Tau Kappa Epsilon (ΤΚΕ or Teke, pronounced T-K-E or Tēk) is an international all-male secret and social college fraternity founded on January 10, 1899, at Illinois Wesleyan University. The organization has chapters in the United States, Canada, and an affiliation with a German fraternity system known as the Corps of the Weinheimer Senioren-Convent (WSC). As of fall 2017 there were 246 active TKE chapters and colonies throughout the United States and Canada. In 1928, TKE became one of the first fraternities to abolish "hell week", instead replacing it with a secret initiation period.
On January 10, 1899, Charles Roy Atkinson, Clarence Arthur Mayer, James Carson McNutt, Joseph Lorenzo Settles, and Owen Ison Truitt met at 504 East Locust Street in Bloomington, Illinois to draw up the first constitution for a new fraternity at Illinois Wesleyan University. The purpose of the new organization was to be an "aid to college men in mental, moral and social development". The founders sought to be a different organization than the other fraternities at the time by establishing a fraternity where membership would be based on personal worth and character rather than wealth, rank, or honor. Mental development would be emphasized by the study of classic literature at weekly meetings, and thus the new fraternity became known as the Knights of Classic Lore. The first public announcement of the Knights of Classic Lore appeared in the February 1, 1899 issue of the Argus, which is the student publication of Illinois Wesleyan University.
During formation, the Knights of Classic Lore were trying to get the Illinois Epsilon chapter of Phi Delta Theta restored. Prominent Phi Delt alumnus Richard Henry Little became a persistent sponsor for the Knights to petition Phi Delta Theta for a charter. The Knights first petitioned Phi Delta Theta at its 1902 convention in New York, but efforts were unsuccessful. After renting rooms at several locations beginning in the spring of 1899, the Knights of Classic Lore finally acquired its first fraternity house, known as The Wilder Mansion, in September 1902. Simultaneously with the acquisition of the new house, the Knights also adopted the name Tau Kappa Epsilon. The change in name was expected to create a better impression in future petitions to Phi Delta Theta. The second petition was presented at the Indianapolis convention of 1904, but it was withdrawn in an effort to gain unanimous support of all chapters in Phi Delta Theta's Zeta Province, which included Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. If this support was achieved, then the charter would be granted to the group without any action from the convention. The Knights of Classic Lore gained the support of all Phi Delta Theta groups in the province, except for Wisconsin Alpha, Illinois Beta, and Missouri Alpha. The Knights in turn unsuccessfully presented the petition at the 1906 convention in Washington, D.C. During the continuing struggle for acceptance from Phi Delta Theta, TKE continued to grow stronger in its own existence.
In late 1907, TKE was preparing to petition Phi Delta Theta once again at the 1908 convention when an event took place that would forever change the course of history for the fraternity. At the annual initiation banquet on October 19, 1907, speeches were made that both advocated and questioned the continued petitioning of Phi Delta Theta. At the banquet, Wallace G. McCauley delivered a blistering speech known as "Opportunity Out of Defeat". The powerful address called for an abandonment of the petitioning initiative and a new campaign to make TKE into a national fraternity itself. While there was some opposition at the time, the movement ultimately took hold, and by 1908, TKE was well on its way to becoming a national fraternity in its own right. The speech was published in the first issue of The Teke in January 1908, and by November of that year, work was beginning on a new constitution. At the chapter meeting held on Monday, February 15, 1909, the new constitution became official. The first Conclave of the Grand Chapter of the new national fraternity of Tau Kappa Epsilon convened on February 17, 1909.
In 1909, TKE approached the Chi Rho Sigma Fraternity at Millikin University. There were no national fraternities at Millikin at this time, and TKE had just established its intentions to become a national fraternity. Representatives from TKE presented their case, and after thorough consideration, Chi Rho Sigma voted to accept TKE's offer. On April 17, 1909, Chi Rho Sigma was installed as the Beta Chapter of TKE. In November 1911, the Beta Rho Delta Fraternity was founded at the University of Illinois. ΒΡΔ petitioned Tau Kappa Epsilon in January 1912, and they were installed as the Gamma Chapter of TKE on February 3, 1912. Following the installation of the Gamma Chapter, The Teke magazine noted that the triangle was completed. The geographic location of TKE's first three chapters form a perfect equilateral triangle. The equilateral triangle was at that time, and continues to be, the primary symbol of Tau Kappa Epsilon.
