The History of the Phi Delta Theta Oklahoma Beta Chapter
Original Document penned by Charles Corken, contributions by Dane Heneger, Craig Clemons and Joe Carter.
In 1946 the institution of higher education here in Stillwater was known as Oklahoma A&M College. A lot of the male students were men returning from WWII and attending college on the G.I. bill. Some of those men had started a local Fraternity named Zeta Chi. Early in 1946 they petitioned Phi Delta Theta to become part of their National Fraternity.
On Dec. 12th 1946 the General Council of Phi Delta Theta granted their wish and the Oklahoma Beta Chapter of Phi Delta Theta was established here in Stillwater at then Oklahoma A&M College. And a great tradition of excellence was begun. The chairman of the installation ceremonies was John Wilterding from GHQ. Brother Alcott was an Oklahoma Alpha Phi “Bond # 80 (and Mayor of Stillwater) and was the first Chapter Advisor for Oklahoma Beta and served as the Chapter advisor of 23 years. The most prestigious award the Chapter has to offer carries his name, the A.B.”Mayor” Alcott Award.*
The original Chapter had 42 members. Bond # 1 belongs to Allan B. Carleton, the first Oklahoma Beta Phi to be initiated. The first Chapter President was James Goddard. The first pledge was Gerald Walker.
The Early Years
In 1946 they were the new kid on the block with a lot of stiff competition. The Sig, Alpha’s, Beta’s, Sigma Chi’s, Sigma Nu’s all were bigger and everyone had been on campus a lot longer, that didn’t keep them from setting their goal to become the number one Fraternity on the campus. They knew they would need to grow and get involved to achieve that goal.
Their first house was at 901 College, the corner of the College (now University) and Washington. To say it was old would be an understatement. It already served as home for 3 Fraternities, a Sorority, and to house soldiers during WWII. It would only hold about 30 men.
With virtually no Alumni they started to raise money for a new house. How they did it I don’t really know, but they raised enough money to buy some land at 3rd & Garfield which had 3 buildings. A 2 story house (big annex) a bungalow and a converted garage apartment which gave them the additional space they needed for housing.
In 1949/1950 the Chapter won the Ward Scholarship Trophy, from Phi Delta Theta GHQ, Brother Bob Overton was elected a Student Senator, Brother John Speaker became editor of the O’Collegian and the Chapter won it’s first sports trophy, Bill Etchison & Jack Cozier* won the Bridge Tournament. Many others got involved in other campus actives.
In 1952 the Phi Delta Theta float in the Homecoming Parade “Showboat” won the Grand Champion Trophy, it was the first of many awards to follow.
College life was very different in the 50’s. Men wore slacks & collared shirts to class, girls wore dress. Girls had to be back in their dorms or house by 12:30 on Friday & Sat. night, 12:00 on Sunday, 8:00 during the week unless they were seniors with above a 3.0, then 10:00 pm. Girls were only allowed on the first floor of a Fraternity House and within site of the house mother. Men wore coats & ties to football games, girls wore dresses and high heels.
There where only 3 or 4 beer joints in Stillwater. Sorority girls were not allowed in beer joints and could lose their pin if caught. Beer was hard to get if you were under 18 but the State was dry and bootleggers didn’t care who they sold to. Most drinking was confined to a few organized parties during the year. The Half Formal, Gangster Party, “given by the pledges”, Christmas Party, Miami Triad “Phi Delt’s, Sigma Chi, Beta’s” and Spring Formal. Sororities had parties also.
In the late 50’s the Chapter continued to grow and make a name for themselves. Charlie Hollar was editor of the Year Book “Redskin”, Chip Hayes was Editor of the O’Collegian, Chub Ray was President of the Student Senate, Jim Butts was named the Greek Ironman by IFC., Bob Cornforth, was the first Jr to be elected President of Blue Key, Wayne Allen was named Outstand Senior Engineering Student, Wayne Allen would become President & Chairman of the Board of Phillips, Joel Hefley (same class) would later become a US Congressman from Colorado. Allen & Hefley are both listed in the PDT Pledge manual as famous Phi’s.
