Technology Building Corporation of the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity Alumni 1927 ( MIT ) - Massachusettes

Technology Building Corporation of the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity Alumni 1927 ( MIT ) - Massachusettes

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Technology Building Corporation of the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity Alumni 1927 ( MIT ) - Massachusettes
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Beautifully engraved certificate from the Technology Building Corporation of the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity Alumni issued in 1927. This historic document has an ornate border around it with a vignette of an allegorical woman with an eagle. This item is hand signed by the Company’s President and Treasurer and is over 75 years old.
Certificate Vignette A Brief Summary of the MIT Fraternity System Despite the fact that fraternities have played an important role in housing MIT students for 100 years, I was unable to find historical data gathered from this point of view, although there appears to be considerable information available from various sources — particularly Technology Review (starting in 1899) and the Technique (starting in 1886). I might add that in recent years the format of both of these publications has changed and that neither have much written information on alumni activities or, for that matter, student activities. In 1865 the first classes were held in rented space in the Mercantile Building on the corner of Sumner and Hawley streets and the following year MIT moved to its new quarters in Back Bay. In these early days of the Institute, Tech students commuted from home, lived in boarding houses, or rented rooms. The establishment of the Alpha Theta Chapter of Sigma Chi on March 22, 1882 represented the first step toward providing an integrated social and living arrangement that would soon play a vital role at MIT. (Note: Not exactly the first step! In 1873 Tau Chapter of Chi Phi was established and then withdrawn in 1878. The current Beta Chapter was established in 1890.) It was not until 1886 that Sigma Chi actually had physical facilities which they obtained by renting a suite of rooms, a pattern that most early fraternities followed. "Boston Tech" never had dormitories! The first dormitories were made available when the Institute moved to Cambridge in 1916. However, in 1902, private investors built a large housing facility, apparently aimed at the Tech student market, near Boston Tech on Boylston Street located approximately at the eastern end of the Prudential Center complex. It was called Technology Chambers and had 176 rooms, many of which were occupied by MIT students. In the limited time available I’ve gathered the following background which may be of interest to you. Dean Samuel C. Prescott ’94 in his early history of MIT, "When MIT Was ‘Boston Tech,’" says of the early fraternity system (pg. 144): The first fraternity, Sigma Chi, was founded in March 1882. Within three years Theta Xi and Alpha Tau Omega were chartered (1885). The club known as The No. 6 Club from its house at 6 Louisburg Square soon became a chapter of Delta Psi and within the next six years Technology had chapters in Phi Gamma Delta, Delta Tau Delta, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Chi Phi, Delta Upsilon, and a local, Phi Beta Epsilon, which has maintained its independent status for over sixty years. The fraternities, although few, were extremely useful in providing living quarters for congenial groups of men in limited numbers, but in the eighties and nineties they comprised only a very small part of the student body. By 1886, the first year that the Technique was produced, there were still only 3 fraternities with 39 actives, out of a total student body of 302. However, by 1900 the number had grown to eight fraternities and the number of activities had increased to 234, not quite 20% of the student body. Within the next 15 years the fraternity system had more than doubled to 20 fraternities with 481 actives, about one-third of the 1915-student body of 1,685. Although I’m not certain of the underlying cause, there was some national anti-fraternity sentiment at this time in the United States, similar to that of the late 60’s. Then, as more recently, MIT’s system apparently remained strong. The Institute had dormitories for the first time in 1917, after MIT moved to its location across the Charles in Cambridge. A description of undergraduate houses in the 1935 Technique points out that they were first used as fraternity houses. By 1935 the undergraduate student body had grown from about 1,600 at the time of the move to about 2,000 — the graduate body which was very small, about 80 students, had grown to slightly over 200 — primarily students working for their masters degrees. As the student body grew the fraternity system continued to meet the needs of about 30% of the undergraduates. Run as private enterprises and managed by active brothers with assistance from alumni house corporations, they had none of the tax advantages of a nonprofit institution and yet they provided a very efficient, cost-effective option to dormitory living. The Interfraternity Council (IFC) first began to appear in Technique in 1915, but my guess is that like many MIT organizations it had probably existed informally from 1885 when there were only three fraternities. From the beginning, fraternities engaged alumni as trustees and advisors and each house had its alumni corporation or board of trustees. Shortly after World War II, various members of the administration — Frederick G. Fassett (Hon), Philip A. Stoddard ’40, Horace S. Ford, Jr. ’31, to name a few — would convene the alumni leadership every two or three years to discuss matters of management, safety and finances. They were informal meetings and generated good feelings and, I’m sure, a few helpful ideas. One very active alumnus who had attended most of these, Lindsay Russell ’50, then President of the Theta Deuteron House Corporation, Theta Delta Chi, remembers a very important all day meeting. It took place on December 7, 1963. The key players were Vice President Kenneth R. Wadleigh ’43; Frederic Watriss ’41, Associate Treasurer and Recording Secretary of the Institute; and D. Reid Weedon, Jr. ’41, then President of the MIT Alumni Association — all alumni and all


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