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The Oracle

It’s Later Than You Think

by U. G. Dubach

Corvallis, Oregon – February 21, 1948

Editor's Note: While this is a historical document it fully demonstrates that the issue we deal with today are not significantly different from those of 53 years ago. What is even more significant is that the "Call to Arms" is as valid today as it was to these undergraduates of yesteryear first hearing these immortal words of one of our great leaders and visionary.

Now then, fellows, you can’t understand some things. Nobody can understand what anybody else feels. That is why so many silly things are said to other people who are in distress, or people who have great honors, or people who suffer deeply. You would have to live a long time to understand what I feel tonight or what I felt the past year, because whether I like it or not, my heart is in Corvallis, Oregon State College, and Sigma Phi Epsilon. I have said a good many times within a month when people asked me how I am getting along in Portland, "“ am ashamed to say that I am getting along so much better than I thought I could that it is wonderful." However, there are three or four things in Corvallis I miss terribly. One is that house- our home – at 2661 Van Buren that we had to sell. Another is this wonderful fraternity; another is that great Sunday School class; and the fourth is about eight or ten people whom I could name but won’t. It is a great experience to have served your whole professional life in one institution. It is rather unusual that a man would only have one secretary in his entire professional life. It is equally unusual that one could have throughout his professional life as a colleague and intimate associate, a man like Dr. Magruder. It is quite unusual that I could have been number one initiate in Oregon Alpha, particularly when I had been raised to shy off from all secret orders. I confess that I was greatly concerned until I got before that Altar, heard some of those prayers, and took our obligation. The other thing that is wonderful that you will never understand, is that since the only boy I ever had was a girl and I wasn’t able to keep her, you fellows are my boys.

As I go about the State now, wherever I go my boys and girls are sitting at the head table, and believe me that is a reward for living. This obtains everywhere, not only Sig Eps but Oregon Staters --- an institution without any question that hasn’t a peer in its field and in the spirit that was built. God help the outfit that is running the show now because those who have gone through, demand that Oregon State remain Oregon State. This College has something no other college has that I have ever seen, and I went to some pretty good institutions. You fellows, my immediate family, I think are without a peer.

Now I quite understand that I get credit for many things, and you know a lot of that is baloney. I rather like it but at the same time I know that nobody could do that which is credited to me, alone. I think this fraternity is quite like Oregon State College. Way back there somebody planted the right kind of seed. I am sure that is what made this College, and then somebody came along and nurtured it the right way. A way back there before I came here somebody planted the right seed for this great fraternity. I never forget that first Sunday when Mrs. Dubach and I came to the house. Brother Charles Robinson was waiting tables and he was standing in the door wearing a big butcher apron when Tubby Wright pinned a pin on me and said, ”You are elected our advisor.” He was almost as insistent as this fellow Hindman. Only he gave me something and this fellow hadn’t yet given me anything. I still have that pin. Then I wanted to know what the outfit stood for before I agreed to keep it on. He said, “We just hate fraternities. The second thing we stand for is character.” “Well,” I said,  “you don’t need to go any further. I will come in and if you keep decent with your hatred, I’ll hate them with you.” I wish tonight we had Guy Hobgood here. To my great surprise, one night when we came to the Monday Night meeting, some fellow moved we appoint a committee to make a survey of the fraternity field. They hadn’t asked me anything about fraternities. Guy Hobgood was made chairman and he didn’t know anything about fraternities. Then, in three months, the committee came in with a recommendation that we petition Sigma Phi Epsilon. I had never heard of Sigma Phi Epsilon. I said, “It’s O.K. by me.” We had something to offer. They didn’t but we did. Uncle Billy recognized it. He really was a smart Secretary. Then the whole thing all happened and we started with a great thrill. Let’s get serious for the rest of it.

