Lawton Posey: College group taught the lesson of acceptance
It was later summer in 1953 when my mail greatly increased. I learned quickly that these missives were invitations to attend the fraternity "rush" at the college I would attend that fall. Truth to tell, I had no real interest in fraternities, and the college handbook, very much out of date, had informed me that perhaps half of the students belonged to these fraternities. At that time, I did not know that the fraternity system at my chosen college was dominant, and that their boarding houses had a virtual monopoly on food service at the college. A freshman, who did not receive a bid to join a fraternity could continue to eat at the College Union, or eat at a boarding house for Independents.
I did attend three or four rush parties, even if my mother had cautioned me that I could not afford a membership in a "frat." The day came when student body members hurried over to the post office to search their post boxes for messages that said that they would have another time to attend a party and impress the members, and possibly be given a bid to join.
I searched my box in vain. Nothing. I was devastated, at least for a while. I learned later from a close friend who belonged to one of the premier groups, that he felt that I had asked too many questions, and besides, my clothes were all wrong. I did not have what were called "silk rep" ties, but rather a solid red tie recommended by one of the great haberdasheries in my hometown of Charleston, S.C. It was to go with my "skipper blue" suit with extra pants, and a pair of very fine shoes.
I had already become friends with one of the great professors at school, and when I went to him with my lament, he asked me why I would want to join one of those exclusive groups. I had no answer.
I felt rejected.
About that same time, I learned that there was a non "Greek" group called The Campus Club. It had been founded by World War II veterans who wanted social activity, but would not countenance such things as hazing and strange initiation rituals. In its own words, it was a "democratic social club" that accepted anyone. A pledge pin was issued, and when I was asked about this device, I would meet with incomprehension when I told students that I had made a personal choice to join this group.
I remember so very well the day when I joined up. I was welcomed by boys I will ever remember. There were just a few of us, but what a group they were. These were students who came from a variety of places, including foreign lands, and small towns of small repute. It was an embracing group, which required no statement of religious or other beliefs. I think of some of those fellows who made the college journey with me, some of whom I have communicated with by email. Just a few of the names of these men, who now near 80 years of age are easily recalled: Curtis, Randy, Mac, Oyvind (from Norway), Paul, Addison, Fairman, Stewart, David and Bob. Curtis cooked Saturday evening meals on a two burner kerosene stove, since the college did not provide an evening meal that day of the week.
Many of us were interested in music, played piano or other instruments, and sought and received permission to sing in the annual Inter-fraternity sing, held on the steps of the great administrative and classroom building. We did not win, but we sang on pitch. We were included in the posting of grade averages of the "Greeks" and acquitted ourselves well with a high average.
The four years I spent in an independent, democratic social club taught me many great lessons.
Acceptance in that group was not earned; it was given, and freely. Yes, a few of us guys became ministers, but not all, by any means. There were military men, scientists, professors, and other contributors to society. We were an outrageous and talented group, given to humor. We later became Alpha Theta Phi, which I understand affiliated with a national Greek letter fraternity later.
We are all marching on these days. All of the founders, including the great Herb Meza, have died.
Perhaps some us will beat the statistics and live into our nineties. If not, we all had gained the message that we were acceptable, both to humanity, and to God.
A question remains. Do you accept all people without regard to race, creed, of handicapping condition?
Do you accept all people without regard to gender preference? We remember that Jesus did not say "Come unto me some who are heavy laden." (Matthew 11:28) He offers a place for those with the wrong color tie, or a collection of used books. Or the wrong shoes. All are accepted, not just a few. All, even our selves!
Posey is a retired Presbyterian Church U. S. A. minister who writes from his home in Charleston