By and large, all of our fraternal brothers lived rich, full lives in all of our fraternal homes. That is, in truth, a generational truth that remains unmistakably warm in our fraternal memory.
I believe it is a certain truth that our history is warmed by the fraternal spirit of all of our brothers, and I can only imagine all generations of Omega Mu and Q.T.V. brothers sitting together at Pig Dinner; walking through our various fraternal homes with warm and familiar memories; singing sentimental songs at Pig Dinner, or dipping into their respective memory vaults and sharing their memorable stories and like the time when a B-24 bomber fly exceedingly low over the Castle during World War II, piloted by a Phi Gamma Delta brother, who dipped the wing of the plane to say hello to our brothers and then proceeded toward campus, remaining low, and cracked and blew out many windows in Balentine Hall; or a tradition story about the president of the house escorting the housemother into the dining room with all the brothers formally dressed and standing and then singing the Doxology; stories about brothers inviting rock bands to come to the Castle after performing concerts on campus and then doing so, and a serious story about our brothers in the Castle being quarantined due to an outbreak of diphtheria in the early 1930’s, with one of our brothers, quite possibly, being the contact source of thirty three cases on campus. Many other stories would be shared, and theses stories are recalled over and over again because they make everyone smile. Some stories would be polished, some more ribald, some light-hearted in eloquence and effect, some with real meaning and depth, some RAM high drama stories, and some causing perpetual embarrassment, still. Most important, they are all important because they shake us loose and bring us together and make us smile and laugh again and again, forever. What a wonderful fraternal luxury. They open the fraternal heart as to what is good, wonderful, giving, and sustaining about fraternal friendship - brotherhood. That is philia at its best, truly. Every shared story would be appreciated by every brother in attendance, and each story would give every brother pause to understand the enduring beauty and generational grace of our Omega Mu brotherhood at the University of Maine. Our fraternal narrative is unforgettable, and without generational exception, that is an inimitable distinction that we remain proud of to this day, and where we are headed is another 147 years of proud Omega Mu history, alive and well, and thereby, enriching and enlarging our proud story that started with some brothers living together in a rented home in Orono. Our fraternal spirit continues to grow as the undergraduates come back to the Castle to commence our 147th year of fraternal history, aware of the distinctive and determined richness of our history and brotherhood.
It was within our various fraternal homes that long-standing friendships were shaped and formed that endure to this day. There is no doubt that through a wide-range of historic decades, we have endured because we have adhered to our primary principles and traditions from generation-to-generation to guide us successfully. In moments of fraternal distress, or even extreme crisis, which has occurred on occasion, there was no asking Siri or googling for answers. We worked together without too much rancor, fraternal upset, or polarization to reach accord, and there have been issues that have certainly stretched and stressed our fraternal chain though our history since 1874. That is not to say that every decision was the right decision, historically speaking. However, we continue to exhibit a resolute uniformity of vision, courage, and character as we enter our 147th year of fraternal existence to be perseverant and determined, uncompromisingly so. These qualities always matter. Our brotherhood endures, and the Castle, our historic treasure, endures because there has been no fear and uncertainty in our fraternal DNA. That has been our good fortune through most of our history, and that good fortune is driven by collective disciplined care, concern, and responsibility, and that perfect balance is what creates the possibility of enduring historic joy.
The reality of that enduring fraternal joy comes from the wealth of generations of brothers and their collective good will, wisdom, and fraternal action. These qualities make our fraternal history so compelling. For instance, brothers designed and built our first Q. T. V. Chapter Hall where Coburn Hall is now, and then they moved across the street and rebuilt the chapter hall in order for Coburn Hall to be built. A Q. T. V. brother, Frank E. Kidder, 1878, designed our first Phi Gamma Delta home, and Walter Flint, 1882, another Q. T. V. brother, was given the contract to build the house. A third Q. T. V. brother, Perley F. Walker, 1896, oversaw the construction of our first Phi Gamma Delta home. When the house was being destroyed by fire in 1924, brothers rushed repeatedly into that home in order to retrieve cherished fraternal objects and memorabilia that we still possess. In the aftermath, graduate brothers immediately stepped in and purchased the land and raised the necessary funds to build our Castle, and one brother, George H. Hamlin, 1873, helped oversee its construction on a regular basis.
