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The annals of the Rochester Chapter start with a sleigh ride. On the afternoon of February 18, 1850, eight students of Madison University (now Colgate) crowded into a sleigh and rode twenty miles over the snow to Clinton, New York. At the Clinton House, which happens to have been a hotel in the village, the Hamilton Chapter initiated them into the mysteries of the Alpha Delta Phi.


The minutes of the meeting are still in the archives at Hamilton and state that these eight men “had the intention of a removal to Rochester and the establishment there of a new Chapter.” There is no record of any charter having been granted to this group at Madison, and if meetings were held the minutes have not survived.


When the University of Rochester started almost a year later, in November 1851, over half of the faculty and the student body at Madison seceded to Rochester. Two of the Alpha Delts had graduated from Madison the previous June and seven more had been initiated, making their number thirteen. These were the charter members of the Rochester Chapter – a group that had the unique distinction of being older than the college in which it functioned.


It was by no means all-smooth sailing at the start. The faculty was strongly opposed to the start of any secret societies in the newly launched college and had in fact passed a resolution condemning them. But Professor Kendrick came to the rescue. While not an Alpha Delt himself, he had been a classmate and close friend of Samuel Eells at Hamilton. This was enough. He knew that any Brotherhood conceived and established by Brother Eells must be good. Being a man of strong personality and acting President, he made this point. This early opposition and its ultimate defeat with the aid of Professor Kendrick may explain why the first recorded meeting at Rochester was not held in November 1850, as we might expect, but in September 1851.


The complete series of minute books recording the Chapter’s meetings has been preserved, the first entry in Volume 1 being dated September 16, 1851. It reports, “the Society met in the basement of the one and only college building, in the janitor’s parlor, as no regular place of meeting had been procured.” The secretary was instructed to write to the Hamilton Chapter with regard to procuring a charter.


On May 31, 1852, came a letter from Brother Day, President of the Fraternity, containing the welcome news that the Charter had been granted. The Chapter was at first called the Empire Chapter, and this name was retained until about 1860, when it was changed to the present name of the Rochester Chapter.


During the first years of its existence, the College being poor and there being comparatively few students, the Chapter suffered many hardships, being reduced at one time to an active membership of three men. As the College became more established and more prosperous, the Chapter became stronger in proportion, and now occupies a secure and honorable position among the institutions of the University of Rochester.

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