Franklin & Marshall embraced integration in the 1960s as a “house of individuals”

At the height of the civil rights movement, Pi Lambda Phi brothers at Franklin & Marshall (F&M) challenged the exclusionary policies of college fraternities. Fighting for the tenets of inclusion and the principles of our Creed, they became the only integrated fraternity at F&M.

Pi Lambda Phi offered a place for black students

In 2000, F&M alumnus Rev. William Gray sent a letter to the alumni magazine, saying “black students at good old Franklin & Marshall in the 1950s and into the early ‘6os essentially went to a school where he had no social life, because at that time, all the social life was at the fraternities.”

Stuart Ross ’63, a friend of Gray and a Pilam brother sent a response that reflected his experience at Pi Lambda Phi.

Ross said, “I was a brother at Pi Lambda Phi fraternity. We were the only integrated fraternity at F&M at that time. At a time when it was true that black students were in a small minority at F&M, the brothers of Pi Lambda Phi were integrated and did, in fact, provide a place for social activities for black students.”

“Most of the black students at that time were Pi Lambda Phi brothers. During my years at F&M, both Furman Templeton, and Lance Barclay served as the Rex of the chapter.”

A house of individuals

Phil Samponaro ‘63 recalled, “(inclusion) was not a discussion that we had at the time as it seemed normal that we had black members.”

  • 1961 Pilam yearbook
  • 1963 yearbook pic
  • Stuart Ross and Phil Samponaro

“We were known by some as the “house of individuals,” which attracted me, and thus the qualities of the person and adherence to the creed and principles were what were important to me.”

Phil said his experience at PA Tau Omega chapter was a most important, happy and memorable part of his college life.