The Creed’s Enduring Legacy
In 1895, three men at Yale University created a Fraternity and a Creed that have helped shape the lives of men throughout North America. It is this creed, and the message it conveys, that has brought men into the fraternity year after year, and it is this message that Brother Joseph Pitt ’64, believes continues to set Pi Lambda Phi apart from all the others.
Joe joined Pi Lambda Phi during a much different time in fraternity life on campus. He was initiated in 1964 into the Virginia Psi Chapter at the College of William and Mary. At the time, fraternities recruited new members, pledges at the time, through all manner of techniques to entice them, and while this may have been the intent for Joe as well, it isn’t what brought him into our ranks. Joe was recruited because of a simple piece of paper open on a table when he came into the fraternity house. As soon as he read our creed, he was hooked. The simple 6-line creed and mission statement was one of the most powerful statements regarding human dignity he had encountered. Joe knew he had found a home here.
It’s worth noting as well that Joe wasn’t recruited by just any member. He attributes some of the reason he joined to Brother William “Sam” Sadler ’62. A quick Google search will show that Sam is one of the most storied alumni of the College of William and Mary.
When Joe describes his fraternity days, it’s with a sly smile and a twinkle in his eye. He remembers the brotherhood and the comradery that was displayed. With a laugh he relates a story from his days as Pledge Trainer (New Member Educator) when his new pledge class threw him into Crim Dell Pond in his underwear, a privilege they allowed him as he didn’t want to ruin his clothes. He repaid these new brothers in kind, however, with a similar underwear stranding experience in nearby Jamestown. It saddens him, though, when he reflects on how these jokes and pranks of years ago have evolved so badly into the serious hazing incidents in fraternity life today. Joe believes that being a Fraternity man should be synonymous with Gentleman. We as a group, both in Pi Lambda Phi and in the larger Greek Life Community, should be setting the standard for what a 21st Century man is and how they should behave. Perhaps that is the next big example our brotherhood can set for the Greek Life Community today.
For Joe, being a brother of Pi Lambda Phi truly is a lifelong commitment. He served for nearly 35 years as a Chapter Advisor for the Virginia Omicron Zeta Chapter at Virginia Tech University. When he relates the story of how he was invited to be the advisor, he speaks with such happiness. He explains how he was walking across campus and saw a young man wearing our letters on a ball cap. Naturally intrigued, he stopped the young man and asked about the hat, explaining that he, too, was a brother of Pi Lambda Phi. After the exchange, and thinking nothing of it, Joe continued on his way happy to know that the fraternity he loved so much was making its way onto the campus he now taught at. Then, days later, Joe was approached by that same brother and an entourage of others as they asked Joe to serve as the chapter advisor. A responsibility he happily accepted. He only recently stepped down from that role.
Joe is a member of our lifelong brotherhood and he takes that obligation seriously. Not only that, his brotherhood remains strong as he has kept in contact routinely with his class over the years. While he sadly related that all too often the news is regarding the unfortunate passing of another member, it remains a powerful message on how strong those ties were amongst a group of men. It is this same message that Joe inspired throughout his years as a Chapter Advisor. He still stays in touch with many of the brothers he mentored over the years as well, and they happily seek his advice and friendship.
Joe’s message for the Fraternity is fairly straightforward but may not be considered simple. Live the Creed. Today there are numerous organizations and businesses explaining how best to recruit New Members. We have science and statistics that point to how we can attract young men to our organization. To Joe, the most powerful message remains the very thing that recruited him all those years ago. A message and a mission that in today’s ever polarizing society resonates even stronger. As for those brothers who may be considering serving as a Chapter Advisor themselves, Joe does recommend that as well. It will change your life.
Written by: Tim Davey ’06, OH Beta Tau