Cresset Fraternity (1915-1921)
In 1914, there was a great deal of interest in Toledo’s university due to the formation of a new College of Arts and Sciences. Until that time, many Toledo natives left town to continue their studies due to the lack of offerings at the school; university enrollment doubled once the college got started.
In Fall 1915, many new students enrolled at the University, but no groups or student activities existed at the time. J. Howard Kramer, a transfer student from Northwestern, got the urge to start a fraternity like he was used to in Chicago. He and 8 other students had their first meeting to discuss the idea at the Downtown YMCA in October 1915.
The group presented a preliminary constitution to President Stowe at the University, but the university had no methodology to even officially recognize such a group. The group kept meeting, and on February 22, 1916 a formal initiation ritual was tried out and 2 new members were invited in. This group met at the law offices of member William Tucker Jr’s father in downtown Toledo for the next five years.
On December 6, 1916, the group adopted the name “The Cresset Fraternity” and became the first fraternity at the University of Toledo. By the end of the 1916-1917 school year the fraternity had 11 active members, and Prof. Roy J. Colbert became the first Faculty Advisor and member.
The Cresset Fraternity held its first Annual Banquet on February 9, 1917 at the Hotel Boody downtown, and on May 28, 1917 the Cresset fraternity adopted its first Constitution and By-Laws. Its colors were green & white.
At the University’s request, the Cresset Fraternity asked Prof. Howard Minnich Bowman, a recent addition to the university staff and new chairman of the Biology Department, to be its Faculty Advisor in 1920. Bowman took the job very seriously. He served until 1958 and was one of the most important men in the chapter’s history.
Phi Kappa Chi (1921 – 1955)
In the late 1920s, a number of Cresset Fraternity members promoted the idea of adopting a more “Greek” name, since the group was now more closely resembling a traditional Greek society. On March 11, 1921, the name of the fraternity was changed to Phi Kappa Chi at the fraternity’s 5th Annual Dinner.
The new colors of Phi Kappa Chi were black & white, with the Sweet Pea as its flower and a motto of “Friendship, Unity & Study”. The University itself was by now moving out of downtown Toledo to its new home on Nebraska Avenue, site of the current Scott Park campus. In 1922, Phi Kappa Chi decided to build the first fraternity house on the UT campus, and by September that year the house was finished, most of the work provided by brothers, alumni and their families.
By 1924, the fraternity had 168 members and alumni. Thus, the Alumni Chapter of Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Chi was formed. Its members met monthly in various homes. Through this group Phi Kappa Chi was able to withstand membership fluctuations and money issues up to and through the Great Depression.
In late March 1930, after the initiation of the 1930 pledge class, a huge fire consumed and destroyed the Nebraska Avenue chapter house. The chapter planned its eventual rebuilding of a house once UT had finished its own campus building. In October 1933, the chapter unveiled its new house at 2357 Lawrence Avenue, after delays due to the depression. The chapter moved to larger quarters at 2491 Lawrence in September 1936, and that house was sold in 1943 due to most of the brothers fighting in World War II at the time.
Near the end of the War, the returning brothers decided to buy a new house in anticipation of the many returning brothers. In October 1947, the house at 2309 Lawrence Avenue was purchased, here the chapter stayed for many years.
From 1915 through 1955, 625 men were initiated into Phi Kappa Chi. In 1953, the fraternity considered proposals to affiliate with a number of nationally known fraternities, which was the trend in the early 1950’s.
Pi Kappa Alpha (1955 to Present)
By the 1953-54 academic year, the members of Phi Kappa Chi had a thriving fraternity at the University of Toledo. This group was perennially amongst the top fraternal groups at the university in academic standing, athletics, membership and prestige. The group did notice that the other fraternal groups at UT were either being courted for association with other national fraternities, or were born from regional fraternities with some history in the area. By 1954 Phi Kappa Chi was the only local fraternity left, and the members voted in March 1954 to investigate association with a national fraternity.
By Fall 1954, the men of Phi Kappa Chi were courted by a number of national fraternities, the most attractive being Pi Kappa Alpha, a very strong group in the South that sought to strengthen its ranks in the Mid West. The Pikes had chapters in the area at Wittenberg, Michigan, Wayne State, Bowling Green, Case Western, and Ohio State. The fraternity accepted the colony status of Pi K A in September 1954.
On Friday, April 29, 1955, 63 student and alumni members of Phi Kappa Chi were initiated into Pi Kappa Alpha by a ritual team from OSU, Ohio U, BGSU, and Wayne State. A huge reception was held at the Student Union the following afternoon, and on Saturday, April 30, 1955, the formal chartering banquet hosting National President John Hippel was held at the Park Lane Hotel, which still stands.
By Fall 1955, the men realized the old house at 2309 Lawrence Avenue was sorely insufficient. The University had toyed with the idea of a Greek Village on campus, but the idea faded. the men of Pi K A sought to buy 2080 Brookside Road, at what was until recently the Catholic Campus Ministry building. The fraternity never occupied the house since zoning variances were denied, and in 1966 bought a duplex at 1795 W. Bancroft as its new house.
After the fraternity survived the stormy downturn in Greek life in the 60’s and early 70’s, the fraternity purchased the Bowman House at 2955 Dorr Street in 1975. The fraternity enjoyed some of its largest and most active chapters during the 1980’s and 1990’s, until the chapter was placed in receivership in 1996. At that time the Bowman House was sold. The property is now occupied by Corpus Christi Parish.
In the months after the silencing of the Epsilon Epsilon Chapter, its alumni and national organization worked tirelessly to reinstate Pi K A at UT. In July 2000, the fraternity was formally accepted back at UT, and on November 11-13, 2000, its new Colony of 53 members was accepted into the fraternity. On April 5-6, 2002, the Epsilon-Epsilon Chapter was officially reborn with 51 great refounding fathers ready to establish new standards of excellence at UT.