The national fraternity Sigma Mu Sigma merged with TKE in March 1935. The merger resulted in the new Alpha-Pi Chapter of TKE at George Washington University and additional members for the Gamma Chapter at the University of Illinois and the Alpha-Zeta Chapter at Purdue University.
Prior to 1939, TKE chapters were installed after local fraternities petitioned TKE for approval. In 1939, a colonization process was established to promote expansion and to ensure that potential chapters met all necessary requirements prior to installation. The first two TKE colonies were the Eta Colony at the University of Kansas and the Chi Beta Colony at the University of Missouri.
Tau Kappa Epsilon expanded for the first time into the Deep South region of the United States in 1946. This expansion was made possible when Alpha Lambda Tau, a small predominantly Southern national fraternity, announced its dissolution. Five of Alpha Lambda Tau's eight active chapters affiliated with TKE, resulting in new TKE chapters at the University of Maryland, North Carolina State University, Auburn University, Louisiana Polytechnic Institute, and Tri-State College.
On January 20, 1981, Tau Kappa Epsilon member Ronald Reagan was sworn in as the 40th President of the United States. Reagan joined TKE at the Iota Chapter at Eureka College in 1929. Through his time as President of the United States, Reagan remained actively involved in Tau Kappa Epsilon.
In 1983, President Reagan created the Ronald Reagan Leadership Award to recognize selected student members of TKE that have demonstrated superior academic and leadership accomplishments.
In March 1984, President Reagan sponsored a TKE alumni luncheon at the White House. Approximately 60 members of TKE were invited to the White House luncheon. At the luncheon, Reagan was awarded TKE's Order of the Golden Eagle and the Gold Medal of the North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) recognizing his lifelong efforts to support and promote college fraternities. Reagan was the first Teke and first U.S. President to receive the Gold Medal of the NIC.
During the Spring Quarter of 1985 at the Alpha-Omega Chapter (UCLA), Frater Reagan was hosted to an informal reception by the Chapter's active members. There was no pre-screening of the house or its members by the Secret Service. Photos were taken to commemorate the event and the meeting was both up-building to the Chapter and to Frater Reagan. Coincidentally and as of June 2010, the brand-new UCLA Medical Center was named in his honor (Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center), a leading teaching and research hospital, and is a stone's throw from the Chapter house.
In October 1984, President Reagan attended lunch at the TKE house at the Ohio State University. The Ohio State Chapter hosted President Reagan for lunch following a rally in which he was speaking at Ohio State.
In June 1988, President Reagan hosted a special TKE ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House in which he presented the Ronald Reagan Leadership Award/Scholarship to TKE member Alan Friel. During the ceremony at the White House, President Reagan was presented with TKE's Order of the Silver Maple Leaf by TKE Grand Prytanis Bruce Melchert.
The mythological ideal or patron of Tau Kappa Epsilon is Apollo, an important and complex Olympian deity in Greek and Roman mythology. Apollo is the Greek god of music and culture, of light and truth, the ideals toward which the organization strives for in their development of manhood.
The official membership badge, made of gold and adorned with three white pearls, is by far the most important item of TKE insignia in general use. This badge may be worn only by initiated members. Jeweled badges, crown set with pearls, diamonds, rubies or emeralds, according to choice, may be worn by alumni members. Frequently the standard membership badge is used as a token of engagement. Miniature badges are also available for mothers, sisters, wives, chapter sweethearts or for engagement purposes. The TKE 'badge of gold,' unique in its design and distinctiveness, has never been changed since its adoption.
The red carnation is the flower of the fraternity. From this flower the color for the coat-of-arms, flag, and other symbols are derived. Red carnations are also worn at TKE banquets. The Red Carnation Ball is a dance that many chapters celebrate, and is named after the flower.
The heraldic definition of the TKE Coat-of-Arms is "Gules, on a bend argent five equilateral triangles bendwise of the first voided. Crest: Above a peer’s helmet, a death’s head three-quarters profile, proper. Mantling: Gules, double argent. Motto: The Greek letters, pi, alpha, omega, epsilon, alpha." The coat-of-arms may be used only by official members of the Fraternity on stationery, jewelry, and other personal effects. Modified slightly several times during the early years of Tau Kappa Epsilon, the present Coat-of-Arms, adopted in 1926, was designed by Dr. Carlton B. Pierce and Ms. Emily Butterfield.
