The Early Years (1931 – 1963)
On Monday, April 14, 1931, Mr. A.R. Sanson, Chairman of the National Extension Committee, installed Tau as the 19th chapter of Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity, which was only six years old and fewer than 800 total members. The ceremony was conducted at the University YMCA Building (near the present site of Dauer Hall). Our Chapter was signed by H. Roe Bartle, the second National President, succeeding Frank Reed Horton by vote at Alpha Phi Omega’s first National Convention on March 1-2. By that date, the Fraternity had 18 chapters. Tau was the first of 91 charters signed by H. Roe Bartle. The officers of The University of Florida Chapter were elected at a short meeting held after the installation.
The founders of Tau Chapter were:
William G. Perry (Grand Master)
Howard Rybolt (Deputy Grand Master)
E. Eugene Kester (Scribe)
Richard W. Keyes (Treasurer)
Owen Rice II
Elisha Akin, Jr.
Garner Anchors, Jr.
At this time, Tau was known as an honorary professional education and social service fraternity. The Brotherhood met weekly (the day varied radically). Its purpose was “to assemble those who have had training under the Scout Oath and Law, to develop friendship, leadership, character, citizenship, and good college spirit.”
Tau’s first Grand Master (President), William G. Perry, led eighteen members to quickly establish the Chapter as a leader of service at the University of Florida, then an all male school of six hundred students and only nine registered fraternities. All nineteen men were Eagle Scouts, as prerequisite for membership.
In the early years (1931 – 1950) Tau Chapter enjoyed tremendous notoriety on campus. With membership open to any former Scout, Tau Chapter assisted Florida Blue Key in producing Gator Growl and operated a book exchange. When the University enrollment dropped below 560 students during WWII, Tau was one of few organizations to stay active (with one member)! After the war, U.F. became co-ed, and with a new interest in universities, Tau quickly gained strength.
In 1932, Tau hosted a Scout Jamboree in the fall, where they awarded a medal to the high school boy in Florida who was the “best in scholarship, leadership, and other qualities.” In March of 1933, Tau was once again active in the Scouting Movement. Scout executives from Georgia and Florida attended a three-day Scout Executive Seminar designed “to aid the intellectual and cultural development of the men professionally engaged in the Scout Movement.” Among those in attendance were U.F. President, John J. Tigert, Arts and Sciences Dean W.h. Wilson, and Associate Professor of English, Winston A. Little.
In the 1930’s, Tau helped Florida Blue Key with Homecoming. Tau Chapter members charged townspeople money at intramural boxing matches, and thus it helped finance Gator Growl. In addition, Tau members parked cars of all 10,000 attending Gator Growl, and acted as ushers at Gator Growl in other years.
In January 1939, Tau advisor, Dr. H.H. Germond, was elected to the Executive Council of Alpha Phi Omega’s National Organization.
In 1946, Tau Chapter held its first King Ugly (precursor to Ugly Man on Campus or U.M.O.C.) contest to benefit the Red Cross. Organizations would sponsor candidates, and student would cast votes donating pennies for the “Ugliest” candidate. Proceeds went to a different philanthropy every year.
The Chapter organized and produced the first student run radio show, a nightly variety program on WGGG called “Variety Spotlight.” Other service projects included an infirmary visitation service, conducting information polls for the university, and the conducting of campus tours for new students, visitors, and alumni. The Chapter also conducted alumni registration boots at Homecoming.
In 1952 membership became open to any male student. In 1955, the Chapter was the sponsor of a German child through Save the Children Foundation. In 1956, Tau manned information booths for orientation and registration.
During the 1950’s, cooperation with Florida Blue Key faltered and the Chapter suffered from a lack of adult supervision. Few records remain of our activities, although we do know that the Chapter opened a Lost-and-Found Booth (1959 – 1963) raising money for scholarships.
Sometime around 1960, the Chapter began to change. We don’t have definite records, but apparently Tau had become a political stepping stone to Blue Key and Student Government. Several of Tau’s presidents at this time were also presidents of Blue Key and Student Body Presidents. Sometime after 1962, the Brothers realized that the Chapter had lost sight of the purpose of Alpha Phi Omega, and they deactivated the Chapter.
First Reactivation: (1968 – 1970)
In 1968, Andy Klien worked with the regional representatives to resurrect Tau Chapter. The nineteen Pledges of P.C. Beta Lambda were initiated on May 26, with Andy as President. During this period, the Chapter did a lot of work for the campus. The Pledge Class began the project of manning the information booth at “the gate” (presumably the one near Tigert). Also at this time, Tau Chapter had a Little Sister program. The Little Sisters, or “Phyettes” as they were called, assisted with some of the Chapter’s projects. Despite the success of the Fraternity at this time, the Chapter became inactive again by 1970. The reason this time was a lack in membership. Part of this failure can be credited to the unpopularity of fraternities of this time.
Second Reactivation: (1974 – Present)
In 1973, Tim Cannon began corresponding with the National Office with the hope of reactivating Tau Chapter. Tim had heard about Alpha Phi Omega by working with Brothers from another Chapter at a Boy Scout summer camp. In December of 1973, the reactivating Pledge Class was formed. Tau was once again a reality when the fourteen reactivations were initiated as Brothers on March 1, 1974. Rho Mu Chapter at Belmont Abbey College provided the ritual team and Josiah Frank presented the Charter. The Brothers chose to start the numbering of pledge class back to number one (thus Beta Nu is both P.C. 1 and P.C. 61). The members of Pledge Class Beta Nu (Pledge Class 1 since 2nd reactivation) are:
Since reactivation in 1974, the Brothers and Pledges of Tau have carried out an industrious and varied service program. Soon after reactivation, Tau began to operate the information booth (originally across from its present site) where we give out information to lost students. Our service has ranged from clearing trees and building roads at Boy Scout Camps to making cookies at Ronald McDonald House to helping to clean up the Itchetucknee River.