Tau Delta Phi was founded in 1910 by a group of Jewish teenagers, as a high school fraternity named Phi Sigma Beta. When these men went on to college they longed to carry on their fraternal ties and bonding of brotherhood. These nine men created Tau Delta Phi because they wanted to form a society that would accept them when almost all fraternities of the time would have denied them membership. They started a Jewish Fraternity and would, later in the 1930′s, be the first NIC Fraternity to allow the integration of members of all races, creeds, and ethnic origins. They advocated integration 30 years before the advent of civil rights because integration into other fraternities was not open to them as individuals when they were in college, due to their Jewish heritage, and therefore our nine, noble founders didn’t want to see anyone else excluded from Fraternity Life the way they would have been.
Tau Delta Phi Fraternity was established on June 22, 1910 as a local fraternity known as Phi Sigma Beta by nine high school men. Upon entering college, these brothers started three chapters at the City College of New York, the New York College of Dentistry, and NYU. On July 16, 1914 Alpha was officially brought to the City College of New York by Al Siegel, Milt Goodfriend, and Mac Coyne. With this great step, Tau Delta Phi’s pyramid began to grow. Through the remainder of the decade, chapters were started at several schools across the Northeast and Tau Delta Phi was primed for further expansion. Scholastic awards were instituted, the Convention Key was originated, the ritual was perfected, and the Fraternity government began to take shape.
Highlighting the 1920s for the Fraternity were a dynamic nationwide expansion effort and the development of the Executive Council which helped the chapters grow internally through its benevolent despotism. Tau Delta Phi also created its first symbol of true national existence with the development of its publication, The Pyramid. In 1922, Tau Delta Phi was admitted in to the National Interfraternity Conference (now the North American Interfraternity Conference) as a junior member and as a senior member in 1928. By the end of the decade, the Fraternity had grown outside of the Northeast and was divided in to four regional provinces each with a Deputy National Officer supervising.
The 1930s were met with the Great Depression and came to a close with the shadow of war. There were nineteen flourishing chapters in 1930. The ten years that followed proved to be trying times for Tau Delta Phi and the Greek system as a whole. Due to the effects of the Great Depression, college enrollment and with that, Tau Delta Phi’s growth was stunted. Several chapters, unable to function without support and manpower, closed their doors. However, amidst all the trouble that the Fraternity saw, some good began to come our way. Tau Delta Phi chartered its first Canadian chapter, Omega at Winnipeg. Then in 1934, after months of conferences and meetings, Tau Delta Phi merged with Omicron Alpha Tau National Fraternity and assumed the name Tau Delta Phi. The Fraternity saw new life. New chapters were immediately added to the roll and others doubled in size and manpower. There was much potential for Tau Delta Phi as another decade came to a close. Alumni Associations were organized and the national program of visitations and supervisions was expanded. Everything, however, came to halt once again as the distance drums of war shook the world.
With the inception of the First World War, preparations for defense were felt on every college campus across the country even before the United States was officially in the war. Then came that fatal day, December 7, 1941. Campuses were quickly depleted of students. Fraters left their chapters to enter the service so quickly that soon thereafter; all chapters were just barely functioning. The Fraternity felt the affects of war not just in the undergraduate ranks but also amongst the Executive Council as many alumni went in to active service or engaged in full time war work. The Fraternity’s offices shifted from New York to Chicago to Philadelphia and then back to New York. The 1940s were a trying time for the national office.
It took the efforts of several Past Grand Consuls to come back to work as members of the Executive Council at the 1945 National Convention to begin to right the ship. With work of the Executive Council, numerous alumni, and devoted undergraduate base, Tau Delta Phi started to gain some strength. Fraters returning from service brought life back in to each chapter. Many chapters, after years of inactivity, were rejuvenated and became vital parts of the Pyramid once again. Along with the rebirth of many chapters came the added growth of expansion to several new campuses. The Tau Delta Phi Foundation was created to commemorate the memories of all those who never returned from the battlefields, providing scholarships and assistance to students. By the time the decade came to a close, twenty-three chapters were alive and well. Practically every one of them was strong in numbers, devoted to fraternalism, and high in reputation and scholarship. The Executive Council was manned by a valuable mixture of older and younger Fraters. Most importantly, the ideals for which Tau Delta Phi was founded still stimulated all activity.
Tau Delta Phi hit the ground running in the 1950s, adding nine chapters to the roll and with several moving in to new homes. The beginning of the decade witnessed a reaffirmation of the custom of mixing age and youth in the selection of the Fraternity’s leadership. Conventions were held in Chicago, the Roosevelt Hotel in New York, the Ithaca Campus of Cornell University, the Waldorf Astoria, Ann Arbor, and Miami Beach. Many new members were elected to the Executive Council and the Convention Key was awarded to Ned Rosing and Nathan Rodgers. Herbert Goodfriend’s election as Grand Consul marked the second generation of the Goodfriend family to lead his name in service to the Fraternity. The son of Past Grand Consul Sidney Goodfriend and nephew of founder Milton Goodfriend, Herbert was well prepared for the task by background and experience. By the end of the decade, Tau Delta Phi had completed a period of vast expansion and leadership changes.
