On Sunday, November 7, DePauw’s Beta Theta Pi fraternity held a public initiation ceremony on their front lawn for their late honorary member, Oscar Chapman. Following the event, the house held a catered lunch from the Inn at DePauw for invited guests. Attendees consisted of Oscar’s family including his daughter Dorothy Brown and his granddaughter Sharlene Shrewsbury, President Lori White, and Beta alumni who knew him.
Chapman and his family hold deep historical roots in the Delta chapter and the DePauw community. Moving to Greencastle as an African American in the 1920s in a time of widespread racism, Chapman persevered in helping build Mason Hall and working as Beta’s house dad for several years. The impact Chapman’s family members left on the community, including former DePauw faculty member and first African American teacher of Putnam county, Dorothy Brown, must be acknowledged and appreciated.
According to Beta President Ben Lupton, this initiation ceremony was one of importance and authentic essence to the fraternity, as it was not conducted in the chapter’s traditional, secretive manor. The ceremony took place in the front yard of the house and included brief speeches from President White and Beta alum Phil Eskew, followed by a reading of a modified version of the fraternity’s spoken initiation ritual. It was said by the chapter president during the speech that a house initiation ceremony had never been done with non-members present before.
The Beta president said that the brothers present in Chapman’s time vowed to make him an official member of the fraternity during his time as house dad. It was assumed that he was already an official Beta, until this past year when it was discovered that Oscar was not written in the official books.
This event highlighted that the strong Greek culture at this school not only acts in accordance with older traditions in each respective house, but also encourages adaptability and growth in adherence to new times and social norms. “This was long overdue… a writing over the wrongs of the past,” sophomore Taylor Richardson, a current member of the fraternity, said.