Centennial Convention Held in Oxford1948
From In The Bond
Months of planning went into the Centennial Convention which coincided with the newly-finished General Headquarters.
A record turnout of 1,268 Phis were registered on September 1 at Ogden Hall, a scant 50 paces from old North Hall (Elliot Hall), and assigned rooms in various Miami dormitories. An information booth was manned by Verlin Pulley, Miami ’25, mayor of Oxford, to answer questions.
Every registrant had a forty-six-page program crammed with background information and a schedule of the days’ events. At breakfast each morning were copies of the Centennial Daily News a Six-Star Extra.
The delegates ranged from 17-year-old recent initiatives to distinguished Golden Legionnaires, Chief Justice Vinson, and two United States Senators. The Senators were Harry P. Cain, Sewanee ’29 of Washington, and Elmer Thomas, Depauw ’00 of Oklahoma. Business sessions were in Withrow Court, the home floor for the Miami basketball team.
Miami University and the state of Ohio had gone all out to make the Phi Delt visitors welcome. Miami president Ernest H. Hahne and Lieutenant Governor Paul Herbert joined Dr. Paul R. Hawley Indiana ’12, the General Council President in the welcoming speeches.
The Fraternity presented the University with the Robert Morrison Seminar Room in the new arts and sciences building. The facility, to accommodate meetings of fifteen to twenty persons, was attractively furnished. A bronze plaque on the wall read, “The Robert Morrison Seminar…presented by Phi Delta Theta to Miami University as an expression of esteem for Robert Morrison, principal founder of the Fraternity 1848-1948.”
During the business sessions, it was a serious affair. But in the evenings, and sometimes intervals during the day, there were songfests, stage shows, concerts, and a memorable re-enactment of the founding by a cast from Ohio Alpha.
Performed on the stage of Benton Hall (present-day Hall Auditorium), the play portrayed college life as it was a century earlier with five episodes covering the first two years of the Fraternity, Costumes, scenery, and dialogue were of the earlier era, many of the lines being taken from letters and documents.
The script, written by professor Harry Williams of the Miami theater faculty, did contain some unexpected lines.
In a scene representing the trial of the first two members expelled for excessive drinking in 1851, one defender said of prosecutor Benjamin Harrison, “Why you’d think he was president of the United States.”
A new event as the Convention was a career clinic in which Phis of achievement in “the real world” described the opportunities, requirements, and responsibilities in their respective fields.
Fourteen past General Council presidents attended, including John Edwin Brown, Ohio Wesleyan ’84 who presented a Centennial message entrusted to him by Founder Morrison at the half-century convention in 1898.
The gist of Morrison’s message was, “We are happy to have been privileged to be a founding part of Phi Delta Theta which has so far played a worthy part in American college life.”
The Saturday night banquet was attended by 1,500 people in Withrow Court. Leaders of other fraternities on campus were invited guests, swelling the turnout to capacity.
Sunday morning there was a Centennial church service in the beautiful Norman Chapel of Western College for Women. That school was then adjacent to the campus but later became part of Miami.
The final event was an academic procession Sunday afternoon. Led by General Hawley in military uniform, the University marching band set the cadence for the marching Phis in their caps and gowns.
The procession ended at the campus gateway across from Campus Avenue from the new headquarters.
After brief remarks by presidents Hilton U. Brown and John Edwin Brow, Admiral Cluverius, as chairman of the Centennial committee, presented the building to Phi Delta Theta.
Incoming General Council president Emmett J. Junge, Nebraska ’26 accepted the deed.