Alpha Delta Phi Society, Brunonian Chapter

History of the Brunonian Chapter

Founded in the early years of the Fraternity, the Brunonian Chapter has always been one of the strongest and most prosperous of the several branches of the Society. In the year 1836 certain students at Brown University petitioned for a charter from the national organization of Alpha Delta Phi. The Fraternity decided, in accordance with the spirit of extension prevalent at the time, that Brown was a place worthy of consideration and cultivation. Accordingly in the autumn of the same year Giles Mumford Hillyer, Columbia, 1836; Seth Tryon Wilbur, Hamilton, 1836, and later Yale, 1837; and William Alexander Sparks, Yale, 1837, were dispatched to Providence with full authority to found the Brunonian Chapter, which they immediately formally instituted.

The personnel of the Chapter during the period 1836 to 1841 (when the chapter was suspended) was so admirable that it has never been excelled. Candidates were accepted only from the three upper classes and then only after they had proven themselves entirely worthy of the honor. The excellence of the judgment used in this selection is evidenced by the character of the membership at the time. Of the five classes which were graduated in this period, in four of them the first three positions of honor were held by members of the Chapter; from the year 1837 to 1841 Alpha Delts had the parts of Valedictorian and at least the two succeeding positions at each Commencement. Of the total membership in that period (thirty), only four did not, at some time in their career, receive the honor of election to Phi Beta Kappa.

Regular meetings of the Chapter were held weekly and social meeting every other week in room No. 58 University Hall, which was the residence of some of the members continuously during these five years of existence. The gatherings were, as a rule, more or less informal in character and of such a nature as ever afterwards to call up the fondest memories in the minds of the members.

At the time the Chapter was organized there was no similar organization at Brown. For two years after its founding no other existed. The student body in general regarded membership in it as highly desirable. However, this situation did not long continue. Soon other fraternities, with standards not so strict, were founded at Brown. These societies had no prejudice against initiating members of the freshman class. The Brunonian Chapter was hence faced with two alternatives: either it could sacrifice its principle of taking only upperclassmen or else it must content itself with selections from men already culled over by the other fraternities. Neither was accepted. In the autumn of 1838 it was resolved that no further elections of members should be made. With the class of 1841 the last members of the Fraternity graduated, and the Brunonian Chapter became inactive for a period of ten years.

The year 1848 marked the founding at Brown of what was then known as the Kappa chapter of Beta Theta Pi, a then very weak and disorganized fraternity. Its members at Brown were, however, among the outstanding members of the student body in every way. They felt the need of strong national affiliation if they were to continue to attract the best of the undergraduates. Therefore in the year 1850 they submitted their formal resignation from Beta Theta Pi together with a pledge of secrecy concerning the matters of the fraternity which were known to them. They then petitioned Alpha Delta Phi for a charter. The only other Beta Theta Phi chapter in New England, that at Williams, soon followed suit and became the Williams Chapter of Alpha Delta Phi. For the ready success which rewarded the efforts of these Brown undergraduates they were indebted to Melancthon Storrs and Delano Alexander Goddard, members of Brown University, and afterwards Alpha Delts at Yale; to the cordial assistance of the Yale chapter; and finally to the unimpeachable reputation of the former Brunonian Chapter and the hearty support of its original members. The organization at Brown during the period 1850 to 1851 was known as a Provisional Chapter of Alpha Delta Phi.

April 16, 1851 saw the efforts of the Provisional Chapter rewarded in full measure. On that night, William Wallace Crapo, Yale 1852, passing through Providence on his way homewards for vacation and armed with suitable powers, initiated seventeen members of the Provisional Chapter into the mysteries of Alpha Delta Phi. The Brunonian Chapter was again fully installed at Brown. Almost instantly there grew up among the members of the new Chapter a complete intimacy and sympathy with those of the old, their predecessors of a dozen years standing. Their aims and their methods to a large degree were identical.

