Founders' Day 2018 - Christopher T. Hanson, Grand Prytanis

January 10, 2018

My Fellow Fraters,

As we celebrate the 119th anniversary of Tau Kappa Epsilon’s founding, we once again have an opportunity to recall our origins and use them as inspiration for continued excellence in our lives.

Our founding fathers had a vision that was progressive and revolutionary back in 1899, creating an organization that would consider personal worth and character to be principle qualifications for membership. Not having an exclusionary clause for membership was groundbreaking and forward thinking. As we know, scores of other organizations had to amend their membership criteria and adapt to changing societal and federal laws as the years passed. However, from day one, TKE has lead the way as an organization focused on the benefits of diversity and inclusion.

With 275,000-plus lifetime members, TKE makes a difference in the lives of thousands of men, from all across the world, each and every day. Our philanthropic work has raised millions of dollars for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital along with other charitable organizations. Our service and outreach efforts have benefitted numerous communities in desperate need of help. Through these experiences and our educational programming, we are creating and fostering next generation leadership.

As we look forward in the new year, what does 2018 have in store for us? What challenges will we face and how will we rise up to meet them? Our membership is strong, our staff is top notch, and our volunteers give their heart and soul for the betterment of others. We are truly blessed. However, there is much more to do and the time has come for us to once again lead the way via important organizational changes.

The headlines in the news when fraternity life goes wrong have a negative, adverse effect on all of us. In the age of digital media, nothing is forgotten and no fraternity is immune from these societal pressures. State governments, university administrators, and our insurance carriers are all moving to impose significant changes upon us, or even seek to eliminate us, as these issues continue to persist.

I’d like to share a story of a chance encounter I had while travelling home from a Grand Council meeting this past fall semester. While waiting to board my flight, another person in line noticed my TKE polo shirt and initiated a conversation. In my tenure on the Grand Council, this has happened frequently. However, this time it was a mom mentioning her son had just joined TKE at a school in Ohio. She went on to explain how worried she was about his decision to join a fraternity and after not hearing from him for a period of time, she had thought he might be dead. She had read all the recent headlines in the news and had feared the worst.

Upon hearing this, I extended my hand, introduced myself, and commented that as the TKE International Board Chairman, I was equally concerned about her son as I am about all of our 11,000 collegiate members. I want them all to be safe from harm and to benefit from their TKE experiences. We had a nice discussion that continued while we waited for our bags after the conclusion of the flight. She thanked me for explaining all the positive opportunities awaiting her son and for taking the time to ease her fears. As a parent myself, I empathize with her and I know other parents must be feeling the same way too.

Fraters, perception is reality. The future of our great Fraternity is at a cross roads and we must act now to improve, to evolve, and to define our existence for a successful future. What will the next great chapter in our history entail? How are we going to rally together to ensure we become stronger? How are we going to prove that we are Better Men for a Better World?

The Grand Council and I are engaged with numerous stakeholders in strategic conversations about changes we can champion together to safeguard our future. Over the next few months, collegiates, alumni, volunteers, and our university partners will have the chance for continued input. Change, both significant and vital, will require concerted efforts and meaningful plans for implementation. Topics under review include new member education, substance-free housing, and alumni engagement opportunities. With utmost respect to our founders, we owe it to ourselves to be critical and thorough with our plans for improvements.

Fraters, grit and determination have been the cornerstones of TKE successes throughout our history. This remains true today, but innovation and accountability will determine how successful we can be moving forward. In order to fortify our existence and build a championship culture, we need to control our destiny through bold initiatives and progressive actions.

On this Founders’ Day, help me strengthen our Fraternity for the benefit of all current and future generations of TKE Fraters. And, stand with me as one TKE Nation to show the world that we truly are the Fraternity for Life!

Fraters, I believe our greatest days are within our reach if we choose to embrace our values and fulfill our desire to be Better Men for a Better World.

Happy Founders’ Day. I love the Fraternity!

Yours in the Bond,

Christopher T. Hanson
Grand Prytanis


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