Greek community turns 50

As TCU celebrates a half-century of Greek life during homecoming weekend, those who were at TCU 50 years ago remember a time of controversy, change and long-lasting friendships.”It was just the most extraordinary period of my life,” said Ken Lawrence, a 1958 graduate. “Life on campus is so much more important than you realize.”

Lawrence, who was part of the charter class for Phi Kappa Sigma, said the anniversary is a good time to commemorate a landmark in TCU’s history and rekindle old friendships.

During the beginning stages of Greek life at TCU, administrators and students had mixed concerns.

According to a 1954 Skiff article, the idea of sororities and fraternities was brought to the Board of Trustees as a solution to TCU’s then-declining enrollment.

Former university Vice President D. Ray Lindley told the Skiff the organizations would serve the campus by providing opportunities for self-expression and discipline, as well as a way to attract students.

Students who opposed the idea said the new groups would destroy TCU traditions and result in cliques.

When the Board of Trustees made the final decision in September 1954 to accept Greeks on campus, an effigy in front of Clark Hall read, “Democracy at TCU tortured to death between 11 a.m. and noon yesterday.”

Despite the controversy, in spring 1955, 150 men and 200 women took part in TCU’s first official Rush.

Both Lawrence and Mary Ruth Jones, who pledged Zeta Tau Alpha in 1955, said they joined Greek organizations because many of their friends did.

“We had a lot of friends who pledged a wide variety of groups and our friendships persisted,” Lawrence said.

Jones, who graduated from TCU in 1958 and has worked at TCU for 23 years, said alumni and other Greek organizations from different Texas universities that helped with Rush.

Jones said she remembers going to the Student Center Ballroom for the Panhellenic tea where women went if they were interested in joining a Greek organization.

Although the charter class was small, Jones said, it never stopped the organizations from influencing the campus through activities and philanthropies.

Jones said the Zetas used to sponsor a Song Fest in Ed Landreth Auditorium.

Jones said it was an exciting event and recalled the fraternities and sororities wearing matching outfits as they competed in the singing contest.

Lawrence remembers Ranch Week when everyone dressed up in western gear and said large booths were set up outside with small tents, music and food.

These traditions have faded, but new ones have been added.

Crystal Vaught, a junior nursing major and member of Sigma Kappa, said her sorority has an event called “Kick in the Grass.”

Vaught said organizations pay to play soccer and the proceeds go to their philanthropy to fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

TCU is 43 percent Greek and has four councils: Panhellenic Council, Interfraternity Council, National Pan-Hellenic Council and Multicultural Greek Council.

Chancellor Victor Boschini said fraternities and sororities give students a great outlet for involvement and provide spirit to the university.

Matt Foust, president of Pi Kappa Phi, said he has high expectations for the future of TCU’s Greek community.

“We must focus on building better members, better organizations, and a better Greek community that fits seamlessly with our university,” Foust, a junior English major, said.