The history of literary societies, honor societies, and Greek-letter organizations goes back hundreds of years. Establishment of Greek-letter societies in the United States began in 1776, when Phi Beta Kappa organized at the College of William and Mary at Williamsburg, Virginia, on December 5. Although established as a general fraternity, and as such expanded to Yale, Harvard, and Dartmouth, Phi Beta Kappa soon became a Scholarship Honor Fraternity, and it has maintained this purpose.
Professional societies likewise existed many years ago, but the first Greek-letter societies appeared in the United States in the decade of 1875-85. It was in this period that our Fraternity, the first professional fraternity of pharmacy founded by pharmacy students, formed. On November 2, 1883, 11 men at the University of Michigan formed our Fraternity using the name Phi Chi. At that time, there were several literary societies at Michigan, but our founders believed something should be organized exclusively for the College of Pharmacy.
Our early records note: “Both students and faculty recognized that such an organization would bring students of pharmacy together for the discussion of scientific questions pertaining to pharmacy and its sister sciences.”The forward-looking young men who banded together in 1883 to form the association that grew into today’s Phi Delta Chi are all deceased. But their names will long be remembered by every Phi Dex: Charles Edward Bond, Franklin Herbert Frazee, Llewellyn Hall Gardner, Calvin Pomeroy Godfrey, Adolph Gustave Hoffman, Arthur Gilliam Hopper, Charles F. Hueber, George Pawling Lemon, Arthur Sidney Rogers, Azor Thurston, and Albert Tenney Waggoner.
These 11 men wrote this preamble to the original Constitution of the Fraternity: “Recognizing the necessity of, and the mutual benefits to be derived from an organization devoted to the sciences of pharmacy and chemistry, a careful investigation into, and a free discussion of subjects relative to the same; we do agree to form an association and for its government to adopt the following Constitution and By-Laws….” Four years after the founding, in 1887, the society adopted a ritual, symbols, signs, and regalia. Then, in 1896, a second Chapter was organized at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. The Chapter at Ann Arbor thus became known as Alpha Chapter and the Chapter at Evanston as Beta Chapter. The third Chapter, Gamma, started at New York College of Pharmacy (later Columbia University) in 1898.
Albert Benjamin Prescott (1832-1905), then Dean of the College of Pharmacy at Michigan, encouraged the 11 founders to form our Fraternity. The founders named him our first honorary Brother and Prescott served as the group’s sponsor. Dean Prescott’s name is associated with the highest and finest traditions and awards of the Fraternity throughout the years. Prescott is acclaimed worldwide as an innovator in pharmaceutical education. He served as president of the American Pharmaceutical Association in 1900 and for a time assayed gold for the U.S. Mint.
Originally, our Fraternity was called Phi Chi, recalling the words Pharmacy and Chemistry. At the second meeting of the society, a motion was made to change the name to Phi Delta Chi, but the motion failed. Meanwhile, two medical fraternities founded in 1889 and 1894 also took the name Phi Chi, perhaps evoking Physic and Chirurgery. Shortly after the turn of the century, these two medical fraternities merged into one, retaining the name Phi Chi. There was disagreement as to who had the right to the name, but members of the pharmacy group reconsidered the name Phi Delta Chi.
By 1909, the Fraternity had grown to 14 Chapters. When they met in Grand Council at Chicago in March 1909, they proposed to change the name of the Fraternity to Phi Delta Chi, rather than pursue the disagreement with the medical fraternity. This change was ratified and took effect March 1, 1910, during Grand Council in New York City.
The Communicator, our official publication, was first published nationally in 1906 and has been published regularly ever since. Originally, it was a chapter publication published in Ann Arbor. Just before World War II, it was cut in size and published as Communicator Junior. Today, The Communicator is published several times a year. Throughout the years it has been a matter of considerable pride to Phi Delta Chi’s that the organization not only has been kept intact through wars and economic crises, but that Brothers always came forward to carry on the work of the organization and to expand it.
Since our founding in 1883, Phi Delta Chi has chartered more than 70 collegiate Chapters and has initiated more than 50,000 men and women into the Brotherhood. Phi Delta Chi recognizes in its membership many illustrious leaders over the years. Within the pharmaceutical manufacturing field such names as Lilly (Epsilon), Paddock (Theta), Eaton (Alpha), French (Epsilon), Breck (Eta), Rowell (Theta), Weeks, and Meyer are familiar. Phi Dex Brothers lead many other pharmaceutical corporations, associations, institutions, colleges, and other enterprises. Through the years, the Fraternity has met in Grand Councils many times. These meetings are rotated through every region of the nation.
Regional Conferences supplement the national gatherings. The greatest experiences of fraternalism occur when Brothers meet for these festive events. Centennial celebrations in 1983 culminated with the dedication of a plaque at the University of Michigan School of Pharmacy commemorating Phi Delta Chi’s first 100 years of accomplishments and the Fraternity’s commitment to the future. Today, the Alpha Chapter hosts Brothers from around the nation every year around November 2 to celebrate the founding of Phi Delta Chi in 1883.
The Fraternity also saw it purpose invigorated as it adopted a mission to train individual Brothers in leadership skills, beginning with the first Leader Development Seminar at the 57th Grand Council (Monterey, 1989). Thousands of Brothers have taken advantage of this opportunity since then.
Phi Delta Chi’s success results from more than 125 years of following the purpose originally advanced in 1883: “The object of this association shall be to advance the science of pharmacy and its allied interests and to foster and promote a fraternal spirit among its members.”