Theta Chi Celebrates 100 Years South of the Mason-Dixon Line

by Ben Hill, Associate Executive Director of Theta Chi Fraternity

Nu Chapter at Hampden-Sydney College was installed on January 24, 1914. Located in the Commonwealth of Virginia, their installation marked Theta Chi’s first chapter south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Hampden-Sydney, founded prior to the American Revolution in 1776, is the oldest private charter college in the southern United States and is currently the oldest of the four remaining all-men’s liberal arts colleges in the country.

In January 1911, four students formed a local fraternity named Delta Delta (or Delta Deuteron, the names being interchangeable) and started a movement to revive the inactive chapter of Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity. In 1912, a petition was formally presented to Phi Gamma Delta but strained relationships with the nearby chapter of Phi Gamma Delta at the University of Virginia caused Delta Delta to withdraw its petition and reconsider its next steps. After meeting with faculty members Walter J. Young and William O. Beazley (both members of Kappa Chapter at the University of Pennsylvania; Beazley was Kappa’s first President), Delta Delta chose to cast its lot with their professors and submitted their petition to Theta Chi Fraternity.

Following their installation, the men of Nu Chapter shared the same spirit of expansion as Professors Young and Beazley. Indeed, many of Theta Chi’s earliest expansion efforts can trace their roots back to Nu members: William P. Hazelgrove ’16, a member of Delta Delta, was responsible for Xi Chapter at the University of Virginia, installed just two days after Nu on January 26, 1914. Dr. James H. C. Winston 1894 inspected both groups that became Chi at Auburn University and Tau at the University of Florida and attended Tau’s installation. E.B. Bridges ’16 founded the local fraternity that later became the Alpha Eta Chapter at the University of North Carolina. James L. Thornton ’22 transferred to West Virginia University and aided the men that would install Alpha Kappa Chapter. Bernard A. McIlhany ’18 investigated the local fraternity that became Alpha Nu Chapter at Georgia Tech. McIlhany served on the Grand Chapter 1920-1924 and then worked for the Fraternity as a Traveling Secretary 1924-1926 and investigated 15 or more colonies and attended ten installations. Harvey Buck ’20 transferred to the University of Delaware and aided that local Fraternity in selecting Theta Chi and helped to install Alpha Xi Chapter. Finally, football player Henry “Hank” Crisp ’19 began a long coaching career at the University of Alabama. Not only did he aid in the installation of the Alpha Phi Chapter, he assisted with the recruitment of a young player named Paul W. Bryant—and later helped to recruit him to coach at Alabama.

Two of Nu’s Charter members made notable achievements: Dr. Walter S. Newman ’16 was a founding member of the Future Farmers of Virginia, which was used as a model for establishing the Future Farmers of America. Newman later served as President of Virginia Tech 1947-1962. Leigh Buckner Hanes ’16 was a renowned writer and was appointed Poet Laureate of Virginia in 1949. 

Congratulations to the alumni and undergraduate brothers of Nu Chapter on 100 years—and pioneering Theta Chi’s expansion to colleges and universities in the South.