The Struggle for Betahood

Gordon Burke wasn’t necessarily a man ahead of his time, but in his day, there was no word to satisfactorily describe what he did for Beta.

Today, such a word exists. Gordon Burke was a master of what is commonly known today as “networking.” His Beta contacts throughout North America were legendary.

He was one of the best-known Betas of his time, even to brothers who had never met him face-to-face. He was a master of the art of communicating by letter.

All of his networking skills were employed in the struggle to achieve Beta chapter status for Sigma Alpha Phi.

Even before the Sigma Alpha Phi fraternity formally showed its hand by stating its intention to petition Beta,

Burke was already writing letters to friends all over the country,

propagating the idea of Beta Theta Pi at the University of British Columbia. This might perhaps be called the informal campaign.

The formal campaign for Beta at UBC began in 1929 with a document from Toronto which might best be regarded as a preliminary “test shot.”

Thomas Beament, Toronto ’24, of the Toronto alumni chapter (as it was then called), sent a report to President Francis Shepardson, Denison 1882, Brown 1883, about the prospects for expansion in Canada.

This report suggested that the time for expansion at McGill University had passed, due to the proliferation of major fraternities on that campus.

However, the report then went on to reopen the possibility of a chapter at British Columbia.

The text of a joint resolution, adopted by both the undergraduate and alumni chapters at Toronto, followed:

A resolution was passed unanimously approving the principle that a Chapter of Beta Theta Pi be established at the University of British Columbia as soon as a proper opportunity should present itself.

The report went on to state that several other international fraternities were already established on the British Columbia campus, or planning to move in.

Toronto was trying hard to spur the Fraternity to quick action, lest another golden opportunity be lost (as at McGill). How golden was it?

The Toronto report affirmed that, in a few years, the University of British Columbia was expected to rank as an institution second to none in Canada.

Meanwhile, the undergraduates of Sigma Alpha Phi hadn’t formally selected a fraternity as the target of their affiliation bid.

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