The Archives of Phi Gamma Delta

Archives Home  Founders  Traditions  Today in History  Historic Sites  Leaders  Exhibits/References  Contact



Local Organizations and Petitions for Charter

A Quick History of Expansion

Back to Petitions for Charter page

Since chartering the Beta Chapter at Washington College, Pennsylvania, one month after the Fraternity's founding, Phi Gamma Delta has sought to grow. Over the years, the methods have evolved.

Initially, petitioners would learn of Phi Gamma Delta by contact with its members, be they professors, transfer students, or hometown friends. Sometimes petitioners were already organized as a local society.

When an undergraduate chapter served as the Grand Chapter, or executive head of the Fraternity, expansion was not as conservative, and some chapters were short-lived. In the 1870s, the Grand Chapter relocated to New York City and included an increasing number of graduate members. As their experience grew, so did their conservatism. Through the 1880s and 1890s, the Grand Chapter set its sights on the most renowned institutions in each region. For example, they resisted expanding to any school in Michigan, preferring to wait until a chapter could be established at the flagship University of Michigan. Such decisions chafed Midwesterners hoping to colonize small colleges unfamiliar to the Eastern brethren. A group at Wittenberg petitioned over four years before receiving a charter, and then only with assistance from the surrounding chapters and initiated transfer students.

Conservatism continued to reign after 1898, when power transferred to the body of trustees called the Archons, elected by the Ekklesia (convention). Absorbing local fraternities became the primary method of expansion. Petitions were more often rejected than accepted. Most groups had to petition several Ekklesiai: the University of Pittsburgh was denied by four different Ekklesiai before their charter was granted in 1916. From start to finish, they wooed Phi Gamma Delta for over ten years.

It is interesting that by 1911, the Fraternity encouraged graduate brothers to organize local fraternities with an eye to petition the fraternity when the local developed sufficiently, or the campus allowed national fraternities. For example, the Beta Kappa local at Colorado was recruited and advised by local Phi Gamma Delta graduate brothers. It became a Phi Gam chapter in 1912.

Discussion of a more advanced "colonization" method developed in the 1920s. In 1926 at North Carolina, members from several nearby campuses visited the school to recruit for a revived Epsilon Chapter. While successful, this experiment did not extend to further colonization; conservatism and the Great Depression ensured that. The four new chapters founded from 1927 to 1947 had all begun as local fraternities.

College enrollments increased as Phi Gamma Delta approached its 100th anniversary in 1948. Colonization became the predominant method of expansion; most of the five chapters chartered in 1948 were colonized. Most were "seeded" by transfer students from other chapters.

One feature restricted how quickly we grew and to what schools: the "accredited" list created by the Permanent Committee on Extension. At any given time, this list consisted of perhaps a dozen candidate schools, all pre-approved for expansion, if the right local fraternity or colonization opportunity arose. This dominated expansion during the 1950s and into the late 1960s, when the expansion process was streamlined.

Back to Petitions for Charter page