History

TKE was founded in 1899 at Illinois Wesleyan College (now University). If you want to know more about the history of the greater TKE Fraternity and our five founders, visit the history page at the TKE National website.

What follows here is a brief history of our own Beta-Pi Chapter.

An Extraordinary Story of Repeated Challenges and Triumphs

1940s – Southern Outpost

YMCA

YMCA

In 1948, bread rationing ended in Great Britain but most of Western Europe still lay in ruins. The US Congress passed the Marshall Plan, the modern state of Israel was founded, the Berlin Blockade began. On January 27, 1948, twelve men met with TKE field secretary Herb Brown Chapter at the Georgia Tech YMCA on North Avenue in Atlanta to establish Chi Epsilon Colony of TKE fraternity.

Along with most other national fraternities, TKE sought to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the end of the Second World War to establish colonies and reactivate chapters that had, for lack of college-age men, suspended operations during the war. The GI Bill enabled the return of those whose education had been interrupted along with thousands of others who might never have attended college. The colony at Georgia Tech was part of an expansion program that resulted in the founding of thirteen new TKE chapters in 1947, seven in 1948, eleven in 1949, and eight in 1950.

The twelve men were veterans of the War. Several were married. The members agreed to meet every Tuesday night at 8:00 in a place “to be determined” which turned out to be the YMCA until the organization was assigned its own house. Throughout Winter and Spring quarters of 1948, the colony concerned itself primarily with finding a house to rent, making it suitable for habitation, writing by-laws, and with its own pledge education. A barely suitable house was located at 681 Plum Street. Dean Griffin made the house available to the organization until June 1949. The first meeting of the colony in the new house was held on April 13.

On June 6, 1948, twenty-six men were initiated in the YMCA on North Avenue by Grand Prytanis R.C. Williams with the help of fraters from the newly founded chapter at Alabama Polytechnic in Auburn, AL. The new chapter was designated Beta Pi and became the twenty-fifth fraternity at Georgia Tech–one of only four that had been chartered there since 1929. Scroll numbers of the new fraters were designated by the Prytanis. The initiation event included a banquet and speeches. Louis Drane received the charter from Grand Prytanis Williams. An open house followed at the House.

The first regular meeting of Beta Pi Chapter was opened in the house on Plum Street on June 7, 1948 at 6:20 p.m. by Prytanis Pettit. TKE field secretary Herb Brown explained further procedures for recognition and voting at meetings. The new organization faced many challenges, the most immediate of which was housing.

The house had room for only four people. From the beginning, it was seen as temporary. Chapter minutes from September 28, 1948 refer to the Dean’s plans to rent the chapter another house by January 1, 1949, if not earlier. On December 8, 1948, house manager Warren Bolton reported that the Institute would require that the chapter move out by December 13th. A new house had been found but would not be available until after Christmas. Tech allowed the Tekes to occupy dorm rooms and store material at Tech during the last week of Fall Quarter.

Williams Street

Williams Street

In January 1949, the chapter moved into a fourteen-man house on Williams Street. This arrangement was also considered temporary from the beginning. This house, and several others, had actually been moved from their former locations in order to make way for the contruction of the “Atlanta Expressway”, later known as “The Downtown Connector”, which cuts through the middle of Atlanta to this day.

Several TKE architecture students and alumni inspected the house and determined that it was not suited for any major repairs or improvements that would enable it to hold more men. Negotations with Dean Griffin and Dean Narmore ended with an agreement in late April that the rent would be $135/month retroactive to January 1st. Soon after, the chapter sought to secure a rent contract at, at most, the same rate for the house for at least another year.

Beta Pi was accepted as a full member of the Georgia Tech IFC on May 3, 1949. On May 11, 1949, the chapter approved a mandatory meal plan for all single members living on campus. On September 28, 1949, the word file was created when frater Phillips asked that all members bring old quizzes to the house in order that “a file might be started.” This soon became extremely important to the upperclassmen in the technical majors.

