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The first Greek letter organization was Phi Beta Kappa, founded Dec. 5, 1776 at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. 63 years later, Beta Theta Pi was founded at Miami University in Ohio. In protest against the president of the university, members of Beta Theta Pi and other students blocked the entrances of the main educational and administrative building in what became known as the Great Snow Rebellion.

A year later, after the president expelled most of the students involved in the uprising, Phi Delta Theta was formed. Six men staying in a dormitory the day after Christmas formed the Greek-letter society. Robert Morrison, a senior, proposed to fellow classmate John McMillan Wilson they bond together to form a secret society. They invited juniors Robert Thompson Drake and John Wolfe Lindley; sophomores Ardivan Walker Rodgers and Andrew Watts Rogers into the fold. The first meeting was held in Wilson's room at Old North Hall, now called Elliot Hall.

During the early meetings, the founders wrote The Bond of Phi Delta Theta, which is the fundamental law of the Fraternity. It has remained unchanged ever since. The Founders also designed the badge, consisting of a shield, eye and scroll with the Greek letters on it. Beta Theta Pi, Phi Delta Theta and Sigma Chi were the first three fraternities founded at Miami University, so they are known as the Miami Triad. The first branch of Phi Delta Theta was founded at Indiana University in 1849. The Indiana Chapter has the longest continuous existence of any in the Fraternity.

The War Between the States was difficult for all fraternities. Battles put fraternity brother against fraternity brother, although fraternal bonds may have led to the release of many prisoners or better treatment for others.

During the two decades from 1870 to 1890, the growth of the Fraternity was very rapid, due principally to the efforts of Walter B. Palmer, Emory-Vanderbilt 1877, and George Banta, Franklin-Indiana 1876. The two were given the title Second Founders for their work.

Phi Delta Theta is known as an international fraternity. The first Phi Delta Theta chapter in Canada was installed at McGill University April 5, 1902. Phi Delta Theta has nine Canadian chapters.


Phi Delta Theta was founded on three Cardinal Principles; the cultivation of friendship among its members, the acquirement of a high degree of mental culture, and the attainment of a high standard of morality are central to the integrity and continuance of the Fraternity. These principles are declared in The Bond of Phi Delta Theta, which every member pledges to uphold. This same pledge has been taken by every member since 1848.

The first principle chosen by the founders is friendship. College fraternities are commonly called Greek Letter Societies. When forming Phi Delta Theta, the founders saw inspiration in the friendship enjoyed by the ancient Greeks. They characterized friendship as a unity of skills, tastes and thoughts; not as a loss of personal identity, but rather a search for truth and a desire to be united with others who sought the same. To put it simply, friendship is more than just being together. Friendship is being there for each other through life’s trials and to offer sound advice. Friendship is helping your brother study for a test; being there to listen to the problems he’s having with his girlfriend; stopping your brother from doing something that will harm him, even if it’s unpopular and will make him mad.

As a member of Phi Delta Theta, friendship involves a lot of giving along with taking. Big Brothers help Phikeia transition to life in college, brothers interject when other brothers are doing something detrimental to themselves or others, and they genuinely care.

The second principle is sound learning. This means more than getting good grades; it’s about having intellectual curiosity. The founders saw learning as a search for the truth. The truth was found through intellectual quests. A good student isn’t necessarily one who receives straight A’s; a good student is one who is excited about learning and is driven by knowledge.

Many chapters have scholarship programs with study halls, quiet hours, group study sessions, scholarship awards, and time management seminars. After all, that’s the real reason that you’re at school; to learn.

The final principle is moral rectitude. The six original founders were strongly Christian men. Several went on to pursue occupations as ordained ministers. It’s unfortunate that the word ‘rectitude’ brings to mind simply going to church or abstaining from alcohol. The men of Phi Delta Theta know that rectitude has more to do with the way a man approaches living and less with observing dos and don’ts.

Especially in college, young men find themselves in difficult situations. Often, this is their first experience living away from home and the lack of adult supervision, accompanied with being put in an environment where it’s sometimes easy to forget what they know is right, leads to immoral decisions. Fraternity living brings a closeness that a man would not find living in a dorm. Living a life of integrity is closely tied to the other two Cardinal principles. Sometimes, temptation becomes too strong for one person to handle. Closely knit friendships will help keep him on course. His love of knowledge will lead him to understand and respect other cultures and points of view, even if he does not totally agree with them.

In these ways, a man can live a life of integrity and the men of Phi Delta Theta have counted on the three Cardinal Principles to see them through their lives in college and beyond.

The Fraternity now has more than 165 chapters in 43 states and six Canadian provinces. The Fraternity has initiated nearly 218,000 men since 1848.

Chartered house corporations own more than 120 houses valued at $50 million. There are nearly 100 recognized alumni clubs across the U.S. and Canada. The Fraternity operates from the General Headquarters building on South Campus Avenue, across from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

At the corner of the campus closest to headquarters, memorial gates were erected in honor of the Fraternity’s 125th anniversary.

The men of Phi Delta Theta share a commitment — to the intense bond of friendship between brothers, high academic achievement, and living life with integrity. A Phi Delt has high expectations of, and for, himself and his brothers. He believes that one man is no man.

Membership in Phi Delta Theta goes beyond belonging to a social organization. The men of Phi Delta Theta tell of the tremendous support that exists between brothers and how, during their college years, they developed self-confidence, leadership qualities, and a belief in the strength of their abilities. They believe their lifetime commitment to the fraternity is one of the most important commitments they ever made.

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