Founders' Day 2017 - Rod Talbot, Grand Prytanis

In 1899, a group of men living together in Bloomington, IL and attending Illinois Wesleyan University got together to form a study group. They called themselves the Knights of Classic Lore. They created the name because our founders studied classic literature at their weekly meetings. As their membership size grew, they felt that they needed to affiliate with a larger fraternity. They applied to Phi Delta Theta and were rejected because they were not a conventional group of men. They were mostly men raised on farms in country towns in Central Illinois. Phi Delta Theta not only rejected them for not being conventional, but frowned on the name “Knights of Classic Lore” and suggested we start a new fraternity.

Joseph Settles took their advice and ran with it. Frater Settles wanted a fraternity that developed men to cope with the world when their school days were over and as he put it, “be forced against the stern realities of life.”

Today, there may be no other time in our history where fraternities may be more relevant. In Frater Settle’s vision of TKE, and the “stern realities of life,” there were no safe spaces or anything else developed from our over politically correct world.

Our Declaration of Principles outlines that our purpose is to aid our men in their mental, moral, and social development. What better place can an undergraduate Frater learn life’s lessons than in our fraternity? In our fraternity, we get real life learning opportunities not found in the classroom. In our world, you become leaders. In our world, you don’t only learn but you live diversity and inclusion. In our world, you learn service above self. In our world, we live by high standards and exceptional values.

As I travel TKE Nation, I consistently see the positive impact of our chapters, our alumni, our headquarters staff and our Foundation. There is a commitment to make our Fraternity great. Even though we were founded as an undergraduate organization, our fraternity lives long beyond the undergraduate years. If TKE is truly the “Fraternity for Life”, then the undergraduate years are merely a launching pad for life. Lessons you learn from the Fraternity can make us better fathers, neighbors, community leaders and influence how we excel in our careers. Frater Settles and I shared another bond besides TKE. He was, as am I, a member of Rotary and it’s amazing how many civic leaders are members of a fraternity or sorority. Being a TKE for Life means acting on our values to make a better life for you and those around you.

Today, we celebrate our birthday. We were born a small fraternity at a small school in Illinois and have grown into a great international organization. As our creed highlights: TKE’s have always been a Brotherhood of gentlemen in perpetual quest of excellence as a way of life. Let’s expand on that quest and chart an even greater future.

Happy Founders' Day Fraters. I love the Fraternity.

Yours in the Bond,

Rod Talbot
Grand Prytanis

Founders' Day 2016 - Rod Talbot, Grand Prytanis

Founders Day is always a significant day and I join you in paying tribute to those persons who through their own dedication and their tireless efforts brought this fraternity into being. In a real sense, you and I are the legacy of goodwill and sacrifice on the part of the founders of Tau Kappa Epsilon.

So who better than to convey these efforts than the words of our Founders themselves? In 1924, at the Silver Jubilee Conclave, our founders addressed the Grand Chapter and clearly set forth the inspiration which led to their founding of our fraternity. It was the first Conclave since our founding that all five of them had been able to attend. In their address to the Grand Chapter, they wanted to reiterate the original ideas and purposes that brought our fraternity into existence. This is what they said:

First, we remember the bond of sympathy and cooperation which made it possible for us to organize. Common ambitions and ideals were necessary. We were not in harmony with many of the popular ideals of that time. But as men of courage we insisted in remaining true to our best convictions. It was easier for us to do this by effecting an organization of a brotherly character for mutual helpfulness. Such an organization is none other than a fraternity in its truest sense. We would urge, therefore, as a fraternity dealing with up-to-date problems, that we should never forget the principles of true fraternalism as involved in the mutual helpfulness and the common ambition that are necessary in carrying this out. Hence the importance that each chapter take the greatest care in selecting men who are entirely in sympathy with the original high moral, social, and scholastic standing in which Tau Kappa Epsilon had its beginning.

Second, snobbiness was a thing which we, the Founders, disdained. We looked beyond mere outward appearances that we might see the man; and finding one of real quality and sterling worth, we regarded him as fit material to be associated with us in a fraternal way regardless of outward appearance. Knowing full well that the mission of college training is to develop such traits, we were fully convinced that in the end-developing character, enriched life and enlarged personality-would justify any risk that might be taken in selecting such a man. Our fraternity has been made by the early initiates and this in itself was sufficient vindication of the policy we made use of in securing our first new members. We fear that the loss of scholastic achievement may be traced to the artificial tendency of making social qualities the only test of membership-rather than the essentials of a strong, vigorous, aggressive manhood that stands for the highest and best things in life.