During Fall 1949, the first group of mostly non-veterans pledged and a large class was initiated in January 1950. The chapter grew to forty members. Unfortunately, there was little in common between the Chapter’s founders, veterans who were older and had seen the War, and the new men, who entered mostly directly from high school. As well, during the early 1950s, there were two groups of fraternities at Georgia Tech – the older chapters, which had enough housing for their members, and the newer chapters, whose houses could only hold a few members.

Since housing was so scarce on campus, many members of fraternities in the latter group lived off-campus. Their houses were used only as meeting places. TKE fell into this group. The housing situation, along with divisions in the Chapter made Rush difficult for several years.

1950s – Transition and Arrival

In 1950, communist forces in China occupied Tibet, communist forces in North Korea invaded South Korea, the US recognized a Vietnamese government in Saigon and signed arms and training agreements with it. The US entry into the Korean War made scholarship a very serious matter since students had to make certain grades or risk being drafted.

The Chapter’s scholarship standards were firm and many pledges took several quarters to make the grades necessary for initiation. Some never did. How strange it must have seemed to the many veterans in the Chapter to see the US at war again! Fortunately for the Greek system nationwide, the conflict was not of the same scale as WWII and the system continued to expand.

The struggle to fill the house continued. Without rent revenue, the Chapter could not support the house and advancing highway construction threatened the property anyway. The Chapter would have to move and could not afford to take the house with them. On November 15, Prytanis Bolton announced that it might be possible to rent a house on 4th Street. Unfortunately, highway construction moved along faster than the Chapter’s plans.

The Chapter left the house on Williams Street during Winter quarter 1951. The fraters and pledges were scattered. Having no place of its own to assemble, chapter meetings were held, once again, in the Georgia Tech YMCA. For meals, there was the cafeteria, known to students as the “Ptomaine Tavern”, which was not popular. It was hard to maintain the feeling of fraternity. Dick Dougall, who worked at the YMCA and had access to a mimeograph machine, published a weekly chapter newsletter to help hold the organization together.

4th Street

4th Street

In the meantime, at 185 4th Street, near the corner with Fowler, a sweet, elderly lady loved the little house she lived in. She had a little fish pond in the back yard and a garden, of which she was proud. She could never have imagined that John Diehl, Bill Fricke, and others would soon be working on a ‘Reck where her flowers bloomed. What would she have said if she had known that, one Summer soon after, a famous Hollywood actress, in Atlanta to make a movie, would party in her house and fall into her pond?

Beta Pi’s third house stood on part of the land occupied now by the Wesley Foundation near the corner of 4th Street and Fowler, just a minute’s walk from the current location. At the time, this area was considered “just off campus.” The move took place during Summer quarter 1951. The house was tiny. Nine men could live upstairs there with difficulty. Like the other houses the chapter had occupied, this one was in a terrible state. An interior decorator was consulted and work parties were held to repair walls and paint. Dick Phelps’s parents donated an upright piano, helping to start what became a long standing tradition of singing in the Chapter. There were machines for selling Cokes and snacks.

About the same time, a Teke alumnus from Rhode Island, Bob Kirkhuff, replaced Colonel Edgerly as the chapter advisor. Edgerly was in his 60s and wanted to retire. Despite his youth and that his wife Louise was pregnant, Kirkhuff agreed. By all accounts, the arrival of the Kirkhuffs was a great boost to the Chapter. Bob remained advisor for twenty-five years.

A salient feature of the Chapter in its early days was its diversity. There were veterans and high school kids. There were “damn Yankees” and “Georgia crackers”. Several fraters, such as Phelps and Grimshaw, had grown up on military posts in various parts of the world. Most fraters were single but a few, such as Richard Le Veille, were married. For years, there was a large and influential international contingent, especially from Latin America and the Caribbean. Many members of this international group were among the Chapter’s most interesting and active members.

The TKE house was too small to contain an institutional kitchen but a meal plan was important. Arrangements were made with neighboring Theta Xi to eat at their house. Members would show up at the TKE house around midday and socialized until someone said “Squeet”, which meant “Let’s go eat” and the Chapter would go to their sitting next door. Later, an arrangement was made with the cook next door to prepare TKE meals there. Food was then carried over in large containers by pledges and served family style.

