The Fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta was founded on May 1, 1848 at Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. The founders of this brotherhood wanted to include men with distinguished attributes, high ambitions, and a sense of honor. Better known today as FIJIs, the members of this exclusive society still uphold the promotion of lifelong friendships, high ethical values, and the pursuit of excellence through personal development. Just as it was over 150 years ago, Phi Gamma Delta is committed to providing the opportunities for brothers to develop responsibility, leadership, scholastics, and social skills.
The University of Arizona was founded in 1891 after the Territorial Legislation authorized its creation in 1885. The real growth, however, occurred after 1900. By the turn of the century, the University had its first fraternity, Kappa Sigma. Other fraternities were soon organized such as, Sigma Alpha Epsilon in 1911, Sigma Nu in 1913, and Sigma Chi in 1918. By the spring of 1921, there were only four national fraternities and two local fraternities at the University of Arizona.
On the evening of March 21, 1921, 12 upperclassmen, joined by five others who were then associated, gathered together and formed Zeta Delta Epsilon. Linton T. Simmons was chosen President, George V. Roark—Vice-President, Thomas Jefferson Randolph V—Secretary, Wallace S. Badger—Corresponding Secretary, and Robert I. Rupkey—Treasurer. The remaining founders were David D. Baker, William G. McGinnies, Ross L. Wiley, Joseph P. Sexton, Bernard I. Mylius, Burt S. Crandal, Ernest A. Hanson, Malcolm C. Heffelman, George K. York, and James P. Smith. They announced their formation publicly on April 1, 1921. Later in April, the University of Arizona granted Zeta Delta Epsilon recognition as a local fraternity.
The newly formed local experienced little difficulty in assuming a position of respect among the older Greek organizations on campus because the members of Zeta Delta Epsilon were already recognized leaders of the student body. The foremost aim of the fraternity was scholarship; and, in its first semester the members combined grade point average was higher than any of the other Greek organizations.
In the following summer, a large duplex apartment in Tucson’s Zuni Court (which became the Geronimo Hotel) was rebuilt into suitable quarters (see a picture in the “Photos” section). The fraternity spent the next three years at this location. During this period, members were elected to Student Body President and other major officers on campus; and, three first places in scholarship. It was also during this time that the traditions surrounding the old Mission bell, which hung in front of the house, came into being.
It was common knowledge within Zeta Delta Epsilon that it thought fondly of Phi Gamma Delta and had joining that fraternity as its objective—the majority of the founders yearned for the FIJI badge. But, minutes of the early meetings of Zeta Delta Epsilon during its first year indicated that on several occasions it became necessary to call for a vote to “reaffirm” their intentions to pursue Phi Gamma Delta.
The adopted flower of Zeta Delta Epsilon was the Ocotilla, the colors were blue and gold, and the badge was also gold.
In September 1922, the true intentions of Zeta Delta Epsilon were put to a test. One other major national fraternity offered a charter to Zeta Delta Epsilon on the condition that it combine with another local fraternity and that each group drop some of their “ineligible” members. After the meeting on September 24th called by President York, however, the members of Zeta Delta Epsilon, after several short, fervid, straight forward talks (as taken from Secretary Jerry Houck’s minutes), decided to stand “one for all, and all for one” in their pursuit to become a chapter of Phi Gamma Delta.
In the following nine years, five other major national fraternities, such as Phi Delta Theta and Delta Chi, offered Zeta Delta Epsilon a charter.
In 1923, the Arizona Graduate Chapter of Phi Gamma Delta was organized, largely through the interest in the establishment of a chapter of Phi Gamma Delta at the University of Arizona. John W. Spalding (Colorado College ’17) was the first FIJI to contact Zeta Delta Epsilon. John learned about the local fraternity from a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority whom he met on a train. The Graduate Chapter assisted in the administration and guidance of Zeta Delta Epsilon.
In the same year, 1923, was the Pittsburgh Ekklesia. Zeta Delta Epsilon first made formal contact with Phi Gamma Delta at the meeting and arranged a University of Arizona display. The following year at the Richmond Ekklesia, Phi Gamma Delta placed the University of Arizona on its accredited list. In 1924, Zeta Delta Epsilon purchased its own new chapter house and moved into a new fraternity house located at 443 E. First Street in Tucson (see a picture in the “Photos” section).
Delegations were sent to Colorado Springs and West Baden in 1927. Neither of these Ekklesiai approved a charter for Zeta Delta Epsilon. At the 1929 Ekklesia in Swampscott, a formal petition reached the floor, but it failed to get a sufficient number of votes.
Meanwhile, both Zeta Delta Epsilon and the University of Arizona continued to grow. By 1927, the University had 1777 students and 40% of them were in Greek organizations. At the same time, Zeta Delta Epsilon had 37 active members, 11 pledges, and 55 alumni. Two members were chosen to be Rhode Scholars—Paul DeVos ’30 and Edwin Casady ’28 established residency at Oxford. In fact, in the 20 scholastic reports issued by the Registrar during the 10 years of Zeta Delta Epsilon’s existence, it stood first or second in 13 of those reports and only twice fell below fourth in standing. The fraternity continued to have more than its share of members in extra-curricular activities including three Student Body Presidents, two Student Body Vice-Presidents, a Cheerleader, 14 Student Council members, and three Class Presidents and three Class Vice-Presidents. Members of Zeta Delta Epsilon won 35 varsity letters in various sports.
After failing in their previous attempts for a charter, the members of Zeta Delta Epsilon decided to make one more try at the San Antonio Ekklesia. The event began during Christmas and ended a few days after New Year’s in 1931. Three days before the Ekklesia, the undergraduates entertained the delegations from Stanford, Washington, Cal-Berkley, and Oregon State Universities attempting to win their support. At the time, many Western chapters considered the Tucson (and the University of Arizona) as an unruly cowboy town (school).
