The Origins of Epsilon Chapter

One night in April, 1911, seven students of Iowa State College met in a shaky,frame boarding house on Welch Avenue. The men, L.D. Snyder, H. M. House, H.E. Drain, H.E. Tracy, W.A. Reeves, L. L. Grand Pre, and S. A. McGavern, although differing greatly in personalities and backgrounds, had come to realize that they had many common interests and ideals.  This was the reason that Snyder, an engineering student from Humboldt, Iowa, had called the men together.  He firmly believed that the group should take immediate steps to bind themselves together more closely, to perfect an organization that would serve to strengthen and keep alive their ideals, at the same time allowing its members the enjoyment of the social life which he thought should be common to all college students.

After much discussion and debate, the men decided on the name, “Seminoles”; chose blue and white as their colors, and adopted a constitution which set forth in concrete terms the ideals and aims of the organization.  Before the young group could further strengthen themselves, it was necessary that the men find a house in which to live and work together.  The Seminoles decided that the organization must be enlarged if they wanted to realize this hope, so nine men were invited and accepted invitations to join the group, and all became loyal Seminoles.  The new members were Ross Bowers, Fred Wilson, E. L. Kaser, W. N. Adams, I.E. Trottnow, C.C. Jones, Don H. Kilby, R. F. Furleigh, and E. W. Penningroth.

The Seminoles continued to prosper until the Fall of 1913, when they were beset with what seemed to be at the time, insurmountable difficulties.  Some of the best men began to pledge Fraternities, and it was plain to the Seminoles that they would have be reorganized if they wished to continue as an active organization.

One of the men, Elmer L. Kaiser, had been corresponding with two friends, Howard Leinbaugh and J. A. Gehlman, who were members of TKE at Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois. Gehlman, through a series of well-written, persuasive letters, inspired Kaser to try and get the Seminoles to join TKE.  Kaser enlisted the confidence of two of the men, Myers and Drain, and began to forward the idea of the Seminoles becoming a Chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon.  In the fall of 1913, the Seminoles reorganized, and adopted a new Constitution based on the Teke Declaration of Principles, pointing toward the day when they would receive permission of the faculty to petition TKE for a Charter. With this end in mind the Seminoles obtained permission to use the colors, flower, recognition whistle and pledge button of the National Fraternity.

This period [1913-1915] of working towards a Charter was long and arduous.  Once or twice the group almost broke up because of misunderstandings and personal prejudices. In the later part of April 1915, the Seminoles again asked the faculty for permission to petition TKE, and they finally gave permission on May 24th, and the long-awaited petition was received by the Teke Grand Council the next day. According to the petition, the Seminole ranked first on campus in scholarship, had a substantial building fund and were planning a $15,000 house.  Every man was in campus activities–in fact, one man was in 10 different activities.

On May 28, 1915, Grand Prytanis Straight and other officers traveled to Ames to install the Seminoles as Epsilon Chapter.  With the addition of the fifth Chapter (and the first Chapter outside of Illinois) TKE came of age (by satisfying the NIC requirements for membership).

Almost 100 years later, the Epsilon Chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon is still going strong and serves as a leader within Teke Nation and the NIC.   Epsilon is a twenty-time Top Teke Chapter and has had many International Top Teke Members, including one Frater in each of the last three years.  Though the chapter has experienced its share of challenges, Epsilon has always risen to meet them.  Dedicated members, alumni and active, have and continue  to ensure that that special bond of Tau Kappa Epsilon remains a fixture at Iowa State University.

Excerpts taken from the Golden Book of Tau Kappa Epsilon