Rho Chapter History
A small group of men at the University of Illinois organized in December, 1911 as the Waskivi Club. On April 6, 1912 these men were initiated as brothers of Zeta Beta Tau in Chicago, Illinois. The founding members were Charles Narkinsky, Jesse Kramer, M. O. Nathan, Milton M. Muirr, Norman Cahn and Phil A. Lowenstein. With the addition of several new men in the fall of 1912, Rho was able to secure and maintain modest quarters at 1012 South Sixth Street, Champaign, Illinois.
On November 3, 1912, the University of Illinois officially recognized the chapter in the pages of the Daily Illini. Quickly growing in size, the chapter found its home too small and relocated in January, 1913 to 1005 South Second Street. When the United States Congress declared war in 1917, forty-eight brothers donned the nation’s uniform. Brothers Charles Markinsky and L. R. Lewis were killed in action.
Construction of the Chapter House at 907 South Fourth Street began in 1923 and the Men Of Zeta Beta Tau, Rho Chapter moved in the house in the fall of 1924.
Rho continued its excellence through the Great Depression and when World War II broke out, many brothers served. Unfortunately, seven brothers of Rho did not return from battle: Robert I. Block, Marvin Cobrin, Jesse Kramer, Henry B. Levy Jr., Sherman Levy, Donald Lustfield, Leo Malkin, and Jaque Strause. It is of note that Jesse Kramer was one of Rho's founding fathers.
After World War II, Rho reclaimed its place as a “Powerhouse of Excellence.” Academics, athletics and achievement have always been the role Rho has played at the University of Illinois.
As enrollment in the University of Illinois continued to grow, so did Rho. In 1963, an addition was built on the existing Chapter House. This addition opened in 1964, making Rho one of the largest fraternities on campus.
Generations of Rho brothers lived in the Chapter house at 907 South Fourth Street. In 2003, the Chapter house was torn down and replaced with the current house in 2004 at the same address.
Rho is now entering its 100th year as a chapter! The brothers, to this day, continue Rho's legacy of excellence in academics, athletics, and achievement. Rho's perseverence is a testament to the chapter's founders and to the strength of our brotherhood through some of our nation's toughest times.
The chapter has many notable brothers. Among these are:
Burton Baskin ’38 (Founder of Baskin Robbins)
Tal Brody '65 (Basketball)
Lee Falk ’32 (Creator of the Phantom and Mandrake the Magician)
Tom Friedman '87 (Artist)
Bernie Goldstein '49 (Entrepreneur and Casino Founder)
Barry Meister '76 (Sports Agent)
Greg Steiner '91 (President of E-Harmony)
Source: The First Twenty-Five Years. New York City: Zeta Beta Tau, 1923.
Zeta Beta Tau History
Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity was inspired by Richard J. H. Gottheil, a professor of languages at Columbia University and a leader in the early American Zionist movement. On December 29, 1898, Professor Gottheil gathered together a group of Jewish students from several New York City universities to form a Zionist youth society. The society was called Z.B.T.
During this brief period, the society came to serve as a kind of fraternal body for college students who, as Jews, were excluded from joining existing fraternities because of the sectarian practices which prevailed at the end of the nineteenth century in the United States. The continuing need for a Greek-letter fraternity open to Jewish students prompted Z.B.T. to change its raison d'etre, structure and emphasis and to become Zeta Beta Tau in 1903.
Zeta Beta Tau expanded rapidly. By 1909, it had established 13 Chapters throughout the Northeast and a 14th at Tulane University at New Orleans, thereby taking on a truly national dimension. In 1913, it established its first Canadian Chapter at McGill University in Montreal. Five years later, it founded its first West Coast Chapter at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. At the 1954 National Convention, the delegates amended Zeta Beta Tau's Constitution, ritual and internal procedures both in theory and in practice to eliminate sectarianism as a qualification for membership.
Spearheaded by the growth of state and municipal university systems, hundreds of new institutions were opened in the quarter-century following World War II. By the 1960's virtually every American had an opportunity to attend college. From 1945 to 1969, the number of ZBT chapters increased from 30 to 80 units.
The history of mergers in the Zeta Beta Tau Brotherhood followed a pattern of linking common traditions. In 1959, Phi Alpha merged into Phi Sigma Delta, and in 1961 Kappa Nu merged into Phi Epsilon Pi. In 1969-70, Phi Sigma Delta and Phi Epsilon Pi merged into Zeta Beta Tau.
Traumatic experiences were generated by the polarization over the Vietnam conflict. The American fraternity system - including Zeta Beta Tau, was subsequently affected by the great wave of anti-establishment feeling that was pervasive throughout the country. Many of the Chapters which survived this period of turmoil did so in a weakened condition. During the late 1970's and the early 1980's, there was a renewed interest in fraternity life, resulting in increased initiation statistics, revival of many dormant Chapters and expansion to new campuses.
During the 1980's, every Greek-letter group continued their efforts to stop hazing. Despite ZBT's best efforts, hazing continued and increased in frequency and severity. ZBT concluded that all efforts to reform the institution of pledging had failed; pledging was the problem. This was because pledges were considered second-class citizens, with no rights and no chance to refuse even the most outrageous demands of a Brother, unless he quit the Fraternity. In 1989, in a last-ditch effort to eliminate hazing, ZBT eliminated pledging and all second-class status from the Fraternity. In its place, ZBT established a Brotherhood Program, with minimum standards (Brotherhood Quality Standards), as well as programs of education, bonding, and earning one's Brotherhood status that applied to all Brothers of ZBT.
Today, the merged Zeta Beta Tau Brotherhood is some 110,000 Brothers strong, and ZBT Chapters and Colonies are established at over 80 campus locations. Through good times and bad, ZBT has been in the forefront in pioneering new concepts - as evidenced by its very founding, its elimination of sectarian membership practices, its acceptance of mergers, its elimination of pledging, and its ability to solve enormous problems when others abandoned the effort.
ZBT continues to maintain a tradition of leadership and respect in the interfraternity world.