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New MTSU fraternity earns national honor, focuses on service

After two years of hard work, the “nonfraternity association” has established a fraternity chapter at MTSU.

Members of Phi Kappa Tau received the Frederick R. Fletemeyer Prize at the organization’s national conclave, which took place July 17-19 in Oxford, Ohio.

Members of MTSU’s Phi Kappa Tau colony accept the Frederick R. Fletemeyer Prize for outstanding colony operations at the fraternity’s national conclave July 17-19 in Oxford, Ohio. Pictured, from left, are Stephen Duke, a junior double major in international relations and German language from Rockvale, Tennessee; Rick Keltner, national president of Phi Kappa Tau; and Brandon Lewis, a senior psychology major from Nashville. (photo submitted)

Members of MTSU’s Phi Kappa Tau colony accept the Frederick R. Fletemeyer Prize for outstanding colony operations at the fraternity’s national conclave July 17-19 in Oxford, Ohio. Pictured, from left, are Stephen Duke, a junior double major in international relations and German language from Rockvale, Tennessee; Rick Keltner, national president of Phi Kappa Tau; and Brandon Lewis, a senior psychology major from Nashville. (photo submitted)

The award is presented for outstanding colony operations. The designation of “colony” is an important step toward establishing a chapter.

“It was a huge honor as a colony, but getting the charter for our chapter here was more rewarding than anything because we put so much time and effort into it,” said Kyle Elliott, philanthropy chairman for the MTSU chapter, which became official Aug. 15.

To prove their mettle, first as a colony and in becoming a chapter, members had to show the national fraternity:

  • how much money they had raised for charity;
  • the number of hours they had put into community service; and
  • the number of members they had recruited.

After working toward their goal since 2013, they put the evidence into a 128-page petition.

The chapter, which is the 155th in the national organization’s history, currently has 35 active members. Their new goal is to increase that number to 60 within the next two months.

Toward that end, the founders of the new Zeta Lambda chapter at MTSU have scheduled numerous events, including a local park cleanup project, a softball tournament and a pumpkin toss.

Phi Kappa Tau’s national charity is the SeriousFun Children’s Network, founded by the late Oscar-winning actor Paul Newman. The charity funds about 30 camps for terminally ill children.

Phi Kappa Tau crest webSeriousFun Network logo web“Personally, I volunteered at one of these camps this past spring break,” said Elliott, a senior from Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, who is majoring in electronic media production.

“These kids have to be monitored 24/7 so that nothing can happen to them, but they were also having the time of their lives, because nine times out of 10 they’re either going to be inside or in a hospital somewhere.”

The group began in 1906 at Miami University of Ohio under the name “Non-Fraternity Association.” It was created by men who felt that fraternities had taken over all extracurricular activities on campus. That independent streak remains a foundation of the group’s reputation, organizers said.

“They treat you more like a person than just a number trying to get into the organization,” said E.J. Graves, a sophomore aerospace administration major from Westpoint, Tennessee, who also serves as the chapter’s recruitment chairman.

“We have always had this mindset of trying to break stereotypes while still maintaining the brotherly, scholastic, service and entertainment side of fraternity life,” said Brandon Lewis, a senior psychology major from Nashville and vice president of alumni relations for the chapter.

“Most organizations are going to require you to dress a certain way or to act a certain way that’s not necessarily who you are personally,” added Elliott. “Our fraternity focuses on individualism.”

Phi Kappa Tau’s Zeta Lambda chapter meets weekly in the Parliamentary Room of the Student Union. For more information, visit the chapter’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MTSUphitau.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

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