Guide to the Records of Tau Beta Pi, Illinois Gamma Chapter

Collection Title: Records of Tau Beta Pi, Illinois Gamma Chapter
Dates: 1929-2003
Identification: 31/6/80
Creator: Tau Beta Pi. Illinois Gamma Chapter (Northwestern University)
Extent: 6 Boxes
Language of Materials: English
Abstract: The records of the Tau Beta Pi Illinois Gamma Chapter and its predecessor Tau Beta are housed in four boxes and two card files and span the years 1929 to 2003. While the bulk of the records relate to membership, the historical, correspondence, and projects records document the course and achievements of the organization.
Records related to the Chapter's organizational governance include bylaws, procedures, and rituals. The President's Book and Chapter Operations Manual give a clear picture of the responsibilities of the Chapter president and day-to-day functioning. Events that were particularly important to the Chapter's history were the Election of the Chicago-based Executive Council (Folder 13) and the Convention in Chicago (Folder 15).
Correspondence files include exchanges with the Association and other chapters which mostly relate to policies and practices, conventions, elections, and reporting. Correspondence with the Association that specifically deals with war issues is found in Folder 18 (World War II references are also abundant in the Membership reports and correspondence for the war years). The issue of admitting a “Negro” is mentioned in correspondence with other chapters, in Folder 22.
Acquisition Information: The records of Tau Beta Pi were donated to the University Archives by Cheryl Judice on February 19, 2004, Accession Number 04-16. In addition, materials from the University Archives General Files were incorporated into this collection.
Processing Information: Janet Kerschner; March 2004.
Separated Materials: Three inches of duplicate and extraneous materials were discarded. Four photographs, including a photograph and list of names from the 1964 Convention, were added to the photograph files in the University Archives. Small amounts of materials relating to the Society of Women Engineers and the Technological Institute's Engineering Societies Council were transferred into the University Archives General Files. A small amount of material relating to the national organization was sent to the Tau Beta Pi Association.
Conditions Governing Access: None.
Repository: Northwestern University Archives
Deering Library, Room 110
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston, IL, 60208-2300
URL: http://www.library.northwestern.edu/archives
Email: archives@northwestern.edu
Phone: 847-491-3354

Biographical/Historical Information

The Tau Beta Pi Association, a national engineering honor society, was founded in 1885 by Dr. Edward H. Williams, Jr. at Lehigh University. The goal of the Association is “to mark in a fitting manner those who have conferred honor upon their alma mater by distinguished scholarship and exemplary character as undergraduates in engineering, or by their attainments as alumni in the field of engineering, and to foster a spirit of liberal culture in engineering colleges.”

Collegiate chapters have been established at 227 colleges and universities throughout the United States, with alumnus chapters in 59 cities, and a total initiated membership exceeding 460,000, as of March 2004. The Association is now based at the University of Tennessee.

Tau Beta Pi is the only engineering society representing all fields of engineering, since the Sigma Tau Fraternity merged into the Tau Beta Pi Association in 1974. Membership requirements have varied somewhat over time and among chapters, but generally undergraduates must be in the top fifth of their graduating class to be invited to join. Personal qualities such as integrity, comportment, adaptability, and personality have been factors in election of members, as well as pledge examinations, essays, and projects. Initiates are entitled to wear the honorary insignia of the Association, a symbol known as the “Bent.”

In the fall of 1929, Ovid Eshbach, the Dean of Northwestern University's School of Engineering, called a meeting to organize an honorary engineering society, Tau Beta. The first Northwestern University Chapter constitution was drawn up on December 12, 1929. The Chapter modeled itself on the enfranchised chapters of the national organization, with a regular schedule of lectures, literary meetings, and social events such as the “Slide-Rule-Slide” dance, and father-and-son banquets.

According to a history submitted to the Tau Beta when the NU Chapter petitioned for admission: “Since the founding of the School of Engineering at Northwestern University, it had been the aim of the faculty to establish a chapter of the national honorary engineering society, Tau Beta Pi.” In 1941, two years after the Technological Institute was established at Northwestern, and a year before the dedication of the new building, Tau Beta petitioned to become affiliated with the national Tau Beta Pi Association. A glossy petition brochure was printed, featuring letters of recommendation from prominent engineers and faculty representing many chapters. Upon acceptance, twenty Tau Beta members were initiated as charter members into the new Tau Beta Pi Illinois Gamma Chapter at a banquet held on December 6, 1941, the evening before the Pearl Harbor attack.

