Alpha Theta

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Alpha Theta
Alpha Theta.PNG

As Iota Sigma Upsilon – 1920 Joined Theta Chi – 1921

Became Alpha Theta – 1952
Type Local gender-inclusive
Scope Dartmouth College
Colors      Red and      White
Headquarters 33 N. Main Street
Hanover, New Hampshire
United States

Alpha Theta is a gender-inclusive Greek house at Dartmouth College. The Alpha Theta Gender-Inclusive Greek House at Dartmouth College is a 501(c)(7) non-profit and the chapter house and property are owned by the Alpha Theta House Corporation, a 501(c)(2) non-profit.


Early years[edit]

Alpha Theta was founded as a local fraternity named Iota Sigma Upsilon on March 3, 1920, by a group of seven students:

  • Robert L. Farwell
  • James W. Frost
  • Howard A. Hitchcock
  • Robert L. Loeb (Alpha Theta / Theta Chi's first president)
  • Robert J. Minor
  • Burdette E. Weymouth
  • Ralph K. Whitney

In 1921 the fraternity received a charter as the Alpha Theta chapter of Theta Chi. John Sloan Dickey, later president of the college, joined the fraternity in 1928 and was elected house president only two weeks later, while still a pledge.

Coal furnace accident[edit]

Nine brothers of Alpha Theta chapter of Theta Chi died in a tragic accident on the morning of Sunday, February 25, 1934, when the metal chimney of the building’s old coal furnace blew out in the night and the residence filled with poisonous carbon monoxide gas.[1][2]

The bodies were not discovered until the afternoon of Sunday, February 25, 1934, when M.B. Little, a janitor, entered the chapter house and found the students dead in their beds. A pet collie dog was also found dead in one of the bedrooms. News of the tragic deaths was widely reported in papers and magazines. This is still the most fatal accident ever to occur at Dartmouth College.

At the time the chapter had 35–40 members (reports vary), and seventeen of them lived in the chapter house. Eight residents escaped death because they had left campus for the weekend. The deceased were:

  • William F. Fullerton ’34
  • Edward F. Moldenke ’34 (president)
  • William M. Smith Jr. ’34
  • Edward N. Wentworth Jr. ’34
  • Americo S. De Masi ’35 (vice president)
  • Harold D. Watson ’35
  • Wilmot H. Schooley ’35
  • John J. Griffin ’36
  • Alfred H. Moldenke ’36 (Edward’s younger brother)

Following the tragedy people asked if the members would move out of the house, but faculty advisor Professor William H. Woods said: “Of course they will move back, we have men with blood in them.” The surviving members met at the Hanover Inn shortly after the disaster. John Trickey Jr. ’33 T’34, past president of the chapter and a student at the Tuck School of Business, was elected to replace Moldenke. The surviving members moved back into the house after the furnace that caused the accident was replaced. But membership did suffer after 1934, and eventually the chapter house was razed in 1940 and a new building, the current chapter house, opened in 1941.

Breaking from Theta Chi[edit]

Alpha Theta's original building

Alpha Theta was one of the first collegiate fraternities in the United States to break from its national organization over civil rights issues, and the first at the Greek-dominated Dartmouth College. In 1951, while Dickey served as president of the college, the student body passed a resolution calling on all fraternities to eliminate racial discrimination from their constitutions. The Theta Chi national organization's constitution contained a clause limiting membership in fraternity to "Caucasians" only. On April 24, 1952, the members of the Dartmouth chapter voted unanimously to stop recognizing the racial clause in Theta Chi's constitution.[3] Upon learning that the Dartmouth delegation to Theta Chi's national convention later that year planned to raise questions about the clause, the Alpha Theta chapter was derecognized by the national organization on July 25, 1952.[4] The house reincorporated as a local fraternity and adopted the name Alpha Theta.


Alpha Theta was one of the first all-male fraternities to admit female members. In 1972, Dartmouth admitted the first class of female students and officially became a coeducational institution. Alpha Theta also voted to become coeducational. After a few years, most of the women in the fraternity had become inactive and the house voted to become male-only again on November 10, 1976. The house returned to a coeducational membership policy in 1980.[5]

Embezzlement case[edit]

In February 2011 the Alpha Theta House Corporation filed suit against a former treasurer, Bruce McAllister, alleging that he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the fraternity.[6] McAllister was also sued by The Meccawe Club, a private fishing club in Vermont, and became the target of a federal investigation later that year.[7]

In November 2011 McAllister, a former financial auditor at Dartmouth College, was indicted for wire fraud following an investigation by the United States Secret Service.[8][9] He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was also assigned a court-appointed attorney.[10] However, on April 25, 2012, he changed his plea and entered a plea of guilty.

McAllister was sentenced on November 26, 2012, in United States District Court in Burlington, Vermont, to 18 months of imprisonment following his guilty plea to wire fraud. U.S. District Judge William K. Sessions III also ordered that McAllister serve three years of supervised release after he completes his prison term and pay slightly more than $800,000 in restitution at Alpha Theta and the Meccawe Club. McAllister was ordered to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on January 8, 2013, to begin serving his sentence. McAllister’s sentence was reduced due to McAllister’s medical condition, which includes bladder cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney blockage. The court recommended that McAllister be confined at the Bureau of Prison’s medical facility in Massachusetts.[11]

Physical plant[edit]

Alpha Theta, 2007

The current building and property is owned by the Alpha Theta House Corporation, a New Hampshire nonprofit corporation.

The original physical plant used by Theta Chi fraternity was built by the year 1852 and used as a candy shop by confectioner E.K. Smith. Of Smith's confectionery operation, only the building housing his candy factory to the north of Alpha Theta still survives (now the Native Americans at Dartmouth house). Subsequent owners used the candy shop as a dwelling and Theta Chi fraternity eventually bought it from J.V. Hazen in 1921.[12]

After the tragedy of 1934 membership suffered[13] and it was decided to build a new chapter house. The house was demolished soon and the current building was constructed in 1940.[14] The only part of the original building that remains is part of the basement that leads to the back stair and contains the laundry room, called Appalachia.[15]

Appalachia gets its name from its proximity to the Appalachian Trail. Hikers from the trail used to be able to stop in the house, an activity which is no longer possible. House tradition still has it that ghosts walk this part of Alpha Theta, and in 2007, a ghost-hunter attempted to gain access to this part of the house. Believing it would be disrespectful to the spirits, Alpha Theta refused access, though they did allow a student to take a look.[16]

In 2008 the Alpha Theta House Corporation did an extensive two-year renovation of the house to improve the safety features of the building and the quality of life for members. Upgrades included a new fire alarm system, upgraded fire escapes, a wheelchair lift, a handicapped bathroom, a new wireless data network, and upgrades of existing bathroom and kitchen spaces.

Famous alumni[edit]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]