As the Christmas holidays approached in 1848, the atmosphere on the Miami campus in Oxford, Ohio was gloomy and uncertain. This was the mood in which Robert Morrison suggested to a close friend and classmate, John McMillan Wilson, that they consider putting together a new collegiate brotherhood.
Morrison and Wilson, thinking in terms of providing a permanent base with growth potential, sought out underclassman that they believed they would be dedicated to their cause. Thus juniors John Wolfe Lindley and Robert Thompson Drake were approached, as were sophomores Ardivan Walker Rodgers and Andrew Watts Rogers, all of who accepted the concept.
All six men were among the group of Miami students who did not attempt to go home to join their families for the Christmas holidays. Winter travel conditions were difficult and could often prove perilous due to harsh winter conditions.
The need for close companionship had to be evident when the six met the night of December 26, 1848 in Wilson’s second floor room in Old North Hall, directly above Morrison’s room. They firmed up their desire to establish a brotherhood.
They met two nights later in the same room to consider an appropriate motto and constitution. Morrison and Wilson put the consensus of these ideas into the terminology that became The Bond. This is the same Bond that every initiate in to the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity has since signed.
On December 30, the “Immortal Six” put their signatures to The Bond of the Phi Delta Theta in Wilson’s room. Their names remain a vital part of the rituals that continue today in every chapter room across the United States and Canada. The Bond has remained unchanged from that day to this. So far as it is known, it is the only document of any fraternity of such a character and it is easy to understand the veneration with which all members of Phi Delta Theta regard it.
The second chapter of Phi Delta Theta was established at Indiana University in October of 1849 and other chapters followed at Centre College and Wabash College. The real growth occurred during the two decades from 1870 to 1890 due principally to the efforts of Walter B. Palmer, Emory-Vanderbilt 1877, and George Banta, Franklin-Indiana 1876. The two were given the title Second Founders for their work.
The Fraternity continued to grow and expand surviving tough times such as wars, the Great Depression, and the civil rights movement. The 1980s changed the way Fraternities conducted business with new legal charges in suits involving alcohol abuse, hazing, and discrimination. Fraternity insurance and risk management programs were born and new educational program initiatives were directed at combating these issues to ensure the safety and well being of our members.
Phi Delta Theta reaffirmed its leadership role in the late 1990s when it voted to eliminate alcohol from chapter facilities by the year 2000. Based on this new movement, the Fraternity has undergone one of its largest growth spurts in the history of the modern Fraternity. This indicates a renewed demand for a values-based organization from college students. Phi Delta Theta continues to be a model for other Greek organizations looking to make the same positive move.
Phi Delta Theta now has nearly 170 active chapters in 43 states and five Canadian provinces. The Fraternity has initiated more than 235,000 men and currently has more than 160,000 living alumni. There are over 100 recognized alumni clubs across the U.S. and Canada.