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Phi Kappa Psi History

The Founding of Phi Kappa Psi

In 1852, an influenza epidemic struck Jefferson College, a school located in the small town of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. It was on February 19th of that year, with the great joy of serving others fresh in their hearts, that Charles Page Thomas Moore and William Henry Letterman founded the fraternity of Phi Kappa Psi.

In the years to come, the focus would shift to expansion. Charles P. T. Moore traveled to colleges across the region seeking fruitful grounds for new chapters. He found University of Virginia to be more than suitable, and helped found the second chapter, Virginia Alpha. During this influential period, Thomas Cochran Campbell, an enthusiast born in India to missionary parents, was the most active man in the fraternity.

In 1855, the first Grand Arch Council was held in Charlottesville, Virginia. The second GAC would be held the following year in Canonsburg. It was then that Virginia Alpha was formally elected to be the executive head of the fraternity, known as the Grand Chapter.

Expansion continued as the focus and within the next year, six new chapters were chartered. This emphasis on starting new roots continued until the outbreak of the Civil War. Seventeen chapters were in existence by that time, though many southern chapters shut down operations during the war. Pennsylvania Alpha was almost forced to take a similar route. Of the 600 men who were brothers, 452 enlisted in the armed forces. Approximately 100 were killed in battle.

After the war, Pennsylvania Delta at Washington College took over as Grand Chapter. In   following years, many of the southern chapters were revived. This revival coincided with the establishment of 10 new chapters before 1870. This policy of expansion continued, except for the six years when Pennsylvania Zeta was Grand Chapter.

The year 1885 marked a profound change in government for Phi Kappa Psi. During the 1885 GAC, a committee was called to draft a new system. With William Clayton Wilson of Pennsylvania Beta leading the way, the new government and Constitution were established. In place of the Grand Chapter, a centralized Executive Council would rule, with elected officers heading up various districts.

While the new millennium presented challenges for fraternities, it has only instilled the  values of Phi Kappa Psi deeper in the hearts of its brothers. The fraternity celebrated its 150th anniversary on February 19th, 2002. Today, it claims more than 85 chapters and 100,000 initiates, all of whom know the great joy of serving others.

Massachusetts Beta - Our Chapter


The Massachusetts Beta Chapter was colonized in 1987 by a group of students searching for a different type of fraternity; one that would not only enable them to strengthen their bond as brothers, but would also provide them with the unique joy of serving others. As the 1980's came to a close, the Massachusetts Beta Colony continued  inducting new members until, finally, on April 20th, 1991, it was officially chartered by the Phi Kappa Psi National Fraternity in a celebration held at the Boston Marriot.

The following year, Massachusetts Beta reached a peak size with a brotherhood nearly 50 strong. However, as the 90's progressed, Massachusetts Beta's membership declined. As a result, in 2004 the remaining brothers launched a drastic reform, starting with large pledge classes in 2004 and 2005. Over the next few years, Massachusetts Beta grew rapidly in size until reaching its present size of over 60 brothers. At the same time, with financial assistance provided by Phi Psi alumnus Jerry Nelson (California Epsilon 1948, UCLA), the chapter finally found a permanent home at our current location at 18-20 Hammer Street.

With a larger brotherhood, Massachusetts Beta has continued to uphold a high standard of excellence. In 2008, the chapter was recognized as the "Most Improved Chapter" and also received the Ralph P. Haney award for Financial Excellence, given to the chapter with the strongest record financial management. In both 2009 and 2011, Massachusetts Beta received Accreditation with Distinction, recognizing only a handful of chapters in the country every two years for achieving the highest level of excellence in their organization and brotherhood.

Famous Brothers

Phog Allen, "Father of Basketball Coaching" (Kansas Alpha, University of Kansas, 1905)


Joseph W. Barr, US Secretary of the Treasury 1968-1969, FDIC Chairman (Indiana Alpha, DePauw University, 1936)


Evan Bayh, US Senator (IN), Former Governor of Indiana 1989-1997 (Indiana Beta, Indiana University, 1975)


Capt. Henry H. Bingham, Civil War Medal of Honor recipient (Pennsylvania Alpha, Jefferson College, 1862)


Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of NYC, Founder of Bloomberg LP (Maryland Alpha, Johns Hopkins University, 1961)


Zach Braff, Actor (Illinois Alpha, Northwestern University, 1997)


Pierce Butler, US Supreme Court Justice 1922-1939 (Minnesota Alpha, Carleton College, 1885)


John T. Connor, US Secretary of Commerce 1965-1967 (New York Beta, Syracuse University 1933)


Roy Crane, Cartoonist (Texas Alpha, University of Texas at Austin, 1922)


John W. Davis, Democratic Presidential Nominee 1924 (Virginia Beta, Washington and Lee University, 1889)


Maj. Gen. William Donovan, WWI Medal of Honor recipient, OSS Founder (New York Gamma, Columbia, 1903)


Herbert H. Dow, Founder of Dow Chemical Company (Ohio Epsilon, Case Institute of Technology, 1888)


Ford Frick, MLB commissioner 1951-1965, Baseball Hall of Fame member (Indiana Alpha, DePauw, 1913)


Peter Graves, Actor (Minnesota Beta, University of Minnesota, 1946)


Stephen Hadley, US National Security Adviser 2005-2009 (New York Alpha, Cornell University, 1966)


Homer A. Holt, Governor of West Virginia 1937-1941 (Virginia Beta, Washington and Lee University, 1916)


John F. Kennedy Jr., Son of President John F. Kennedy (Rhode Island Alpha, Brown University, 1983)


Johnny "Red" Kerr, Former NBA player, Coach, and Broadcaster (Illinois Delta, University of Illinois, 1954)


Lloyd Lowndes Jr., Governor of Maryland 1895-1899 (Pennsylvania Beta, Allegheny College, 1864)


Frank Morgan, Academy Award nominated actor (New York Alpha, Cornell University 1908)


Jerry Nelson, Founder of Ticketmaster (California Epsilon, UCLA, 1948)


Charles "Buddy" Rogers, Actor and Band Leader (Kansas Alpha, University of Kansas, 1923)


James Whitcomb Riley, Poet and Writer (Indiana Alpha, DePauw University, 1883


Roy Scheider, Academy Award Nominated Actor (Pennsylvania Eta, Franklin and Marshall, 1954)


Tex Schramm, Member of NFL Hall of Fame (Texas Alpha, University of Texas at Austin, 1940)


Mark Spitz, Swimmer and Olympic Legend, Won 7 Gold Medals in 1972 (Indiana Alpha, DePauw University, 1957)


James Thurber, Pulitzer Prize Winning author (Ohio Delta, Ohio State University, 1918)


President Woodrow Wilson, Governor of NJ 1911-1913, President of the United States 1913-1921 (Virginia Alpha, UVA, 1879)


Angus G. Wynne Jr., Founder of Six Flags (Texas Alpha, University of Texas at Austin, 1933)


Jerry Yang, Co-founder and Former CEO of Yahoo! (California Beta, Stanford University, 1987)


George Yardley, Member of Basketball Hall of Fame (California Beta, Stanford University, 1947)

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