Colby Revisited: The Rich History of Alpha-Rho | LCA Fraternity

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2012 February

Colby Revisited: The Rich History of Alpha-Rho

1917 Omicron Theta Local Greek Letter Fraternity Members

Notable Alpha-Rho Brothers

Not all brothers are listed here. Click the link below to view all notable brothers.

  • Robert N. Anthony (1938), professor emeritus of Management Accounting at Colby, former assistant secretary of defense, he was named to Colby’s Board of Trustees in 1959 and had a long history of service and generosity to the College. He was chair of the board from 1978 to 1983 and was one of only four life trustees at the time of his death. He received the Colby Brick Award, the Marriner Distinguished Service Award, and the Distinguished Alumnus Award. He was a principal donor to the Anthony-Mitchell-Schupf Residence Hall.
  • David Arseneault (1975), head basketball coach at Grinnell College, Midwest College Coach of the Year on three occasions, head coach of women’s golf team at Grinnell College
  • Dr. David M. Augeri (1984), professor at University of Rhode Island
  • Dr. August V. Belott (1928), physician in New Jersey
  • Lloyd D. Benson (1973), executive vice president of Schwartz Communications, Boston
  • Dr. Myron Berry (1940), former professor of chemistry at Michigan Tech University, recipient of Distinguished Teaching Award
  • Richard W. Blackburn (1971), tax assessor of Portland, Maine
  • Dr. Richard M. Bonalewicz (1963), professor of earth science and biology at Gannon University, retired lieutenant colonel, U.S. Air Force
  • Dr. Phillip Boyne (1946), surgeon and professor emeritus at Loma Linda University
  • Dr. Peter G. Bridge (1958), professor of communications at Champlain College
  • Dr. Herman T. Briscoe (1917), professor of chemistry at Indiana University, chair in department named in his honor, first dean of the faculties at IU

View all notable brothers.

The genesis of this article on our eliminated chapter at Colby College was a press release by the Board of Trustees at Lafayette College in December 2011 in which a number of concerns were expressed regarding their Greek community as a whole. A number of ‘metrics’ are to be created which, by June 2014, will measure success of the fraternities and sororities on the campus. Four critical areas to be measured are:

  1. Fraternities and sororities must provide open access and engagement opportunities to all students at Lafayette (non-discriminatory in selection of members)
  2. Fraternities and sororities must facilitate demonstrated learning opportunities for students and provide benefits to the College as a whole,
  3. The academic performance of students affiliated with fraternities and sororities must be comparable to the student body as a whole, and
  4. The disciplinary profile of members of fraternities and sororities, as well as the individual organizations, must be comparable to the student body as a whole and other student organizations.”

I quickly thought back to similar situations in which Lambda Chi Alpha had found itself involved at Norwich and Alfred. At Norwich the findings were very brief and to the point, “…the Greek system is no longer contributing to the welfare of the university.” At Alfred the words of the chairman of the board were also very direct, The Greek system is beyond repair. From this report, it became clear to all of us that our Greek system simply does not contribute to the type of learning environment we want at Alfred University.

 

Now we turn to our history at Colby College.

Our Alpha-Rho Zeta at Colby College began as Omicron Theta in 1912, a member of the National Federation of Commons Clubs, that became a chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha on May 29, 1918. The chapter of Theta Kappa Nu was founded as Lancers Club in 1923 and installed as Maine Alpha on February 22, 1929. A total of 1,076 men were initiated before all Greek organizations were closed by the college at the end of the spring semester in 1984.

During the first year of Omicron Theta’s existence meetings were held weekly on the first floor of Roberts Hall dormitory. The following year the school assigned them the top floor of the same dormitory. In the fall of 1915 they moved into the remodeled North College. By 1917 their membership had grown to 36. Twenty-five signed the petition to Lambda Chi in April 1918. This was a very active group on the campus with multiple varsity men in football, baseball, and track-and-field, as well as class officers, president of the drama club, officers in the ‘military company’, editor of the campus newspaper, and many outstanding scholars. Of their 64 alumni, 18 were members of the United States armed forces. Paul Miller ’21, graduated from the United States Naval Academy. Arthur J. Roberts, then president of the college stated, “The Omicron Theta Fraternity of Colby College is in every respect the equal of the local chapters of Greek-letter fraternities. It contains in its membership important leaders in the various college activities.” The significance of his words can’t be overstated since the other six fraternities had been founded as early as the 1850s.

In a letter dated January 8, 1936, our first chapter initiate, E. Bliss Marriner, recalled that the local organization of the Commons Club came very close to joining Kappa Sigma and missed, by only a few days, submitting a timely petition to become a chapter of Phi Gamma Delta. “We came back from Fiji’s Ecclesia, more or less discouraged, when we heard of the new fraternity called Lambda Chi Alpha which was taking into its fold a number of disgruntled Commons Club chapters, so we made application. The founder, Warren A. Cole, called by many at the time, ‘King Cole’, came to Colby and installed the new chapter.”

