First Mention of Organizing a Central Office

It became apparent that Phi Delta Theta was destined to have a central office as early as 1915 when an article written by George Banta Jr., supporting the idea, appeared in the October Palladium (he suggested Chicago.) The plan received additional support from Frank J. R. Mitchell, Past President of the General  Council, in a commentary printed in the June 1917 Palladium.

A report of the Special Committee on Reorganization of the Administration was presented to the thirty-third Biennial General Convention in Indianapolis on January 1, 1918.  The report went into considerable detail regarding a person who would be put in charge of a Central Office but avoided any mention of where such an office might be located.  That question was answered in the February and April  1918 issue of The Scroll when the magazine’s Directory listed THE CENTRAL OFFICE in Oxford, Ohio.

There are numerous references to the Central Office in future publications but without a specific address.  At the Birmingham convention of 1914–15, “legislation was passed whereby the general Fraternity took over the ownership of the chapter house of Ohio Alpha . . .”  Funds were raised from the membership at large to finance construction of the Memorial Chapter House; included in the house was the library of the National Fraternity where the Central Office was located, at 506 East High St.

Establishment of Central Office in Indianapolis

The 1920 convention in Atlanta approved the George Banta Jr.’s recommendation that “the Central Office of the Fraternity… shall be in some centrally located and easily accessible city… should be Indianapolis, Indiana.” The office was formally opened on October 4, 1921.

The January 1922 Palladium reported that “The Central Office is fast assuming finished proportions and by the end of May we hope to have everything in fine shape for work or inspection.” The article listed the location of the new office at 819 Peoples Bank Building, 134 East Market St., Tel. No. Circle 8441. This became the second central office of Phi Delta Theta.

Central Office Moved to Detroit

In October 1923, Phi Delta Theta’s Central Office was moved to Detroit, Michigan, first at 527 Majestic Building, 1029 Woodward Avenue before moving to 1216 Book Building in 1924. This marked the second move of the Central Office since its creation in 1920.

General Council Votes to Move Central Office Back to Oxford

In 1926 the General Council voted to move the Central Office back to Oxford where it drifted between four locations before reaching its destiny at 2 South Campus Avenue.

The south side of a duplex house, 111 South Beech Street, owned by Brother Karl Zwick, Miami 1900, served as the beginning site. The office was located on the first floor; bedrooms on the second floor accommodated the Fraternity professionals. Within a year, arrangements were made to purchase a red brick home at 208 East High Street (Oxford’s main east/west thoroughfare). For the next twenty-one years this building served as the General Headquarters.

Having survived the Great Depression in the 1930s and World War II in the 1940s, Phi Delta Theta’s leaders were ready to undertake a new adventure.  That “adventure” was the construction of a building designed specifically to serve the needs of a rapidly growing fraternity.

A property at the south-west corner of Campus and High Streets, less than a block from the existing headquarters was purchased.  The house on that lot was the birthplace of Carolyn Scott who married Brother Benjamin Harrison. The property at “208” was sold to, and became the headquarters of, Beta Theta Pi.

The newly purchased house became the temporary office of the Fraternity until it was time to begin construction on the new building. Again, it was necessary to find provisional office space; Headquarters was moved to 18 West Church Street, a short distance away. On December 15, 1947, Admiral Wat Tyler Cluverius, President of the General Council, turned the first shovel of dirt to officially begin work on a project that would be dedicated during the Fraternity’s Centennial Convention.

Fraternity Takes Occupancy of Memorial Library and General Headquarters Building in Oxford, Ohio

On July 6, 1947, Phis and guests from all over gathered in Oxford, Ohio, to celebrate the cornerstone laying of the new home of Phi Delta Theta. Sitting directly across from Miami’s campus and on the site of Benjamin Harrison’s wife’s childhood manor, the building was to be finished in time for the upcoming General Convention.

Participants of the ceremony placed a 100-year time capsule in the cornerstone of the building containing the following items: Palmer’s History of Phi Delta Theta, Catalogue of Phi Delta Theta (tenth edition), The Ritual, Fraternity Constitution and General Statues, The Songs of Phi Delta Theta, The Scroll, The Palladium, The Phikiea Manual, The Crew That Sails the Phi, 1942 General Convention Proceedings, a letter over the signature of General Council President Admiral Cluverius, a badge, pledge button, ring, recognition button, and an alumni charm.

During the Centennial General Convention in 1948, the new General Headquarters and Memorial Library building was dedicated with hundreds of Phis in attendance. The purpose of the building was to provide a permanent home in Oxford for Phi Delta Theta while providing space for both historical archives and Fraternity staff.

