History of Beta Theta Pi

The Founding of Beta Theta Pi

At nine o’clock on the evening of the eighth day of the eighth month of the year 1839, eight earnest young men, all students at Miami University, held the first meeting of Beta Theta Pi in the Hall of the Union Literary Society, an upper room in the old college building (known as “Old Main”). The eight founders in the order in which their names appear in the minutes were:

John Reily Knox, 1839

Samuel Taylor Marshall, 1840

David Linton, 1839

James George Smith, 1840

Charles Henry Hardin, 1841

John Holt Duncan, 1840

Michael Clarkson Ryan, 1839

Thomas Boston Gordon, 1840

“Of ever honored memory.” 


Beta Today

Today, Beta Theta Pi enjoys a unique position in the Greek world in that its structure and system of governance differs substantially from most other fraternities and sororities.

During Beta’s early years, however, there was a noticeable lack of any executive authority. Each chapter interpreted the original brief Constitution in its own way, and the only governing agency was the first General Convention in 1842.

The need for some central authority between conventions was keenly felt by fraternity leaders. By the second convention in 1847, it was agreed that a central executive agency was required. The solution proved inefficient; nonetheless it was the first step toward today’s highly successful organization.

This area covers the current presiding chapter concept to the advent of the general secretary and General Fraternity volunteer positions to the Administrative Office structure.

Our Mission
To develop men of principle for a principled life.

Our Vision
Every member will live Beta Theta Pi’s values.

Core Values
To build lasting bonds of friendship and brotherhood, Beta calls for:

Mutual Assistance – Betas believe that men are mutually obligated to help others in the honorable labors and aspirations of life.

Intellectual Growth – Betas are devoted to continually cultivating their minds, including high standards of academic achievement.

Trust – Betas develop absolute faith and confidence in one another by being true to themselves and others.

Responsible Conduct – Betas choose to act responsibly, weighing the consequences of their actions on themselves and those around them.

Integrity – Betas preserve their character by doing what is morally right and demanding the same from their brothers.

History of Beta Upsilon

Beta Theta Pi, Beta Upsilon Chapter, was established at MIT on September 27, 1913.


1913-1914: 254 Newbury Street

1914-1921: 179 Bay State Road

1922-1925: 106 Sewall Avenue, Brookline

1925 -1946: 241 Kent Street, Brookline

1946-present: 119 Bay State Road

1964-present: added 120 Bay State Road

How We Acquired the Annex

Have you ever wondered about how Beta Upsilon acquired the annex at 120 Bay State Road? Did you know that it had been the MIT freshman women’s dorm? That’s what it was when I moved into the Beta house in the fall of 1960. At that time, it was the home for the 12 to 15 “coeds” who made up all of the female members of the freshman class. I recently did a little research and learned that 120 Bay State Road had first been used by MIT as a women’s dorm in 1945.

In 1963, MIT finished construction of the first tower of McCormick Hall, which was designed to accommodate women of all classes. The women in the class, who entered in fall 1963, moved into McCormick, and the old freshman women’s dorm became surplus. MIT offered the property to the MIT independent living groups for a price of $35,000. Three living groups expressed interest: Beta, AEPi, and Student House. We saw it as a way to expand the number of members whom we would be able to house. A drawing was conducted in February 1964, and Beta won. The purchase was completed in March 1964.

Several members of my class who were staying at MIT for graduate school agreed to move into the annex for the first years since it was unlikely that the undergraduate chapter would be able to fill the additional 12 to 15 beds immediately. Jim Giffin ’64 and I moved into second-floor front, a giant empty room with a fireplace (working, we discovered later). We built a free-standing wall to divide the living area from our bedroom, testing our structural engineering skills (I don’t remember that it ever fell down), and decorated the fireplace mantel with a large sign “Simmons College Residential Campus” (the story of how we acquired this sign will have to wait for a future issue). -Bob Grant ’64

Do you have any stories from your years as an active that you would like to share with the Beta Upsilon alumni community? If so, send your memories, stories, or musings to alumnirecords@beta-mit.org.