Pre-Theta Gamma Era
During the summer of l9ll, Messrs. Clark and Squires (Canton land owners) obtained the names of the prospective students for the School of Agriculture (S.O.A.) at St. Lawrence University and sent them literature on a boarding house which they called Harrison Lodge at 49 Judson St. Where board and room could be had at $4.50 per week. When school opened only l0 boys had responded, some of whom left and more new ones took their places. At Christmas vacation l9ll there were 12 boys living in Harrison Lodge.
The Rise of Theta Gamma
Harrison up until that time had enjoyed a varied career and a very bad reputation, because it had no governing body to keep the boys under control. One night Charles J. Dumas, Mark Duntz Jr., John F. Banker and Frederick H. Hanker were seated in Hanker’s room when Dumas delivered a little lecture. He said people were talking about the lodge and that they ought to form a fraternity and turn over a new leaf. So after Christmas vacation, Charles Dumas called the rest of the fellows together, which included William O’Niel, Ira F. Wicks, Roy D. Bonney, William O’Donnell, Paul Haaren, Roswell B. Conger, Martin T. Bunk and Webster Harris to see if they could form some kind of a Fraternity so as to improve the living condition and reputation of Harrison Lodge. The idea was received with favor and they formed an organization which they called Delta Delta, meaning “Dirty Dozen”, having a safety pin for an emblem, and they elected Dumas, President and Duntz, Vice President.
The Early Years
They then began looking for more members so that they could fill the house to its capacity with men of their own choosing. They selected nine from the class of l9l3, who were initiated for a fee of one dollar in the following order: Carl G. Kendrick, Harry F. Dessoir, Ray B. Powell, Chas. F. Formoso, John D. Searles, Edward Mc Donald, Harry I. Burch, Roswell P. Battie, Lester C. Thompson and Harold A. Byam. They began the work of building a fraternity which was to be known as Theta Gamma.
In the spring of l9l2, the very alarming news reached Dean Cook that there had been a fraternity started at Harrison Lodge, and being a man from the old school he decided the lodge was plenty bad enough without any upstart of a fraternity. So the Brothers were informed that they must disband, but asked for a hearing before all the faculty.The hearing was held at the fraternity house and the advantages of a fraternity at the State School of Agriculture were very ably presented by Dumas and Duntz. When the Brothers called on each member of the faculty to give their opinion on the matter, all of them were against the idea. But Dr. James Milford Payson and Professor Bennich, believed that the boys should be given a chance to prove the worth of the Fraternity, and convinced the others likewise. So Theta Gamma is really indebted to those two men for its existence.
In the fall of l9l2 new arrangements were made with the owners of the house and it became known as The Theta Gamma House. It was run as orderly as any fraternity house could be. They initiated ten men from the class of l9l4 at which time the initiation fee was raised to ten dollars.
On May 24, 1914, Charles McCune Heissenbuttel class of 1916 presented the “Theta Gamma Anthem” and “The Black and Gold” at a regular meeting of the fraternity. These inspirational songs have been sung by many TG’s down through the years.
Theta Gamma Expansion
In three short years, Theta Gamma won such a good reputation and became thoroughly established that in 1915 the idea of expansion was considered. After much planning and corresponding, it was decided to establish a new chapter at Morrisville. Thus on April 24, 1915, the Beta Chapter of Theta Gamma was installed by a degree team composed of Alpha men. Founding members were: Cunningham, Banner, Carlstedt, Heffernan, Chase and S. Moon with Dean Heyler an Honorary member and advisor. The Beta Chapter lived in their own house until 1925 when the men moved into a new dormitory.
On November 1, 1915, Dr. James Milford Payson and Dean Herbert Ellis Cook were elected the first Honorary members of the Alpha Chapter. Dr. Payson remained with the fraternity as a strong member and advisor until his death on October 27, 1941. He will always be remembered as an excellent speaker and motivator in the work of Theta Gamma.
Governing Body Emerges – The Grand Council
The three days ending January 18, 1916 will long be remembered as a marker in the formation of a new epoch in the history of this order. At a convention of all the Brotherhood in Canton, the very essence of all for which the we stand was brought forth in the formation of the Grand Council of Theta Gamma. Brother Dumas was again there, continuing in the fraternity. In the same old masterful way that characterized his earlier work in the society, he took hold and drew the very best out of every man present. The Grand Council was founded to oversee expansion and to govern the local chapters. It was manned by elected brothers following their active chapter work.
On March 17, 1920, a degree team from the Alpha chapter traveled to Alfred to install the Gamma Chapter. Sixteen Men were initiated. The Delta Chapter of Theta Gamma (Delhi) was installed by a degree team from the Beta Chapter on November 23, 1920. Ten new Brothers were added with the start of this chapter. Three years later a degree team from the Delta Chapter established a Chapter at Cobleskill named Epsilon.
