On the evening of November 4, 1834, 30 students – ten men from each of the three classes (freshmen, sophomores, and juniors) at Williams College – “all good men and true,” met in the Freshman Recitation Room in West College and formed the Social Fraternity known today as Delta Upsilon International Fraternity. A new era had begun.
The first 30 years were trying for the Social Fraternity, which adopted the name “Anti-Secret Confederation” (ASC) once an alliance was formed with other non-secret groups from Union College, Middlebury College, and Amherst College. The formation of the ASC led up to the Convention of 1864, which was critical for the young Fraternity. Delegates from three of its seven chapters were in attendance, but a fourth delegate was needed to establish quorum and enact legislation. Just as the group was about to discuss the formal disbanding of the ASC the delegate from the Rutgers Chapter arrived, completing the quorum. The Convention moved forward with its important discussion and legislation and officially adopted the name “Delta Upsilon,” which had already been in use by several of the chapters.
The Convention of 1879 saw another important change for Delta Upsilon. The Fraternity had always been anti-secret, actively opposing the secret societies on college campuses. Though this was a hotly debated subject, the delegates felt that it was an outdated principle and chose to adopt a principle of non-secrecy, working in harmony with the secret societies while keeping the key elements of the organization’s founding.
By the following year, DU had grown to 15 chapters in the northeast. In 1898, DU became an International Fraternity, installing its first Canadian chapter at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. After a strong period of growth around the turn of the century, the Fraternity was incorporated in the State of New York in 1909.
The chapters which had been established were consistently solid. Due to this strength the Fraternity did not lose any chapters through World War I or the Great Depression. In 1949, through the vision and generosity of Hugh E. Nesbitt, an alumnus from the Ohio State Chapter, the Delta Upsilon Educational Foundation (DUEF) was founded to provide educational scholarships to DU members. Over time, the DUEF expanded its purpose to include funding for educational programs such as the Leadership Institute and the Presidents Academy.
The late 1960s meant social upheaval and fraternities were among the institutions questioned about their relevancy. DU strongly emphasized the personal aspect of fraternity, rather than just its rituals and formalities. This was a strong argument for starting so many new chapters, with 18 chapters chartered from 1968 to 1971.
Until 1969 Delta Upsilon rented office space in New York City to serve as the organization’s headquarters. In 1969, Delta Upsilon moved to Indianapolis, Indiana to service the Fraternity’s membership more efficiently. With a gift from an alumnus from the Pennsylvania chapter, Lester E. Cox, the Fraternity Headquarters was built in the College Park area of Indianapolis, Indiana.
During the 1970s through the 1990s, issues such as drug use, alcohol abuse, sexism, racism, hazing, and other social issues came out into the open and were discussed, and actively attacked. While these are problems throughout society, Delta Upsilon has attempted to combat these issues in our chapters.
The new millennium is presenting new challenges, which must be faced. Membership recruitment and education are a continued focus. Fraternities must also deal with tough social issues, risk management and loss prevention, and more diverse demographics in an ever changing college environment. Delta Upsilon has more than 175 years of experience in the fraternity world and is planning its strategies for the years and decades to come. Delta Upsilon has always been a leader and will continue as it builds the 21st century fraternity.