In 1962, Oklahoma Beta Chapter took another positive and important step forward. With some creative financing by young alumni like Don Muegge and Ken Griener they traded out lots on Garfield plus some cash for the Alpha Chi Omega house at 224 S. Monroe.
It was pink and had flowered curtains but at last the men of Oklahoma Beta were under one roof, although it changed the living assignments from individual rooms shared by members and pledges to dorm rooms. With the leadership of actives like Jim Hromas, Mike Hyatt, Jim Keitz and others, plus a lot of scraping, hammering and painting it became a Fraternity house.
With the added expense of the mortgage and remodeling efforts time were tough. In 1967 the Chapter called on its alumni for help with rush. During this time the Fraternities had a formal rush like the sororities have now. Rushee’s would be picked up at the dorm and brought to the house. The Chapter would have skits, speeches, walk-around and a formal meal. To help out, Richard Feasel brought in steaks and food from his hotel in Kansa City and ran the kitchen. D. Allan Wint, Dr. Pennington, Boyd Barclay, Bob Cornforth and others helped bus tables and shook prospective new member’s hands. It worked so well that Chapter President Ross McKnight asked us back the next year.
By 1971 formal rush was out and the informal rush system we have now was put in effect.
In the 1970’s the Chapter faced a new challenge, the “anti-establishment”. The fraternity system had weathered the hippies and beatniks but the anti-establisment’s affected the number of young men joining the Greek system.
The early 1970’s were referred to as the Mac and Cheese years by actives like Tom Butcher, Doug Thompson and Steve Freeman because that’s what most meals consisted of. By the late 1970’s the anti’s had taken job’s and gone the way of the hippies and beatniks and things got back to normal. Brother Clayton Taylor won the Arthur R. Priest Award for the outstanding Phi in the Nation, the first of several that Oklahoma Beta would win.
The early 1980’s were an exceptional time for Oklahoma Beta Phi Delt’s. They were organized, held many campus leadership roles, and popular. Phi Delt’s were “in demand” for Homecoming (partnered with Theta’s and Pi Phi’s in consecutive years), Freshman Follies, and many campus activities. Phi Delt’s also won several championships in intramural sports including the coveted trophy for intramural football.
In the summer of 1983, Oklahoma Beta Chapter suffered a tremendous set back, the Chapter house was 75% destroyed by an electrical fire. For the next couple of years, the chapter managed to survive by way of living across the street from 224 S. Monroe in their Apartment complex. Actives Craig Clemons and Lynn Clark led recruiting efforts to fill the new house and signed an impressive 35-man pledge class under the direction and encouragement of Doug Thompson and Steve Freeman.
At the same time, and under the guidance of Tom Butcher, President of the Oklahoma Beta Building Association, the Board set out to rebuild the Chapter house. Brother Rodger Coffee served as the Architect, Brother Bob Cornforth was the Engineer, and Jim Keitz handled the insurance.
The early 1980’s were not good economic times. The oil business had gone bust, banks were closing and everyone was cutting back. Not only did the Brothers from Oklahoma Beta come forward with financial help but Phi’s from other Chapters chipped in. C. Harold Brand, Donald Kennedy, Bill Martin were great help by contributing philanthropically…and helping to raise capital funding.
In the fall on 1985, the Chapter moved into the bigger, better house and Oklahoma Beta was off and running again.
Under the leadership of actives like Matt Cain, Chris Cardoni, Derrick Corey the Chapter started worked its way back towards the top.
In 2000 to 2002 were some of the best years ever for the Phi Delta Theta Oklahoma Beta Chapter. Oklahoma Beta was 1st in athletics, top 5 in grades, runner up for GHQ’s Harvard Trophy. Signed 40 pledges had, the President of IFC and a member of the J Board, Scott Cravens was Chairman of Orange Peel,* Patrick Lissonnet won the Arthur R. Priest Award, Jason Long received the Volckening Award and a $3,000 scholarship, the director of Camp Cowboy was an Oklahoma Beta Phi Danny Meyers.