Folding chairs were borrowed regularly from the Wesley Foundation since the house did not have enough storage space for all the chairs needed to seat the chapter. Chairs became an issue between the Chapter and the Foundation since “we always had some of theirs and they always wanted them back.”

Social events included numerous backyard parties with girls invited from Agnes Scott. Record parties were popular. The annual Red Carnation Ball was a big event and was held several times at the Georgian Terrace Hotel on Peachtree. All social events were chaperoned and Dean Pershing and his wife and, later, Dean Dull and his wife attended occasionally. Although the drinking age was eighteen, alcohol was not permitted on campus and restaurants were often BYOB. Disciplinary incidents from those days usually involved alcohol but the chapter never got in any great trouble.

In 1953, the Chapter reached a milestone when Bill Fricke, scroll number 13 and the last of the Chapter Founders, graduated, having spent more than the usual amount of time at Tech.

In Fall 1957, Dan Laird led a rush that pledged thirty men, the largest pledge class the chapter had gotten until that quarter. In Fall 1958, twenty more men pledged TKE and the Chapter entered the ranks of the large fraternities where it has remained ever since. In a decade, membership had grown from fifteen to seventy-five members. Though a good thing generally, the rapid growth of the Chapter at the end of the 1950s put great strains on the facilities and on the social organization of the Chapter.

In 1958, the Wesley Foundation completed plans to build on the two lots on 4th Street at the corner with Fowler Street. TKE and neighboring Theta Xi had to move. Fortunately for TKE, Georgia Tech held options on two properties at the corner of 5th Street and Techwood Drive, an area designated for the expansion of Greek housing. When Tech offered to allow the Teke Board the buy the houses, the Board eagerly accepted. Chairman Bill Eisenhour made the arrangements, $35,000 changed hands, and Beta Pi owned its own land for the first time. There could hardly have been a better turn of fortune, for the house of 4th Street had become entirely inadequate and the growing chapter desperately needed more social and living space.

In April 1959 the chapter moved into a run-down two-story brick apartment house, the Brick House, at the corner of 5th Street and Techwood Drive and a run-down wooden house, the White House (later a.k.a. the Social Quarters or Old Social Quarters), just downhill on 5th Street. Kappa Alpha had long occupied the southeast corner of 5th and Techwood. Delta Upsilon soon moved into the house formerly occupied by a Tech faculty member on the southwest corner. The large house on the northeast corner was not occupied by Phi Kappa Sigma until much later. Lambda Chi Alpha’s house stood beside Delta Upsilon on Techwood. The Pikes occupied a house on a lot on Techwood drive just north of the new Teke houses.

The move to the new houses was difficult as the Chapter had to come to terms not only with the need to fill its much larger facilities but also with the tremendous task of preparing and maintaining the new buildings. The first meeting in the new houses was held on April 22, 1959.

Despite the Chapter’s good fortune at having finally found a property in which it could settle and grow, the organization had serious problems to address. Could the Chapter “grow into” the considerably increased demands that its new facilities demanded?

In the Summer 1959, the Chapter embarked on a radical departure from normal fraternity practice at Georgia Tech. Earlier in the school year, in an effort to get an edge on rush competitors, Beta Pi had appointed a Summer rush committee. That committee rushed and pledged ten men during Summer 1959. This rush proved to be important because the rush of Fall 1959 produced only fifteen pledges – alone inadequate but acceptable when combined with the results from Summer. The storm had been weathered.

The Chapter began the 1950s as a small organization, never certain of housing, dealing with the growing pains typical of any new group facing the loss of its original members. By the end of the 1950s, the Chapter was established firmly in the Greek system at Georgia Tech and prepared to begin thirty years of sustained high achievement remarkable for a group so recently created, so diverse, and without the housing and social advantages held by the older chapters on campus.

1960s – The Teke Village

The White House

The White House

Fraters set to work repairing and improving the properties – a task that was never to end as long as the buildings were occupied. The wall between the two front rooms of the White House was removed to make a larger room for meetings, parties, and dinners. A covered path of concrete and brick was built between the two houses.

