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Phi Kappa Theta Alpha Rho
Club Background


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Phi Kappa Theta represents the union of two older fraternities: Phi Kappa and Theta Kappa Phi. The two fraternities had 63 chapters between them when they joined forces to form Phi Kappa Theta on April 29, 1959, the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the original Phi Kappa Fraternity.

The uniqueness of the union lies not in the fact that two fraternal societies had pooled their membership, chapters and resources. Mergers of collegiate fraternities have occurred before, and will no doubt continue. The uniqueness lies in the very nature of the consolidation of Phi Kappa and Theta Kappa Phi. To Phi Kappa Theta's knowledge this is the first true 'union' of two Greek letter societies in the fullest sense of the word. In the Phi Kappa-Theta Kappa Phi consolidation, neither group was merged into the other. On an equal footing, both chose to be united together under a new name - Phi Kappa Theta. This name included Greek letters of both houses involved in the unification, without the necessity of either group conceding to the acceptance of the other's name and motto.

Nothing essential was lost by either group, rather, each was enriched by the traditional insignia and ritualistic work of the other. Individual chapters cherish their own designations almost as much as they do the fraternity's national name. All chapters in the unification retained their own chapter Greek letters merely by adding the name of the state in which the chapter is located to the chapter name.

Both Phi Kappa and Theta Kappa Phi were founded upon the unifying principle of a Fellowship of Faith. The two fraternities drew their members from among Catholic university students. History shows that the two fraternities had extensive interaction before the creation of Phi Kappa Theta. In 1921, Phi Kappa sought to merge with a newly formed Theta Kappa Phi. But the latter house instead joined with Kappa Theta at Penn State in 1922, when it went national for the first time. Afterward, a period of intense rivalry began between the two houses that would eventually bond to form Phi Kappa Theta, which lasted until 1938, when the first joint committee of the two fraternities met to discuss the possibility of a merger. The minutes of a Theta Kappa Phi National Council meeting in 1939 records 'cautious approaches' between the fraternities. Was the true intent 'marriage'? This is what the conventions of 1937, 1939, and 1941 tried to find out. But it was not until the Penn State Conclave of 1955 that definite authorization was given to explore union further. Finally, at Ohio State in 1957, the two fraternities approved negotiations toward a possible merger. Prior to the opening of school in the fall 1958 separate national conventions of Phi Kappa and Theta Kappa Phi took place simultaneously at Ohio State University in Columbus. On September 8 the two fraternities reached an agreement. Each national convention ratified the unification and authorized their respective national councils to implement the terms of the consolidation agreement. The next eight months were busy ones indeed: the drafting of the unified ritual, the designing of the new insignia, the consolidation of alumni supervisory boards, the planning of Charter Day celebrations, and the adoption of new procedures.

Finally on April 29, on the 70th anniversary of Phi Kappa's founding in 1889, all was ready for the nationwide celebration of Charter Day: the day in which all Theta Kap and Phi Kap chapters officially became chapters of the consolidated Phi Kappa Theta fraternity. New charters for each chapter were not issued. Transition documents, which amended the original charter, were presented. Each chapter now dates its foundation from the day it originally chartered by either of the parent fraternities of Phi Kappa Theta.

The government of the fraternity between biennial conventions was entrusted to a sixteen-man Board of Trustees. The first National President of Phi Kappa Theta, Pierre Lavedan (M.I.T., 1920), was also the last Phi Kappa National President. The first chairman of the Board, Frank Flick (Illinois, 1927), was also the last Theta Kappa Phi National President. The executive offices of Phi Kappa and Theta Kappa Phi, Frank L. Chinery and George V. Uihlein respectively, continued as Executive Vice-Presidents for Alumni and Undergraduate relations respectively. Phi Kappa's Educational Foundation and its Real Estate Holding Corporation served the consolidated Fraternity in the same capacity, but were renamed Phi Kappa Theta National Foundation and P.K.T. Properties Inc.

All fraternities find their moral foundations in Judeo-Christian ethics, and the belief in brotherhood based on love. Each and every fraternity stresses respect for this common religious heritage. Religious ideals played an important part in the formation of both Phi Kappa and Theta Kappa Phi. Both limited their membership to Catholic men, and over the years many prominent statesmen, businessmen, professional men and religious leaders have been associated with the Fraternity and have given much of themselves to it.

The 1965 convention in Hamilton, Ontario, was the first time it took place in Canada. At this meeting the Fraternity debated the restrictive clauses in its constitution that limited membership to Catholics. The assembled chapters voted to remove the restrictive Catholic clause from the constitution.

The decade of the 1970's was one of consolidation and retrenchment. Anti-establishment attitudes because of the Vietnam War, the birth of the 'Me Generation,' and the gain in popularity of marijuana and the stress it placed on the relationship within the chapters, caused fraternity membership to drop. However, it did see a revitalization of the Phi Kappa Theta Foundation. Under Greg Stein (CCNY, 1970), the Foundation started a scholarship program and began a partial funding of regional management schools as well as other national Fraternity educational programs. In the mid seventies the National Convention changed the fraternity motto from 'Loyalty to God and College' to "Give, expecting nothing thereof." (Luke 6:35)

The 1980's were a period of steady growth in the number of chapters, active alumni and chapter services. In 1985, the Fraternity relocated the National Fraternity's Executive Offices from Worchester, Massachusetts, to Indianapolis, Indiana: the Greek letter capital of the world. This move not only placed Phi Kappa Theta in the heart of the country, but also set the stage for better service to chapters and alumni groups.

In 1985 we rejoined the National Interfraternity Conference after a fourteen-year hiatus. Also, the National Leadership Conference was revived. It provided a biennial opportunity for our undergraduates and alumni leadership to come together for a weekend of education and development. With conferences in 1984, 1986, 1988, and continuing into the 1990's, the event has grown to become eagerly anticipated, and has proven to be successful at helping the Fraternity and Foundation to achieve their missions.

In the latter 1980's, the fraternity system began to focus its attention on the quality of the experience being gained by its undergraduate membership. Terms such as 'liability' became increasingly familiar. Our Fraternity made changes such as eliminating women's auxiliary groups (little sisters). It was also at this time that the fraternity eliminated the traditionally degrading term of 'pledge' and replaced it with a more respectable title of 'associate member' to describe our newest members.

The highlight of the 1980's, of course, was the celebration of Phi Kappa Theta's 100th anniversary. The Centennial Celebration actually kicked off in 1988 at the National Leadership Conference hosted by our co-founding chapter at LeHigh University. The spring of 1989 saw several successful regional celebrations, all serving as a prelude to the main event, the 1989 Centennial Convention in Providence, Rhode Island. The cornerstone of the Convention was a very special ceremony conducted in Hope Hall.

The 1990's served as a turning point for many fraternities. The decade has been marked with a declining memberships and increasing questions as to the future vitality of fraternities. Perhaps most significant is the fashion in which all fraternities are bonding together for the sake of the Greek system as a whole.

The leadership of the Fraternity has boldly accepted the challenges that lie ahead for Phi Kappa Theta and our peers. The concept of fraternity is, indeed, still needed today and Phi Kappa Theta is prepared to answer that call. It is hard to know exactly what James Gillrain and August Concilio envisioned for Phi Kappa and Theta Kappa Phi. However, one thing is for certain: they appreciated that this Fraternity would be far more than simply a four-year institution merely intended to pass the time during one's collegiate days. They knew they were making a commitment that would bond them for the rest of their lives. We owe it to them and to the Phi Kaps to come 100 years from now, to keep the vision alive and the Fraternity honored.