Our History


     February 21st, 1868 Indianapolis petitioned the Grand Chapter at Jefferson College for a Graduate Chapter. This was granted on June 2nd, 1868 and became the Beta graduate chapter at Indianapolis, Indiana.

Now it gets interesting!!
     According to a letter written to the attention of Bill Zerman, dated December 1974, by Brother DeWitt Cogswell our history began as follows:
    On March 12th 1868 (over one month later) the residents of Lafayette, Indiana petitioned for a graduate chapter in Lafayette. Their petition was granted April 7th 1868 as Alpha Graduate Chapter. It would have seemed that Indianapolis should have been granted Alpha status first since they partitioned first. Brother Cogswell surmises that the Lafayette group received preference for the following reasons. Wilson DeWitt Wallace, Alpha 1861, lived at Lafayette when a member at Jefferson. He was Secretary of the Grand Chapter on October 10th, 1860. James L,ford, Alpha 1866 was Secretary of the Grand Chapter in 1866 and transferred to DePauw class of 1867. Eugene J. Ball, W&J 1868 was born April 5th 1844 at Lafayette and was President of the Grand Chapter in 1867. With all of these Alpha men so closely connected with the city of Lafayette it was only natural that they wood give their own city preference. "Politics as usual."

A Tradition from the Start

    According to records in the "Phi Gamma Delta", the first formal state convention (State Day) was a combined affair with Indiana and Illinois sharing the spotlight, the fund , the fellowship, and presumably, the tab. This took place on the 15th of May of 1880 . For the first, as for several subsequent Indiana state conventions, the date was chosen so that the brothers attending could also attend the State Oratorical contest. the recorded report shows, "All the necessary preliminaries were arranged by an executive committee of five appointed from Lambda chapter (DePauw)." How many attended is unsure. The record states, "the number present was such as clearly attested the interest felt." {Must have been a politician writing this}

    In 1881, the Second Annual State Convention was held in the parlors of the Bates House--now the Claypool Hotel in Indianapolis--under joint sponsorship of the Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky Chapters. During this convention it was reported that the Song Book "was freely discussed and decided action taken to assist Brother Evans in the completion of the work."

    In the years before 1885, however, it appears that the first few meetings were loosely organized and marks of accomplishment in this new enlightened era were hard to find. In 1886, the convention became a traveling affair. Lambda (DePauw) hosted a meeting of 25 members which featured the reading of scholarly papers prepared by the brothers on the subjects of basic interest to Fijis at that time; "Initiation of preps" (pledge training), and "What Will Promote the Highest Good of the Fraternity?" with, no doubt, some talk of baseball and girls as well.

    Zeta (Indiana) hosted the convention in 1887. Recorded highlights include the cordial welcome accorded all visiting delegates as they arrived at the train station and the reception thrown for the brothers by Kappa Kappa Gamma. "The reception was such as only the young ladies of KKG could give?"

    In 1888 the convention was held by the brothers of Tau (Hanover). Only 14 brothers were in attendance with papers presented on the following topics of interest: "The Dangers of Fraternity Life," "Ought We to Continue our State Convention?" and "The Relation of Fraternity to College Life."

    The 1889 (6th annual convention) was held in Greencastle, home of DePauw. "a bright and interesting paper on 'The Advantages of Fraternity Life,'" the pros and cons of "Fraternity Extension" and "How Shall We Make Our Meetings More Interesting?"

    In 1891 the question of "to have or not to have" a graduate chapter in Indianapolis was up for discussion. One historian reports: "Another matter worthy of consideration is the placing of a graduate chapter at Indianapolis. Year by year, the band of Phi Gams at our state capital has increased until at least 25 are now located there. Let us effect an organization in this city immediately." (There are over 1500 Phi Gams in Greater Indianapolis at this time)

    The report of the 13th annual convention in 1897 says: "The custom has been heretofore for the chapters to take turns in entertaining the convention in their various college towns, but this year a new system was adopted and  the convention was held during the State Oratorical Contest in Indianapolis. From this time on, the state convention grew in importance in the lives of Fijis around the State and grew in enthusiasm and merrymaking. Everything considered, the banquet revealed a most prosperous condition for Phi Gamma Delta in Indiana and was undoubtedly the most successful of any of the annual gatherings of Indiana Fijis."

    Around 1915 an attempt was apparently made to document just how many state day celebrations had occurred. Since no accurate conclusion was made they proclaimed that this convention was the first "Dry Dinner" in the history of the chapter. That point took very well."

    Early in 1940 Hugh J. Baker, Jr. (Ohio State '31) wrote that, "Twenty-seven chapters have been represented at the meetings of the Indianapolis Graduate Chapter during the past year. Attendance for the year, luncheon and dinner meetings including the state dinner representation, totaled 760."

    Although affected by World War II, Beta Graduate Chapter nevertheless proudly announced in 1943: "War or no war, the Indiana State Day dinner goes on!" That was the 78th annual dinner.

    The 82nd State Day dinner in 1947 was also notable. "425 Fijis were present to make this the largest state dinner ever held in the 82 years of its existence."

    Hanover must remember the 84th annual dinner fondly, for it captured the new Beta Graduate Trophy, that stunning silver punch bowl that still makes its annual rounds "for having achieved the highest degree of chapter excellence in the State of Indiana."

    Attendance at the 89th dinner fell short of the record figure of 1947, but its reporter found another claim to make. He described it as "the largest gathering of Fijis in the nation--outside of a national convention," announcing attendance of nearly 400.

    The 100th Annual Indiana State Day was hosted March 5, 1966 at the Indianapolis Columbia Club. This gathering beat the long time standing attendance of the 1947 state day.

    The state day gatherings of the 50's and 60's were held at the Columbia club with a Saturday reception and Song contest of the chapters in attendance. A few years the Beta Graduate Chapter attempted to have an afternoon of sports and a dinner. This only lasted a few years, however. Then, around the Early 70's with William D. Ramsey (Indiana '28) president began the leadership conference format as we know it today.

    This summary of the history of Beta came mostly from an article in the "Phi Gamma Delta" magazine dated February-March 1966