During 1941 and 1942, the Corresponding Secretary, Wally Giedt, conducted a massive effort to locate Tau Beta members and initiate them into the Chapter. World War II had a profound impact on the Chapter, and many members of Tau Beta Pi were enrolled in the Navy V-12 Specialist Training Unit located at Northwestern. From 1943 to 1947, however, the Chapter's activities were sharply curtailed.

Beginning in 1950, membership began a steady expansion. During the 1952/1953 school year, Chapter President James S. Aagaard led a major drive to contact and initiate remaining Tau Beta members. During the mid-1950s, Northwestern's engineering students participated in a co-operative education system requiring each to spend one quarter working in industry. As a consequence, the Illinois Gamma officers changed every three months.

The governing body of the national Tau Beta Pi Association is known as the Executive Council. This responsibility rotates geographically around the country, with a new slate elected every four years. In 1957, the Chicago area chapters worked together to field a slate for Executive Council at the annual convention. A distinguished slate was recruited and easily won the election. They included the retired Northwestern Dean Ovid W. Eshbach, Arthur W. Consoer, George G. Lamb, Paul D. Manning, and Ralph G. Owens. Dean Eshbach became President of the Council, but unfortunately died early in 1958 before completing his term. Tau Beta Pi subsequently worked with the Engineering Societies Council to install plaques honoring Dean Eshbach.

The year 1964 was significant in the life of the Chapter. The Illinois Gamma Chapter and the Illinois Beta Chapter (Illinois Institute of Technology) jointly hosted the 59th National Convention of the Tau Beta Pi Association in Chicago. Members of both chapters were initiated at the banquet. A bronze sculpture of the Bent was installed on the back terrace of the addition to the Technological Institute that had been dedicated in October of 1963. The idea to establish a Bent monument seems to have been considered as early as 1948, according to notes in the Chapter Project Manuals. Several other chapters have undertaken similar projects. (The sculpture was moved to a position near the front of the building facing Sheridan Road during a recent renovation.)

Tau Beta Pi members are expected to participate in projects that benefit their school and community. Over the years, Northwestern's Illinois Gamma Chapter compiled evaluations of faculty and courses at the Technological Institute, arranged lectures and panel discussions, established an endowment fund, and installed the Bent sculpture. Projects during the 1980s and 1990s emphasized employment, such as a Resume Book and job fairs. Recent activities have included book exchanges and T-shirt sales. Many projects and programs have been arranged in cooperation with other campus organizations, notably the Engineering Societies Council and the Society of Women Engineers.

The history of Tau Beta Pi reflects the social issues of the times. In 1946, a New York chapter raised the question of admission of “a Negro,” which was quickly resolved in favor of admission. Women were awarded badges, but not full membership, for many years. Beginning at least as early as 1949, women participated at Northwestern as “badge wearers,” and in 1955, the Illinois Gamma Chapter made a written statement favoring the admission of women to Tau Beta Pi. When the Association finally decided in 1969 to accord women full membership, the Illinois Gamma Chapter was among the first to invite its badge wearers to become initiates.

Scope and Content

The records of the Tau Beta Pi Illinois Gamma Chapter and its predecessor Tau Beta are housed in four boxes and two card files and span the years 1929 to 2003. While the bulk of the records relate to membership, the historical, correspondence, and projects records document the course and achievements of the organization.

Succinct histories of Tau Beta and Northwestern University are presented in the Petition of the Tau Beta Society for admission to the national Tau Beta Pi Association (Box 1, Folder 2). Detailed minutes of Tau Beta remain for the period 1929-1941 (Box 1, Folder1).

Records related to the Chapter's organizational governance include bylaws, procedures, and rituals. The President's Book and Chapter Operations Manual give a clear picture of the responsibilities of the Chapter president and day-to-day functioning. Events that were particularly important to the Chapter's history were the Election of the Chicago-based Executive Council (Folder 13) and the Convention in Chicago (Folder 15).

Correspondence files include exchanges with the Association and other chapters which mostly relate to policies and practices, conventions, elections, and reporting. Correspondence with the Association that specifically deals with war issues is found in Folder 18 (World War II references are also abundant in the Membership reports and correspondence for the war years). The issue of admitting a “Negro” is mentioned in correspondence with other chapters, in Folder 22.

Membership records from the 1950s have frequent mentions of awarding the Women's Badge, and more references to the status of women are found in Association correspondence, Box 1, Folders 19-20.

