PKA History

Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity actually made its first appearance on the Miami University campus during World War II. A quirk of fate caused the V-12 unit stationed at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, to be transferred to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Several Pikes from Gamma Omega Chapter (U. of Miami, FL) were among this unit. The first week they were on the campus, Professor Fred B. Joyner, a member of the History Department of the University, also a Pi Kappa Alpha of Delta Chapter, Birmingham-Southern College, Birmingham, Alabama, accidentally made their acquaintance. The idea of establishing a chapter on the campus was discussed at that time.

In the spring of 1946, Willard G. Conner and Bainbridge Parker from Alpha Lambda Chapter, Georgetown College, Georgetown, Kentucky, enrolled in Miami University. These brothers succeeded in getting Freeman H. Hart, the Executive Secretary of the Fraternity, to come to the campus to discuss the possibility of a chapter. They found that University President, Earnest H. Hahne encouraged the addition of another fraternity to the campus. Philip R. Heil, president of the district of Pi Kappa Alpha of which Miami is a part, gave all the help possible.

In August, Robert D. Lynn, at that time Pi Kappa Alpha Assistant Executive Secretary, came to the campus. After making a thorough investigation of the University and conferring with University officials about the fraternity situation here, he gave the go-ahead signal. Professor Joyner was appointed Faculty Advisor. Before the end of the Summer Term, the nucleus of a club had been organized.

That fall, the three members from the University of Miami returned to the campus as civilians. They were: Charles Meserve, Edward Kirkeby, and Donald H. Dansby. This made five active Pi Kappa Alphas enrolled. This group immediately began a campaign to get as many good men as possible to join them in laying a firm foundation for a future chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha. By 1947, the club had 23 members.

Several members of the club had distinguished themselves in World War II: two received Presidential citations, and two others were awarded Bronze Stars. Club members also made notable records on the campus: two men were elected to Phi Eta Sigma, freshmen scholarship honorary, another was sports editor of The Miami Student, another was a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa, national upperclassmen service honorary, and one was a member of Pi Sigma, physics honorary. Several of the men were active in the University dramatics and the YMCA cabinet. The Club also developed a strong basketball team and was a leading contender for the intramural league crown. As always, diversity was stressed.

Finally, on February 15, 1947 after a year of hard work, their efforts were finally rewarded as the Pi Kappa Alpha Club officially became Delta Gamma Chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity. Their stunning climb to prominence had now officially begun.

In December, 1949, Delta Gamma acquired its first chapter house. The house was located at 230 E. Church Street and for many years was home to hundreds of brothers and innumerable unforgettable parties. Ever mindful of the potential for growth and the need for a larger house, Hal Jasper spearheaded the search for a new chapter house. Finally, after much effort and many weeks of bargaining with the property owners, he obtained the two lots at 410 E. Church Street upon which the current chapter house could be built.

Hal relates the trials and tribulations of the quest for the new house: "After numerous visits with the owners of houses on Talawanda Street north of Church Street (one with a woman who had her husband's ashes in an urn on the mantel in the living room) I came around the corner and found that the Phi Delts owned the first 200 or so of square foot frontage. The Abbotts (Abbott Bottled Gas Co owner) owned a house with 40-foot frontage on East Church Street. The Andersons owned the next 70 feet of frontage and the Frundts (who owned Frundt's ice cream uptown) were the owners of the house on the corner of Church Street and Bishop with a 55-foot frontage on Church (a gold mine for student rentals.) Each of these properties went back to the alley. Tom Frundt and I talked frequently about his property but since I felt I had about $40,000 or so to spend he never gave me a firm statement as we talked…$40k, $50k, $60k …”Keep talking,” he said and I had to back off. I checked with the city and the 70 foot and 40 foot lots would give us enough square footage to qualify for a fraternity house.

I talked to Anderson who had a so-so house but 70 feet that he said he would sell for $20,000. The Abbott property frontage was 40 feet but with a solid well kept house with an initial asking price of $25,000. The two owners then got together and said they would only sell if both houses were purchased (my guess is that the Abbotts did not want to get stuck between two fraternities. So we talked and we talked some more and I finally got Abbott to drop 10% to $22,500 and Anderson to drop 5% to $19,000 or a total of $41,500. Our balance sheets from 1966 to the present show land at $42,500 because I had to borrow $1,000 from Dave Straud's mother to have the old cement foundations removed so that we could build our new house. "

After considering various design options for the building, such as Dave Straud's frame plan and a rendering of a townhouse version, we finally settled on the present brick design. Our architects, both faculty members, Willis Wertz and Keppel Small had things ready in the Spring and we were ready to build. I had two choices for contractors: Bill Agee (former owner of Agee Hardware with his son) who in April said the would have us in the house by September or the Wespiser family and Miami Valley Lumber, who would house us together for a year in some the their rentals and take 18 months to build our house. Weighing all the pros and cons, I sensed that nobody wanted to wait, Agee had a superior reputation and a large crew and the architects highly favored Agee, whose bid came in at $163,000.

I obtained a commitment for a second mortgage from Pi Kappa Alpha National Headquarters for $25,000, leaving $138,000 still to be obtained. I then talked to Mr. Vaden Fitton at First National Bank of Southwestern Ohio and secured a loan for $138,000. Problems soon arose as our general contractor's crew was UNION and all of our low cost subs were non-union. Add in the usual troubles, more expense and more delays. I then got on the phone and asked National again for help and they responded with an additional $10,000 but no more. The first and second mortgages totaled only $173,000. I again huddled with Vaden and convinced him to add $12,000 of new debt for a total of $185,000. Dodd Hall was now completely broke but able to start construction on the new house."

On March 1, 1966, ground was broken and construction of our present house was begun. The original house was subsequently sold to Sigma Phi Epsilon and has since been razed and their new house built.

All went well until April 2002, when a fire of undetermined origin tested the rugged construction of brick, cinder-block and concrete slab flooring. Thankfully, no one was injured, although the house was closed until the return of the students for Autumn semester, 2003. Each newly renovated room included built-in desks, dressers and closets, wall air conditioners, ceiling fans and high-speed internet connection. Further renovations were made to the chapter room, the former dining room and kitchen. Meal services are no longer offered at the house, so the kitchen was turned into a compact kitchenette, the kitchen equipment was sold and the old space turned into a study room with built-in desks and more high-speed internet connections. A generous donation from Trustee Walter Frank augmented the reconstruction. Insurance and a new mortgage covered the total renovation cost of $464,200. The House has 17 doubles, two singles, and 1 triple, with a total potential occupancy of 39 in 20 rooms.

In 2004, Dodd Hall retained the services of The Pennington Company, a firm specializing in fund-raising for fraternities and sororities, to perform a feasibility study on a fund raising for constructing a new addition. The goal is to stay competitive in the local housing market and offer more modern facilities, such as suites: 2 single rooms joined by a bathroom.