EXCHANGE: Fraternity can trace roots to Millikin University
DECATUR, Ill. (AP) — One of the largest fraternities in the country can trace its roots to the campus of Millikin University.
Tau Kappa Epsilon — or TKE — was formed in 1899 at Illinois Wesleyan in Bloomington. Ten years later, the second chapter was created at Millikin.
The TKE motto, "Better Men for a Better World," has been their focus since the beginning. There are 290 chapters in the U.S. and Canada.
Famous members have included President Ronald Reagan, country musician Willie Nelson, NFL quarterback Terry Bradshaw and founder of St. Jude's Children's Hospital Danny Thomas. The children's hospital continues to be a fundraising focus for many TKE chapters. Since 2011, the international organization has raised nearly $4 million for St. Jude's.
Back in Decatur, Raphaella Prange, vice president for student affairs and dean of student development at Millikin, said the fraternity frequently participates in service and volunteer hours with other fraternity and sorority members.
"Tau Kappa Epsilon has been an avid supporter of blood drives and organ donor initiatives on our campus for well over 20 years," she said. "The men of Tau Kappa Epsilon have also recently focused on domestic violence and sexual assault awareness programming, organizing hygiene product drives and participating in the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event which highlights survivor support services."
Jay Geanopoulos is the current Millikin prytanis, or president. He said after the college's recent graduation, the chapter now has 33 members. "We do lots of philanthropy," he said.
A few of the local high-profile fundraisers and activities include TKE Toys for Tots, gift wrapping parties and blood drives. The fraternity's "No More Cancer" rally with Delta Delta Delta sorority was a successful fundraiser for the college.
"The event won us an award as Co-sponsor Event of the Year," Geanopoulos said. "We raised $3,000 in 24 hours."
The Millikin members expect to continue their philanthropy skills after they graduate, like other past TKE members.
Tony Caccomo, 71, of Decatur, is an alum from Niagara University in upstate New York. He graduated 50 years ago, but still has a special attachment to Tau Kappa Epsilon. "It was the very first fraternity of any kind at the college," he said.
Caccomo was surprised to find one of the fraternity's founding chapters was at Millikin University. As a co-founding member of his college's chapter, Caccomo's induction pin has the number 1 embossed on it, representing the first member of the chapter.
All new inductees receive a pin with the TKE initials and their member number. Each pin is shaped as a triangle for a significant historical reference. The three sides represent the three founding chapters, Illinois Wesleyan in 1899, Millikin University in 1909, and University of Illinois in 1912.
"It is a social fraternity with a very strong value system," Caccomo said. "They have withstood the test of time."
Alex Baker, 34, is the chief information officer for TKE headquarters in Indianapolis. Before he became an employee six years ago, he continued serving the fraternity by volunteering. "The impact we can make on young men is outstanding," he said. "The leadership is making a huge impact on their lives."
Baker said the Millikin chapter has an important role in the history of the organization. "We are proud that they are part of the triangle," he said.
When Caccomo moved to Decatur 10 years ago, he stopped by the Millikin Beta fraternity house. "I didn't hit me that beta chapter meant that it was the second chapter ever," he said.
TKE follows the Greek alphabet as many fraternities and sororities do, such as Alpha is the first chapter, Beta is second, third is Gamma.
He said the TKE focus is honorable.
"I liked what they stood for," he said. "Their mission was a lot of community service. Some fraternities were geared to science or athletics. This one was about community and service with social goals."
Source: (Decatur) Herald & Review, https://bit.ly/2KCbz0e
Information from: Herald & Review, http://www.herald-review.com
This is an AP-Illinois Exchange story offered by the (Decatur) Herald & Review.