They’re timeless, symbolic, enduring and capable of stirring brothers’ emotions without fail. They’re the iconic catchphrases of Beta Theta Pi!

The Fraternity has amassed countless stories and sentiments in its 182-year history. This lore, passed down through the generations, unites members in the belief that this institution has unique and extraordinary abilities, a strong moral conviction, great courage and a mission to serve.

These heroic qualities are captured in the tales of John Hanna Gray, John Holt Duncan and the Toronto Chapter Fund. They’re declared with each rendition of “Marching Along.” They’re taught through fables found in the Ritual. Most commonly, though, they’re reinforced in the everyday words and phrases brothers use with one another – many of which have become backbone entries of the Beta dictionary.

Every hero has a backstory. So, too, do these most famous phrases that keep watch over the brotherhood and sustain in the hearts of its members the virtuousness, integrity and decency synonymous with this fraternal order. For the first time in history, The Beta Theta Pi traces the roots of these classic sayings through generations of written archives, unmasking their identities once and for all.










“While ring thy praises, sweet is our communion; All meet as one in Beta’s broad dominion, Beta our song has been, Beta ever shall we love, We of Mu Epsilon.”  — Mu Epsilon Song


The song of the Mu Epsilon Chapter at Wesleyan University, written by Ralph W. Keeler 1904, wasn’t first published in The Beta Theta Pi magazine until 1904. The song’s popularity, however, quickly spread across the chapters, with one line in particular being music to the ears of Beta Great Francis W. Shepardson, Denison 1882/Brown 1883: “In Beta’s broad dominion.”

Shepardson first exchanges dominion for domain in print in 1914 as he describes his road trip to visit chapters in the American West as General Fraternity President, though the former remains predominant in the Beta lexicon through the middle of the 20th century.

Soon thereafter, he institutes a recurring section in The Beta Theta Pi during his time as editor entitled “In Beta’s Broad Dominion” – akin to today’s “Alumni News” – that becomes a magazine staple continued on across three decades and four editors.

So why do members today universally use domain to describe the expansive presence of Beta Theta Pi across North America?

While both words originate from the same Latin root of dominus, the meaning of dominion is more closely tied to a third similar word, to dominate, while domain developed separately to denote the land or property of a lord or master. As such, domain concerns territory, while dominion concerns control.

The root differences between the words creates stark differences in how Beta perceives itself. Namely, that chapters are empowered to self-govern and all are sprawling outposts of a singular entity with equal standing.

The final magazine issue to feature the “In Beta’s Broad Dominion” moniker was in 1955 before Robert T. Howard, DePauw ’37, came to possess the editor’s pen. With help from another Beta Great, Dr. Seth R. Brooks, St. Lawrence 1922, whose prose famously reflected on Beta’s Broad Domain, common usage rapidly shifted and gave birth to the now quintessential expression that has connected Betas and their chapters from coast to coast for some 65 years.


“Again, the Beta is distinguishable and distinguished from all other kinds of fraternity men whatsoever, by just a little warmer and stronger, just a little tenderer and more enduring fraternity feeling than any of them can attain to. For it was always so. I do not in the least know how it happened nor why it persisted after it happened, but a long time ago there came into Beta Theta Pi a fraternity spirit that was, and is, and apparently will continue to be unique ... The first mark of a Beta will be his Beta Spirit.” — Willis O. Robb, Ohio Wesleyan 1879 


General Fraternity President Willis O. Robb, Ohio Wesleyan 1879, first added “Beta Spirit” to the historical record during his March 24, 1905, address, “The Beta of the Future,” 15 years after his original ‘fraternity spirit’ remarks during the General Convention of 1890.

Spoken at a banquet to honor recently elected New Jersey Governor Edward Stokes, Brown 1883, the words reverberated throughout the Hotel Astor in New York and pervaded the hearts and minds of those 300 brothers in attendance, and in doing so quickly entrenched themselves into the Beta vernacular.

Originally intended to celebrate the Fraternity’s volunteerism and singing, “Beta Spirit” has since come to trumpet the undying loyalty, compassion and enthusiasm members feel towards the brotherhood.