I quite understand and I have understood all the time that my days had to end here. I want to say that if you have another reunion ten years from now I think I will be hanging around. Someone mentioned thirty years. I din’ think I can make that but I think I might make it in ten years. What I want to say, Brothers, is there gifts are wonderful and they are tangible evidence of what you feel. I wish I could give each of you something in a material way, but I want to say to you that you have my deep appreciation for thirty years of wonderful comradeship as a fraternity and three other years of comradeship as a club. I want to say further what I have said so often. You have from me a genuine affection second only to that which you have from your mother and father, and I am sure Mrs. Dubach, who is a Spartan in every particular, feels pretty much as I do. Our daughter, Helen, used to always, always talk about “our fraternity”. And Mrs. Dubach I find constantly talking about "“our fraternity"” That is why I had one whale of a time getting her to go through a sorority because she couldn't find any enthusiasm in it, even though she was initiated. That love we feel toward you individually and toward the house will live with us constantly even though I cannot longer be officially connected with you.

Now for the future. I do not know what I am going to do about what Brother Hindman has requested of me. (Chairman of the National Scholarship Committee). I am going to make some conditions. The last time I tried this job, it was a lousy outfit over the country and with no particular interest ins scholarship. That has got to change with all fraternities or else the topic that was given to me is already here. It is later than most fraternities realize, and not many more stories like the one appearing in the paper this week can be endured. I think every National Office ought not to send any more requests to chapters that they cut out “hell week” but orders. That is why I quit the Scholarship Committee before. Too long in education we have presumed that men would wake up, and all Beta Theta Pi needs to do is to cancel the charter for a year and then there would be no more episodes like that in Beta Theta Pi. (Episode in UCLA where neophytes required to secure raw dog.) I hope our Fraternity has the intestinal fortitude to drag in a charter pronto under such circumstances. Then the public would have some confidence in our word. To date, they haven’t any reason to believe we mean it. “It is later than you think” in this world and I am telling you fellows that the wisest minds in our country wonder whether civilization can last at all, and it will last only if these choice groups of men who ought to be inspired by the ideals of a great fraternity, shall be members of the fraternity and assume the responsibility of membership. I am fed up on fellows wearing fraternity pins who aren’t fraternity men.

Now a few rods about the future. I think I do know a little about what I am talking, and I will tell you how to make a good fraternities. They made me hurry and get an article on this subject in immediately for THE JOURNAL.  I worked like the dickens to get that off, sent it air mail, and now they are going to print it in May!

How to make good fraternities? One pick the right boys when you pick your pledges. Two, qualifications. There really is just one and that is character. Of course you have to have reasonably good brains, that’s all – reasonably good equipment between the ears. If you have brains and character, you can teach any man to press his pants and what fork to use. Never pledge an athlete – never. Never pledge a big shot – never. Pledge good men and if they happen to be athletes like Heine Schultz of big shots like Jack Graham, well and good. Never pledge a big shot because the chances are that 9 times out of 10 he is all burned out, swellheaded, and knows all the answers. That is right and not wrong.

Two, train them right. And that means throughout the pledge period. Fellows, I know every fraternity on this campus has ruined man after man. There is a fine lad at Lewis and Clark now who was in one of the chapters here last year. He came to my office recently and said, “ I remember your talk as though it was yesterday. I thought you were wrong and the guy’s n the house were right. I remember the conference and what you told me and I didn’t follow it. I got a swift kick at the end of the school year which was the best thing that ever happened to me.” Lewis & Clark is giving that fellow another chance. The fraternity that had him did irreparable damage to the fraternity system. You haven’t any business to tell these kids to stay in and attend to their business and then you be out running around. You can’t do that even if you know you can fool the Prof.’s and the kid’s can’t. They are going to forget what you say but they are gong to remember what you do. Train them right. Get them ready for initiation. I was proud of what you did on the lad we initiated today. The day you pledge a man is like the day of an engagement of a couple. It is the day we start our trial period, and the boy ought to be brought up to the day of initiation by successive steps, each boy in a different way. A hundred times, yes a thousand times I have called fraternity presidents and have said to them, “what about this boy?” “Oh, he’s a fine kid”, they say. “Where did he come from and what is his family background?” “I don’t know exactly.” “What about this?” “I don’t know exactly.” Why, the fraternity was treating him like every other boy. No one has a right to be a president of a fraternity who is holding any other position. He should have time to learn to know every pledge, learning about the boy and what his problems are. Then treat him accordingly. Treat each one according to his needs. Lead each up to initiation by helping him to understand what the fraternity has to offer.

