The History of The McGill Chapter of Delta Upsilon
The history of the McGill chapter largely follows that of the general fraternity. Much as the Social Fraternity of Williams College was formed as a response to the existence of secret fraternities, so was the Omicron Nu society of McGill. Fraternities had come to McGill in 1883, with the arrival of Zeta Psi. The year preceding our installation, 1897, saw the coming of Alpha Delta Phi, and in that same year, Omicron Nu was formed for the purpose of petitioning Delta Upsilon for a chapter. The new chapter was designed to be an institution for "the betterment of self and the broadening of the social life of the university".
After a little more than one year, a charter was conferred upon Omicron Nu, creating the McGill chapter of Delta Upsilon, DU's 39th and its first in Canada. The installation of the McGill chapter was by all accounts a joyous occasion, with the Delta Upsilon Executive Council president Brother George F. Andrews presiding over the initiation of 17 new members.
The installation itself was held at the Fraternity's premises at 26 McTavish. The celebrations of the chartering included a sleigh ride on Mount Royal, a "High Tea" being held at a Professor's house and a sumptuous banquet at the Windsor Hotel.
The early years of the fraternity were ones of great success. The fraternity maintained a strong record of scholastic achievement, as highlighted by the Rhodes Scholarship won by brother Talbot M. Papineau (1904). The fraternity also boasted athletic success from the beginning, with many members on the Redmen football team that won the championship in 1912.
The First World War
This record continued until the First World War, at which time the fraternity ceased to function as such while its members were away in the trenches in France. Following the War, however, the fraternity continued on in the successful fashion as it had before. One of the more famous alumni of this period was E.P. Taylor, whose image was the epitome of the corporate tycoon in Canada.
The Second World War
The Second world War was a difficult time again for the fraternity, and although it maintained its operations during the war, it was at a much quieter level, with almost no new members initiated. The two world wars were a time of adversity for the fraternity, with a large number of our brothers dying in the service of their country. However, these trying times also provided a strong legacy to the Fraternity, in the form of the memorial window and the memorial scholarship (the only fraternity- sponsored scholarship at McGill.
The 1950s & 1960s
The end of the war created a great boom for the fraternity, and as the university's enrolment numbers soared, so did the membership rolls. The 1950's were a particularly successful time for the chapter, with numbers at an all time high, and with a stellar performance in both academics and athletics. In this period, as before, many DU's played on the Redmen football team, and DU made a habit of winning the annual winter carnival's ice sculpture competition.
Just as there was a tide in the 1950's, an ebb began in the late 1960's. The prevailing mood of individualism and self-expression of the time was seen to be in contradiction to the traditionalism that fraternities supposedly stood for.
As with many fraternities at McGill, DU suffered greatly in these years, finally ceasing operations in 1972. At this time, the Fraternity's house on McTavish street was sold to McGill, who installed the department of East Asian studies on those premises. The Memorial Window which had stood in the house was presented to McGill and was installed in the addition to the Redpath Library, overlooking the old house.
At the same time as the undergraduate chapter was folding, the alumni corporation continued a healthy life. It was from this health that in 1978, when the mood on campus had swung back in the direction of fraternities that DU made its efforts to return to McGill. Six alumni made a presentation to the university in the summer of 1978, noting that Phi Delta Theta had recently made a successful return to campus. In that fall, a group of 5 students (including the first colony president, Terry McIntyre) was recruited and successfully petitioned the general fraternity for colony status. At the same time, these alumni secured a chapter house at 522 Pine Avenue. The number of chapter members increased quickly, reaching 38 in 1983, which led to a rechartering of the chapter in March of 1984.
Since rechartering, DU has experienced some success, often being the most visible and active fraternity on campus. Through this period, DU was one of the larger fraternities on campus, averaging 25-35 members. Despite these numbers, in the summer of 1998, the fraternity left its chapter house at 522 Pine Ave, largely for financial reasons.
Closing of the Undergraduate Chapter
The fraternity continued through the 1998-99 academic year but suffered an unusually large graduating class, leaving it to a fresh beginning in 2000. In January 2000, the active chapter, with the help of the alumni association, made a strong effort to return the status of the chapter to its former glory.
While this attempt was successful, the newcomers lacked guidance and numbers to fully re-establish the active chapter as a functional and purposeful working unit. On October 14th, 2000 the Delta Upsilon McGill Alumni Association met and officially voted in favour of the active chapter becoming "inactive."
Unfortunately, this local undergraduate chapter never recovered from the sudden drop in membership and remains closed to this day.
The Fraternity Alumni Association Lives On!
The Delta Upsilon McGill Alumni Association remains a fully active body, separate from its undergraduate counterpart. It continues to run with its annual meetings including a banquet and other events.
Written by Brother David McRobie in 1978.
Edited by Brother Steve Pare in 2000.
Edited again in 2008.