Phi Delta Theta Celebrates 150th Anniversary

From the Summer 1998 Edition of The Scroll

Music from the Cincinnati Brass Band heralded the opening celebration. They played awesome arrangements of familiar Fraternity compositions and American traditional overtures as Phis and guests entered the Hall of Mirrors at the Omni Netherland Plaza Hotel. It was obvious by this introduction that this Convention would be like no other. The hall darkened and spotlights with our Greek letters, coat of arms, and 150th logo shined brightly on the walls as the call-to-order was sounded by a dozen trumpeters blowing the Fraternity whistle.

Cincinnati Mayor Roxanne Quails proclaimed it “Phi Delta Theta Week” in the Queen City and Maestro Erich Kunzel, Dartmouth ’57, conductor of the championed Cincinnati Pops Orchestra greeted the Convention. Past Presidents of the General Council were introduced, culminated by the introduction of the current president, Dr. Robert B. Deloian, Arizona State ’66. As Dr. Deloian entered the hall he was saluted with “Hail to the Chief” and a five-minute standing ovation. He inspired the standing-room-only audience with his final State of the Fraternity address, received again by cheers and a thunderous ovation.

Silver and Golden Legionnaires were honored with full Fraternity pomp and ceremony. A video presentation of historic convention footage and greetings from three famous Phis awed those in attendance. Hall of Fame sportswriter Ritter Collett, Ohio ’42, then unveiled the new Fraternity history and recounted his two years of research.

Frank Wright, Florida ’26, a Florida Alpha founding father and seventy-three-year member of Phi Delta Theta, read the sesquicentennial greeting originally given by Robert Morrison at the Semicentennial Convention in 1898. Brother Wright was in attendance at the 1948 Centennial Convention and was entrusted with Morrison’s greeting originally read by Dr. John Edwin Brown, Ohio Wesleyan 1884.

Brother Wright, the 1998 Phi of the Year, then issued the following challenge: “I now charge someone here today who will be at the Bicentennial of 2048 to relay Father Morrison’s message to that convocation.”

Continuing in the Immortal Six theme was a visit from Robert C. Morrison, Westminster ’48, the grandson of Father Morrison. Brother Morrison wore his grandfather’s badge as he addressed the Convention. The badge is on display in the David D. Banta Memorial Library located at General Headquarters.

Convention delegates later traveled to Oxford to celebrate the birthplace of Phi Delta Theta at Miami University. The caravan of chartered buses first arrived at Miami’s Hall Auditorium, where they were met by former Miami president Philip Shriver. Dr. Shriver greeted his guests with anecdotal tales of campus life during the founding days of the Miami Triad. An Oxford acting troupe then recreated the 1848 founding of Phi Delta Theta within the chilly dorm room on the second floor of Old North Hall.

The Pilgrimage continued with a guided tour of the Miami campus. Sites highlighted were those of historical fraternity significance including the Phi Delt Gates (donated by the Fraternity as a part of our 125th anniversary), Elliott and Stoddard Halls (previously known as Old North and South Halls before being named in honor of two Phis), the bell tower donated by Beta Theta Pi, the slant walk, and of course, the site of the Snow Rebellion, Old Main, now called Harrison Hall in honor of Phi President Benjamin Harrison.

Following this historical trek through our Fraternity’s past, everyone gathered to celebrate our future under the warm June sun on the corner of Campus and High Streets, the location of our General Headquarters. Large blue and white tents encompassing the headquarters’ south lawn were filled to capacity. Hanging proudly from the south edifice of our headquarters was a tremendous Phi Delt flag and a large stage stood directly before this symbol of brotherhood. Fraternity songs filled the summer day until Executive Vice President Emeritus and Foundation President Emeritus Robert J. Miller, New Mexico ’50, climbed the stairs of the adorned stage to kick off a very special groundbreaking ceremony.

Brother Miller shared with the hundreds of Phis and guests off-the-cuff remarks about his two score-plus years as overseer of the venerable headquarters, now celebrating its golden anniversary. Brother Miller announced the Foundation’s ambitious plans to expand the current building in order to better serve our membership.

Brother Miller invited Foundation Trustee Dr. Paul Martin, Akron ’35, to say a few words. Dr. Martin and his late wife, Dorothy, have been tremendous supporters of both the Phi Delta Theta and Delta Gamma Foundations as well as their alma mater. After his thoughtful commentary on the historic occasion. Dr. Martin took a silver-plated shovel and officially turned the first dirt for the expansion. The Foundation Trustees, General Council, and then everyone in attendance gathered to seize a chance to throw some dirt during the groundbreaking.

Foundation President Rusty Richardson, Tampa ’80, unveiled the plans for the new headquarters expansion, which will allow the Foundation and Fraternity to operate under one roof for the first time in a decade. The completed building will also boast improved meeting and seminar space, as well as additional room for the display of items from the Phi archives.

