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Union College is world famous as the Mother of fraternities. Therefore, it is natural that the Union Chapter of Alpha Delta Phi had its basic beginnings just one year after the founding of Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity at Hamilton College. In 1833 there was founded at Union College the Fraternal Society. This organization placed an emphasis friendship, and soon was held in especial esteem for the moral and intellectual worth of its members. 


In 1858, the “Frats,” as its members were called, realizing the benefits to be derived from an affiliation with a national fraternity began to inquiry of various national fraternities not then at Union. After a lengthy search, in early 1859, believing that the aims and principals of Alpha Delta Phi most nearly accorded with the values of the Society and their desires, one tutor and 16 members sign a petition seeking to establish the Union Chapter. A charter signed by Richard Salter Storrs, then President of the Fraternity, was granted on June 14th of that year. Shortly thereafter the chapter was duly instituted under the auspices of the Manhattan Chapter, with representatives of almost all other Chapters in attendance. The first meeting of the Union Chapter was held on July 15, 1859. Notwithstanding the high accomplishments of the Alumni of the Fraternal Society, the election of many graduates to Alpha Delta Phi was deemed inadvisable, and only five men (George Adlington Brandreth ’47*[1], William Root Adams ‘51*, Lewis Collins ‘53*, John A. De Remer ’57* and Alexander McAllister Thorburn ‘57*) were chosen. With the establishment of the Union Chapter the Fraternal Society ceased to exist.


In 1891 the alumni of the Chapter incorporated as the Union Association of Alpha Delta Phi. Shortly thereafter, the Trustees of Union College and the Association entered into a ninety-nine year land lease for a parcel of land strategically located on Library Lane, the main lane running between the famous Payne Gate and the Library. The Association’s Board of Trustees, consisting of 15 prominent Alpha Delt alumni, thereafter set out to raise the $20,000.00 necessary to construct a chapter house.


The erection of the building was made possible by voluntary cash subscriptions. The balance was raised by issuance of bonds and money borrowed on a promissory note of the Trustees. All but four of these bonds were taken out by Alpha Delts. Every bond has long since been retired by outright gifts of the holders, or through full or partial payment from the treasury of the Union Association of Alpha Delta Phi, which owns the house. Despite the challenges incurred raising the necessary funds for construction as a result of the country’s slow recovery from the Depression of 1888, the efforts of the Trustees were crowned with success in the summer of 1898 when the new  14,000 square foot Chapter house was finish and turned over to the actives. It was the second fraternity house built on the Union Campus.

From the moment that it was first occupied, the Chapter house became the focus of every undergraduate and alumnus of the Chapter. Its grandeur and beauty was unsurpassed by any other residence built before or after on the campus. Next to the 16-sided Nott Memorial, it was the most unique building on campus. A first time visitor entering the campus through its main entrance (the Payne Gate) is, of course, immediately drawn to gaze upon the Nott Memorial; however, halfway down Library Lane the visitor’s gaze immediately shifted to the Alpha Delta Phi Chapter House.


It would be difficult to separate the history of the Chapter from that of its house, as so much of the life of undergraduate membership revolved around the care of the facility. In addition, its open first floor plan which separated four spacious rooms with 10 foot ceilings separated by wide archways facilitated social events which were the envy of every other Greek organization at Union. As much as Alpha Delta Phi alumni returned to Union in hoping to see those with whom they shared memories as undergraduates, returning to the Chapter house was also visiting an old friend. It is therefore appropriate and proper for the Chapter’s history to focus at length on this dwelling and the efforts of its members to maintain her.


This distinguished example of friendly southern colonial architecture, with Corinthian pillars and Mansard roof served as the home of the Chapter for over 100 years. Many improvements were added since the erection of the house. Most notably were the installations of ornate fireplace mantels in memory of brothers. The parlor fireplace mantel was dedicated in 1901 in memory of Harman Wortman Veeder ‘86* and to commemorate to the founding of the Hamilton Chapter in 1832. The entrance room fireplace mantel was dedicated in 1907 in memory of John A. De Remer ‘57* and contains the inscription “Counselor, Friend and Benefactor”; it also displays the year 1859 to commemorate the founding of the Chapter.  Still later, mahogany paneling was installed in the dining room in memory of Charles Edwin Angle  ‘86*, making it one of the most beautiful rooms on the campus.


In 1939, on the 41st anniversary of its opening, the entire interior of the house was redecorated. Between then and the early 1960s, no major improvements were made to the structure. During this time, the condition of the house remained unchanged, other than wear and tear of age.


In the 1981 the college notified the Association that substantial structural and other repairs must be made to the Chapter house. In an effort to induce the Association to make these repairs, the College offered financial assistance by way of loans at an interest rate of less than half which would be made available at a commercial bank to its best customers.


Notwithstanding this advantageous financial offer, the Association refused to embark upon these repairs unless the College agreed to extend the land lease another 99 years. The College was unwilling to commit again to a lease of this length. After almost two years, a compromise was reached whereby the College and the Association agreed on a formula which extended the length of the lease for each $1,000.00 expended by the Association which was matched by $2,000.00 in loans from the College. As a result of this financial arrangement, as well as enhanced fundraising efforts of the Association, between 1993 and 1997 repairs and improvements totaling well over $100,000 were made to the Chapter house.


In 1998, a campus wide facilities utility study report concluded that the Chapter House was best suited for use as the Admissions Office. After much controversy, in June of that year, the College Board of Trustees, with three members dissenting, voted to terminate the land lease with the Association. Negotiations between the College and the Association pertaining to the value of the Chapter house were protracted and tense. In late August it appeared that the only manner to resolve the issue was through litigation. Finally, as a result of one last negotiation session was held in late August at the request of the Chair of Union’s Board of Trustees an agreement was reached whereby Fero House would, with oversight by the Association, be redesigned and dramatically expanded and leased to the Association through the 2022-2023 academic year in return for the Association’s agreement to terminate its land lease on the Library Lane property.


