“Idealism must always prevail.”
Omega Mu has a determinative, historic pride of place at the University of Maine, and it started in 1874 when fortune smiled on seven young who, with a combination of daring thought and brimming idealism, decided to take the headstrong risk and found QTV, our fraternal predecessor. Through hard work, sweat, and, above all, commitment to principles and obligations, they succeeded with demonstrable efficacy.
Thankfully, because of the vitality of their collective character, there was no debate between courage and cowardice in founding Q.T.V., only unshakable, optimistic courage, and the critical virtue of courage has continued to prevail in our combined fraternal history. It simply is the Q.T.V. and Omega Mu way of doing things, and in scope and enduring richness it has sustained our combined fraternal history. As it was typical then, it is equally typical now, for young men at the University of Maine to experience the long-standing gift of brotherhood that continues to this day when young men to take the “leap of faith” and become Omega Mu Fijis, showing that the closeness of the heart’s reasons and mind’s reasons, to use Pascal’s balanced dichotomy, are equally strong now as they were in 1874. That, really, is what is most important.
Our QTV brothers, with imaginative power, took their visionary fraternal ideal and created the staying power of traditions, rituals, and customs that became the sustaining keys of their success until 1899 when they became Omega Mu Fijis. Several pictures of our QTV brothers document the enduring pleasures of our brotherhood by showing the simple fraternal expressiveness of their customs and traditions in creating what it means to be a Q.T.V. brother. One of the practices of our QTV brothers was participating in Ivy Day, a festive and celebratory day that was common at the University of Maine from the 1880’s-1900’s. An early writer for the University of Maine campus newspaper, The Cadet, wrote: “whoever conceived of the idea of college classes planting an ivy upon the campus of their Alma Mater, deserves the thanks and the honor of all those who continue to observe the pleasant custom…the ever ascending vine represents in a degree, the growing success of those who placed it there.”
As you notice in the photo, many of our QTV brothers are holding canes or sticks, and they would use them to pock holes in the ground in order to plant a sprig of ivy around the campus. Before the actual planting of ivy around various buildings, there would be a prayer, musical performances, a reading of a poem, and even a speech. “Fernald Hall has traces of Ivy Day plaques between the windows on the first story. Ivy Day plaques commemorate Ivy Day, a late 19th century University of Maine tradition. Graduating seniors planted ivy and placed ivy-shaped stone plaques engraved with their year of graduation on buildings.” Also, “Coburn Hall has one extant and evidence of one missing marble Ivy Day plaque. Graduating seniors planted ivy and placed ivy-shaped stone plaques engraved with their year of graduation on buildings.” The following IVY DAY ODE was written by Mildred C. Mansfield in 1906:
While the breezes are whisp’ring that Summer is near,
And all Nature rejoices in Spring,
We are planting our Ivy with tenderest care,
May its increase the future years bring.
May it flourish and live; may it broaden and grow,
Even higher its branches still climb;
‘Till covered be all of our dear-college walls
Far down the long ages of time.
~as printed in The Maine Campus, May 29, 1906, page 329
Ivy Day celebrated an ending, but it also meant a new beginning and a new hope for the graduating QTV seniors as they embarked upon their wide and varied careers, industrious and able in their chosen fields. Although Ivy Day is no longer observed, which I think is a pity, a second customary tradition of our QTV brothers is similar to, in spirited significance and substance, to our Pig Dinner. It was compelling and humorously structured, and it was beautifully narrated like Pig Dinner. It had all the trimmings of speeches, readings, songs, a meal, and the quotes about each Q.T.V. class were lyrically puckish. Notice the “Absent Brethren” portion of the program of events, it is identical to our “Exiles Toast.”
The entire Q.T.V. celebration, like our Pig Dinner, proudly asserted it is good to be in the Q.T.V. Chapter House; it is good to be a Q.T.V fraternity brother. That is evidently clear; not confusing, and easy for us to understand because we understand the value of our customs and traditions.
Rites, traditions, and customs are good and instructive in helping establish a fraternal environment of self-discipline and communal-discipline. In short, considerate, simple traditions help create character. A round of clicks. Our Q.T.V. brothers knew that traditions were needful, necessary, and deserving of collective attention and respect, and like them we continue to believe in the importance and value of our traditions and customs. So we remember our fraternal past with pride as we prepare for our fraternal future in hope.
With the same headstrong and rugged idealism of our founding QTV brothers, we entered the portal of Omega Mu to become brothers in this most historic of fraternities at the University of Maine, and that this brotherhood coheres in our love for our past, our present, and our future. That is an inextricably deep fraternal pathos, warm and rhythmical in heart and mind, that will help us endure for another 120 years, true to our traditions that started with heart and hard-headed idealism of seven young men who founded a society for “the best interest of its members throughout life” without drama and theater. Those seven original brothers wrestled with an ideal idea about the human spirit, and they won, and so have we. Idealism, girded by firm rational commitment, and our collective love for our Omega Mu brotherhood will prevail and endure as it continues to be the inimitable example of fraternity life at the University of Maine, deservedly so. As the writer of Philippians pithily stated: “Think on these things.” That is a heritage to be proud of, smile at, rejoice over, and stand up and link our arms and sing about. We need to assure that our unique brotherly community and the visual charm of our fraternal home, the Castle, remains the supreme, uncompromising good that it is on our bend of the Stillwater River. The sobering fraternal truth is we are historically unique, tradition-grounded, and generationally united for 120 years now, and we intend to remain enduringly strong like the ivy growing on many University of Maine buildings, many of which are named in honor of, or were designed by, our brothers’. What a permanent symmetry of architectural presence, fraternal ideas, and durable history we have to celebrate as we approach 2019.
Chip Chapman, 1982