After surviving a century of fire, war, and 11 moves, one of the nation's most prominent fraternities, Theta Xi, celebrated the 100th anniversary of its Eta Chapter at Lehigh University on April 24.
In the spirit of celebration, a gala brought old and young brothers from the graduation classes of 1940 through 2007 together for golf, food, and (for those of age) cocktails at the Theta Xi house.
Al Pedrick, Eta Chapter’s alumni advisor and Lehigh graduate, class of ‘43, says about 15 percent of its 706 living members attended the event. Hailing from all over the country, the brothers had a unique opportunity to share memories in appreciation of the fraternity's history at Lehigh.
Founded in 1864 at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Theta Xi is one of the oldest fraternities in the nation. Its foundation was forged in conflict as eight members of Sigma Delta fraternity, dissatisfied with their brothers’ sense of unity, broke off to form a new organization – Theta Xi.
In 1904, the Eta chapter was founded at Lehigh University, making it the 17th fraternity to appear on the Lehigh scene. Three years later, in 1907, the brothers moved into their house at 432 Cherokee St. in Bethlehem –little did they know, but they would move 11 more times before settling into their current residence on the hill. A brotherhood proven resilient
Twenty years later, in 1927, Theta Xi was flourishing at Lehigh. Eta chapter had 27 members, many of whom were in Lehigh’s band, Marching 97. As another decade passed, Theta Xi grew to 41 members, all of whom lived in the house.
World War II took its toll on Theta Xi in the following years, however, as it did on all of Lehigh. In 1943 the war forced Eta chapter to close its house due to a dwindling number of members and by 1945, Lehigh as a whole had shrunk to only 398 students plus an Army contingent.
Eta chapter, much like our nation, proved resilient and in 1946, nine Theta Xi members returned to Lehigh and moved back on campus to share a house with Lambda Chi Alpha. In 1947, the fraternity was up to 33 members and finally moved back into its own house on Adams Street.
Fire forced the brothers out of Adams Street in 1965, when an eight-year-old boy set fire to the house during a school break. Showing their resilience once again, Eta chapter immediately began planning construction of a new house, to be located on “the hill” in Sayre Park. On May 6, 1966 the brothers of Theta Xi, Eta chapter dedicated their new home, and they still reside there today. A dedication to academics and each other
Lehigh's Theta Xi chapter presently claims 706 living alumni, with the oldest having graduated in 1928. There are 23 active members who live in the house and two who live off-campus.
Throughout Theta Xi’s 100-year tradition at Lehigh, the fraternity has been known for its athletic accomplishments as well as its service to the community and the university. In its early years, the brothers were well noted for their contributions to the Lehigh band and championships in intramural sports. More recently, their participation in varsity sports and their service to organizations such as the Boys’ and Girls’ Club of Bethlehem has been exemplary.
Throughout Theta Xi's 100 years, one thing has remained constant: Their dedication to academic excellence and to each other as brothers. Theta Xi has ranked among the top five fraternities academically numerous times over the past century. And equally as impressive, 28 percent of the Eta chapter’s living alumni donate money to their fraternity each year. The class of 2000 alone donated a whopping $20,000 for renovations to the house.
So clearly, April 24, 2004 did not merely represent 100 years of existence for Theta Xi, but more importantly, 100 years of brotherhood here at Lehigh University. --Carl Heim