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Delta Kappa Epsilon (ΔΚΕ; also pronounced D-K-E or "Deke") is a fraternity founded at Yale College in 1844 by 15 men of the sophomore class who, upon hearing that some but not all of them had been invited to join the two existing societies (Alpha Delta Phi and Psi Upsilon), instead elected to form their own fraternity. These men sought to establish a fellowship "where the candidate most favored was he who combined in the most equal proportions the gentleman, the scholar, and the jolly good fellow."

Founding and history

Original version of the ΔΚΕ coat of arms
In the spring of 1844, due to undergraduate politics and a division in the Sophomore class, a number of men of high character and scholastic attainment did not receive bids from the two societies--Alpha Delta Phi and Psi Upsilon. So unfair, in fact, were the selections that some men who did receive bids promptly rejected them. There arose a feeling of such injustice that fifteen men resolved to form their own society, one which would be more fraternal in nature and less restricted to the limited (and, as they saw it, unfair) membership criteria of their rivals.

This new society was founded June 22, 1844, in room number 12 Old South Hall, Yale College, New Havenmarker, Connecticutmarker. At this meeting, the Fraternity's secret and open Greek mottos were devised. The open motto is "Kerothen Philoi Aei" ("Friends from the Heart, Forever"). The pin and secret handshake were also devised. The DKE pin shows the Greek letters DΚΕ on a white scroll upon a black diamond with gold rope trim and a star in each corner. DKE's heraldic colours are azure (blue), or (gold), and gules (crimson) and its flag is a triband of those colours with a left-facing rampant lion in the middle.

The fifteen founders were: William Woodruff Atwater, Dr. Edward Griffin Bartlett, Frederic Peter Bellinger, Jr., Henry Case, Colonel George Foote Chester, John Butler Coyngham, Thomas Isaac Franklin, William Walter Horton, The Honorable William Boyd Jacobs, Professor Edward Van Schoonhoven Kingsley, Chester Newell Righter, Dr. Elisha Bacon Shapleigh, Thomas Du Bois Sherwood, Albert Everett Stetson, and Orson William Stow.

This first Chapter was denoted Phi chapter and is the only fraternity at Yale that has never gone inactive.

Within three years of the founding at Yale, chapters were founded at Bowdoinmarker, Princeton Universitymarker, Colby Collegemarker, and Amherst Collegemarker. Since that time, DKE has grown to over 64 chapters and has initiated over 85,000 members across North America.

DKE is inextricably linked to the history of the United States of Americamarker, as its members have included five of forty-three Presidents of the United States: Rutherford B. Hayes, Theodore Roosevelt, Gerald Ford, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush.

Some might argue that Franklin Delano Roosevelt would be the 6th US President that was a DKE. FDR was a member of the Alpha Chapter of DKE at Harvardmarker, also known as the "Dickey Club." However, the Alpha Chapter derecognized by DKE International due to the chapter's stance on dual membership with other fraternities. Here is a detailed explanation of Harvard's complex club system: The Porcellian Club was the loftiest of Harvard's "final" clubs. The selection process was rigidly hierarchical. First you had to get into the Institute of 1770, the oldest and largest club. If you were among the first 70 or 80 of the 100 sophomores accepted, you were taken into Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity ("the Dickey"). Then you might join a "waiting" club, and at last a final club like Porcellian or A.D. Club. Your chances improved if you were a "legacy," i.e., related to a member.

During the Civil War, the first Union officer killed in battle was a Deke, Theodore Winthrop of Phi. Six weeks after Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Virginiamarker, Philip Spence of Zeta commanded Confederate troops in their last organized battle of the war.

In the election of 1876, the Republican Party chose between two Dekes, nominating Hayes rather than rival and fellow DKE James G. Blaine, who later served two administrations as Secretary of State and who authored the Fourteenth Amendment; Blaine also ran unsuccessfully for President.

During the Spanish-American War, the first American officer to be killed was a Deke, Surgeon John B. Gibbs (Rutgers), and his brother in DKE J. Frank Aldritch (DePauw Universitymarker) died when the USS Maine was sunk. In this same war, Deke Theodore Roosevelt distinguished himself and started on his path to the Presidency.

The fraternity's membership has also included dozens of American and Canadian politicians, businessmen, sports figures, and artists who have achieved iconic status, including among many others J.P. Morgan, Jr., William Randolph Hearst, Cole Porter, Henry Cabot Lodge, Dick Clark, Tom Landry, and George Steinbrenner. Deke flags have been carried to the North Polemarker by its discoverer, Admiral Robert Peary (Theta), and to the Moon by astronaut Alan Bean (Omega Chi).

Delta Kappa Epsilon administers a charitable organization called the Rampant Lion Foundation. As well, DKE has championed an organization call ROAR, which stands for Restore Our Associational Rights. ROAR campaigns for the freedom of fraternities and Greek organizations in general to operate without interference and discrimination from university administrations or others.

Traditionally an Eastern Seaboard fraternity, DKE's Yale chapter had an early reputation as a Southerner's fraternity. Many wealthy plantation owners sent their sons to Yale where they joined DKE. Two of the original founders were from the South and 13 out of 38 members of 1845 and 1846 were from the South. DKE's first chapter in the South was Gamma chapter founded in 1847 (Vanderbilt Universitymarker) followed by Psi chapter at the University of Alabamamarker in the same year.

Delta Kappa Epsilon's first West Coast chapter was founded at the University of California, Berkeleymarker on Halloween night, 1876. DKE is the fourth fraternity at the prestigious institution. Their rival, Stanford Universitymarker, followed suit in 1901.

Delta Kappa Epsilon became an international fraternity with the addition of the Alpha Phi chapter in 1898 at the University of Torontomarker, Canada.

DKE has a club in New York. The DKE Club of New York was founded in 1885 and is currently in residence at the Yale Club of New York City. The club is a rare survivor of the fraternity clubs that once proliferated at the turn of the century and then folded.

The Sigma Chi Fraternity was founded in 1855 when twelve members of the Miami University of Ohiomarker chapter of DKE (Kappa Chapter) split evenly over a debate on the office of Poet in the Erodelphian Literary Society. Six Deke members, led by Benjamin Piatt Runkle, rescinded their membership and later founded Sigma Chi because they refused to vote for a brother Deke simply because he was a Deke. The leader of the Kappa Dekes was future Ambassador Whitelaw Reid.


DKE counts many political, business, sports, education, science, and arts leaders. Listed is a sample of some famous Dekes.

Presidents of the United States

Vice Presidents of the United States

Justices of the United States Supreme Court

Newspaper publishers and editors

Agency heads


Political figures

Sports and entertainment


Other famous Dekes

For a more complete listing of prominent Dekes visit: Prominent Alumni


External links and references

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