entrance to the Shant sits unobtrusively
East Williams Street.
inside of the Shant boasts
ceilings and design.
any brother on campus about the history of his fraternity, and
chances are that he will at least haphazardly recall a few basic
facts memorized from his pledge term. Although the rare,
sensationalized stories are what tend to place Michigan's social
fraternities in the spotlight, these brotherhoods still possess
rich histories. After all, joining a fraternity is a lifelong
commitment, so something more substantial than cheap beer and the
latest football pre-party must unite these guys.
A group of brothers with a unique story that aptly captures that
significant "something" are to the Omicron Chapter of
Delta Kappa Epsilon. In addition to their residence at 1004 Olivia
Street, they are fortunate enough to own the historical 611 1/2 E.
William St. in Ann Arbor - more affectionately called the Shant.
Some people have noticed this unusual building before, without
stopping to think twice about it, while others have never seen it
at all. A select few have directly experienced the impressive site
from the inside. But most have spent time speculating about its
true purpose, and this building therefore remains a mystery to the
majority of Ann Arbor residents.
"It's not a secret. It could come up in conversation. Anybody
in the world is free to know that DKE owns the building. But it's
just not common knowledge," claims current DKE President Alex
Bernstein. Contrary to rumors that the Michigamua organization
still meets in the Shant - the group was paying up to $1,000 a
month to rent meeting space as recently as 2002 - Bernstein
asserts that DKE alone currently uses the building.
This building is protected by a seven-foot wall, and most closely
resembles an old Gothic church. The cornerstone was laid in 1878,
and the building was completed in 1879. Douglas Kelbaugh, Dean of
the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the
University, explained that the Shant's designer, architect William
LeBaron Jenney, taught the first courses in architecture at
As for the derivation of the term "the Shant", DKE
Executive Director David K. Easlick Jr., said: "Nobody has
any idea what that means. The idea was to make it very mysterious.
But the (official) name of the building is the Hall of
Easlick is very knowledgeable about the fraternity's past, and he
has dedicated a lot of time to raising the money necessary to
maintain this historical site amidst the modern buildings that
surround it. Five U.S. presidents have been members of DKE,
including University alum Gerald R. Ford (Omicron '35). In the
introduction of the book "A Century and a Half of DKE,"
Ford writes, "I prize my experiences at the Deke house in Ann
Arbor, and on the University of Michigan campus. The friendships I
made there and later with Delta Kappa Epsilon Brothers from around
the continent have served me well." Easlick, the Executive
Director of DKE, has Ford's personal record form that he filled
out as a pledge in the Shant. He also has a photograph of Ford
visiting Ann Arbor in the 1980s.
Other artifacts, original furniture and educational materials from
DKE's early days at the University are on display throughout the
building, which was gas-lit until the 1970s. The ground floor of
the Shant has a modern office, and Easlick says, "We're using
it as the National Headquarters at the moment." The Shant
also serves as the meeting ground for DKE alumni during Homecoming
weekend, and is where the fraternity's traditional rituals
continue to take place.
Members of the fraternity do not readily forget their interactions
with the Shant; this building leaves a distinct impression that
University graduates are likely to always remember. A brother of
DKE even held his wedding reception at The Shant. Bernstein
explains, "When I joined the fraternity, one of the things
that I thought was the most appealing was doing the same things
that guys have done since DKE came to Ann Arbor. Being able to go
to this building and share that with all of my brothers, I think
it is sort of unifying. It's just cool. Very few chapters have a
separate building outside of their house that they use."
To the members of the Omicron chapter of DKE, the Shant symbolizes
their fraternity's intriguing past, and hopefully, will represent
its bright future as well. Like other fraternities on campus, DKE
stresses its history during a new-member education period, but
what sets apart their experience is that they actually have a
tangible place to visit, enabling them to genuinely appreciate
these learned facts. Easlick emphasizes that pledges come over to
discover more about the background of the fraternity and Bernstein
highlights how his first visit to The Shant helped him comprehend
the significance of his fraternity's past "I was in awe of
it. I was walking into a building built in the late 1800s. There
have been guys going into that building for years, you know? It's
walking on the same floor that people in the 1800s were."
Even though the brothers of Delta Kappa Epsilon might not
effortlessly recall every detail about their fraternity's history
without taking some time to review the facts, it is clear that it
takes more than superficial commonalities to unify a group of
young men in the college environment. The shared history and
feeling of brotherhood that connects DKE's members has indubitably
withstood the harsh test of time. Their careful preservation of
the historical Shant is merely the physical representation of this