The present design of the TKE flag, as adopted at the 1961 Conclave, features five voided triangles, in cherry red, on a gray bend surmounting a cherry field. Because it is patterned after the shield of the fraternity Coat-of-Arms, the flag is readily associated with Tau Kappa Epsilon. Individual chapters may also purchase and use pennants and wall banners of various designs. These usually employ the name or Greek letters of the fraternity and chapter, and may incorporate the basic TKE insignia. TKE insignia may be purchased only from the Offices of the Grand Chapter or a merchant licensed by the fraternity headquarters.
In April 1921, members of the Fraternity at The Ohio State University made their way to the Conclave in Madison, Wisconsin. At the conclusion of the vote granting their charter as the Omicron Chapter, one of the members pulled from the pocket of his pants a rusty horseshoe which the fraters had picked up along the way. Believing that the horseshoe had granted the chapter good luck, the tradition began to pass the horseshoe down to each chapter. The original horseshoe was lost during World War II at the Alpha-Chi Chapter (University of Louisville), but it was replaced with a new horseshoe to continue the tradition.
In mid-1995, the original horseshoe was discovered by Past Grand Prytanis Rodney Williams among some artifacts belonging to the Alpha-Chi Chapter, which had been held for years by a charter member of the chapter. At the 49th Biennial Conclave, the original TKE horseshoe from the Omicron Chapter was displayed, and the story behind its loss explained.
The horseshoe, now an adopted symbol, is traditionally displayed on a plaque given to new chapters at their founding.
The tradition of singing a Sweetheart Song to a fraternity's sweetheart is one shared by most fraternities. TKE is rare in that it has three different Sweetheart Songs (Sweetheart of T.K.E., Iota Sweetheart Song, and the Old Sweetheart Song). The Old Sweetheart Song was started at the Alpha-Xi Chapter (Drake University) in Des Moines, Iowa.
The following table lists the current Grand Council officers and members, which were elected at the Fraternity's 59th Conclave in New Orleans for a 2-year term. The Collegiate Advisory Committee (CAC) and its chairman are active undergraduate members appointed by the TKE CEO and approved by several past Grand Prytani (Grand Presidents) to act as advisers to the Grand Council with the chairman serving on the Grand Council.
|Office||English Equivalent||Name||Original Chapter||University/College|
|Grand Prytanis||Grand President||Christopher T. Hanson||Alpha-Pi Chapter||George Washington University|
|Grand Epiprytanis||Grand Vice President||Dr. James Hickey||Zeta-Alpha Chapter||Wagner College|
|Grand Grammateus||Grand Secretary||Ted W. Bereswill||Gamma-Upsilon Chapter||University of Texas at Austin|
|Grand Crysophylos||Grand Treasurer||Ryan J. Vescio Esq.||Rho-Omega Chapter||University of South Carolina|
|Grand Histor||Grand Historian||Brian D. Montgomery||Gamma-Upsilon Chapter||University of Texas at Austin|
|Grand Hypophetes||Grand Chaplain||Anthony F. Clemens||Nu-Mu Chapter||University of South Alabama|
|Grand Pylortes||Grand Sergeant-at-Arms||Rob J. Guarini||Sigma-Nu Chapter||State University of New York at New Paltz|
|Grand Hegemon||Grand Educator||John K. Fabsits||Xi-Eta Chapter||Missouri Western State University|
|Grand Council at-Large||Grand Council at-Large||Maj. Gen. Charles Whittington||Pi-Psi Chapter||University of Southern Mississippi|
|Grand Council at-Large||Grand Council at-Large||Michael Beals||Epsilon Chapter||Iowa State University|
|CAC Chairman||CAC Chairman||Zach Islam||Upsilon-Mu Chapter||New York Institute of Technology–Manhattan|
Every Grand Prytanis, or Grand President, serves for a two-year term after being elected at Conclave. However, early fraternity elections were yearly and some elections were irregular or interrupted, such as during the two World Wars. Previous Grand Prytani are listed below.
The Towson University chapter was suspended after WBAL News Radio reported that a student was "forced to eat cat food and a liquid he was told was vinegar and pickle juice by members of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity" and that "the student started vomiting blood hours later and was taken to a nearby hospital later that day".
The Florida State University chapter was suspended for hazing and misconduct violations. The pledges were forced to participate in a hazing activity called "Old South" where pledges acted like slaves in blackface while serving drinks to members. Also the pledges were twice blindfolded and dropped off hours away from campus without their wallets and cellphones and then told to find their way back to campus.