On the morning of December 4, 1922, the success of the chapter was challenged by a terrible tragedy. A fire broke out in the dormitory that resulted in the loss of the lives of four brothers, followed by a fifth two months later; Alton ‘Andy’ Leach Andrews, Warren ‘ Frizzer’ Leslie Frye, Ralph ‘Robbie’ Stevens Robinson, Charles ‘Hickey’ Merrill Treworgy, and Norman ‘Pee Wee’ Merrill Wardwell. In spite of the tragedy the chapter finished 1st among fraternities in scholarship while George J. Odom ’23 was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa for the spring of ‘23.

Our chapter at Colby won the coveted Tetrathlon Award for the year 1939-40 as the top chapter of the 107 chapters of Lambda Chi Alpha. Alpha-Rho Zeta received a first place in scholarship when it outranked all other chapters in both classroom averages and scholastic honor society members. The chapter placed 11th in management, 19th in morale, and 29th in activities other than scholastic, to maintain a well-balanced average. Two brothers, Myron G. Berry and Conrad W. Swift were inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.

The 1950s and 1960s were a time of significant successes for the chapter with multiple varsity men, some of whom were elected captain of their respective teams, and continued excellence in scholarship. In addition, the chapter moved into a new home.

Julia Hanauer-Milne’s story The End, Divisive Demise of Colby’s Fraternities detailed the end of a tradition and the beginning of a new era and captured the events leading up to that fateful evening when the announcement regarding the closing of Greek organizations was made.

In 1983 the Board of Trustees created the Trustee Commission on Campus Life and charged it with conducting ‘a comprehensive inquiry into residential and social life in order to determine whether contemporary arrangements sufficiently reinforce Colby’s educational mission and to recommend improvements’. The commission was to investigate ways to improve campus housing, leadership, and social life, and to ensure equal access to those things. The commission was chaired by Lawrence R. Pugh ’56, a DKE brother, and was composed of 18 members, of whom 11 were fraternity or sorority members, plus two ex-officio members, college president Cotter and trustee chair H. Ridgely Bullock ’55.

The Commission worked for eight months, soliciting testimony on campus, holding alumni hearings in New York, Boston, Hartford, Washington, D.C., Portland, and Waterville. It conducted a campus survey and commission members visited peer schools including Amherst, Bates, Bowdoin, Hampshire, Haverford, Middlebury, Swarthmore, Trinity, Wesleyan, and Williams to see how other colleges organized residential life.

Cotter presented the commission’s report to the Board of Trustees in January 1984. The trustees then voted unanimously by secret ballot to accept the recommendations which were; to withdraw recognition of the Greek organizations, create a common housing system which would be governed largely by students, and to build a new student union. It was the only way, Cotter said, to create true gender equity on campus, give the commons system a chance to succeed, solve behavior problems, and increase academic integrity.

Current President William D. “Bro” Adams acknowledges that the elimination of fraternities was painful but he says Colby is better off today without them. “All the reasons explained at the time were the right ones. … The risk was we lost or would lose that sense of identity, and that has something to do with institutional identity,” he said. “There are other ways to achieve that.” Fortunately, the president of Colby is in the minority with his opinion. Fraternities have from the beginning provided an additional educational opportunity that complements formal classroom or book knowledge.

With this article we celebrate the occupational successes and continuing brotherhood enjoyed by many of the brothers of Alpha-Rho chapter. For more information and to communicate with the alumni of this chapter, visit the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity at Colby College Facebook page.

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  • Trey Mcgovern

    Great Article, I wasnt expecting to see this about Colby up here. I had the pleasure of seeing the Petition for Charter to Theta Kappa Nu from The Lancers Club dated back in May of 1926 a couple of years ago. I wonder if I still got the picture i took of it somewhere. I remember it being really old, and hand bound, with some of the paper starting to fringe and tear a little, but overall it was in great shape.

  • Chris Keeley

    Great article! Born and raised in central Maine and a brother of Alpha-Xi Zeta (University of New Hampshire, Durham – 2010) it was very interesting to read (and discover) the history of a chapter so near to me. I had no awareness of our history at Colby.

  • Stacy

    Great article, highlighting both the chapter and Colby’s decision. As a sister of Sigma Kappa Sorority, founded at Colby, it is always valuable to read a bit more about the decision making. And it is nice to see those great young men remembered for their contribution to Lambda Chi Alpha and Colby.

  • David

    Really good article. I was excited to read it twice in one sitting. 😉

  • Mike Raymond

    Brother Jon,
    Another well written article about a significant topic.
    Keep up the good work!

    I visited Colby a few years ago.
    A lovely campus, on a hill top, outside Waterville.
    I talked to a campus policeman who pointed out the old Lambda Chi House.
    What a wonderful environment for a fraternity.

    From my perspective, this whole affair was a deep loss for the Brothers of Alpha Rho, Lambda Chi, and fraternites in general.

    Yours in ZAX,
    Mike Raymond, ZU-384

  • Carl Craven

    The brothers of the Phi Phi Zeta at Michigan Tech had the pleasure of having Myron Berry (Alpha Rho 268) as our mentor. He was a great man and helped many of us graduate. We now have a scholarship named for him at Mich. Tech., and, in fact, initiated his grandson. Nice article.-Carl

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