From about 1870 to 1904 meetings were held weekly at Old Arnold Block on North Main Street, directly opposite the foot of Waterman Street. The building was torn down when an electric car tunnel, now a bus tunnel, was constructed and Waterman Street was continued across North Main Street to Post Office Square. In the same year the premises at 54 College Street were purchased and completely renovated for the use of the Chapter. A Chapter Hall was built through the generosity of Brother John D. Rockefeller, Jr., class of 1897, and through the efficient arrangement of financing, the Chapter was enabled to enjoy the facilities at minimum cost until the property was taken over by the University in 1944.

Indeed, 54 College Street was one of only two fraternity houses in good condition and without a mortgage; Psi Upsilon members also fought long and hard, but without success, against the University's plans to take their handsome octagonal building, situated where the Sciences Library now stands.

From 1946 until 1952 the Chapter continued to prosper in 54 College Street as a tenant of Brown University. In 1952 the Wriston Quadrangle was completed in which modern quarters had been provided for each of Brown's seventeen fraternity chapters. The house at 54 College Street become the office of Brown's Department of Music - it now houses the Department of Philosophy - and the Brunonian Chapter moved into its present location in Goddard House facing Patriot's Court. The transition was not easy, but was accomplished without loss of fraternal spirit in the active chapter. The Alumni assisted considerably by furnishing the Fraternity common rooms in the basement; substantial gifts from the Chafee family and a large gift in memory of Stephen Metcalf Danforth, '43 provided the new premises with handsome finish and furnishings for the library and lounge. The fraternity dining room in the southeast corner of the Sharpe Refectory was paneled in memory of Morgan W. Rogers, '14 as a gift from his family.

In recent years several improvements have been made at the Chapter house through the generosity of the Alumni. The Chapter's pool table was restored in 1986 and its century-old Steinway piano refurbished, at a cost of $8,000, in 1988. University-funded renovations to Goddard House in the summer of 1994 converted many double rooms to singles and brought the building up to code in handicapped accessibility and computer networking. Undergraduate members of Alpha Delta Phi continue to benefit from the continued support and encouragement of the Alumni Association, which funds a pledge project each year to further beautify our accomodations on Wriston Quadrangle.

One of the most significant changes to the Chapter took place in 1973, not long after Brown and Pembroke College merged. During the Vietnam War and the resulting student discontent, fraternities at Brown came to be viewed in a somewhat unfavorable light. Alpha Delts, faced with declining membership, voted to include women members in the Brunonian Chapter; Brown's first co-ed pledge class was initiated the next year. By the tenth anniversary of this decision, the Chapter had been joined on campus by three other co-ed houses, all chapters of national fraternities. Currently six chapters of Alpha Delta Phi initiate women: those at Bowdoin, Brown, Columbia, Middlebury, Stanford, and Wesleyan. In 1992 the Brunonian Chapter and four other co-ed houses withdrew from the Fraternity and formed the Alpha Delta Phi Society so as to formally recognize and support co-ed membership. The newly formed Middlebury Chapter joined the Society in 1994.

Although the Brunonian Chapter has adjusted to new periods in the history of the country and the University, it is still held in highest regard by its Alumni and by the campus in general. The faces have changed over the past 160 years, but the Chapter is still as devoted as ever in striving to attain the aims of our founder. With reference to the internal activities of the Chapter since its founding and the devoted loyalty of its graduates, the following quotation from one of the old catalogues of the Fraternity will suffice: "Of the deep inner life of the chapter no record may be put in words; it is clearly written in the heart of every true brother of Alpha Delt. The high resolves inspired, the noble thoughts cherished, the pure and lasting friendships formed, have made fellowship in Alpha Delta Phi to many in preceding (as it may to many in succeeding) classes, the choicest treasure of college days."

September, 1959: H.G.C. III '60, E.J.L. '19

Revised September, 1986: R.D.P. Jr. '87

Revised June, 1997: J.D.P. '99