In the Brick House, a new door was created opening to the breezeway from the White House and, on the upper floor, a corridor was created by knocking out all the existing closets, which were conveniently lined up. There was one bath upstairs, one downstairs, and no private showers. The basement of the Brick House was mostly unfinished and was used for storage. Most of the back yard was paved with concrete to serve as a basketball court and patio for parties. The Brick House apartment on the first floor facing 5th Street remained separate and was designated the House Mother’s Apartment. It was occupied by Mrs. Lomie “the Jet” Jetton, the chapter’s first house mother.

Bill Eisenhauer, a co-op student who remained in Atlanta during Summer quarter, wanted the Chapter to sponsor activities during the Summer. However, so few members normally remained during that quarter that it was not practical. This was the case in all the fraternities.

Recognizing an opportunity, in Spring 1960, the Chapter voted to give the members present during the Summer the full powers of the chapter. Beta Pi became a four quarter fraternity – the first at Georgia Tech. Members would pay dues, meetings would be held, and votes taken during the Summer would be as binding as those taken during the regular school year. This made particular sense at Georgia Tech because of the co-op program, which placed many students in school during Summers. Having members who needed housing during the Summer and Winter balanced the temporary loss of those that left to work out of town during those quarters.

In November 1960, a new heating system was installed in the Brick House and the Chapter and BOC decided to borrow money to build a kitchen in the White House. The northwest room on the first floor was remodeled to become the kitchen and the northeast room became a dining room. A closet between the two rooms became a serving and washing area and a pantry was created when the small back porch was enclosed.

The dining room would only seat thirty people but by setting up tables at dinner time in the adjacent living room and serving in two shifts, everyone could eat. Food was brought from the kitchen by pledges and served family style. A cook was hired for $35 per week and lunches and dinners were served Monday through Saturday.

To ensure that the kitchen could serve enough meals to make a profit, the meal plan was made mandatory for all single members. An advance deposit system was created to make sure that bills were paid on time. Within a few months, the kitchen had paid returned the chapter’s initial investment. The operation of our own meal plan brought the chapter together daily for the first time, strengthening the organization and helping lead to a period of growth and expansion.

The Chapter’s cook for much of this time was Myrtle “the fertile turtle”, who resembled “Mammy” from Gone with the Wind. She was renowned for the excellent taste of her meals. She cooked her vegetables until every vitamin had fled. Frying was her preferred method of preparation and it was rumored that she was the only person in the world who could deep fry Jello. Her dessert cake was so rich that it was called “ton cake” and no one could eat more than one.

Despite its two houses, the Chapter needed still more room. In Spring 1962, the Board began to look seriously at buying the Pike house at 828 Techwood Drive – just north of the two Teke houses. Pike wanted $23,000 for the property and TKE was willing to pay only $18,000. In November 1962, the price of $18,500 was agreed upon and the BOT bought what became known as the North House. Three committees of undergrads were appointed to create separate proposals for modifying the newly acquired space to meet the Chapter’s needs.

The North House could be entered through the main floor from Techwood Drive or through the basement from the TKE patio. Tekes demolished a three story frame addition that the Pikes had long ago built onto the back of the house to increase its housing capacity. The old structure was replaced by a new one built of cinder blocks at the basement level and prefabricated framing on the main floor level. Construction was done by ten Tekes who stayed in Atlanta during the break between Winter and Spring quarters. The kitchen was moved into the new addition.

During Spring and Summer, further renovations were done by the Chapter. Another new room was added, four walls, including two load-bearing walls, were removed, and a steel beam placed to support the upper floor. This beam was carried onto the property and placed by hand (at least twenty pairs). This created a large combination dining-chapter-party room. The basement was also used for parties. TKE’s three houses could sleep forty-five men and, together, became known as The Teke Village.

Although the chapter worked hard to improve its houses, rearranging interior spaces and digging out and finishing basements, maintenance was always a problem. Everyone realized that, eventually, the old building would have to be replaced. The hope of better facilities was always with the chapter.

1970s – Living Huge

In 1972, the North House was torn down, replaced by the Apartment House and a big front yard. The Apartment House offered accomodations unlike any other in the Greek system at Tech – without question the finest housing available to students on or near campus.

