Tau Kappa Epsilon (ΤΚΕ or Teke, pronounced T-K-E or Tēk) is an international all-male secret and social college fraternity founded on January 10, 1899, at Illinois Wesleyan University. The organization has chapters in the United States, Canada, and an affiliation with a German fraternity system known as the Corps of the Weinheimer Senioren-Convent (WSC). There are currently 291 active TKE chapters and colonies throughout the United States and Canada, making it the second largest fraternity in terms of chapters established (behind Kappa Sigma). In 1928, TKE became one of the first fraternities to abolish “hell week”, instead replacing it with a secret initiation period.
Tau Kappa Epsilon Logo
On January 10, 1899, Charles Roy Atkinson, Clarence Arthur Mayer, James Carson McNutt, Joseph Lorenzo Settles, and Owen Ison Truitt met at 504 East Locust Street in Bloomington, Illinois to draw up the first constitution for a new fraternity at Illinois Wesleyan University. The purpose of the new organization was to be an “aid to college men in mental, moral and social development.” The founders sought to be a different organization than the other fraternities at the time by establishing a fraternity where membership would be based on personal worth and character rather than wealth, rank, or honor. Mental development would be emphasized by the study of classic literature at weekly meetings, and thus the new fraternity became known as the Knights of Classic Lore. The first public announcement of the Knights of Classic Lore appeared in the February 1, 1899 issue of the Argus, which is the student publication of Illinois Wesleyan University.
During the time of the formation of the Knights of Classic Lore were trying hard to get the Illinois Epsilon chapter of Phi Delta Theta restored. Prominent PhiDelt alumnus Richard Henry Little became a persistent sponsor for the Knights to petition Phi Delta Theta for charter. The Knights first petitioned Phi Delta Theta at its 1902 convention in New York, but efforts were unsuccessful. After renting rooms at several locations beginning in the spring of 1899, the Knights of Classic Lore finally acquired its first fraternity house, known as The Wilder Mansion, in September 1902. Simultaneously with the acquisition of the new house, the Knights also adopted the name Tau Kappa Epsilon. The change in name was expected to create a better impression in future petitions to Phi Delta Theta. The second petition was presented at the Indianapolis convention of 1904, but it was withdrawn in an effort to gain unanimous support of all chapters in Phi Delta Theta’s Zeta Province, which included Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. If this support was achieved, then charter would be granted to the group without any action from the convention. The Knights of Classic Lore gained the support of all Phi Delta Theta groups in the province, except for Wisconsin Alpha, Illinois Beta, and Missouri Alpha. The Knights in turn unsuccessfully presented the petition at the 1906 convention in Washington, D.C.. During the continuing struggle for acceptance from Phi Delta Theta, TKE continued to grow stronger in its own existence.
In late 1907, TKE was preparing to petition Phi Delta Theta once again at the 1908 convention, when an event took place that would forever change the course of history for the fraternity. At the annual initiation banquet on October 19, 1907, speeches were made that both advocated and questioned the continued petitioning of Phi Delta Theta. At the banquet, Wallace G. McCauley delivered a blistering speech known as “Opportunity Out of Defeat.” The powerful address called for an abandonment of the petitioning initiative and a new campaign to make TKE into a national fraternity itself. While there was some opposition at the time, the movement ultimately took hold, and by 1908, TKE was well on its way to becoming a national fraternity in its own right. The speech was published in the first issue of The Teke, in January 1908, and by November of that year, work was beginning on a new constitution. At the chapter meeting held on Monday, February 15, 1909, the new constitution became official. The first Conclave of the Grand Chapter of the new national fraternity of Tau Kappa Epsilon convened on February 17, 1909.
In 1909, TKE approached the Chi Rho Sigma Fraternity at Millikin University. There were no national fraternities at Millikin at this time, and TKE had just established its intentions to become a national fraternity. Representatives from TKE presented their case, and after thorough consideration, Chi Rho Sigma voted to accept TKE’s offer. On April 17, 1909, Chi Rho Sigma was installed as the Beta Chapter of TKE. In November 1911, the Beta Rho Delta Fraternity was founded at the University of Illinois. BPΔ petitioned Tau Kappa Epsilon in January 1912, and they were installed as the Gamma Chapter of TKE on February 3, 1912. Following the installation of Gamma Chapter, The TEKE magazine noted that the triangle was completed. The geographic location of TKE’s first three chapters form an almost perfect equilateral triangle. The equilateral triangle was at that time, and continues to be, the primary symbol of Tau Kappa Epsilon.
The National Fraternity Sigma Mu Sigma merged with TKE in March 1935. The merger resulted in the new Alpha-Pi Chapter of TKE at George Washington University and additional members for the Gamma Chapter at the University of Illinois and the Alpha-Zeta Chapter at Purdue University.
Prior to 1939, TKE chapters were installed after local fraternities petitioned TKE for approval. In 1939 a colonization process was established to promote expansion and to ensure that potential chapters met all necessary requirements prior to installation. The first two TKE colonies were the Eta Colony at the University of Kansas and the Chi Beta Colony at the University of Missouri.
Tau Kappa Epsilon expanded for the first time into the Deep South region of the United States in 1946. This expansion was made possible when Alpha Lambda Tau, a small predominantly Southern national fraternity, announced its dissolution. Five of Alpha Lambda Tau’s eight active chapters affiliated with TKE, resulting in new TKE chapters at the University of Maryland, North Carolina State University, Auburn University, Louisiana Polytechnic Institute, and Tri-State College.
On January 20, 1981 Tau Kappa Epsilon member Ronald Reagan was sworn in as the 40th President of the United States. Reagan joined TKE at the Iota Chapter at Eureka College in 1929. Through his time as President of the United States, Reagan remained actively involved in Tau Kappa Epsilon.
In 1983, President Reagan created the Ronald Reagan Leadership Award to recognize selected student members of TKE that have demonstrated superior academic and leadership accomplishments.
In March 1984 President Reagan sponsored a TKE alumni luncheon at the White House. Approximately 60 members of TKE were invited to the White House luncheon. At the luncheon, Reagan was awarded TKE’s Order of the Golden Eagle as well as the Gold Medal of the North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) recognizing his lifelong efforts to support and promote college fraternities. Reagan was the first Teke and first U.S. President to receive the Gold Medal of the NIC.
In October 1984 President Reagan attended lunch at the TKE house at Ohio State University. The Ohio State Chapter hosted President Reagan for lunch following a rally in which he was speaking at Ohio State.
In June 1988 President Reagan hosted a special TKE ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House in which he presented the Ronald Reagan Leadership Award/Scholarship to TKE member Alan Friel. During the ceremony at the White House, President Reagan was also presented with TKE’s Order of the Silver Maple Leaf by TKE Grand Prytanis Bruce Melchert.
— Read More History on Tau Kappa Epsilon on Wikipedia
Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE)
- Founded On: January 10th, 1899 – Illinois Wesleyan University
- Type: Social Fraternity
- Colors: Cherry Red and Gunmetal Gray
- Flower: Red Carnation
- Nicknames: Teke-TKE
- Chapters: 292 Active Chapters
- Website: www.tke.org
- Motto: Καλύτεροι άνδρες για έναν καλύτερο κόσμο — “Better Men For A Better World”