Financial records are sparse, consisting of a few financial statements, tax filings, and a written procedure. There is considerable evidence throughout the series that the Chapter was scrupulous in adhering to the Association's strict standards, and that reports were regularly sent to the organizational headquarters. The small amount of publicity documentation includes a few samples and guides; some of the material refers to World War II activities.

Projects and programs are organized by title and arranged by date.

Membership records comprise the largest proportion of the series, reflecting the fact that significant organizational effort went into recruiting and initiating members. Records are arranged to reflect the school calendar beginning with the autumn quarter, as in 1952/1953. Correspondence related to membership has been kept with membership lists and reports. Tau Beta membership records that predate incorporation into the national organization include an Honor Roll, on which society recruitment was presumably based, a 1941 membership list, and another 1941 list of graduate non-charter members. Records of the initiation of Tau Beta members into Tau Beta Pi are extensive and reflect the substantial work that went into establishing the new Illinois Gamma Chapter. (Box 2, Folders 4-6).

Membership reports and correspondence, organized by academic year, typically include lists of prospective members, reports of eligibility status, election reports, letters inviting electees to join, letters of acceptance, arrangements for initiation ceremonies, and reports to the national Association. The Association wrote authorizations for membership, and clarified issues of eligibility. There are inquiries to and from initiates about subscriptions to The Bent, replacements for lost insignia, and other mundane matters. Some folders include pledge essays and biographical sketches of working engineers who were nominated for membership based on merit. Examples of pledge exam books are available for the 1950/1951 and 1966/1967 school years. Records concerning the membership of Dr. B. W. Gamson span four years and have been kept together.

Computer-generated membership listings date from 1985 to 1987. The 1985 list includes all the initiates of the Illinois Gamma Chapter, a total of 1613 names; the 1987 list contains 4,779 records of Tau Beta Pi alumni (all chapters) living in the Chicago area, listed by zip code. Two ledgers of the Chapter Roll cover the years 1956-1991 and 1991-2003. Each new member signed his name next to his membership number in a ledger, or on a signature form that served as a surrogate for the ledger. Loss of the first membership roll ledger in 1955 is mentioned in 1959 correspondence with the Association (Box 1, Folder 19).

Two card-file boxes contain 3”x 5” membership cards. Several thousand cards represent the entire membership of Illinois Gamma Chapter from 1941 through 2003. They are filed alphabetically, except for about 80 recent cards that have been placed unsorted before the letter “A” in Box 5.

More information about the Society of Women Engineers and the Technological Institute's Engineering Societies Council, with whom Tau Beta Pi jointly conducted projects, can be found in the University Archives General Files.

Arrangement of Materials

Records are organized chronologically within folders.

Subjects

Corporate Name

Tau Beta (Honor society : Northwestern University)

Tau Beta Pi. Illinois Gamma Chapter (Northwestern University)

Subjects

Engineering--Societies, etc.