The three story building consisted of twelve apartments. Each apartment contained two two-man rooms, its own bath (sink in the hall), a den, and a small kitchen area. Each apartment could be locked with its own key. The BOT adopted this unconventional plan in order to make it easier to borrow money to build the house since, if the Chapter ceased to be, the BOT could always rent the excellent facilities to other Tech students. Housing was in such short supply in those days that the BOT could have actually increased its revenue by renting to students in general instead of running the property as a Chapter House.

About a year later, the roach-infested Brick House was brought down and a large and inviting front yard created in its place. Tekes poured a basketball court where the space between the Brick and North Houses had been and did extensive landscaping. The pecan tree, which had stood in the back yard of the Brick House, was preserved.

Around 1973, the Chapter decided to create a full basement out of the crawl space beneath the White House. Both the digging and the removal of dirt were done by hand. After excavation, the front yard was occupied by a huge pile of dirt that someone eventually bought. A slab was poured in the new basement and several million-dollar checks were buried in it.

A bar, party room, laundry room, closet, and TV or “tube” room were created, giving the chapter more social space. The bar face featured a metal plate with “TKE” embossed on it. The business side of the bar included a small sink with running water. Behind the bar were mirrors and a tap that led through the wall to a specially modified (keg containing) refrigerator that stood in the laundry room. The tube room was fully carpeted and had tiered seating. The party room had a drop ceiling with fluorescent lights, some drink machines (including a beer machine), a large trophy shelf, and the House mail slots. The laundry room, never finished out, contained three coin-operated washers and a few gas dryer. There was some storage in the laundry room as well.

The Old Lady's House

The Old Lady’s House

In 1975, the BOT bought the Old Lady’s House, which stood on Fifth Street downhill from the White House. It was named for the former occupant, with whom the chapter had not been on the best of terms. She had suffered years of abuse at the Chapter’s hands before deciding to sell. However, neither she nor Georgia Tech intended that the house be sold to Beta Pi. In fact, when she learned of the Chapter’s plans, Tech’s planner stated that there was “no way we would let a fraternity have that much land.” Determined not to lose the last obvious opportunity to acquire more land, the BOT arranged to purchase the property through a third party and a clause assigning the property to the Chapter was written into the contract.

The old lady did not find out until closing that her hope was cheated. She was not happy. Nevertheless, all legalities were in order and the property came into the Chapter’s hands. With the Old Lady’s House, housing capacity reached sixty-four with forty-eight beds in the Apartment House, seven in the Old Social Quarters, and nine in the Old Lady’s House.

The Old Lady’s House was the last property acquisition of the Chapter. Since the property was now bounded by two streets, a fire alley, and a sorority house that was the first women’s dormitory at Georgia Tech, it is unlikely that there will ever be another acquisition.

In the late 1970s, several fraters owned motorcycles, which they parked in the space between the White House and the Old Lady’s House. This had formerly been the Old Lady’s driveway. Now it became known as Thunder Alley. In the early 1980s the area was landscaped with railroad ties and gravel and was good place to park and work on motorcycles.

1980s – Challenges and Changes

The Property 1980

The Property 1980

The decade of the 1980s was a time of great change for Beta Pi Chapter. This was a period of rapid expansion and success for the National Fraternity but, for the Chapter, this time was provided some of the biggest challenges the organization had faced since its very early days.

The 1980s began with membership over 100 after the initiation of the large classes of 1979 and 1980. The Chapter was on top of the world. There was room for all, money for everything, and an expectation of success.

The Chapter 1981

The Chapter 1981

However, these successful rushes were not duplicated in following years and the number of graduates exceeded the number of initiates for several years. Partly this was due to the advent of Dry Rush, which the Chapter made serious attempts to implement although many other fraternities at Tech blatantly violated the policy. The situation became critical in 1982 when falling membership and lack of financial controls resulted in the Chapter’s running out of cash. At this point, the Board of Trustees stepped in, demanding reforms, and a period of antagonism began between the Chapter and its Board that lasted for the rest of the decade.

The Old Lady’s House was torn down in 1988 and replaced by a volleyball court built by the Chapter. To maintain the housing capacity, the BOT decided to reconfigure the Apartment House as a Dormitory, turning the old living rooms into bedrooms and the kitchens into corridors. Five balconies were enclosed to create new bathrooms. The changes were supposed to facilitate construction of the long-awaited new House. However, no new building was raised and the effect on the Chapter was terrible. Relations between the Chapter and the Board grew worse.