The Northwest Missouri State University chapter had a member arrested and charged with first degree rape of a female student at the fraternity house on campus. The chapter was placed on suspension for the incident.
The Arizona State University chapter was expelled by the university after photos surfaced of a racially themed "MLK Black Party" organized by TKE members on Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend. The party included guests wearing basketball jerseys, flashing gang signs, and drinking from watermelon cups. The school's decision to ban the chapter was also because the TKE chapter had recently been placed on probation after two members of the fraternity pleaded guilty to the aggravated assault of a black student from another fraternity. The national fraternity issued an apology and condemned the event but insisted that the party was "without malice or forethought", that there were fewer than 30 men and women at the event which didn't meet Arizona State IFC guidelines for an official fraternity function, and that the ASU chapter was one of the most "multi-cultural social fraternities" at the university.
The University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee chapter was suspended after several women accused the fraternity of drugging and raping them at the fraternity house. One fraternity member was arrested for possession of illegal drugs.
The Johnson & Wales University chapter had a former pledge sue the fraternity after a brutal hazing ritual that left him hospitalized for over a month. He was branded, urinated on by members, paddled, deprived of sleep, forced to exercise, forced to swim in his own vomit, and asked to participate in a host of many other demeaning activities. He was the only remaining pledge after the rest of his pledge class dropped due to abuse and harassment perpetuated by members of the fraternity.
The Arizona State University chapter was placed on probation after 20 TKE members attacked three members of the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity. One DKE member was beaten so badly that he had to be transferred to an emergency room with a concussion and broken jaw.
The Whitman College chapter was publicly accused of abusing and mistreating pledges by a former pledge. The former pledge stated that misconduct by the fraternity was the reason why many members of his pledge class quit the fraternity.
Tau Kappa Epsilon is also affiliated with the German fraternity system known as the Corps of the Weinheimer Senioren-Convent (WSC). The WSC serves as an umbrella organization for 60 student Corps at 22 cities all over Germany. In furtherance of this International fraternal friendship, Past Executive Vice President Timothy J. Murphy became part of Corps Franconia Darmstadt (Darmstadt Technical University) receiving the status of "Inhaber der Corpsschleife" (IdC), a rarity for a foreign national. He has since spoken at fraternity congresses and gatherings in Weinheim and Würzburg, Germany.
The Teke is the award-winning official quarterly publication for undergraduate and alumni brothers of Tau Kappa Epsilon. The magazine features in-depth articles related to topics of interest for TKE members, including chapter news, alumni news, service and foundation annual reports, and articles relating to leadership, professional development, chapter operations, and of general interest to the fraternal world. On October 19, 1907, Wallace G. McCauley delivered his "Opportunity out of Defeat" speech at the annual initiation banquet of the fraternity, and not only did this speech mark the decision to become a national fraternity, but it also marked the beginning of the official magazine of TKE. In the speech, McCauley stated, "Then let us issue a magazine, quarterly as first, name it The Teke, make it attractive and artistic in form." The Teke magazine first appeared in January 1908. The first edition was a 20-page booklet of 7 by 10 inches bound with a gray cover and the title The Teke within a red triangle. Illustrations and photos were first used in Volume II, No. 2 of The Teke. The magazine expanded to the 8.5 by 11.5 inch size in 1935. The Teke was suspended in the 1990s amid financial difficulties for the fraternity, but it was re-established in 1999.
The pledge manual of Tau Kappa Epsilon is known as The Teke Guide. Development on the manual began in 1927, and The Teke Guide was first published in 1935. The book was developed to acquaint pledges of TKE with the history, government, organization, idealism, functions, aspirations, and traditions of Tau Kappa Epsilon. The Teke Guide was the first fraternity pledge manual to use a two color printing process. The original book was designed, compiled, and edited by Grand Histor Leland F. Leland. Through the 1950s, The Teke Guide was a spiral bound book of nearly 150 pages. The book was rich with illustrations, including photos of all TKE chapter houses. In 1966, a new hard cover version of The Teke Guide debuted; however, the new version contained significantly reduced content and very few photos. By the 1980s, The Teke Guide had been reduced to a soft cover magazine-like format. The hard cover format returned again by the 1990s, and over the next few years an effort was made to restore the in-depth historical content and photographs that had been stripped from previous versions in order to make the book more of a permanent TKE reference manual for the life of each member. In 2007, the first edition to be printed in full color was issued.