After the atrocities of the Civil War, Otis Alan Glazebrook, Erskine Mayo Ross and Alfred Marshall sought to find a way to heal the wounds created by the Civil War. These men saw the university environment as a prime launching point for the healing process between the north and south. More specifically, the social fraternity experience. These Civil War Veterans founded Alpha Tau Omega on September 11th, 1865 on the core values of fellowship and belonging.
Once the organization was founded, these three men took it from just one chapter house at Virginia Military Institute into a national chapter by spreading chapter houses across state lines as well as establishing a national executive office to manage these new chapters. These efforts made Alpha Tau Omega the first national fraternity in the United States. Alpha Tau Omega also joined the first joint venture between fraternities known as the Lexington Triad. Along with Sigma Nu and Kappa Alpha Order, the Lexington Triad was a governing body for these fraternities whose main purpose was the joint benefit and advancement of all its associated members.
After the creation of the Lexington Triad, Alpha Tau Omega saw great advancement in its chapter numbers and membership. This period of growth lasted until 1895 when the national board recognized the organization focused too much of its efforts on pure numbers. Thus, an era of conservative growth began with the emphasis on utilizing the quantity of members to recruit quality men and improve leadership development within each of the chapters.
After the national board felt that the individual chapters of Alpha Tau Omega re-prioritized quality over quantity, the numbers of members in Alpha Tau Omega once again began to surge. With utilization of a more efficient United States Postal Service, the national chapter was able to quickly organize and recognize interest groups at universities across the United States and select the ones deserving of a charter based on their values and brotherhood.
With growth on a national level, Alpha Tau Omega began the search for a new home. Looking for a relatively central location, Alpha Tau Omega settled on the city of Champaign, Illinois. While here the Dean of Men in the 1920s-1930s, Thomas Arkle Clark, redefined what it meant to be an ATO. He looked into the qualities of a gentlemen and scholar and applied them to everyday life as well as into all of the chapters he went to visit. It is his hard work that ATO through the dark times of World War 1 and the Great Depression. In recognition of his efforts, the award for top ATO undergraduate in the nation is named in his honor.
As the 1900s rolled on, there was a time of great change for Alpha Tau Omega in the 1960s. College enrollment across the nation was seeing record highs and therefore Alpha Tau Omega was seeing record recruitment across the nation. Also, with racial equality coming to the forefront of politics and truly a national priority, Alpha Tau Omega once again decided to be a leader on a national level. At the 1964 National Congress, the constitution of Alpha Tau Omega was rewritten to emphasize inclusion of all and the recognition of every man as a potential member of Alpha Tau Omega as long as they demonstrated the gentlemanly nature that is expected of every member.
For the next 15 years, Alpha Tau Omega continued to grow at an unprecedented rate. With numbers that truly made it one of the top fraternities nationally, Alpha Tau Omega began to receive the recognition of being a top fraternity across the country. A fraternity that all men want to join and other national fraternities want to emulate.
success of the modern fraternity
With exponentially increasing numbers, Alpha Tau Omega once again needed to expand its headquarters. This path was far more uncertain than the first. The national headquarters changed places in Illinois three times over the course of 15 years until a suitable home was located. The location they found, and the location that is used to this day, is One North Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown Indianapolis.
Another adaptation the national chapter needed to make was the application of new technologies, including the Internet, to operate in an efficient manner. Shortly after moving to Indianapolis in 1995, Alpha Tau Omega went through a comprehensive analysis on the state of the organization, looking for opportunities throughout the organization. The result was a well-oiled machine that could take anything that was thrown at it.
The next years sure proved the need for this proactive action. Growth in chapter numbers and size continued to surge, in addition chapters saw great improvements in a wide variety of areas. Membership retention for all chapters rose to the point where the average chapter retains 85% of its members. Service hours and philanthropy dollars quickly rose, and in 2014 chapters of Alpha Tau Omega raised $81 million for charities nationwide. Alpha Tau Omega is ranked as a top 10 chapter in the majority of statistical categories that measure the effectiveness and benefit of a fraternal organization. These include but are not limited to philanthropy, member retention, leadership development and professional placement.
The sky is the limit for Alpha Tau Omega and its success rides on every individual chapter and we understand that at University of Cincinnati. That is why every day we strive to be our best and represent the letters we work so hard to make great. That way we can look in the mirror and say "I am proud to be an ATO".