History.

  • The college fraternity community is as old as the republic it serves: it was in 1776 that the first secret Greek letter society came into existence. It was the custom for students at the College of William and Mary to gather in the Apollo Room of Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg, Va., to discuss the affairs of the day. On the night of Dec. 5, 1776, five close companions stayed after others had left. When they finally arose to go, Phi Beta Kappa had been born. A secret motto, grip, badge and a ritual were later adopted. Fraternity, morality and literature were symbolized by stars on the silver membership medal.

 
  • At the end of the first half-century of existence, Phi Beta Kappa had evolved into an honor society based on scholarship and achievement.

    Kappa Alpha Society, established at Union College in Schenectady, New York, in 1825, is recognized as the oldest non-scholastic fraternity still in existence. In 1827, Sigma Phi and Delta Phi were founded at the same institution, joining Kappa Alpha Society as the Union Triad.

    Three other men’s fraternities were founded at Union College, 1833-47. Psi Upsilon, Chi Psi and Theta Delta Chi provided the basis to name Union College the “Mother of Fraternities.”

 
  • Fraternities began to spread throughout the east, and from there to the Midwest. Three fraternities were founded at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio: Beta Theta Pi (1839), the first fraternity organized west of the Allegheny Mountains; Phi Delta Theta (1848) and Sigma Chi (1855.) Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity also was founded at Miami in 1906. Miami is known as “The Cradle of Fraternities.”

    Today there are in excess of 5,500 chapters of 68 North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) men’s college fraternities on some 800 campuses in North America. Five million men have been initiated, including close to 350,000 collegiate members.

    For more information about Beta Theta Pi and the Zeta Upsilon Chapter please click on the links underneath the History tab on the main menu.