beta theta chapter history

1800s 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s - present

The Forties -- WWII and the Navy Occupation

The economy of the nation was growing in 1940, due in large part to our material involvement in World War II.  This produced an optimistic air in the nation which was reflected in the social atmosphere at the Beta house.  The Colgate Thirteen was organized by Beta songsters in 1941; one of Beta’s many contributions to the university.  The success Beta enjoyed in the thirties in athletics continued into the early '40s when the house captured the intramural cup in both 1940 and 1941.

Pledging formally began in the spring now.  The initiation ceremony and banquet, held late the following autumn, remained the focal point for this annual renewal of the membership.  Pledge tasks and antics remained much the same as well, though somehow, through the infinite wisdom of several notable upper classmen, a pledge “snipe hunt” became part of the educational process.  It is faithfully reported that these hunts were so successful, that the practice was later discontinued for lack of snipes in Madison County.

It appeared that everything at Colgate and especially the Beta house was headed toward many more accomplishments when the nation was shocked by Pearl Harbor.  The next years were grim for Colgate and the Beta house.

In November 1942, it was noted in the minutes that the house could not continue without a strong rush effort.  With the college again under a military regimen as in 1918 and all young men in the armed services, this task would prove impossible.  The last formal house meeting, until after the war, occurred in March 1943, when it was suggested that Navy would occupy the house.

It surely must have been a depressing time for the handful of young men who had seen some of the finest days of the house just months earlier, to witness the discontinuation of the active chapter after 62 years of triumph over adversity and challenge.  Those active chapter members, along with the alumni, had no guarantee that the nation under which Colgate and Beta had flourished would weather the test.  They must have known that if and when the nation and its allies were triumphant, Colgate and Beta Theta would be greatly changed in the process.

A jubilant class returned to Colgate in the fall of 1945, but it was obvious that much work had to be done in order to pick up the pieces.  The house required numerous physical repairs, following which, was not much worse for having housed sailors the past two and a half years.  The real job was getting the chapter back on its Beta way.  Hard work on the part of returning men from earlier years, along with many supportive alumni, accomplished this task much more quickly than most fraternities on the row.

Since the war had interrupted the education of many men, the returning brotherhood’s average age was considerably above that of pre-war chapters.  And, some brothers were married.  There appeared to be an attempt by these post-war members to revive the somewhat ailing scholarship in the house.  An active social life and general feeling of euphoria prevailed with the gradual return to college as usual.  By 1950, house-imposed scholarship standards were generally abandoned, though individual efforts were certainly encouraged.  As ever, the Beta spirit of strength through diversity and the atmosphere of encouragement and mutual respect remained the hallmark of the Beta Theta chapter.

Commitment to the university was evident in the continued cordial relations with the faculty, especially Messrs. Case, Kalgren, Barnes, and Estabrook. Earl Daniels (for whom the house addition of 1967-68 is named) provided a great deal of inner strength and continuity to the house and served as a constant “reminder” of the principles upon which the chapter operated.