Third, we desire especially to emphasize the fact that, as a fraternity, we cannot afford to depart from the original plan of electing men of small means to membership whenever otherwise they have Teke qualifications. They need us and as a fraternity we have a need of them. Undoubtedly, Abraham Lincoln would not have met some of the modern fraternity tests in polished appearance, bank and bond holdings, but he did possess what is better still, that wealth of character which has ever been the standard of Tau Kappa Epsilon. We are bound to recognize that such qualities are often found in men of wealth also, and we are happy when it’s possible to secure such members. Yet the expense of membership should be kept sufficiently within the means of the average man that he may not be denied the prestige of belonging to a great national fraternity because of his limited means, nor Tau Kappa Epsilon deprived of the splendid assets that members of strong character, sterling worth and high scholastic standing will become to our fraternity, however they may be in material wealth.

Fraters, those were the words of Fraters Settles, Mayer, Atkinson, Truitt, and McNutt about why our fraternity was founded. They are as true today as they were in 1899 or in 1924. To know where we are going, we need to remember where we have been.

Happy Founders' Day, Fraters. I love the Fraternity.

Yours in the Bond,

Rod Talbot
Grand Prytanis

Founders' Day 2015 - Bob Barr, PGP

Fellow Fraters,

This Founders' Day, as I join all of you in reflecting on the history of our beloved Fraternity, now 116 years young, I continue to be awed by the innumerable accomplishments of Tau Kappa Epsilon. From local chapters performing valuable services for and in their communities to distinguished alumni changing the world in virtually all fields of endeavor, Fraters in the Bond have strived to reach our goal of Better Men for a Better World.

In so many ways, we've done just that. We have indeed built a better world through building better men. On behalf of all Tekes everywhere, I thank you for your part in that magnificent effort.

In 1899, when TKE was born, our Founders started the Fraternity with the purpose of preparing men for the challenges of society, certainly a noble endeavor. It was our very first Grand Prytanis, Lester H. Martin, recalling his time with Founder Settles, who stated, "The idea, as it struck brother Settles, was not a Fraternity in the usual acceptation, but an organization for the development of men to fit them to cope with the world when their school days were over and they would be forced up against the stern realities of life."

Much as America's founding fathers before them, our Fraternity's Founders were pioneers filled with the spirit of building a new and better enterprise—not just for them, and not just for their time, but for all brothers for all time.

These men laid the foundation for joining collegiate men together not based on wealth, rank or honor but on something more important and timeless—personal worth and character—in a bond that provided equal opportunity for all college men to join in a worthy endeavor.

In TKE, the term fraternity man took on a new and positive meaning, something that has endured to this day 116 years later.

Yes, our Founders truly were visionaries. It's up to each of us, as their progeny, to not only continue to live that vision and that experience in the real world but to pass it on to those who follow us, to ensure it lives and guides, not only our own lives, but the lives of the Fraters whom we touch and all men, women and children we come in contact with throughout our own lives.

As I reflect back on the impact of our great Fraternity, I'm encouraged by the progress we've made just in this past year. For the first time in a generation since 1992, our chapters and colonies initiated more than 4,000 new men. Our charitable giving has reached new heights; collegiate and alumni Tekes raised more than $300,000 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

TKE has continued to expand to new colleges and universities, with our new colony at University of Alaska Anchorage and charter issued to Upsilon-Omega Chapter at Santa Clara University. These accomplishments and so many more are a very real and proud tribute to the hard work and dedication of our active members and of the alumni volunteer teams who educate and support our mission. In celebrating our 116th birthday, we know our TKE work is not done nor should it be. In fact, it is and will never be completely done. Tekes never just sit back and rest on their laurels. As responsible Fraters, we know we must constantly strive for excellence in our daily actions and demand the same from our fellow Fraters. Better Men for a Better World is a commitment we make each and every day to each other and our beloved Fraternity.

It's a challenge I proudly accept without hesitation as I know all of you do as well.

Fraters, I love the Fraternity.

Yours in the Bond,

Bob Barr
Grand Prytanis