xi, the fraternity petitioned for the re-designation of Xi and won.

Times of war were hard on fraternities like Beta. During World War I, many members of the five fraternities at the time were noted as “In Service” with the most being from Beta: nine out of 23 members “In Service.”

Like many of the Greek organizations, Beta Theta Pi had a yell, which went: “Phi! Kai! Phi! / Beta Theta Pi! / W-O-O-G-L-I-N! / Wooglin! Wooglin!” There are few mentions of the word “Wooglin” in the Gales but in the 1911 Gale, in a section titled “Queries” and under the words, “There are some things that we have never been able to find out. We may never know,” is a question “Why The Knox Student is sometimes called ‘The Wooglin.’”

One of Beta’s most famous alumni is “the late George Fitch, author of the ‘Siwash Stories’ from which Knox,” used to derive its name from.

Phi Gamma Delta

Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji) continued to grow from its founding in 1867 to 1872 but after 1875, “for some unknown reason, the chapter ceased to exist.” Fiji at Knox was extinct from 1879 to 1885.

In 1885, a group of eight formed a society and petitioned Phi Gamma Delta to regrant the charter of Gamma Deuteron and won.

The Phi Gamma Delta chapter house moved around almost every year from 1902-1908. For many years the house for Fiji was located on 446 North Cedar Street, which was once the street Beta house was located. In 1921, the Gamma Deuteron Chapter moved into its current house on the southwest corner of Cedar and Tompkins Streets.

Silas Willard, for whom a Galesburg elementary school is named, is listed as junior Fiji in The Gale of 1911.

Tau Kappa Epsilon

After receiving its charter in 1912, TKE became the Delta chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon. It continued to grow until according to the 1940 Gale, TKE members made up “a good proportion of the Greeks on campus.”

TKE used to keep a private library where a new volume was added every week and purchased with a contribution by its members. Its members participated in different aspects of Knox campus life with the 1937 Gale stating, “Tekes are participating actively in journalism, the theatre, the student council, the R.O.T.C. and athletics.”

Like many fraternities, TKE had their fair share of theme parties. “Their fall party, as always, was cleverly based on the Speakeasy theme. Punch was served in whiskey bottles with labels which numerated the order of dances,” according to the 1938 Gale.

Sigma Nu

Sigma Nu (SNu) Fraternity has military beginnings as it was founded in 1869 at the Virginia Military Institute. Known to members within the fraternity as “the Legion of Honor,” the Sigma Nu chapter Delta Theta was granted a charter and installed at Lombard College in 1892. When Lombard College ceased operation in 1930, Delta Theta petitioned for Knox College for permission to move to Knox because many of its members from Lombard attended Knox.

The fraternity’s members used to be characterized as being able to “take the lead in preventing anything which may tend to create a class distinction. Sigma Nu inculcates a spirit of equality” in the 1937 Gale.

From the 1938 Gale, Sigma Nus hosted an “annual Kid Party when the toughest football players in the house and the most dignified Phi Bete in the chapter put on knee-pants and Eton jackets and take their best girls to a Lollipop House Party. Versatility, you see, is a prominent asset in the Sigma Nus.”


Phi Delta Theta

The Delta-Zeta Chapter of Phi Delta Theta was established in 1871.

Before being suspended in 2004, Phi Delta Theta has experienced periods which threatened its existence. The first initiation of the then-Ill. Delta chapter of Phi Delta Theta was held in the building known as the “Old Bricks.” The 1937 Gale said, “For a number of years the group continued to grow, but beginning in 1878 it found existence nearly impossible because of college opposition to fraternities. During the next six years fraternities were outlawed on the Knox campus. In 1884 fraternities were again in good standing at Knox College.”

Phi Delta Theta was one of the more popular fraternities during its years. In the 1938 Gale was a description of the Phi Delts’ annual Fall Party, “Sawdust on the floor, a bar in the dining room, heterogeneous costumes that succeeded in making “Maizies” and “Mikes” out of the most refined people in school, and a program put on by the Phikins (pledges) …”

After Lombard closed, the chapter merged with its Zeta chapter and Phi Delta Theta became Delta-Zeta chapter. Phi Delt was charged with 16 counts of hazing and alcohol violations, which resulted in it being closed and then suspended. Before its suspension, Phi Delt’s house was located at West and Brooks Street.

Honor Societies

In the 1910s, several honor societies were established, Delta Sigma Rho, a national oratorical fraternity (1911), the Delta Chapter of Illinois of Phi Beta Kappa and the national honorary fraternity for the recognition of scholarship and Sigma Delta Chi, a national journalistic fraternity (both in 1917).

The 1922 Gale, page 141, gives some surprising origins of the Friars, a name usually associated with rowdy seniors during Flunk Day: “The Friars, a local senior fraternity designed to honor the leaders in the student life and activities, was established in 1920.” Other honor societies established include: “Theta Sigma Phi, national journalistic sorority, the Mortar Board, national senior sorority with aims similar to those of the Friars, and Sigma Delta Psi, national athletic fraternity.”

Tryouts for Sigma Delta Psi were required to engage in a variety of physical activities, at its first tryout “only three men out of some 50 competitors gained admittance.”

Some of the requirements (11) at the time are listed as follows:

“1. Punt a foot ball on the fly for 40 yards.

2. Throw a base ball on the fly 250 feet.

3. Run 100 yards in 11 seconds or less.

4. Run two miles in 12 minutes, 15 seconds.

9. Hand stand for 10 seconds without moving.”

Greek Governance

The Inter-Fraternity Council was organized in 1914, with representatives from five fraternities, and later the Panhellenic Association was established in 1917 representatives from three sororities.

Sheena Leano

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