50 Years of Deke at Illinois 1904 - 1954

Written for the 50th Anniversary celebration of Delta Pi of DKE,

held December 3 - 5, 1954 in Champaign, Illinois


The 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.


At 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.  


From 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.


In 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.  


In 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.


The 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.


Several 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.  


Immediately 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.


On 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.


As 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 continued.  


In 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.


In 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.


Soon 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.  


Soon 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.


In 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. 


After 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.


At 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. 


With 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 Pi.  Soon 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 chapter.


With 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.


Although 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. 


by Alan Helverson '5__ and Gerald Ainsworth '___.




Delta Pi of ΔKE ~ Illinois    ~    Delta Psi of ΔKE ~ Indiana   ~    Psi Phi of ΔKE ~ DePauw


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