Jun 2, 2009

Miller’s Meanderings – Volume Five

Miller’s Meanderings – Volume Five

Was President Benjamin Harrison a Member of Both Phi Delta Theta and Delta Chi?

Benjamin Harrison Miami ’52 was initiated by the Ohio Alpha chapter of Phi Delta Theta in 1851.  Prior to his graduation, he served as president of his chapter and secretary of the Fraternity’s first convention in 1852.  He was awarded his law degree in 1855.
At its convention in June 1888, the Republican Party nominated him for president of the United States. He was inaugurated as the 23rd president on March 4, 1889 and served until March 3, 1893.

Delta Chi was founded on the campus of Cornell University in 1890 as a law fraternity (only students pursuing a law degree were admitted) which classified it as a Professional Fraternity.  It is the custom that members of General (at one time “Social”) Fraternities (Women’s and Men’s) are permitted to join Honor Societies (Phi Beta Kappa, Mortar Board, etc), Recognition Societies (Alpha Phi Omega, Arnold Air Society, etc.) and Professional Fraternities (Delta Chi-Law, Phi Delta Kappa-Education, etc.).

Former U.S. President Benjamin Harrison was extended honorary membership In Delta Chi, a legal fraternity, by the chapter at the University of Michigan on March 23, 1897.

Originally law schools were what the name implies; all students enrolled in the school were studying for the legal profession.  In due time many law schools became graduate schools of recognized schools of higher education.  This change in the student body resulted in Delta Chi opening membership to students other than those committed to the study of law.

In the mid 1920s, Delta Chi elected to depart the realm of Professional Fraternities and join the ranks of General Fraternities.  From that date on, it would have been inappropriate for a member of Phi Delta Theta, or any other General Fraternity, to join Delta Chi.  This change occurred two decades after the death of President Harrison.

Now you know the rest of the story.  Benjamin Harrison was a legitimate member of both Phi Delta Theta and Delta Chi.

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