Friday evening found Convention visitors taking advantage of their host city, Cincinnati. Many attended the Broadway production Beauty and the Beast, some saw Brother Erich Kunzel conduct the Cincinnati Pops at the Riverbend Music Pavilion, others dined in Cincinnati’s world-renowned restaurants and some attended special reunions and other impromptu gatherings.

The 1998 Convention legislative agenda was rather light in comparison to previous gatherings. The major responsibility was electing a General Council to lead the Fraternity during the next biennium, and this was met first thing Saturday morning. Chuck Poore, South Dakota ’60, was elected president of the Council. Council members Art Hoge, Westminster ’75, Scott Mietchen, Utah ’84, and Charley Pride, Western Kentucky ’87, were re-elected and George Lankow, Florida ’60, was elected to his first term.

Paul Smucker, Miami ’39, was the keynote speaker for the Foundation luncheon held on Saturday, during which he received the Nance-Millett Free Enterprise Award.

To commemorate the event, each table was adorned with miniature jars of Smucker’s jam which guests were invited to take home.

Also at the luncheon, the Foundation announced the 1998 scholarship winners and introduced the Graduate Fellowship Program that makes graduate school fellowships available to Phi grad students.

That evening the Grand Banquet was held in the Pavilion Ballroom. With the soothing sounds of local musicians, guests prepared for a hearty meal and a full program. Major chapter awards such as the Harvard, Kansas City, Founders, and Housser Trophies were presented to outstanding chapters. Dorothy Wright, wife of Richard Wright, Akron ’37, accepted the Legion of Honor on behalf of her husband. A local presentation had occurred in Akron shortly before Dr. Wright’s passing. Ritter Collett graciously accepted the Legion of Honor for his years of service on the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award Committee and the penning of the 150th-anniversary history book. Don Hilt, Indiana ’49, was presented with the Legion of Merit. The noble Frank Wright was presented with the Raymond L. Gardner Alumnus of the Year Award, and he challenged the audience:

Sunday morning the Convention remembered all those Phis who have entered the Chapter Grand during the past biennium. The Memorial Ceremony, accompanied by a bagpiper piping “Amazing Grace,” paid tribute to these friends and brothers.

The 72nd General Convention allowed us to reflect on the past, celebrate the present, and dream for the future.

Costello Read Leadership Center Dedicated at GHQ

During the 2016 Kleberg Emerging Leaders Institute, the Costello-Read Leadership Center at General Headquarters was officially dedicated. Brothers John Costello, Akron ’68, and Roger Read, Akron ’63, generously funded this project. The support also provided for a reclamation of the Assembly Room in the lower level of GHQ as a model chapter hall for Fraternity ritual ceremonies and other activities.

100th Anniversary of GHQ Staff

From 1848 until 1921, operations of the Fraternity existed only through the General Council and various other volunteers working around the continent. The General Council managed the Fraternity for nearly seventy-five years with no main headquarters.

As early as 1915, it was clear that Phi Delta Theta’s continued growth and progress would soon require a central organization that would direct the Fraternity’s development.

From Six at First describes the central office, “The Atlanta Convention, in 1920, made provision for a proper office. Opened October 4, 1921, in the Peoples Bank Building on East Market Street in Indianapolis, it contained a friendly reception room, a workroom, and a comfortable corner office for the secretary. In 1926, the General Council voted to move the central office back to Miami University and Oxford, Ohio. In 1927, a bronze plate designating the ‘General Headquarters of Phi Delta Theta’ was placed over the doorway of a hundred-year-old mansion of 208 East High Street.”

Twenty-one years later, the Fraternity moved across the street to 2 South Campus Avenue. At the centennial convention, the General Council, Paul Beam, Robert J. Miller, and Lovell Elliot laid the cornerstone of the new General Headquarters.

With the foundation of a centralized office, the staff became the robust support
structure of Phi Delta Theta and are the primary mechanism to accomplish the Fraternity’s initiatives.

By our records, more than 250 staff members have served in various roles through the last one hundred years.

The current GHQ staff indicates the broad scope of duties the modern general fraternity workforce performs. There are executive vice presidents, senior vice presidents, and directors. Included are the roles of accounts payable and receivable, a social media coordinator, a graphic designer, an editor, and several writers. A dedicated mail manager distributes important mail and makes sure it goes out as efficiently.

A sophisticated and expert Foundation staff (created in the 1950s) raises money to complement the income from membership dues, all combined to provide scholarships, educational initiatives, and run the greater Fraternity business. Finally, an events coordinator manages the plethora of events hosted by the Fraternity.

For the day-to-day operations of the 190 plus Phi Delt chapters and emerging chapters around the US and Canada, a staff member supports member development and growth through chapter support coordinators, directors of chapter and volunteer support, education, and growth who manages dedicated recruitment specialists.

Read the commemorative article from the Winter 2022 edition of The Scroll.