The 1960s commenced in an upbeat manner for Tau Delta Phi. There were 28 active chapters, 1000 student members, and a total membership of over 10000. The 50th Anniversary was commemorated with a Convention at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City and a golden edition of the Pyramid. By 1967 there were 33 chapters, all mostly financially sound. The 1969 Convention, the 59th for Tau Delta Phi, took place on Grand Bahama Island in the Caribbean bring an end to another successful decade for Tau Delta Phi.
During the 1970s, Tau Delta Phi experienced a period of tribulations and transitions. Through it all the Tau Delt spirit prevailed. The 1970s were a time where the purpose of fraternities, as campus organizations, suffered from identity and role crisis. The old large campuses became graveyards for Tau Delt chapters and other fraternities. Unlike the Great Depression, the issue was not economic. It was a serious re-evaluation by undergraduates regarding the relevancy of Greek Life and their primary functions on campus. Fraternities were rendered undesirable to the average student.
During this period Tau Delta Phi once again weighed its options. At the 1973 Convention the Tau Delt spirit prevailed once again and the idea of a merger was rejected. It was realized that some chapters would be lost in the years to come but that ideals and the rituals of Tau Delta Phi would be preserved. Over the next five years, Tau Delta Phi experience a very trying period. The leadership on the Executive Council was not prepared to steer the Fraternity through another down period like this and failed to re-evaluate the Fraternity’s programs and direction. Chapters folded, houses were lost, finances suffered, and communication with the Grand Chapter deteriorated. Due to the financial situation, Tau Delta Phi discontinued its membership with the NIC affecting the Fraternity greatly. Because of this decision, some chapters chose to leave the ranks and others were absorbed by other fraternities offering new life. In an attempt to rekindle the membership, the Executive Council put its efforts to reaching chapters and alumni through the Pyramid. Efforts were made to revive falling chapters and start new ones in the New York area. A new influx of board members joined the Executive Council preparing for advances in the Fraternity in the coming years.
Tau Delta Phi continued its reconstruction in the 1980s that had started the previous few years. Communication and contact between the Executive Council and students increased during this time. Issues of the Pyramid were released in 1982, 1985, and 1988. Attempts were made at expansion and re-colonization, some lasting others not. The status of Tau Delta Phi was one of growth in numbers and strength. Active groups of alumni continued their support for Tau Delta Phi. By the end of the decade one of our founding chapters was reactivated at New York University. This decade was one of entrenchment, taking the slow and steady road to recovery. The bonds made by fraters and chapters were solidified as the Tau Delt spirit strengthened its existence.
On November 20, 1990, Tau Delta Phi was reinstated in to the NIC after almost a decade and a half absence. This was a shining moment for the members of the Executive Council at the time. Phil Nichtern was elected as the 40th Grand Consul in 1991. Under his leadership three chapters were chartered and two colonies were founded. The Polaris was published as well as Tau Delta Phi’s first newsletter, Tau Delt Facts. A wave of chapters were started by legacies of the Fraternity and directed by undergraduate brothers. The 1990s saw renewed growth in the Fraternity.
As Tau Delta Phi has moved in to the first decade of the new millennium, times have been both sad and joyful for the Fraternity. Early in 2001, John Rodriguez, 41st Grand Consul of Tau Delta Phi passed away after an automobile accident. John served the Fraternity well and had many dreams for the future of Tau Delta Phi. He held the position of Grand Consul for eight years, second longest of any brother in the history of the Fraternity. His inspirational energy has lived on in the Fraternity after his passing. Tau Delta Phi honored John for his service to Tau Delta Phi with the Convention Key.
Shawn M. Dowiak was sworn in as the 42nd Grand Consul in 2001. Under Shawn’s direction, members of the Executive Council began to look at the vision that John had left them. The Tau Delta Phi Summer House Corporation was organized to run the Fraternity’s houses by Doug Rothermel and Mike Wilson. John had long aspired to set this board up to run the Tau Epsilon house, which he called home during his collegiate years. The strengthening of the Fraternity’s finances was another goal of John’s. With that, a budget surplus was realized for the first time in twenty years under the direction of Grand Quaestor Adam Drewry. Adam was awarded the Convention Key in 2003 for his reorganization of the Fraternity’s finances. The Tau Delta Phi Summer House Corporation purchased its second home for the Delta Iota chapter in 2003. At the 2004 Convention, Tau Delta Phi began its march towards expansion by chartering the Delta Nu chapter of Christopher Newport University. Also at this Convention, the Fraternity chartered its first official Alumni Association from Delta Iota.
Recent advancements to the Fraternity’s structure have allowed for renewed growth and have reinvigorated the Tau Delta spirit. The Summer House Corporation was reorganized as the Tau Delta Phi Management Company and individual chapter house corporations. The Management Company supervises the finances and offers services to the individual house corporations.
The 2006 Convention was also another landmark for Tau Delta Phi, taking place in Quebec City, Canada. Grand Consul Shawn Dowiak was awarded the Convention Key for his diligence, dedication, and tenacity in preserving Tau Delta Phi for future generations. The Executive Council was expanded and a focus on expansion has been a key goal since the Convention.
Early in 2007, Shawn M. Dowiak, CK stepped down from the position of Grand Consul after over six years in the position. Shawn’s work and dedication have primed Tau Delta Phi for success in the coming years. Joseph W. Keber was sworn in as the 43rd Grand Consul of Tau Delta Phi to continue Tau Delta Phi’s growth.
Tau Delta Phi lives on through its brothers and through the skill of the many who are dedicated to its cause. The cause of the Tau Delt Spirit!