They placed in every homecoming event; they swept Freshman Follies winning not only 1st place over all but viewer Choice, Hardest Working Group, best vocals and choreography. Patrick Lissonnet was named top Senior Engineering Student; Syan Anthony was named a top 10 freshman. Jard Green, Mike Kelley, Ryan Seals, Nathan Elliott, all had awards.
Oklahoma Beta was named one of the top five Phi Delta Theta Chapters in the country by Phi Delta Theta GHQ and was without question the #1 Fraternity on the OSU campus. No small accomplishment considering that OSU has one of the best Greek Systems in the United States with Sigma Nu Sigma Chi, Beta, Sig Alpha, and Fiji all ranked in the top 5 of their Nationals.
The Alumni show their appreciation by raising and making $350,000.00 of upgrades to the Chapter house. It takes a lot of work to get to the top; it takes more to stay on top.
As Amended by Dane Heneger
2010 – Present
During the rebuilding era, Phi Delta Theta Oklahoma Beta Chapter celebrated 65 years on campus. Old names with new faces were ringing in the halls of Oklahoma Beta; names like Gilmore, Raun, Buckmaster, and Clemons. Oklahoma Beta was enjoying second generation and even third generations of legacy men joining the Phi Delta Theta Oklahoma Beta Chapter of their fathers and grandfathers.
A celebration of many successes:
For two years running we have had two very fine Presidents leading the actives – Garrett Gilmore (son of the late Bob Gilmore) and Brent Alexander. These men were followed by Andrew Morgenson; another solid President. Several have said that under his leadership, we were quickly returning to our Goal of a Top 3 Fraternity on OSU campus.
The Dr. Robert Allen Endowed Scholarship Fund was established in conjunction with the OSU Foundation with over $300,000 dollars were raised in support of scholarship giving to Oklahoma Beta Phi Delta Theta actives based on leadership and scholarship criteria in holding with the Fraternity’s value system.
Oklahoma Beta was 5th out of twelve other Greek organizations in generating endowed funds through the OSU Foundation.
In spring semester of 2011, Rush Chairmen candidates were vetted the Rush Chairmen as well as the Building Corporation. Ultimately, Eric Golzar, Davis Clemons, Andrew Morganson and Asa Yoakam were elected Rush Chairmen. Each had a specific geographic responsibility with North Texas being a new targeted area for expansion. These Rush Chairmen signed 55 pledges; this was a NATIONAL BEST and a record number of quality pledges for Oklahoma Beta, 44 of these young men were initiated.
During the work week prior to move-in of this class, several alumni led by Aaron Worley and Scott Collins actively engaged in Work Week activities. The following weekend as pledges were moving in, there was a body of key alumni in attendance…welcoming both student and parents to Phi Delta Theta. Todd Humphrey, Chris Cardoni, and the Oklahoma Beta Building Association Board of Trustees were actively involved in the weekend activities.
Homecoming activities included the Phi Delt’s teaming up with Alpha Delta Pi Sorority to re-build the learning curve with regards to Homecoming activities. With alumni stepping up to the plate with an additional $5,000 dollars to assist with Homecoming construction cost, Phi Delt’s were able to garner second place in the engineering category for homecoming. Phi Delt’s continued Homecoming the next year with Zeta Tau Alpha. Davis Clemons was elected to Homecoming Chairman; chapter awards included fourth place in the overall category.
Under the direction of Richard Feasel, Oklahoma Beta started holding a “New Initiates Reception” with over 170 actives, parents and alumni in attendance. Craig Clemons, Clayton Taylor and Chris Cardoni were regular keynote speakers. Phi Delta Theta was the only chapter on campus honoring their new initiates in such a special way and we have Richard Feasel to thank for this brilliant concept. The receptions were off campus at a beautiful venue with wonderful food, décor and a meaningful program.
