In 1925, our founder Frank Reed Horton felt there was a need for an organization that held a "standard of manhood" before young men that would withstand the test of time. Horton talked to the members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and to men with a Scouting background, and the groundwork was formed to create this service fraternity.
On December 16th, 1925, the Fraternity was founded on the campus of Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. 14 undergraduates signed as charter members.
Alpha Phi Omega was an all-male Fraternity until 1976, when the delgeates of the National Convention voted to admit women as full active Brothers. In 2005, the decision was made to make all chapters co-ed, including those that previously had not admitted women.
Distinguished alumni of Alpha Phi Omega include astronaut Jim Lovell (Beta Theta '47), Former President Bill Clinton (Mu Alpha '67), and Heisman Trophy winner Mike Garrett (Alpha Kappa '66).
The Beta Theta Chapter of Alpha Phi Omega was originally chartered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on May 15th, 1938. The chapter was declared inactive in 1977. Brother James Lovell, a famous astronaut, pledged Alpha Phi Omega here at UW-Madison in 1947. In a 1968 quote, Captain Lovell summed up his experiences with Alpha Phi Omega.
I never had a finer experience than I had in Alpha Phi Omega. APO endeavors to develop leadership, promote friendship, and promote service...
Captain James A. Lovell Jr., Astronaut, 1968
It is the spirit of this quote, felt by many Brothers, which inspired the re-chartering effort here at the University of Wisconsin- Madison.
In the Spring of 2003 two students at UW-Madison and Brothers of Alpha Phi Omega (Jen Headman [Omicron Iota] and Dan Saban [Alpha Alpha/Alpha Gamma]) independently planned to re-charter. Once introduced, they solicited help from a few other Brothers also on campus (including Eric Benedict and Jess Mahoud), and recruited two new undergraduates (Katie O'Horo and Erin Eatough).
The initial goal for the semester was to simply lay the groundwork for new member recruitment for Fall 2003. The group decided to take part in National Spring Service Day with a project at McCarthy Youth and Conservation Park in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. This project was also attended by members of the newly forming University of Wisconsin-Platteville Interest Group. This allowed a bond to be formed early between the two groups which was beneficial in both re-chartering efforts, and has continued to grow now that we are both chapters. The interest group paperwork was submitted and approved on May 15th, 2003 which corresponded to the 65th anniversary of the original chartering of the Beta Theta chapter.
During those first semesters, the group was very active in recruiting new members. The group got off to a good start with a total of eighteen people being added to our membership roster, including three brothers. During this second semester, a strong effort was made to develop a committee structure in the group. Our first formal elections were held in November of 2003. The group participated in National Service Week by helping the Alzheimer’s Association of Southern Wisconsin advertise for one of their large events. An end of the semester winter formal was held featuring a live band and was enjoyed by our members and guests, including members of the Platteville Interest Group. A number of other service projects and events were also held.
Our membership continued to grow and we were granted petitioning group status by the National office at the end of 2003. Our first petitioning ceremony was performed on January 24th, 2004 by our Big Brother chapter Eta Lambda at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. On that same day we also held our first formal leadership development event by hosting the APO-LEADS Launch and Achieve programs.
We fulfilled all of the requirements to be re-instated as a chapter of Alpha Phi Omega, and we submitted our Charter Application in October 2004, which was approved (with high appraisal) in November. Our Re-chartering Ceremony and Banquet were held on December 11th, 2004.
As the Beta Theta Chapter, we have persistently continued to grow and gain members. Our service program is top-notch and our Brothers are always ready and willing to lend a hand. We had our first official pledge class in Spring 2005, dubbed the Jim Lovell Alpha Pledge Class, where we were able to add eight new Brothers to our chapter. More recently, the Epsilon Schwenger Pledge Class of Spring 2007 is our largest class yet, with 16 pledges.
As we continue to make history, we continue to grow in membership, in the number of service and fellowship projects we do, and as friends and as Brothers.