“We hold that it is the duty of every man to make of himself a man.”
— Associate Member Ceremony of Lambda Chi Alpha
DUTY: Delineates the sum total of all laws, rules, and customs that make up our organizational, civic, and moral obligations. Our values originate with duty because we expect individuals, as a minimum, to fulfill their obligations. We often expect individuals to exceed their duty, especially in ethical matters.
The Value in Action
In the early part of the 20th century as the fledging Lambda Chi Alpha began to expand, a chapter was established at the University of Pennsylvania in response to a request from a group of Penn undergraduates. One of those undergraduates was a young English major, Dr. John E. Mason Jr. (Pennsylvania 1913), who would go on to become the spiritual leader of our Fraternity, influencing the growth and direction of Lambda Chi Alpha in profound and varied ways. In his early days as an undergraduate brother, Mason was very disappointed to discover that Lambda Chi Alpha’s Initiation Ritual and symbols were not based on any understanding of the history of fraternal orders and their ritualistic practices. Mason realized that if the young Fraternity was to be taken seriously by the more established collegiate organizations and attract the caliber of student that Lambda Chi Alpha needed, this would have to change.
Early attempts to write Lambda Chi Alpha’s Initiation Ritual and design its symbols, such as a coat of arms, were made by founder Warren A. Cole (Boston 1912). While a wonderful and inspiring salesman and recruiter for the new Fraternity, Cole lacked the academic inclination necessary to create a historically-grounded Initiation Ritual and meaningful, inspirational symbols. Demands for a coat of arms, however, from first chapters, especially Gamma Zeta at Massachusetts Agricultural College (now the University of Massachusetts-Amherst), forced Cole into action. His creation, known afterward as the Gamma Plate, was basic in design but satisfied the chapter at Massachusetts that needed a coat of arms to appear in the college yearbook. The Gamma Plate took its place with the Initiation Ritual Cole had written as Lambda Chi Alpha’s symbolic foundation. The Initiation Ritual, influenced heavily by Cole’s knowledge of the Patrons of Husbandry, also known as The Grange, an agricultural society and populist political movement of the late 19th century, lauded the bounty of nature as inspiration for man. The ceremony made many references to various vegetables and fruits as symbols for growth and maturity.
To Mason, the Cole ritual and the Gamma Plate were too shallow in their simplicity and naiveté, and he committed himself to correcting their inadequacies. To that end, and while still an undergraduate, he began an exhaustive study of heraldry, other college fraternities, and the histories of ancient fraternal orders. The results of his labors are found in our complex, richly-textured, and deeply-symbolic Initiation Ritual, and in our equally complex and symbolic coat of arms. But Mason’s contributions to Lambda Chi Alpha did not stop there; he also was instrumental in redesigning the badge of brotherhood, founding the open magazine (which became the Cross & Crescent), and developing the first edition of the Paedagogus. He also served on the Grand High Zeta and as the Grand High Alpha. Perhaps Mason’s greatest contribution to our iconography was his elaboration of our most important symbol, the Cruci-Crescent. For Mason, the cross and crescent together symbolize the fusion of high ideals, represented by the crescent, with service and sacrifice, as embodied in the Christian cross. Mason summarized this combination as a charge to each brother to turn our timeless ideals and principles into actions that serve the betterment of man.
The Take Away
DUTY: Fulfill all of your obligations.
Duty begins with everything required of us by law and regulation, but it includes much more than that. A highly-developed sense of duty compels us to do more than just the minimum; it demands that we perform to the very best of our abilities. Brothers and associate members with a sense of duty take the initiative, figure out what needs to be done, and then do it, always taking responsibility for their decisions and actions. They don’t wait to be told what to do or expect others to do it. Mason saw something that Lambda Chi Alpha lacked, and he took the initiative to create what Lambda Chi Alpha needed. He was not satisfied with what was “good enough,” but invested his time and talent to build a spiritual foundation for Lambda Chi Alpha that could, and has, stood the test of time. Duty goes to the heart of commitment; it motivates us to always seek the best in ourselves and in others, acting in the service of something greater than ourselves. When you have Mason’s sense of duty, you add to your values foundation and increase your understanding of what it means to be a brother in Lambda Chi Alpha.
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