Start of Omega Chapter

by George W. Chapman '20
As written for the March 1933 The Rattle - Vol. XXI, No. 6

The Phi Tau Alpha Fraternity was just a means to and end but it served that end well. Form the start, the chief reason for the establishment of Phi Tau Alpha was so that the fraternity could be in a position to petition for membership in a national fraternity. As the Northeast Club this could not be done, for the Northeast Club was restricted to graduates of the Northeast High School.

With the establishment of Phi Tau Alpha immediate steps towards affiliation with a national organization were taken. In fact these steps started one month before the start of Phi Tau Alpha, with the appointment of a Special Committee on February 25, 1918 consisting of Raymond Poepple, George W.Chapman '20 and Clifford E. Beaven '21. This committee was instructed to investigate national fraternities and to consider ways and means of petitioning.

There was much discussion during the early meeting of Phi Tau Alpha on the national fraternity question and the fraternity seemed to be about evenly divided on the subject, and many of the Alumni showed little or no interest. As no progress was being made it fell on the shoulders of a small group led by the Special Committee to individually sell the national fraternity idea to a sufficient number of the members so that when the question was voted on it would be passed. This was finally accomplished after a great deal of work on the part of a few, a favorable vote was taken and the Special Committee instructed to proceed with plans for selecting a National Fraternity and working up a petition.

After much reading of Beard’s Manual, the names of some ten or twelve national fraternities were selected as possibilities. For various reasons this list was narrowed to four or five which it was believed would be interested in installing a chapter at the Pennsylvania State College. Among them was Theta Chi.

Raymond B. Poeppel '20 and William C. Thompson '19 should get credit for the final selection of Theta Chi as the fraternity to be petitioned. Of the fraternities remaining on the list Theta Chi was the oldest, had the best record, was of high repute and seemed to be the best choice. Much of the information on Theta Chi was secured through a friend of Raymond B. Poeppel '20 and William C. Thompson '19 who was a member of Theta Chi at the University of Pennsylvania and it was through the information secured by and on the recommendation of these two men that Phi Tau Alpha voted to petitionTheta Chi Fraternity for a chapter at the Pennsylvania State College.

Coat of Arms


Pledge Pin

The Grand Chapter of Theta Chi was communicated with and it was found that they would be interested in having a chapter at Pennsylvania State College, Phi Tau Alpha was visited by Frederick Ladue, National Secretary of Theta Chi and by representatives of University of Dickinson's Pi chapterUniversity of Pennsylvania's Kappa Chapter and Cornell's Lambda chapter. Reports turned into the Grand chapter by these visitors must have been favorable for in November 1918 Phi Tau Alpha was advised by Theta Chi to prepare a petition and submit it in printed form to Theta Chi Fraternity in sufficient quantity to be distributed to the various chapters for voting on.

The special committee quickly worked up the petition, had it printed and sent to the Grand Chapter of Theta Chi under date of December 2, 1918.

The petition itself was worded as follows:

Delivering that Affiliation with a well established and well reputed National Fraternity would be most desirous and believing The Theta Chi Fraternity to possess the qualities, we, the members of the Phi Tau Alpha Fraternity of the Pennsylvania State College, do hereby respectfully petition for consideration as a Chapter of the Theta Chi Fraternity.

For the Fraternity

The petition booklet included a short history of the Northeast Club and the Phi Tau Alpha Fraternity, letters of recommendation from Edwin E. Sparks, President of the College, R. L. Sackett, Dean of the School of Engineering and R. L. Watts, Dean of the School of Agriculture, lists of selective and alumni members with college activities, a brief history of the Pennsylvania State College, a list of fraternities at Penn State and pictures of the petitioning group, the House and the College.

The letters of recommendation are interesting historical records and are herewith reproduced.



Office of the President - November 18, 1918

The organization of students of the Pennsylvania State College known as the Phi Tau Alpha Fraternity is worthy of recognition. Their members have furnished a considerable portion of officers in the United States Army. Their academic standing I believe to be above average of the college. Their house so far as I can learn has been conducted in an orderly manner. I recommend them for membership in the Theta Chi National Fraternity.

Edwin E. Sparks

THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE COLLEGE, State College, PA - November 22, 1918

School of Engineering 

Dean’s Office

Secretary, Theta Chi Fraternity

Washington, D.C.

Dear Sir;

Mr. Ellwood B. Cassel advises me that a Club, formerly known as the Northeast Club and later as the Phi Tau Alpha, is applying for a charter as a chapter of the Theta Chi Fraternity.

I know Mr. Cassel personally and can assure you of his high character and exceptional standing as a student.

