April 10, 1856|
|Motto||"An Assisting Hand"|
|Chapters||237 (161 active, 6 colonies)|
865 W. Carmel Drive|
Theta Chi (ΘΧ) is an international college fraternity. It was founded on April 10, 1856 at Norwich University in Norwich, Vermont, and is a member of the North-American Interfraternity Conference. Theta Chi has initiated more than 185,000 members and currently has over 8,000 undergraduate members across North America.
Founding and early years at Norwich
Theta Chi was founded on April 10, 1856, at Norwich University in Norwich, Vermont, by two military cadets, Frederick Norton Freeman and Arthur Chase. A third man, Egbert Phelps, is considered to be the "assistant founder" for lending his help and advice to Freeman and Chase after transferring to Union College in 1854 (he was a member of the Chi Psi Fraternity). The first initiates after the founders were Edward Bancroft Williston and Lorenzo Potter. Theta Chi's early history is closely connected to the history of Norwich University. In 1866 a massive fire devastated the university, completely destroying the Old South Barracks, where the Fraternity had been founded. This disaster prompted the university to move from Norwich, Vermont to its present location in Northfield, Vermont. During fall quarter in 1881, Norwich University was reduced to only 12 students and Theta Chi's membership was reduced to one undergraduate member, James M. Holland. In November of that year, Phil S. Randall and Henry B. Hersey approached Holland and insisted that they be allowed to join Theta Chi; Holland agreed, thus saving the Fraternity from extinction.
With the help of brother Charles Dole, who was serving in the Vermont State Legislature, Theta Chi was formally incorporated under the laws of Vermont on November 22, 1888, and acquired its first chapter house in 1890. There were early efforts to expand Theta Chi but because of the anti-expansion sentiment among members of the Alpha Chapter it remained a single entity for 46 years until the Beta Chapter was installed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on December 13, 1902. A Grand Chapter was organized in 1908 to direct the fraternity and promote its growth. On April 14, 1942, Beta Kappa Fraternity merged with Theta Chi (with the exception of the chapter at Georgia Tech which chose to become a chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha), bringing 16 undergraduate chapters and over 6,000 undergraduate and alumnus members into the ranks. Unlike other Fraternity mergers, Beta Kappa was completely absorbed into Theta Chi with no changes to the name or Ritual. The Foundation Chapter was established in 1953 as a charity to provide educational scholarships and assistance. In 1965, the Zeta Gamma Chapter was installed at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, making Theta Chi an international fraternity.
Ideals, traditions, and symbols
The Greek motto of Theta Chi is Θηρόποσα Χείρ, which is translated as "An Assisting Hand." Theta Chi's motto was secret from the founding in 1856 until the 1930s, at which time it was made public and incorporated into the fraternity's coat of arms.
When Freeman and Chase founded Theta Chi in 1856 they very clearly spelled out the purpose of the Fraternity in the original Constitution. Article I stated that the objects of Theta Chi were to "bind by closer bonds the members to each other and the mutual assistance of each of its members;" "the advancement and carrying out of any measures at the institution in which it shall be established which shall be of importance to its members," and "the mutual benefit and improvement of all its members." The fraternity continues to guard certain secrets about membership.
The Fraternity's maxim is "Alma Mater First and Theta Chi for Alma Mater," and refers to one of the founding ideals of the Fraternity: loyalty to one's college or university over the course of one's lifetime.
The Fraternity's colors are military red and white. Its flower is the red carnation. The national alumni publication is The Rattle, named for the rattlesnake that appears on the Fraternity's coat of arms and badge. It has become a Theta Chi tradition to celebrate Founders Day on April 10, usually as an alumni gathering.
Sometimes mistakenly called the crest, the Fraternity Coat of Arms consists of a gold shield with a red bend containing two downward pointing swords and a knotted rattlesnake, surmounting a scroll bearing the date of the Fraternity's founding and the motto in Greek. An esquire's helmet sits on top, on which stands a gold eagle. The true meaning of the Coat of Arms is known only to brothers of the fraternity.
According to The Manual of Theta Chi, the original design for the coat of arms was suggested by Freeman, and members of Alpha Chapter used his ideas to develop an official image. The coat of arms has undergone over a dozen modifications since, with the current design being approved in 1939.
Frank Schrenk (Kappa/Pennsylvania 1915) wrote the Creed of Theta Chi. It is both an affirmation of the founding principles of Theta Chi and a mission statement for the Fraternity:
The Creed is traditionally recited by members at chapter meetings, and is often discussed in new member education programs to teach the values and ideals of the Fraternity.
On August 29, 1931, the day of Theta Chi's 75th Anniversary Convention, a stone monument was dedicated at Norwich, Vermont. The Monument of Theta Chi is a remembrance of the founding of Theta Chi Fraternity. The inscription appears as follows:
Theta Chi today
Theta Chi Fraternity's undergraduate members are involved on their respective campuses with a multitude of leadership organizations, including Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK), the Order of Omega, Student Government Association (SGA), Phi Beta Kappa, Florida Blue Key, and NCAA athletics.
Theta Chi's preferred philanthropies are the Wounded Warrior Project, the Children's Miracle Network, the American Red Cross, Relay for Life, The Kyle Charvat Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, the USO, as well as various organizations that support the U.S. military overseas.
Notable hazing incidents
In 1997, Binaya Oja died participating in a drinking pledging ritual at Clarkson University. Pledges were forced to drink until they vomited to appease Theta Chi members. His family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the fraternity.
In 2008, Harrison Kowiak suffered a fatal injury while playing a capture-the-flag-like game as part of initiation at Lenoir–Rhyne University. In his family's wrongful death lawsuit filed against the fraternity, it was reported Kowiak’s head struck the concrete when he was tackled.
In 2012, Philip Dhanens died due to alcohol poisoning after drinking bottles of hard liquor with his fellow pledge brothers at Fresno State University. Three Theta Chi members were arrested and charged for his death.
Theta Chi has formally colonized at:
- "Leaders, Scholars and Teachers". Retrieved April 30, 2012.
- Chapman, George W. The Manual of Theta Chi. Ed. Dale A. Slivinske and David L. Westol. 17th ed. The Grand Chapter, 1998. 106-08.
- "We Are Theta Chi". Retrieved March 2, 2013.