Frank E. Kidder, 1878; Walter Flint, 1878; Perley F. Walker, 1896
George H. Hamlin, 1873
Interior of the first Phi Gamma Delta House, 1910
Interior of the first Phi Gamma Delta House, 1923-1924
The following brothers entered the house to retrieve as many fraternal items until they were ordered to stop by the fire department: William S. Murray, ’21; Joseph M. Murray, ’25; Edgar D. Coffin, ’26; Henry B. Eaton, II, ’26; John D. Glenn, ’26; Donald D. Mitchell, ’26; Clarence E. Hart, ’26; Donald W. Powell, ’25; pledge Russell H. Dyer, ’27.
During the early 1970’s and the late 1990’s-2003, graduate brothers, as well as select undergraduate brothers, worked in consort to correct substantive fraternal issues, attitudes and lived behaviors, that were debilitating and corrosive in order to re-establish fraternal discipline. Those two fraternal periods reflected a simple truth: bad principles lead to fraternal deterioration and long-term consequences. It is simple cause and effect that can either produce greatness or degradation in fraternities. Minus these two fraternal periods in our history where narrow, arrogant, and selfish concerns overrode the collective good of the house and the brotherhood, our brotherhood has always exhibited uncompromising character in adapting and responding to any change in our fraternal history. To an extraordinary degree that has been our determined and determining fraternal spirit throughout the majority of our history at the University of Maine.
We should consider ourselves lucky that the vast majority of our brothers, graduate and undergraduate, have and continue to have a positive, committed spirit to our historic Omega Mu brotherhood. That is fraternal integrity, and we are lucky because of their actions, both practical and heroic, in our past history. Our past history, not always perfectly mind you, has shaped our present, and the present will certainly shape our future, for good or ill. We remain strong because of the sum of all of our historical parts alone: our history, our uniting traditions, our energized and committed brotherhood, and our responsible leadership through many generations.
Our historic success has pivoted around these stabilizing traditions and responsible leadership. Casual leadership styles and irresponsible, self-interested behavior will always hurt the overall good of fraternal life, and fraternities, generally speaking, do not survive long stretches of unduly casual leadership styles or self-interested behaviors on the part of the brothers. Luckily, collective-fraternal well-being, or interdependence, has been our grounding principal concern for 147 years.
We have had countless Omega Mu leaders, through our history, who embodied and synthesized the essential ingredients of good leadership in being distinguished in their commitment, fully engaged, attentive to large and small matters, insightful, informed, and concise. With prophetic candor and stabilizing intelligence, they led well, and they addressed substantive issues rather than avoiding them. Rather than being concerned about being a pleaser to the brothers, our good Omega Mu leaders worked hard to achieve a unified fraternal effort for the overall good of the brotherhood and the sustained maintenance and beauty of The Castle. That’s what good leaders do, and we are lucky that we have had leaders like that in our storied history. Without question, good leadership, collective buy-in, and unified belief is absolutely essential for sustained success in the business world, schools, churches, athletic teams, and in every other human endeavor. It is an algorithm that requires the synthesis of heart-mind-and soul to consistently move in the direction of the collective good and sustained success for everyone. That ideal human integration, collectively embraced, has been our historic hallmark as we moved from fraternal home to fraternal home to fraternal home since 1872, and we now live in the most beautiful fraternal home at the University of Maine.
And yet, we enter a new and unchartered reality in our fraternal history. It is not going to be fraternally “normal” this year. It is going to be stressful and uncertain in so many ways, and whether that reality is collectively believed or not, does not change the reality that the Covid-19 Virus is real. It is not an uncertainty; it is a known fact around the world. That deadly fact is going to require collective and individual discipline of the highest order this year. The question, then, will our old fraternal chestnut about being resolutely persistent and determined be heroically and practically embodied by the undergraduates this year. They will. More generally, and without question, the present undergraduate brothers will exhibit a strong collective response of self-discipline, with no fear and uncertainty, in doing what is right and good for their individual health and their collective fraternal well-being and, in doing so, everyone wins. They understand the fixed and unchanging nature of cause and effect, and that understanding will guide them in how they live each day in following simple rules. Of course, their main reason is personal: the health of each brother. Likewise, a secondary concern is to make it through the year without having the chapter closed due to the unsettling prospect that undergraduate brothers might arrogantly choose to disregard simple rules. Google the problems that other fraternities are experiencing right now because of the childish, arrogant impulses of a few, or many, brothers: endgame, over-and-out!
