Phi Delta Theta Beginnings
The first Greek letter organization was Phi Beta Kappa, founded Dec. 5, 1776, at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. 63 years later, Beta Theta Pi was founded at Miami University in Ohio. In protest against the president of the university, members of Beta Theta Pi and other students blocked the entrances of the main educational and administrative building in what became known as the Great Snow Rebellion.
A year later, after the president expelled most of the students involved in the uprising, Phi Delta Theta was formed. Six men staying in a dormitory the day after Christmas formed the Greek-letter society. Robert Morrison, a senior, proposed to fellow classmate John McMillan Wilson they bond together to form a secret society. They invited juniors Robert Thompson Drake and John Wolfe Lindley; sophomores Ardivan Walker Rodgers and Andrew Watts Rogers into the fold. The first meeting was held in Wilson's room at Old North Hall, now called Elliot Hall.
During the early meetings, the founders wrote The Bond of Phi Delta Theta, which is the fundamental law of the Fraternity. It has remained unchanged ever since. The Founders also designed the badge, consisting of a shield, eye and scroll with the Greek letters on it. Beta Theta Pi, Phi Delta Theta and Sigma Chi were the first three fraternities founded at Miami University, so they are known as the Miami Triad. The first branch of Phi Delta Theta was founded at Indiana University in 1849. The Indiana Chapter has the longest continuous existence of any in the Fraternity.
The War Between the States was difficult for all fraternities. Battles put fraternity brother against fraternity brother, although fraternal bonds may have led to the release of many prisoners or better treatment for others.
During the two decades from 1870 to 1890, the growth of the Fraternity was very rapid, due principally to the efforts of Walter B. Palmer, Emory-Vanderbilt 1877, and George Banta, Franklin-Indiana 1876. The two were given the title Second Founders for their work.
Phi Delta Theta is known as an international fraternity. The first Phi Delta Theta chapter in Canada was installed at McGill University April 5, 1902. Phi Delta Theta now boasts 12 Canadian chapters, more than any other fraternity.
Phi Delta Theta Today
The Fraternity now has more than 172 chapters in 43 states and six Canadian provinces. The Fraternity has initiated nearly 203,700 men since 1848. Chartered house corporations own more than 120 houses valued at $50 million. There are nearly 70 recognized alumni clubs across the U.S. and Canada. The Fraternity operates from the General Headquarters building on South Campus Avenue, across from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. At the corner of the campus closest to headquarters, memorial gates were erected in honor of the Fraternity's 150th anniversary.
The men of Phi Delta Theta share a commitment--to the intense bond of friendship between brothers, high academic achievement, and living life with integrity. A Phi Delt has high expectations of, and for, himself and his brothers. He believes that one man is no man.
The fraternity teaches men that these areas of commitment, those outlined in The Bond of Phi Delta Theta, are not to be viewed as separate ideals, but as areas of discipline for daily life. Developments intellectually, in leadership, and human service (to name a few) are vital to the Phi Delt. The Phi Delt will support, and in turn have the support of, his brothers as these principles are lived out.
Membership in Phi Delta Theta goes beyond belonging to a social organization. The men of Phi Delta Theta tell of the tremendous support that exists between brothers and how, during their college years, they developed self-confidence, leadership qualities, and a belief in the strength of their abilities. They believe their lifetime commitment to the fraternity is one of the most important commitments they ever made.