Two of the juniors, named George W. Chapman and Frederickson, are in the Department of Civil Engineering and have made satisfactory records. So far as these students are concerned, I can vouch for their quality.

I believe that in general the fraternity has a good reputation for scholarship and character.

Yours Truly,

R. L. Sackett


School of Engineering


School of Agriculture and Experiment Station

State College, PA.

Office of Dean and Director - November 15, 1918

My Dear Sir:

I have been advised that the Phi Tau Alpha Fraternity of the Pennsylvania State College, which is a local Chapter, has applied for admission to the Theta Chi Fraternity, of which I understand you are Secretary.

I have known several members of this Fraternity since its organization at State College and it is a pleasure to say that we hold the members, as well as the organization, which they represent, in high esteem and recommend the Chapter for admission to your National Fraternity. The men have high standing in the institution and we believe they will be a credit to your fraternity.

Yours Very Truly,

H. L. Watts

Dean and Director

With the petition in the hands of Theta Chi there ensued a wait that seemed much longer than it actually was.

On February 25, 1919 information was received from Fred LaDue, National Secretary of Theta Chi, to the effect that our petition was favorably voted on the various Chapters of Theta Chi and favorably seted upon by the Grand Chapter of the Fraternity and that we would shortly receive official notice to this effect. Official notice was later received that a Charter had granted a Chapter to Phi Tau Alpha on February 19, 1919 by the Grand Chapter of Theta Chi and that formal installation would take place on March 14 and 15, 1919. It is interesting to note that another local fraternity at Penn State was petitioning Theta Chi at the same time, as was Phi Tau Alpha.

The installation of Phi Tau Alpha Fraternity as Omega Chapter of Theta Chi Fraternity began at 7:25 on the evening of March 14, 1919. The Installation Committee was composed of Fred W. LaDue, Iota, ’12, Chairman Herbert D. Leary, Gamma, ’10, Barie R. Bernfford, Delta, ’09, W. Howard Gottlieb, Kappa, ’19, Clarence R. Anderson, Pi, ’08, and J. Henry Beasley, Kappa, ’15. The installation, a very impressive ceremony, preceded smoothly and as its conclusion the Charter was presented to the Chapter. The Charter Members of Omega Chapter were as follows:

Fred. F. Bastian '22, Ellwood. J. Rittenhouse '19, Clifford E. Beaven '21, Joseph E. Rowe '10, Ellwood B. Cassel '19, Albert F. Schoeppe '18, George W. Chapman '20, Walter E. Segl '21, Charles Frederickson Jr. '20, William W. Seltzer '21, Fred J. Fuchs, Walter B. Shaw '21, Maurice E. Kressley '15, William J. Shaw Jr. '21, Donald E. Magill '22, John R. Skeen '21, Murrell D. McKinstry '20, Winfield F. Smith '20, Russell B. Nesbitt '14, William L. Sowden Jr. '22, Robert E. Ockford '22, Ralph D. Stauffer '21, Walter B. Petzold '18, William C. Thompson '19, Anthony V. Pickard '21, Frederick T. Vansant '20, Raymond B. Poeppel '20, Hugo E. Zetterlof '22

All the Chapter Members listed above and in additional Theodore G. Smith '21 were initiated onto Theta Chi Fraternity at this time.

With the installation ceremony completed, election of officers was held and Winfield F. Smith '20 was elected the first president of Omega Chapter. The meeting adjourned at midnight to be continued the next day.

Saturday afternoon, March 15, was spent in the exemplification of degree work Hugo E. Zetterlof '22 being the candidate.

The installation banquet was held in the Chapter House on the evening of March 15 and was characterized by the following menu; Penn State Cocktail, Center County Consommé, Baked Shingletown Trout, Roast Chicken, S.A.T.C. Potatoes, Nittany Valley Filling, Green Navy Peas, Co-ed Sauce, Old Main Salad, Ice Cream a la Phi Tau Alpha, Lemont Bite, Bonbons au Gorge, Danville Nuts, State College Demitasse and Bellefonte Central Smokes. Such a menu had never been seen before or since but was evidently greatly enjoyed by these present. The postprandial exercise were handled by Albert P. Schoeppe '18 who acted as Toastmaster in his inimitable way. Short talks were given by members of the Installation Committee and by members if the Active Chapter. The Banquet concluded with the singing of the Chapter Song, “Come Omega” and “It is to Thee Dear Old Theta Chi.”

Following the banquet a smoker and reception was held in the Chapter House, which was attended by representatives from the various fraternities and members of the faculty.

The next day marked the departure of the Installation Committee and Omega Chapter settled down to more normal existence and to enjoy the new sensation of being the “Baby Chapter” of Theta Chi.