Despite deteriorating facilities and lagging membership, the Chapter survived, initiated several events such as the Yacht Party (which continues today), and continued to receive awards for its participation in campus activities. Nevertheless, everyone knew that it had been better in the past.

1990s – Promises Fulfilled

At the first BOT meeting of Fall 1990, the BOT began the process of restructuring the Chapter’s financial procedures, which had changed little for twenty years. Careful budgeting and aggressive collections ensued and the Chapter soon began to accumulate budget surpluses of several thousand dollars each quarter. The results were evident everywhere. The Chapter had money for whatever it wanted to do.

A few years later, the Chapter having attained financial prosperity and stable membership, the BOT decided that the time was right to build the long-promised New Social Quarters. The planning occurred in irregular spurts as the members of the planning committee had time. Sometimes progress was swift and sometimes nothing was done for months.

It soon became apparent that the BOT could not “build enough house” to make sense of financing through Georgia Tech’s program to help chapters prepare for the 1996 Olympic Games. Fortunately for the Chapter, John Reagan and TKE alumnus Joe Evans met at Homecoming 1992. Fed up with the lack of clean bathroom facilities for his wife and daughter, Joe was eager to see construction begin. He proposed an arrangement through which small parts of the loan could be guaranteed by individuals. This was much less expensive for the Chapter than taking out a Foundation-guaranteed loan and enabled the BOT to borrow all the money it needed for the project.

On May 3, 1993, an agreement was signed between Tau Kappa Epsilon of Georgia, Inc. and the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games for the use of the Chapter House during the 1996 Summer Games.

During Spring 1993, plans for the new house had progressed to where the BOT felt confident that the project could actually be carried out. By this time, the White House, used for little but meals, meetings, and storage, had deteriorated so badly that the BOT felt that it represented an “accident waiting to happen.” Concerned about liability and desiring to send a signal to undergrads and alumni that the Board was committed to the construction project, the BOT contracted for the demolition of the White House in Spring 1993, even though financing for new contruction had not been secured.

The Demolished White House

The Demolished White House

Demolition was an all-day affair that provided much frustration for the workers and much amusement for the inhabitants of the area. Older members had long thought that the old house was fragile, held together by the electrical wiring or the dozens of coats of paint with which the exterior had been coated. (Frater Mike Skillman, who owned a paint store, supported the chapter for many years by providing paint for the house each Fall.) For most of the afternoon, the contractors dragged steel cables through the house, ripping through walls and tearing out interior supports. Crowds gathered along 5th Street and Techwood to watch. All afternoon they worked and still the house would not fall. By 5:30 pm, the crew was in bad shape. The work day was over but they could not simply leave such an obviously unsafe structure standing. Strange incantations drawn from the misty Anglo-Saxon origins of the English language were hurled at the building but it refused to fall. A crewman jumped into a bulldozer, ran it through the front yard, and rammed the remains of the front porch. The house shuddered. He backed up a little, raised the bucket, then drove up to the porch again and dropped the bucket on it. Slowly, with a great amount of screeching, snapping, and popping of wood, the White House slid down upon itself.

Perhaps by design, little debris fell out of the house. More than anything, the fall resembled that of a house of cards. A great cloud of dust went up from the pile and a great holler went up from the crowd of onlookers. Over the next few days, workmen removed the debris and the old slab that Tekes had poured in the basement a dozen years before. So the last reminder of the old “Teke Village” was gone, replaced by a large, weed- and rodent-infested hole, and no new building was in sight.

No White House - Summer 1993

No White House – Summer 1993

Surely one of the most unusal periods in the Chapter’s history spanned the months between the demolition of the White House and the completion of the New Social Quarters when the Chapter’s only meeting and eating places was a round tent known as “the Tit”, “Teke Mahal”, “Taj Ma-Teke “, or, most commonly, “the Dome”. Prytanis Stewart Nix did the research and arranged for delivery of a tent from Sprung Structures. Although made of cloth, it was a sturdy structure. The fabric of the dome was tough and the frame was made of steel. The contractor leveled an area on the northwest corner of the property.

