The Early Years
April 30, 1951 initiations took place for the thirty-nine charter members
of the Zeta Beta Chapter of Alpha Tau Omega. The Initiating Teams
consisted of members of the University of California at Los Angeles -
Delta Chi Chapter and the Los Angeles Alumni Team from Occidental College
- Delta Phi Chapter.
On May 1, 1951 the Installation of the Chapter took
place at Town and Gown on the USC campus. National officers in attendance
included John W. Vann (Emory), Worthy Grand Chief and Stewart D. Daniels
(Illinois) Executive Secretary.
Installing Officers were Warren L. Danford (California ‘37), Chief of
Province XII, and Thomas H. Hazzard (Oregon ‘42), Chief of Province XXI.
After the installation a reception was held at the Chapter house, which
was then located at 2831 Ellendale Place. It was followed by an
Installation Banquet at the Elks Club. The toastmaster for the event was
Dr. Carl Q. Christol (South Dakota ‘31). Dr. Christol, a Professor of
Law at the University, was the chapter’s first faculty advisor. The
president of the Charter Class was Norm VanderHyde.
It should be duly noted that Marv Lester’s simple wish to form an ATO
chapter at USC back in 1947 had become a monumental struggle with many
twists and turns along the way. Marv recalls his mixed emotions on
Installation Day. Immediately after the formal proceedings at the chapter
house he headed upstairs to be alone for a bit. While there he suddenly
burst into tears. The reason was obvious. While it should have been a day
of great rejoicing (and it
was), the tears were for Bob Kennedy and George Burke, who were not
invited. Naturally, Marv was also a bit depressed that none of the other
Phoenix Club guys were there that day either.
In the fall of 1951 the Alpha Tau Club
moved from the rented residence on Ellendale Place to a house at 2715
The young men involved in the very early years of the Zeta Beta chapter
set a very high standard as far as their USC campus leadership was
involved. Several were members Tau Nu Epsilon (“TNE”), the secret
political fraternity founded by, among others, Pat Hillings, a Phoenix
Club member and future United States Congressman. Having ATO’s in TNE
was very beneficial to the young fraternity.
The ATO’s were among the leaders in student politics, athletics,
and most organizations on campus. The chapter was immediately placed among
the top houses in terms of scholastic achievement, and they set their mark
in other areas as well.
One of these areas was in their
well-known singing ability. In 1952 ATO won Men’s Division at Spring
Sing, an event that would become known as Songfest. The Trojan Taus sang
their way to four trophies during the event at the Greek Theater in May
1954. George Rodda (‘52) directed the 1954 performances, and the men of
ATO took first place in the men’s division for their stirring version of
“The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Dressed in Civil War Army uniforms,
the song and its presentation were acclaimed by both the audience and
judges. The Taus went on to win second place in the mixed division with
their version of “Dream” and “Lullaby,” which they performed with
the Gamma Phi Beta sorority. In 1955 ATO combined voices with the Tri-Delt
sorority to win top honors in the novelty division.
The Tau’s went on to continue their strong showing at the annual
Spring event throughout the coming years. The skilled singers were also
known for serenading the sororities after Monday night dinners.
By 1953, the Zeta Beta Chapter was able
to move onto the Row when they were able to rent the former Delta Zeta
sorority house located at 725 West. 28th Street.
Four years later in 1957, they were able to purchase the house with
the help of the parents, Dr. von KleinSmid and the ATO National