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The following remarks were given at the bicentennial celebration of the American college fraternity at the 1976 NIC Annual Meeting in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Fraternities are uniquely American. Although European schools have clubs and societies, nothing parallel to the American fraternity system exists elsewhere.

The first fraternity was begun at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, on December 5, 1776, when a group of students formed a secret society which they called Phi Beta Kappa, after the first initials of their Greek motto: "Love of wisdom, the guide of life." Phi Beta Kappa existed as a social group for the first 50 years of its life, and chapters were established at other schools, including Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth. It did not become the scholastic honor society we know today until after the anti-Masonic and anti-secret-society agitation of the 1820s.

But Phi Beta Kappa set the tone and instituted many of the characteristics which are considered "typical" of fraternities: a Greek-letter name, a Greek motto, an oath of secrecy, a badge, a ritual, a seal and a secret grip or handshake. (Undoubtedly the Greek motto and Greek name arose from the fact that all these students studied Greek as an academic requirement.)

Other groups that were founded shortly thereafter emulated the characteristics of Phi Beta Kappa in most respects, and fraternity chapters were established at many of our early colleges. Of the 63 men's fraternities that are now members of the National Interfraternity Conference, 36 were founded in the 19th century.

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