All the delegations then left together to go to San Antonio. During the long drive, many favorable opinions of Zeta Delta Epsilon were formed. Undergraduates from Zeta Delta Epsilon attending the Ekklesia were Bill Bowers, Bailey Pilcher, and Bob Yount; from the Graduate Chapter attending were Richard Chambers, Malcolm Heffleman, and Prugh Herndon; and, from the Arizona Graduate Chapter Roger Hunt attended.
At the start of the Ekklesia, the Zeta Delta Epsilon members put up a large display covering an entire wall of the hotel. During the previous year, Prugh Herndon had been in contact with many of the Archons who had pledged their support and among them were some of the most famous names in FIJI history: President, Horace Brightman; Secretary, Cecil “Bud” Wilkinson; and Councilor, Luther “Daddy” Brewer.
All that was left to do at the Ekklesia was to find someone to write and present a speech to the General Assembly. The decision was made to have Robert J. Schoettler, the delegate from Washington to present the speech. Before the Ekklesia, he had been instructed to vote against Zeta Delta Epsilon, but he had been won over. Prugh Herndon wrote the speech on New Year’s Eve night and Brother Schoettler read it late in the morning on January 1, 1931. At about noon, Roger Hunt rushed out of the General Assembly to announce to the Zeta Delta Epsilon delegation that a charter had been granted!
In the afternoon of April 17, 1931, there was an informal gathering at the chapter house at 443 E. First Street. That evening there was a “Smoker” for visiting FIJIs and Zeta Delta Epsilon actives, pledges, and alumni. On Saturday, April 18, 1931, 63 members of Zeta Delta Epsilon were initiated into The Fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta at the Masonic Temple on South Scott Street in Tucson. Upsilon Alpha became the 72nd chapter in The Fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta. A buffet luncheon was held at the chapter house. Later that afternoon, alumni members of Zeta Delta Epsilon were initiated into the Fraternity at the Masonic Temple. That evening, a banquet and Installation Ball were held at the Arizona Inn at 2300 East Elm Street. On Sunday, April 19, 1931, a dinner at the chapter house was held for the new members of Phi Gamma Delta. After dinner, the Zeta Delta Epsilon pledges were pledged into the Upsilon Alpha Chapter of Phi Gamma Delta. Afterwards, a reception was held at the chapter house for all fraternities, dormitories, and friends of Zeta Delta Epsilon.
This culminated the struggle of Zeta Delta Epsilon who saw five rather discouraging attempts at previous Ekklesiai and the installation of 13 other national fraternity and sorority groups at the University of Arizona, nearly all of them much younger groups. The names of those to whom Zeta Delta Epsilon is indebted to for more than just casual support are: Roger Hunt (Lehigh ’07 who became Upsilon Alpha’s first Purple Legionnaire); Charles Miller (Nebraska ’07); Oliver B. Jaynes (Ohio Wesleyan ’20); the members of the Arizona Graduate Chapter; and, former Section Chief Charles Wade Snook (California ’13) whose wonderfully kind letter of recommendation was read at the San Antonio Ekklesia.
Just prior to the end of Zeta Delta Epsilon’s days as a local fraternity and its metamorphosis into The Fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta at the Installation at the Arizona Inn, Art Middleton sang the following with stringed accompaniment:
Goodbye, old Zeta Delta Epsilon,
Goodbye, to the Gold and to the Blue,
Goodbye to the three stars and girdle,
That have bound us in brotherhood true.
Goodbye to the Zeta Delt dream girl
And the fair Octotilla bloom.
And though we bid adieu,
We still remember you—
Goodbye, old Zeta Delt, goodbye.
And its banner dropped slowly from the mast…into the spotlight came the royal purple of Phi Gamma Delta…upward it moves as almost exultingly the voice swung into:
Hello, Phi Gamma Delta,
We welcome the purple tonight—
Hello to the black shining diamond
And the gleaming star of white.
Hello to our little Fiji girl,
And the fair clematis bloom—
And though to us you’re new,
Our hearts we pledge to you;
Hello, Phi Gamma Delta.
This history of Zeta Delta Epsilon was written by Bruce Hart ’82, and it appears that much of the material came from articles in the May 1931, issue of The Phi Gamma Delta Magazine written by Elgin Sanders ’32 and Howard Welty, Jr. ’31. Changes and additions and subsequent editing were done by Vinson J. San Angelo ’62, the latest edit being in August 2011.
As mentioned, our first Chapter House from 1921 to 1924 was a half circle of garden apartments called Zuni Court (it later was expanded and was renamed the Geronimo Hotel in 1929). The site of Zuni Court on University Avenue near Euclid is now occupied by a Starbucks Coffee House in the Geronimo Plaza. Next we purchased a house at 443 E. First Street in 1924 (the house was subsequently razed and only an empty lot remains) and stayed at that location until we moved to 1801 E. First Street on January 15, 1939 (see a picture in the “Photos” section). The Chapter House has undergone several major renovations since that time. Upsilon Alpha is one of just a few fraternities that owns its property. We also owned the lot on the east side of the building, but in the early 70’s, our House Corporation had to sell the empty lot to pay debts. Although the lot remained empty, it was used for parking until 1980, when much to our dismay, construction began on a Burger King restaurant (now a Wendy’s). Over the years it became obvious that a new, more-modern facility was needed. Through the generous donations of the Graduate members, money was raised to construct a new Chapter House; and, demolition of the Chapter House occupied since 1939 began in December 2001. The new Chapter House was completed and occupied in October 2003. Although the new house looks essentially the same as the old house, it is bigger and is a state-of-the-art facility. Without question, it is the best fraternity Chapter House at the University of Arizona.