HISTORY OF THE
Years of Deke at Illinois 1904 - 1954
for the 50th Anniversary celebration of Delta Pi of DKE,
December 3 - 5, 1954 in Champaign, Illinois
story of the Delta Pi Chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon began 62 years ago
when a group of students on the campus of the University of Illinois
petitioned to the Delta Kappa Epsilon national convention for a chapter,
but were turned down when the convention decided there should be no
chapter on this campus. These men soon found homage in the arms of
other awaiting fraternities. Although, one man, Edward Milne,
remained unaffiliated--to him it was Deke or nothing.
that time, there were only two Dekes on the Illinois campus, both of
whom were faculty members. They were Charles C. Pickett, Delta
Delta 1883, and George W. Graham of which we have no record of chapter
or class. Graham backed another petitioning body in 1897.
Although he couldn't obtain the aid of Pickett, Graham went ahead and
gave the boys his "all," only to be again turned down by the
Deke convention of that year.
1898 to 1902, Pickett stood alone as Graham went into business and left
Champaign-Urbana. During this period, another group of young men
formed to petition Deke and asked the aid of Brother Pickett in
1901. Again Pickett refused help on the same grounds upon which he
based his other refusals--unqualified applicants. The two student
leaders of this group promptly joined Beta Theta Pi and Phi Gamma Delta,
fraternities already established at Illinois.
April, 1902, Charles C. Pickett met Fred W. Rust, another Deke of whom
we have no class or chapter recorded. At this time, Pickett was
the only brother on the Illinois campus. The night of this meeting
was the first step on the road to reality for Delta Pi, even though
these two men decided to allow the idea to go dormant until the
beginning of the fall semester of that year.
September, 1902, Pickett surveyed the student body for desirable
candidates for another group of petitioners. A small group was
soon established, but it lacked an aggressive student leader.
same night of the Deke convention of 1902, Gideon Clark of the
University of California told his son, Gilbert Clark, a student at the University
of Illinois, that his greatest wish was for Gilbert to become a member
of Delta Kappa Epsilon.
weeks after, young Gilbert Clark met Charles Pickett, who heard him say
that, for him, it was "Deke or nothing." Both men were
favorably impressed with each other, and another step toward the reality
of Delta Pi was now part of our great heritage.
young Clark assumed the only important vacancy in the petitioning group,
the student leader. His first action in this capacity was organizing a
search for new members who were willing to put DKE above all.
December 9, 1902, Clark brought his new candidates to Professor
Pickett. All but two accepted the rigorous requirements demanded
by a reluctant Deke national council. Of these two who chose not
to persevere, one joined Phi Gamma Delta, and the other remained
unaffiliated. The total number of this group had therefore diminished
to eight students.
the light of an Illinois chapter seemed once more destined to die, a
miracle of salvation occurred within minutes after the departure of
Clark and his small band. Edward M. East '01 and another group of
fellows aspiring to the same goals as Clark's group, called on Professor
Pickett. The two groups were soon combined and the struggle
January, 1903, Pickett met the full body, at which time seven more members,
including East, had been added. To Pickett, these 15 men seemed
quite impressive, but would they impress a New Englander or
Southerner? Regardless of what Pickett thought of the chance of
being rejected once again, the big push for recognition was begun in
March, 1903, with his tremendous support. While Clark led his lads
in a search for a house, many Deke alumni in the immediate vicinity
received a visit from Charles C. Pickett.
the fall of 1903, these petitioners, now operating under the name of Sphinx,
leased a club house at 407 E. Green Street in Champaign. Thus was
accomplished the first step towards true brotherhood--living together.
after obtaining this dwelling, Pickett went to the National Council of
Delta Kappa Epsilon. After what seemed to be a very cold reception
by the Council Secretary, he was allowed to present his view of Sphinx
to a meeting of the National Council. It is still recalled that
his oration lasted for more than two hours. At the end of this
discourse, Pickett had gained not only warmth, but the whole-hearted
backing of the Council members. Another step toward making Delta
Pi a reality was now history.
after, another Deke joined the Illinois faculty and offered his aid to the
Sphinx. He was a professor named Robinson of the Pi chapter at
Dartmouth College. Together, Pickett and Robinson sent out a
"circulation letter" to all the chapters of Deke, asking for support
for their plan.
preparation for the Syracuse Convention of 1903, Charles C. Royall '04,
of the Sphinx petitioning body, was picked to attend the meeting as a representative
of the Illinois interests. At this same time, Pickett visited the
Northwestern University Alumni Association, and his native Delta Delta
chapter, in the interest of establishing a Delta Pi chapter. After
receiving tremendous backing at Northwestern, Pickett also departed for
the Syracuse Convention. The team of Pickett and Royall returned
to the awaiting Sphinx with the assurance of a two-thirds majority
backing of the Convention delegates.
Thanksgiving 1903, the Sphinx held their first recorded election of
officers. All previously held offices were then officially
confirmed, including the presidency, which went to Gilbert Clark.
the end of the 1903-04 school year, the Sphinx had attained a well organized,
high standing, unified, campus club. As a result, on Commencement
Day, in June, 1904, they received the backing of Delta Delta, Delta Pi's
strongest opponent. The end of the long road to recognition was
now in sight.
the opening of the 1904-05 school year, the Sphinx took bold steps
forward. By October, 1904, Pickett received word that the National
Council had completely accepted the petition entered by the
Sphinx. The name Delta Pi was then officially adopted in honor of
Picket of Delta Delta and Robinson of Pi. The petitioners rejoiced
heartily--the last time as Sphinx and the first as Delta
afterward, another boost along this road to reality came with a notice
of acceptance from the Gamma Beta chapter, then located at Columbia
University. This was the first time in the history of the
fraternity that Gamma Beta had ever backed the installation of a new
victory in sight, and a vote for Delta Pi on the agenda, the National
Convention of Delta Kappa Epsilon met in 1904. At this Chicago
Convention, by unanimous vote, Delta Pi was accepted for immediate
installation. On December 17, 1904, the Delta Pi chapter of Delta
Kappa Epsilon was formally installed in Champaign, Illinois.
this is what seemed like ultimate victory, there was still one note of
tragedy. Young Gilbert Clark, the president and vigorous student
promoter of our beloved Delta Pi, unfortunately passed from this world
before he saw his life's dream become reality. In his loving
memory, the number "one" was left vacant on the Delta Pi
chapter roll. To him, we who are now sheltered in Delta Pi's
loving bosom, dedicate this modest history.
Alan Helverson '5__ and Gerald Ainsworth '___.