Paraphrasing and quoting from “History of the Phi Delta Theta” from 1906, written by W. B. Palmer;
Many young men who were recruited at Wooster went on to provide an invaluable service to the fraternity. Some wrote to alumni about establishing new chapters at Wisconsin and Allegheny. One young man, E. M. Wilson, wrote to an Ohio (Alpha) Alumni, A. M. Shuey, living in Minneapolis, about starting a chapter at the University of Minnesota. “Shuey replied March 17th, 1873, that the institution was yet ‘in embryo,’ that ‘the faculty will not allow such secret societies.’ But as soon as the ‘proper time’ for establishing a chapter should arrive ‘that you may be assured that I will attend to it.”
In early 1878, W. B. Palmer, of the Emory chapter, editor of many Phi Delta Theta writings, later the author of said book, the Phi Delta Theta Manuel, and more, began to make urgent appeals to Shuey about the establishment of a chapter at the U of MN. In 1878 at GC, GHQ (mainly George Banta) was pushing hard for a U of MN chapter and Banta importuned Shuey. Shuey accepted the task. Banta, Business Manager of The Scroll, wrote an article on the situation in November of 1878, “We are sorry we cannot report progress as to the proposed Minnesota Alpha. We have written many pathetic appeals on postal cards to Brother Shuey, but our thirst for knowledge remains unquenched.” They finally told him they would travel by Railroad, using personal financials, just to get communication from Shuey. In May 1879, Shuey sent word he had 6 ready to embrace Phi Delta Theta, but they never did.
E.J. Edwards, Lombard ’74, visited Minneapolis on July 1, 1881 and met with J.A. Fullinwider, Illinois Wesleyan ’82 who was also visiting the city. “They at once formed plans for placing a chapter at the University of Minnesota. Within a week, S.D. Townsend, ’84, was pledged and through him, several others, who were in the city during vacation,were pledged. On the evening of September 16, in the gentlemen’s parlor of the Nicollet Hotel. Edwards and Fullinwider initiated J.B. Gould, ’82; R.H. Prosse, ’82; J.C.E. King, ’84; S.D. Townsend, ’84; Z.N. Vaugh, ’84. The same evening the initiates elected officers and signed an application for charter. The General Council granted these applicants a charter for Minnesota Alpha under date of October 12, 1881.” Phi Delta Theta was the second fraternity on campus behind Chi Psi.
In the following semesters, very few Phi’s were initiated. 4 in the following spring, and no more until 1 in spring 1883. There were only 4 active members at that point in time. After that initiation, the chapter made steady progress. On November 5th, 1885, the General Council granted a charter for the Minnesota Alpha Alumni Chapter. (In 1891 the Minneapolis and St. Paul Alumni chapters were merged into the Minnesota Alumni Chapter.) A joint banquet of the university chapter and alumni chapter was held at the West Hotel, January 8th, 1886.
In 1994, the Minnesota Alpha Chapter lost its charter due to financial challenges. Phi Delta Theta would remain absent from the University of Minnesota for a decade and a half. Then in the spring of 2007, the idea was born to return Phi Delta Theta to the U of M. Once again, General Headquarters sought after an Ohio Alumni to take the reigns, Ryan Elmer, along with an Oregon Alumni, Adam Johnson. Then at the end of spring semester the good news arrived from General Headquarters – Minnesota Alpha was slated for full expansion back onto campus for that fall. On the 17th of September, 2008 the first interest group meeting was held in the fountain courtyard of Coffman Union. Fittingly, there were six young men in attendance.
The remainder of the 2008 and 2009 academic year was spent searching for the last three members and fulfilling all the lengthy requirements needed to become a Colony at Minnesota. The remaining men the Interest Group were looking for proved to be elusive, although, quality would persevere and at the end of April the group reached their 25 men. On Thursday, May 10th at 6:00pm, Minnesota Alpha was refounded at the University of Minnesota. Afterwards, the new Colony took group photos in the fountain courtyard of Coffman Union, ironically where the very first Interest Group meeting was held in 2008. The Bond of Phi Delta Theta was truly present on that day, and in the hearts of the men present.
For the next year and some months, Minnesota Alpha recruited some of the University’s finest men. On December 10th, 2010, during Minnesota’s biggest snow storm of the decade, current General Council Member-At-Large Chris Brussalis, along with several local alumni, initiated 35 members in the new STSS building Room 135, along with Jacob Kingdon’s father, Steven Kingdon, reestablishing Minnesota Alpha’s Charter.
In the following months, Minnesota Alpha lost many of it’s newly initiated members, mainly due to recruiting under the pressure of “needing to get numbers” and many members had lost vision in what Phi Delta Theta was truly about. The chapter’s recruitment suffered from these losses, but maintained a steady and motivated Phikeia class of 1-3 per semester. In spring of 2012, the chapter’s size was cut in half, with almost all the ReFounding Fathers graduating and going their separate ways, leaving the chapter with little guidance and loss of focus and motivation. Seeing this, Refounding Father and current CAB Co-Chairman Tony Wagner (#1401), with support from Ryan Elmer, started to work with the chapter more than any other Alumni had since Elmer and Johnson. The formal recreation of a CAB structure, increased Alumni participation and involvement, creation of internal chapter structure, and much more can all be thanked to him. Following suit, Matthew Terry (#1417), was crucial to the chapter’s reconnection with it’s alumni. Along with Wagner, the two started to reconnect severed ties between the 2 decade separation of active chapters. Terry went on to reactivate the Twin Cities Alumni Club the semester following his graduation, and served as it’s first official President at the age of 25.
In 2016, the Twin Cities Alumni Club righted a ~65 year wrong doing. In the 1950’s Bill McCreavy, owner of Washburn McCreavy Funeral Services, became a Phikeia with MN Alpha. On the weekends, Bill would need to work with the family business, taking him away from “Phikeia Duties”. Bill was not allowed to initiate for these reasons. Hearing this story from Regent Micheal Hsu, the Alumni Club decided to take action and share his story with GHQ. At Founder’s Day that year, the Club special initiated one of Phi Delt’s longest tenured Phikeias.
After years of fighting larger chapters, chapters with houses, and a steady decline in moral among the members of MN Alpha, the chapter decided to fold. With immense efforts from then Province President John Deihl, CAB Chairman Jon Rice, and Alumni Club President Matt Terry, along with GHQ, the charter was allowed to remain active with the University of Minnesota and IFC on campus with a focus to “ReFound” the chapter in Fall of 2018.