The pre World War II expansion ended with a degree team from the Grand Council traveling to Farmingdale to install the Zeta Chapter. Zeta was an outgrowth of a local fraternity named Phi Alpha Tau, “PAT”, being very similar to the original “Dirty Dozen” at Canton. Zeta struggled during it’s existence; being suspended by Farmingdale in 1935, returning in 1938, almost having it’s Charter revoked by the Grand Council in 1939-40 and never reappearing after the War. Delta and Epsilon were the only Chapters to continue active work during the War.
After the War the requirement of the Agricultural focus was lifted by the Grand Council and three Chapters came aboard. Phi Chapter at the New York State School of Applied Arts and Sciences in Buffalo was founded on February 1, 1950. Theta Chapter was founded at the New York State Institute of Applied Arts and Sciences at Utica in February 19, 1952. This organization was originally the Phalanx fraternity. This chapter lived a short life, for in 1956 the Grand Council pulled its charter for “not living up to the high standards of Theta Gamma.” Finally the Sigma Chapter of Theta Gamma was installed at R.I.T. on September 27, 1952. This chapter was originally Phi Sigma Phi. Sigma left the Grand Council on January 11, 1960 and continues today as a chapter of Phi Sigma Kappa international. They still teach of our founding and early history in their pledge period.
Fall of the Grand Council
In 1953 Theta Gamma suffered a near fatal blow. The State University of New York ordered all fraternities at its institutions to sever connections with their national organizations. Our five original chapters (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon) had to separate from the Grand Council leaving the three newest chapters (Phi, Theta and Sigma) to continue in the council work.
Three more chapters, of which little is known, were then organized. Xi at Hudson Valley Community College/Troy Community College was organized in December of 1960. Lambda at Ft. Lauderdale University in 1967 and Tau at Tompkins-Cortland Community College in 1974.
The Grand Council ceased to exist sometime in the early sixties, with an attempt at re-organization in 1974-75. At this time there were eight unaffiliated chapters still “alive” (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Phi, Xi and Lambda) however the State University of New York’s ban on national affiliation was still in effect.
In the fall of 1986, four Theta Gamma Alumni were enrolled at State University of New York College of Arts and Sciences at Plattsburgh. Three of these four, Patrick Boire (F84), Daniel Barcomb (F83), and Rafael Gulliermo Rivera III (F84) were Alpha Brothers, while the fourth, Ryerson Anthony Newhall Mausert III (F84) was a Gamma Brother. These four brothers had a desire to expand Theta Gamma further and install a chapter at Plattsburgh. When a plan was made for the establishment of the Nu Chapter of Theta Gamma the four brothers approached the Greek Council at Plattsburgh and received recognition on December 10, 1986.
Revival of the Grand Council
With this new growth revitalizing old Theta Gamma, (Alpha & Gamma) it wasn’t long when the talk of Grand Council re-birth was heard. (The State University of New York ban had been lifted in 1978) The problem facing the actives was not knowing where to start. In steps Mr. Richard Miller, Advisor to the Alpha Chapter since 1948. Mr. Miller rolled up his sleeves and went to work. The first thing that needed to be done was to obtain the Grand Council Ritual and Constitution. These were acquired from Mr. Robert Pass, the Grand Secretary and Treasurer from 1951 – 1962. Once obtained Mr. Miller, a Councilman Himself, performed the Ritualistic work. The set of Councilmen were initiated on May 13, 1989.
In the fall of 1989, two Alpha men, David Rosenfeld (S86) and Chris Hodkinson (F86) launched our fourth chapter at the State University of New York at Oneonta named Rho. After the initial planning the Chapter was founded on February 19, 1990.
The Grand Council left it’s mark on Theta Gamma’s History by having it’s first Convention in nearly 28 years. The four Chapters were pulled together on June 8 – 10, 1990, into a single bond with the election of the following Grand Council Officers:
Grand Council Officers, 1990
|Ray Spears||Alpha||Grand Exalted Master|
|Turner Hahn||Gamma||Vice Grand Exalted Master|
|Kevin Fear||Alpha||Grand Secretary/Treasurer|
|John Edwards||Alpha||Grand Chaplin|
|Bill Goodwin||Alpha||Grand Alumni Secretary|
|David M. Gerlach||Alpha||Grand Historian|
|Patrick Boire||Alpha/Nu||Grand Editor|
|Richard Miller||Alpha||Grand Advisor|
Fifty-five Councilmen/Brothers from the four active chapters attended the three day meeting. The feeling of brotherhood was very strong. The issues of reorganization were ably discussed and debated with the spirit of cooperation being very high.
The Alpha brothers dedicated a stepping stone, much like the Payson stone, to Mr. Richard Miller, on the second night of the convention. It was placed next to the Payson stone. This was done not only to say thanks for the many years of service, but to forever remind the future pledges about another cornerstone of the chapter.