On September 14, the tent arrived in boxes and Tekes put it up the next day. The floor was covered with plywood laid over gravel. During the warm months, a set of double doors were left open. Flies were a problem. Heat was provided during the cold months by space heaters provided by the BOT but members still dined in their winter jackets. Meals were cooked in “the Magic Bus”, a portable kitchen that filled a small, heavily-modified school bus. After meals, an line formed at the dish washing station. Members prepped their own dishes, which were later washed in a home-variety dishwasher that stood in the West Well.

The Summer of 1994 is widely acknowledged as one of the wettest in recorded Georgia history and progress on the House was much slowed by the weather. Construction dragged out until Homecoming 1994 when the Chapter finally occupied the New Social Quarters, which stands today.

The Chapter had never had an adequate social space such as finally appeared in Fall 1994. So used to remaining in their “corners” had members become that some doubted that the new space would be used but, by the beginning of Fall 1995, some patterns of use of the New Social Quarters had clearly emerged. The pool table was used often in the afternoons and evenings for individual and team play. The foozball table was moved from its place near the West Porch to in front of the trophy case near the Resident Advisor’s apartment. The West Porch became a favorite spot for partying on weekends. The pattern of table placement in the Great Hall for dinners gradually included areas that were not under the overhangs. The Great Hall became a popular place for studying on weeknights and for playing cards and drinking on weekends, especially during power outages.

No sooner had the Chapter settled comfortably into its new surrounds than renovation of the property for the Olympics got under way. Beginning in Summer 1995 and continuing until the end of Spring Quarter 1996, every bedroom, bathroom, and hallway in the “old” dormitory was gutted by the members. Every bit of sheetrock was removed and replaced with new sheetrock over oriented strand board and the rooms repainted. Every shower was replaced.

BOT members Paul Remke and Michael Smith pulled computer network cable into every bedroom. Carpet was laid in every bedroom and the carpet in the halls was (mercifully) carried out – replaced with much more practical tile. Amazing stuff and all the more so because almost all the work was done by Tekes while we continued to live in our own house.

At the end of Spring quarter 1996, most of the Chapter left campus for their homes, each member having been charged with leaving his room in decent condition for inspection by ACOG housing. However, even though most members complied, there was still a lot of work to be done to bring the house into line with the agreement with the Olympic Committee. Electrical outlets had to be tested, scuffed up walls painted, molding placed on walls, some carpet installed, locks replaced, wardrobes assembled, the kitchen cleared of perishables, all cleaning supplies removed, and a lot of miscellaneous repair, cleaning, and yard work.

Enticed by an offer from the Board of Trustees, some fraters stayed and worked a few days into the break. In particular, seven fraters and one girlfriend (Jenna Tallent) stayed and worked almost the entire time up to the minute that the representatives from Olympic Housing arrived to look at the House (and a few hours after, in some cases.) The last few days were especially rough since it had become necessary to pull “all nighters” to be sure the work was done. But do it they did … whatever it took.

In those days, there was no time, day or night, during which work ceased in the House. The effort was magnificent. From summer 1995 to summer 1996, no other organization at Tech accomplished what we did … no other organization could have.

The work went on down to the wire. Chad Colman and Michael Smith were laying carpet in the resident advisor’s quarters an hour before inspection and Tim Marriott was repairing locks as Committee members walked through the House. As the inspection ended, the “Magnificent Seven” gathered in the living room and collapsed into the couches and chairs.

Everyone was numb with fatigue but a little giddy. All were aware that there was still some work left and no one knew what deficiencies the Committee would point out. The Seven sat in silence. For the first time in days, there was little movement or noise. The House was quiet except for the sound of the ceiling fans and the quiet conversation among the inspectors and the members of the Chapter’s BOT as they walked slowly through the building. Much to everyone’s relief, the property was acceptable. The Irish were on their way!