Greek letter societies--Illinois--Evanston


Container List / Contents

  • History
    • Minutes of Tau Beta, 1930-1941Box 1, Folder 1
    • National Affiliation Petition and Endorsement Letter, 1941Box 1, Folder 2
    • Chapter Bylaws, 1953-1983Box 1, Folder 3
    • Chapter Procedure, 1964Box 1, Folder 4
    • National Association Constitution and Bylaws, 1922, 1965, 1973Box 1, Folder 5
    • National Association Parliamentary Procedure, 1960Box 1, Folder 6
    • National Association Ethics Statement, 1963Box 1, Folder 7
    • National Association Ritual, 1960Box 1, Folder 8
    • National Association Booklets and Pamphlets, 1965-1974Box 1, Folder 9
    • Association of College Honor Societies Information Booklet, 1963Box 1, Folder 10
    • President's Book, 1974-1983Box 1, Folder 11
    • President's Book and Manual of Chapter Operations, 1983Box 1, Folder 12
    • Election of Chicago-based Executive Council, 1958-1962Box 1, Folder 13
    • Officers and Advisors, 1952-1992Box 1, Folder 14
    • National Association Convention in Chicago, 1963-1964Box 1, Folder 15
  • Correspondence
    • Chapter President, in Assuming Office, 1950-1951Box 1, Folder 16
    • Association Executive Council, 1942Box 1, Folder 17
    • Association, Related to World War II, 1943-1945Box 1, Folder 18
    • Association, 1944-1960Box 1, Folder 19
    • Association, 1961-1971Box 1, Folder 20
    • Association, to Chapter Advisors, 1973-1974Box 1, Folder 21
    • Other Chapters, 1946-1959Box 1, Folder 22
  • Financial Records
    • Bookkeeping Procedures, 1981-1982Box 1, Folder 23
    • Financial Statements and IRS Filings, 1967-1981Box 1, Folder 24
  • Publicity
    • Publicity Guides and Samples, 1943-1967Box 1, Folder 25
  • Projects and Programs
    • Chapter Project Manuals, 1948-1952Box 2, Folder 1
    • Faculty and Course Evaluation Projects, 1949, 1959Box 2, Folder 2
    • Chapter Projects List and Letter, 1951Box 2, Folder 3
    • Lectures and Panels, 1958, 1964Box 2, Folder 4
    • Bent Sculpture and Plaques, 1964, 1976Box 2, Folder 5
    • Establishment of Endowment Fund, 1973Box 2, Folder 6
    • Resume Book, 1981Box 2, Folder 7
    • Job Fair, 1990/1991Box 2, Folder 8
    • Book Exchanges and T-shirt Sales, n.d.Box 2, Folder 9
  • Membership Records
    • Honor Roll of Technological Institute, 1929-1942Box 2, Folder 10
    • Membership List of Tau Beta, 1941Box 2, Folder 11
    • Tau Beta Graduate Non-Charter Members, 1941Box 2, Folder 12
    • Initiation of Tau Beta Members into Tau Beta Pi, 1941/1942Box 2, Folder 13
    • Membership Reports and Correspondence, 1942/1943Box 2, Folder 14
    • Membership Reports and Correspondence, 1943/1944, 1946/1947Box 2, Folder 15
    • Membership Reports and Correspondence, 1947/1948Box 2, Folder 16
    • Membership Reports and Correspondence, 1948/1949, 1949/1950Box 2, Folder 17
    • Membership Reports, Correspondence, and Pledge Exam Book, 1950/1951Box 2, Folder 18
    • Membership Reports and Correspondence, 1951/1952Box 2, Folder 19
    • Membership Reports and Correspondence, 1952/1953Box 3, Folder 1
    • Membership Reports and Correspondence, 1952/1953Box 3, Folder 2
    • Membership Reports and Correspondence, 1953/1954, 1954/1955Box 3, Folder 3
    • Membership Reports and Correspondence, 1956/1957, 1957/1958Box 3, Folder 4
    • Membership Reports and Correspondence, 1958/1959, 1959/1960Box 3, Folder 5
    • Membership Records for Dr. B. W. Gamson, 1958-1961Box 3, Folder 6
    • Membership Reports and Correspondence, 1960/1961, 1962/1963Box 3, Folder 7
    • Membership Reports and Correspondence, 1963/1964, 1964/1965Box 3, Folder 8
    • Membership Reports, Correspondence, and Pledge Essays, 1965/1966Box 3, Folder 9
    • Membership Reports, Correspondence, and Pledge Exam Book, 1966/1967, 1968/1969Box 3, Folder 10
    • Membership Reports and Correspondence, 1970/1971, 1971/1972Box 3, Folder 11
    • Membership Reports and Correspondence, 1973/1974, 1976/1977Box 3, Folder 12
    • Membership Reports, 1977/1978Box 3, Folder 13
    • Membership Reports and Correspondence, 1978/1979Box 3, Folder 14
    • Membership Reports and Correspondence, 1979/1980Box 4, Folder 1
    • Membership Reports and Correspondence, 1980/1981Box 4, Folder 2
    • Membership Reports and Correspondence, 1981/1982Box 4, Folder 3
    • Membership Computer Listing of All Initiates, 1941-1985, 1985Box 4, Folder 4
    • Membership Computer Listing, 1986Box 4, Folder 5
    • Membership Computer Listing of Living Alumni in Chicago Area, by Zip Code, 1987Box 4, Folder 6
    • Chapter Roll Ledger, 1956-1991Box 4, Folder 7
    • Chapter Roll Ledger, 1991-2003Box 4, Folder 8
    • Artwork for Membership Pledge Essay, n.d.Box 4, Folder 9
  • Membership Card Files
    • Tau Beta Pi Card File A-K, incl. 80 Unfiled Cards, 1941-2003
    • Tau Beta Pi Card File L-Z, 1941-2003