“‘Once a Beta, Always a Beta, Everywhere a Beta’ should be made the slogan of each man on the roll of the Fraternity.” — Francis W. Shepardson, Denison 1882/Brown 1883


Two-thirds of this significant phrase – “Once a Beta, Always a Beta” – came early into the writings of Beta Theta Pi, first appearing in a chapter letter from Ohio Wesleyan in an 1883 edition of The Beta Theta Pi (though it’s likely the saying dates back even further). It evolves a bit more in 1891, when Editor Charles M. Hepburn, Virginia 1880, uses a variation of the expression in its entirety: “A Beta is a Beta everywhere; and that to be once a Beta is to be always a Beta.” And it was Francis W. Shepardson, Denison 1882/Brown 1883, who advanced the saying into its full modern form in a letter featured in a 1908 edition of the magazine.

By the early 20th century, it had become legendary for at once succinctly stating the love a brother has for the Fraternity while also challenging alumni to remain invested after graduation.

That little nudge towards continued involvement wasn’t even subtle. “Once a Beta, Always a Beta, Everywhere a Beta” was front and center on every Fraternal Fifties card at the time, which was distributed to Silver Grays upon the 50th anniversary of their initiation.

The precursor to other favorites such as “brothers are brothers for life,” or “proud to be a Beta,” it was once described by Shepardson as “our watchword,” and Beta leaders have continued to etch this proclamation into the Fraternity’s history for more than 100 years. 

More than a slogan, it confirms one’s commitment to lifelong brotherhood and answering the call of duty to help, as a volunteer or otherwise – once, always and everywhere.


“A Great and Good Fraternity must have standards and ideals. It cannot fail in holding our great expectations. In turn it must expect exceptionally high response from its members.” — Dr. Seth R. Brooks, St. Lawrence 1922


In an 1862 letter from Abraham Lincoln to Queen Victoria, the president’s salutation refers to Her Majesty as his “Great and Good Friend.” By the time the “Handbook of Official and Social Etiquette and Public Ceremonials at Washington” is published in 1889, the greeting is standard anytime the American head of state addresses a peer in writing.

Several accounts point to Francis W. Shepardson, Denison 1882/Brown 1883, being the pioneer to use this phrase, traditionally reserved for only the most esteemed of entities, to describe Beta Theta Pi. It is also perhaps at the root of the “Beta Great” moniker, coined by A. J. G. Priest, Idaho 1918, in his book “The Great Ones” to describe those who have made legendary contributions to the Fraternity. Likely inspired by these trailblazers before him, it’s W. F. Loveless, Denison 1925, though, who gets credit for first writing the saying in its entirety in a 1948 issue of the Beta magazine.

And it’s Dr. Seth R. Brooks, St. Lawrence 1922, who truly popularized Great and Good Fraternity, initially using it during a 1951 General Convention address, then repeating it frequently in his “Inter Fratres” magazine columns and other speeches. Therein, he uses Great to celebrate the Fraternity’s lofty standards and high achievements, while Good bolsters its moral character.

Though the phrase is taken for granted today, Brooks saw, and spent decades helping others see, that Beta Theta Pi is a larger-than-life organization with lofty ideals and virtuous members – a Great and Good Fraternity.


“For the better accomplishment of the objects and designs of the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity, established by John Reily Knox, S. T. Marshall, David Linton, James G. Smith, Charles H. Hardin, John H. Duncan, M. C. Ryan, and Thomas B. Gordon, of ever honored memory …” — Fourth Constitution of Beta Theta Pi


The power packed into the four simple words “of ever honored memory” cannot be overstated. When presented, a brother is at once praising those eight earnest young men who first gathered in the upper room of Old Main, reciting from what some consider the greatest document in the association’s history and recalling the moment Beta Theta Pi was born.

They are introduced to a new member when he learns the Founders’ Paragraph, a brief retelling of the Fraternity’s conception as written by Dr. G. Herbert Smith, DePauw 1927, on occasion of Beta’s centennial in the first edition of “Son of the Stars.” Most aren’t aware, however, that the phrase predates the 1939 publication by 60 years.

Principally conceptualized and proposed by “the first great power” of Beta Theta Pi, Wyllys C. Ransom, Michigan 1848, “of ever honored memory” first appeared in the fourth constitution of this society, more commonly known as the Open Constitution.

Adopted by the General Convention in 1879, this document not only established the current form of governance but concluded the 40 years Beta spent operating sub rosa and ushered in its public persona via the introduction of the Objects of Beta Theta Pi, which remain in the constitution still today.


“Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.” — Miss Will Allen Dromgoole


It’s said that Francis W. Shepardson, Denison 1882/Brown 1883, frequently closed speeches to bands of Betas by quoting verses from “The Bridge Builder,” the earliest noted instance being in 1921 at the 82nd General Convention in Estes Park, Colorado. Thereafter, the poem’s themes of perseverance, confidence and service began spreading throughout Beta Theta Pi (and other fraternal peers) as the de facto illustration of the heroism members are expected to exhibit to one another and those in need. 