Tug-of-War Dominance - Late 1990s

Tug-of-War Dominance – Late 1990s

During the games, the Irish used our Chapter House as a dormitory, office, and physical therapy facility, having marked it specifically among their choices at Tech because they could place all three functions in the same building, a major improvement over their arrangements in Barcelona. However, the Teke House was not party central during the games; for that the Irish used Buckhead and the old courthouse in Decatur. The Teke House was quiet and returned to us in excellent condition.

After the Olympic athletes left, the Chapter moved back in to a bare facility and began several semesters of rebuilding all the lofts that had been ripped out to make way for Olympic standard furniture. Chapter morale went through the roof and, for the rest of the nineties, TKE Beta-Pi came to dominate greekweek, especially tug-of-war, excelled in intramurals, threw excellent parties, and generally made up for the years of sacrifice during construction and renovation, while nevertheless continuing to improve the property by adding an extensive deck by the volleyball court and other projects. The late 1990s were truly “the best of times” in TKE.

Valid parallels have been drawn between the generation of Tekes who arrived in 1993 and 1994 and the men who returned from WWII and founded our Chapter. Both groups faced major personal and organizational challenges during times that might have been carefree and fun. But they did what they needed to do and, when life returned to “normal”, applied all that pent up demand for good times and all the discipline and confidence they had gained in their struggles to excelling in whatever areas they chose. Their love and loyalty for the Chapter continues to benefit, not only the Tekes of Georgia Tech, but their friends and acquaintances and Tekes from other chapters.

2000s – Preparing for the Next Great Step

housepan

The Property Early 2000s

By every measure, the Chapter in 2000 was in far better shape than it had been in 1990. Secure in its new facilities, the dream of hundreds of members finally realized, large, financially stable, successful in intramurals and other competitions, using its facilities to their social potential.

There seemed to be no limits to the fun that could be had. Yet, as the last of the pledge classes of 93 and 94 graduated, challenges were on the horizon.

Back in summer 1996, as they prepared to close up the House to await the arrival of the Irish, two veterans of three years of demolition and reconstruction leaned on the railing in the social quarters, looking down on the spotless Great Hall, reflecting on all that had been accomplished in the previous year, especially in the previous month. “You know,” one said, “in five years, nobody will remember what we did.”

At the turn of the century, members were being initiated into ready-made success…with predictable results. Although the Chapter continued to excel, signs of trouble were appearing in the number of initiates who went “inactive” yet continued to claim social benefits, in rising amounts of unpaid dues, in the decline of the maintenance of the facilities and the lack of improvements (with a few noticable exceptions such as the new monolith pictured above), and in the frequency of risk-management incidents.

New Monolith

New Monolith

The Chapter and its Board were strong enough to weather difficulties that would have sent lesser organizations over the edge. Nevertheless, Board members and other alumni noticed the decline and wondered what had been lost and how to get it back.

At the same time, our society and Georgia Tech were changing. In the years between 1995 and 2005, the environment in which Greek organizations at Georgia Tech operated had become unrecognizable in many ways to the alumni of Georgia Tech. Old ideas and practices of fraternity life were falling out of favor.

Liability, risk management, and dealing with the media had become huge issues. The uncorroborated claims of one blue-haired high school girl from East Point led to a candlelight vigil outside one chapter house. Parents from a generation that had revolted against their college administrations were now pestering deans and suing universities for not monitoring and controlling the lives of their students enough.

The Chapter was adapting but not as fast as the bigger world was changing. If we were to recover that energy and spirit that took us so far in the 1990s, we had to start thinking out of the normal Greek box.

It is plain from our history that the Chapter has always done best when it is striving for something, when individuals and the organization face the risk of failure and overcome difficulties to succeed. By 2002, the outlines of a plan to challenge the Chapter and its members had been proposed, a bold plan to take our fraternity to the next level.

In late 2003, we began ramping up by reintroducing financial discipline and we are already reaping substantial benefits from that. In mid 2004, scholarship was addressed. Now we are working on every aspect of member recruitment and development from pledging through alumni programming–all aimed at setting us up to take full advantage of our mortgage payoff in 2008, an event that has kick started our transformation into something new at Georgia Tech that will enhance our members lives in ways all but impossible for other organizations to match.

…and we’re still going to be the best place to live on campus and have as much fun as we can stand.

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