However, it is in our fraternal DNA, in tone and due diligence with our fraternal past, that the present Omega Mu undergraduates will do what is right for the whole, without fail, in all matters. It is the hard grace of persistence and determination, day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month that will lead to a successful and healthy 147 fraternal year for them in living well and healthy within the strict confines of the Castle, fraternally cooperative and mutually exclusive. We have been fraternally uncommon and unflinching in not exhibiting fear or flight when faced with adversity, and the present undergraduates will exhibit that same collective trait, no doubt. We are in this together for our Omega Mu undergraduates brothers during this difficult time because we are a linked fraternal brotherhood, and together we have always been resilient and steady in addressing and resolving difficult tasks and transitions in our history, unified generationally across many, many decades.
While acknowledging that there are many more, here is a short list of recent graduate brothers who, with unceasing fraternal thoughtfulness and industry, were fraternally in-the-moment and hands-on in helping the undergraduates deal with a broad range of difficulties and concerns, as well as putting a great deal of sweat equity into the maintenance and upkeep of the Castle: Dave Smith, Paul McCarron, Mike McInnis, Doug Banks, Mike McInnis, Marshall Stern, Greg Scott, Rob McKay, Joel Gardiner, Mike Soloby, Jim McLean, Dave Rand, Jay Clement, Bill McLean, Chris Thacker, and Jonathan Smith. These graduate brothers were a guiding presence through difficult times when our Omega Mu brotherhood had lost its way. They provided explicit fraternal perspective, fraternal inspiration, and necessary fraternal instruction and guidance, and in doing so they wore “many hats” in dependably taking care of the entire brotherhood and our beloved Castle. They mentored the undergraduates and helped them remember, reclaim and reconnect to various traditions and rituals. They set many things straight because no project was too big or two small for them because they cared, and they continue to care. They were impassioned, thoughtful, hopeful and helpful in their good work for the house and our brotherhood, and in doing so they exhibited what is meant by fraternal brotherhood through life. Their individual actions attest to the framing, underpinning, and sustaining truth of our Q.T.V. creed:…”enjoyment, sociability, and the best interest of the brothers through life.” Those original fraternal instructions still stand for our brotherhood.
First group photo of our Omega Mu brothers, 1899
Old or new, undergraduate or graduate, we are always linked together, and we all care about our historic brotherhood. In this, the present Omega Mu undergraduates can be assured that the graduate brothers remain poised with a committed sense of purpose to help them, as much as they possibly can, during this unprecedented time, but it will be the unified clarity of the undergraduates disciplined commitment to simple expectations that will decide the success or failure of this fraternal year.
In conclusion, without any fraternal jargon, heartfelt curiosity may have started our fraternal history in 1873-1874, but it has been heartfelt discipline that has sustained us for all these year because our collective frame of mind and exhibited actions has always been guided by a desire to succeed regardless of circumstances. That is a fraternal certainty for which we are all thankful for as Omega Mu Fijis, the pre-eminent fraternal brotherhood at the University of Maine. In historic scope and influence, we have every right to be proud Fijis. And, in the end, that is what we wish to sustain for another 147 years. To this very day, our linked fraternal kinship, stable and enduring, goes on with resourceful, disciplined persistence. Few things in life are permanent, but those qualities have served Omega Mu well to sustain something of enduring value that started with a few hardworking yet humble Q. T. V. brothers sitting together, proudly, with a fraternal spirit of good will to begin creating something of enduring value.
Thankfully, influenced as we all are by our historic fraternal past, we continue to strive with fraternal good will for our Omega Mu brotherhood and our historic home, enthusiastically so. Our fraternal story is a great story, and our fraternal focus remains the same as those first Q. T. V. brothers. Their fraternal legacy of hard work and stabilizing traditions, providential fraternal gifts if you will, still matter. Our fraternal rituals, traditions and discipline, the necessary hard graces, must be passed down generation-to-generation. They are essential in order to create collective cooperation for the grace of the good to prevail within the university community and within our historic brotherhood. Whether it means anything or not, and it should mean something to all of us, that is our positive, affirming heritage. Quite simply, they are the sensible, sustaining root of the deepest root of our 147 years at the University of Maine, and they are the seeds for all future fraternal success. And even now, practically speaking, as we fraternally face multiple challenges, they are needed even more now for the grace and joy of genuine fraternal brotherhood to continue to exist.
“What if the space be long and wide,
That parts us from our brother’s side
A soul-joined chain unites our band,
And memory links us hand in hand.”
(Phi Gamma Delta fraternity song)
Chip Chapman, ’82