It became so important to Beta’s character that it was added to the original Pledge Ceremony in 1939. Thus, nearly every brother alive today learned about building bridges in his earliest interaction with the Fraternity.

But which famed Beta writer or orator brought this concept to Shepardson’s attention?

Actually, none.

The poem originated around 1900 from Miss Will Allen Dromgoole, whose works depicted the lives of people in the Cumberlands of Tennessee. Specifically, it’s a poem dedicated to her father, whom she recalled in a story as a 90-year-old man who cleared a path for her through untidy woods at their summer cabin. “My heart hurt me,” she said. “He had taken all that trouble to make a path he would probably never walk again.”

Though not a brother’s original work, the sentiments within “The Bridge Builder” are foundational to the Beta experience and once again remind members of the significant female influence on Beta Theta Pi’s culture. The story is never-ending, with each new member inheriting the knowledge, expectations and duties of the generations before him.


“How would you like to be a Beta Sweetheart? How would you like to wear a Beta pin?” — “Beta Sweetheart”


This one is tricky as using sweetheart as a term of endearment dates back centuries. King Henry VIII even used it in love letters when expressing affection towards his ill-fated wife, Anne Boleyn. That’s to say, the combination of Beta and sweetheart likely – even if only by happenstance – entered the Fraternity’s vocabulary in its earliest days.

Yet any Beta hailing from a singing chapter today is likely intimately familiar with the truest crux of the phrase, which is the 1914 classic song “Beta Sweetheart” by Frederick Warner, Beloit 1912. It wasn’t the first of the Fraternity’s “sweetheart songs” (that honor is reserved for 1872’s “Serenade Song”), but its quick tempo, simple lyrics and relative brevity made it an instant favorite among brothers and spawned several additional tunes that hinged on the famous saying.

The song became so popular, in fact, that in a 1920 survey it edged out both “There’s a Scene” and “Beta Doxology” as most frequently sung by chapters, and quickly drew additional verses from chapters far and wide, including a special response from a “Beta Girl” in Kansas:

“How’d I like to be a Beta Sweetheart?
To wear the colors dear, just pink and blue?
How’d I like to have a Beta pin, dear?
I’d like it, if the pin belonged to you.”

Many Beta cliches pay homage to the Fraternity’s founders, affirm its principles, values and brotherhood, or celebrate its nearly two centuries of achievements. Beta Sweetheart, though, is different. It boasts not Beta Theta Pi itself, but the timeless adoration and love its members have for the friends, family and romantic partners whose faithfulness and devotion deserve such tribute.


“The man of principle and integrity who has developed character and self-discipline is the man humanity must always turn to for its salvation.” — Dr. Seth R. Brooks, St. Lawrence 1922


By far the newest mainstay of the Beta lexicon is men of principle, and though this nearly 25-year-old phrase has arguably already usurped the throne of most used adage, it is now entirely plausible that today’s youngest brothers are unfamiliar with its roots.

The year was 1998, and Beta Theta Pi was preparing to embark upon one of the most pivotal moments and periods in its history. Inspired by a “letter to the editor” submitted by E.B. Wilson, St. Lawrence ’53, wherein he challenged the Fraternity’s leadership to work aggressively towards implementing policies and programs grounded in Beta’s true mission and vision, a transformational, culture-reversing initiative was largely in place. But what would it be called?

The goals of the initiative emphasized academic performance, responsible conduct, leadership and service, engaged global citizenship, and – importantly in this context – contemporary language. For the steering committee, the development of men of principle succinctly captured the program’s objectives.

Upon a request by the Fraternity’s first Men of Principle staff director, Martin Cobb, Eastern Kentucky ’96, for historical language to lend credible underpinning to the initiative’s new title, it was Assistant Archivist Bill Berry, Vanderbilt ’68, (originator of the also-famed “earn your badge every day”) who connected this expression to a 1965 Convention address at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island by Dr. Seth R. Brooks, St. Lawrence 1922. In doing so, it reminded the brotherhood that while men of principle would signal the dawn of a new era within Beta Theta Pi, it was grounded in the values and ideals Betas have shared across generations.



Behind the mask of any hero is one who desires to do good in the world around them. Likewise, beneath the surface of these catchphrases is a team of like-minded men and their greatest sidekicks who, together, have inspired and protected the passion and unwavering commitment more than 215,000 members have had to the values of Beta Theta Pi since 1839.





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