On September 26, 1998, over 100 alumni and undergraduates came together for a formal banquet to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Chapter house. While in the end, the experience was bitter sweet in view of what had transpired over the previous nine months, it  was the largest gathering of Union Alpha Delts that anyone present could ever recall


Eager to punish the Chapter for the public relations nightmare[2] it had created, the Administration, in the summer of 1999, using a pretext of minor damage to temporary partitions which the college would remove when remodeling the Chapter house, found that the Chapter had intentionally damaged College property and thereafter suspended the Chapter’s residential privileged for two years.


The Chapter’s two year exile ended when, in the Fall of 2001, it first occupied Fero House. While it lacked the grandeur of the original Chapter House, the De Reemer fireplace mantel was installed in the dining room, and the Veeder mantel had been installed in the lounge on the north side of the building. Throughout the next eight years, the College and the Association collaborated on a number of improvements to the new Chapter house.


In November, 2008, the first House memorial was added in over a century: the Ken Conklin Memorial, an electronic hearth installed in the Veeder mantel, was part of the renovation of the renovation of the north side lounge into a library. The library renovation was completed the following spring.


Many Greek alumni, especially those in the three fraternities whose houses would be used for Minerva houses when their land leases expired believed accused the college administration of having a secret policy designed to eliminate fraternities. In remarks defending the Minerva program, its President Hull stated rhetorically in the Spring of 2002, “If Union had a secret plan to eliminate fraternities, how is that Alpha Delta Phi, as a result of Union’s plans, still has the best residential living space on campus?”


In the early days of its existence, the active Chapter numbered between fifteen and twenty. The membership stabilized at around twenty-five and though at times it ran over thirty.  During World War I, the exodus of brothers to enlist left only four members, who constituted the entire active Chapter. In World War II, the Chapter house was rented to the College for use by civilian students. The nature of speed-up college training, and the rapid turnover of students made it advisable to declare the Chapter inactive for the duration of the war.

The Trustees were also disturbed by problems reorganizing at the end of the conflict. In 1944, in an effort to solve these difficulties, pledged two sons of members, inducting them as members soon thereafter. Frequent meetings were held by a few alumni with the initiated for indoctrination on November 4, 1945, the Chapter was formally reactivated and within one year had a membership of over thirty brothers.

Regrettably, few records have been maintained denoting the accomplishments of Chapter’s members and/or their contributions to Union College.  Accordingly, the following is only illustrative of both.

 John C. Van Voast ‘87* served as volunteer supervisor of Jackson Garden throughout his adult life. During this time, he developed a one-acre section as an evergreen garden, with many of the plantings being donated from his own nursery. The garden represents one-eighth of Jackson’s Garden, and was the cornerstone of this development. In 1936, the College named this section of Jackson’s Garden the John C. Van Voast Evergreen Garden; the Association provided the funds to memorialize this honor.


As a senior, Charles Newman Waldron ’06 organized the first senior class gift to the College. The following fall, he started the Union College Alumni Fund, the first organized alumni giving program in the country. Union College continues to recognize his efforts to this day: anyone who contributes two or more consecutive years, regardless of the amount of the contribution, is recognized as a member of the Charles Waldron Society.


Countless alumni of the Chapter have served on Union’s Board of Trustees, including Richard Day ’39 who served as its chair in the 1980s and John S. Wold ‘38 who made the largest single contribution in the history of the College (20 million dollars) in 1997.


A number of Union alumni have also been recognized with the Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity Board of Governors Award for their service to the Fraternity, including Ray P. Thorman, ’76 (currently President of the Samuel Eels Literary and Education Foundation) Peter D. Shore, Esquire ’77 (of Counsel to the Fraternity Board , David J. Schachne ’78 (distinguished and exemplary service to the Union Chapter) and William G. Carey ’56 (Board of Governor 1985-1989; developed its first Mission Statement and strategic goals). John Wold has been recognized with the Samuel Eels award for his outstanding public service (U.S. Congressmen from Wyoming) service to and support of education as heretofore described, meritorious literary or other artistic achievement and eminence in the business or professional world (named Wyoming Citizen of the Century for Minerals, Oil and Gas).


Throughout its existence, the Chapter has also been the object of favor of untold individuals who were merely, “friends of AD”. One such noteworthy individual was Pauline Clark, affectionately known as Cookie. Officially, she served as the Chapter’s cook from 1959 until 1996; unofficially, she was the Chapter’s house mother. While she never shied away from speaking her mind, she was also discreetly kind and considerate.


Several Union Alumni have also contributed to the Fraternity by serving on its Board of Governors. In addition, the Chapter has hosted the Fraternity’s annual convention six times: 1863, 1874, 1909, 1976, 1992 and 2009, the last of which was in order to recognize the 150th anniversary of the Chapter’s founding.


This essay provides only a superficial history of the Union Chapter of Alpha Delta Phi. While it focuses more on its Chapter houses than its members, but for the efforts of undergraduate members to constantly improve the Chapter, and equally as important, alumni providing financial support and untold hours guidance and leadership, the Chapter would never have reach its 150th anniversary. The future of the Chapter is dependent upon each member recognizing that the future of the Chapter is dependent upon their involvement.


[1] * denotes that the member graduated in the 19th century

[2] The following fall, as if to suggest that the College’s alumni were wrong to support the Chapter, Union College put a photo showing purported damage on the front cover of the Alumni magazine and made the alleged “willful destruction” the lead article in the issue. The article not only failed to have the desired affect, it backfired. For the year, the amount of alumni contributing to the College dropped 20% and total donations declined even more.

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