Phi Delt’s GPA’s were steadily climbing at this time. Fall 2010 GPA represented 10th in overall rankng at 2.9; the next year (2011), GPA’s rose to 8th ranking with an average of 3.1
2012 – 2014
Academic accomplishments from Oklahoma Beta members became “trendy” for the time; actives held offices like Secretary for Beta Beta Beta (Biology Honor Society); they were Members in distinguished associations ranging from Pre-Med Honor Society to Golden-Key International Honor Society to Presidents Honor Roll and Honor College.
Oklahoma Beta men participated in an expanded variety of campus activities with goals resembling the drive and determination synonymous with OK Beta since the 1940’s. In these years, Phi Delta Theta’s Oklahoma Beta chapter earned awards for
• Homecoming House Deck – 2013
• Chi Omega Wish week 2012 – 3rd Place
• Chi Omega Wish week 2013 – 2nd Place
• Homecoming Sign 2013 – 3rd Place
• Homecoming Harvest Carnival 2013 – 2nd place
• Homecoming Safety 2013 – 1st place
• Spring Sing 2013 – Sharla McClendon Spirit Award
Campus and Community involvement was at an all time high with over 80% of Phi Delt actives as Leaders or Members in clubs and associations to include:
• IFC Public Relations Committee
• Campus Crusade
• ASME (American of Society of Mechanical Engineers)
• Habitat for Humanity
• Student Mobilization
• Sports Management Club
• Society of Petroleum Engineers
• Alpha Kappa Psi (an on-campus business fraternity)
• Beta Alpha Psi (an on campus accounting fraternity)
During these years, Oklahoma Beta was proud to consistently have new members earn the honor of being named Top 10 Freshmen. Directors of the largest organizations on campus have been members of Phi Delta Theta. The sample includes:
• A member on the IFC judicial board
• Founders of OSU PenPal club
• 2012 Most Improved Chapter Award
• 2012 Top Chapter Advisor Award
• Member of Lake Hefner Golf & Country Club
• Member-founded Bowfishing Club
• Member-founded Sports Management Club
The Oklahoma Beta Building Association Board of Trustees has decided to embark on a Capital Campaign to reinvest into the Phi Delta Theta Oklahoma Beta Chapter House and its members.
Three ambitious goals are in place:
1) As the 224 S. Monroe property needs major renovation to compete with its fraternal peers and high-end living options on OSU’s campus, a complete re-design and re-model is planned to feature an east-elevation exterior facelift, new amenities and exceptional living conditions.
2) An associated Campaign is being launched with the goal of securing $3.3M to privately fund this initiative. The Campaign – called the ROAD TO GREATNESS – is being led by Brother Michael Hyatt and a representative Campaign Committee of Oklahoma Beta Phi Delt’s.
3) General Headquarters, the Building Corporation and all Oklahoma Beta alumni are committed to a new, sustainable culture. There will be a zero tolerance for any activity outside of University or GHQ policy or guidelines. New pro-active programs – including a Chapter Advisory Board – will have much better governance, influence and hands-on mentoring with regards to the relationship between active leaders and chapter alumni. The old Oklahoma Beta Pledgeship model will now be a new 8-week New Membership program which has been vetted and beta-tested at the national level.
In short, there are many great days ahead for this renowned Chapter. We believe Phi Delta Theta Oklahoma Beta Chapter will soon return to a Top Three Fraternity on Oklahoma State University Campus. We are confident the Phi Delta Theta Oklahoma Beta Chapter will receive special recognition, admiration and appreciation by OSU Sororities, Oklahoma State University, its fraternal peers and Phi Delta Theta General Headquarters. We look forward to filling our halls with quality young men who are “in training” to become collegiate graduates, professionals, community leaders, honored husbands and fathers and “brothers in the bond” beginning in Fall 2016.