I haven’t yet seen anybody get fraternity spirit in a man through the seat of his pants. I prefer to work on the pledge through his head and heart. Through my years on campus I fought with all my power this practice of bringing boys to initiation tired and with broken spirits. I went down to one house here one day and they had six or eight pledges linked up with a big chain on their feet. I took that outfit apart. I said, “Initiation is off. Take those chains off and from here on you change your policy or we are going to do without  certain great fraternity.” Think of getting men ready to go before that altar by processes like that!

If on the other hand we pass from generation to generation of our fraternity the idea that the initiation is the final step, the wedding if you please, when the neophyte becomes one of us, apart of us, what an event initiation can be! If perchance this chapter can continue the practice of having the adviser discuss what the neophyte the meaning of the fraternity for 20 minutes before the initiation, it will be fortunate. If the neophyte sees his personal relations to the chapter, his responsibility, the meaning of the statement that he believes in God, he will have a great experience when he comes to the altar. He needs to understand he is to be born into the fraternity, that when he is given his pin, he is beginning a new life in which he can grow as much as he wills to grow. He needs to be told that if he is wise, and we need to be retold that if we are wise enough to go back to the ritual day after day, night after night, we will be ready when we individually come to life’s end, to enter the Chapter eternal as were those wonderful brothers who gave themselves in this war for us. That’s what I want for every pledge who is initiated into Oregon Alpha of Sigma Phi Epsilon. That experience would inspire every initiate  into a rich and satisfying fraternity life.

Pick them right; train them right; see to it that this birthday or wedding, whatever it is, has in it that great idealism for which our wonderful fraternity stands. I am sure every other fraternity stands essentially the same thing. We cry aloud for virtue, for diligence, and brotherly love. Make the most of what God gave you. Then learn how to live. How this world needs to live!

The third thing we need is a chapter that has something to give. Just a chapter with a house – that amounts to nothing. But a chapter with a great spirit of love, with a great spirit of forgiveness, with a great spirit of uplift that would bring men into a relationship where they catch from us the idealism for which the fraternity stands. There is no other way to build my brothers. How this world is hungry for just that kind of building.

Recently, I took a class to Salem. We visited the Industrial School for boys. We observed that as we passed these boys, unfortunate lads, they looked with hungry eyes to their supervisor, Mr. Woolley. When he said, “ Hello, Bill”, or Jim, how the faces lighted, hungry for interest and affection. Then we visited the penitentiary and were fortunate or unfortunate enough to see the Negro, Henderson, confessing to a Negro priest. Henderson was executed the next day for the crime of murder committed while so drunk he does not remember the crime. Certainly a part of the responsibility for the crime belongs to society. And there are so-called fraternity men and fraternity chapters fooling with liquor. You can do something about this, not only in college but in society. There’s one way and that’s have no part in the use of alcohol. From there we went to the training school for the girls, almost all of them there because of sex offenses. Then I thought of how a man was involved in every case and with liquor in most of them. The girls were paying the penalty, the men were free. Then we visited the home of the feeble-minded, hundreds and hundreds of little babies, men, and women, the product of a careless society.

You see, fellows, it is later than you think for our great country, for our Great College and for our great fraternity. God help every one of us to be men, men, not just to belong to Sigma Phi Epsilon, but to be members of a great fraternity, and to dignify it and ourselves every day with righteous living. Personally, I want to live a long time. I want to come back to you because you will always be my boys. I am sure I can do so without interfering with the relationship to Brother Swygard, your new adviser.

It has been great to be with you and my debt of gratitude and Mrs. Dubach's is great but we can’t pay you. I pray that somehow or other the spirit of this chapter shall live forever if this campus goes on forever; that Sigma Phi Epsilon over the country might catch the spirit of this chapter; that fraternities everywhere might have the spirit of this chapter. I know we aren’t as good as we can be. What I have said so often is right, the point of greatest danger is the moment we get to feeling we are pretty good. The toughest thing in the world is success because you have to keep on succeeding. One other thing I am sure I am right about, it pays to keep life clean. I thank God that I had a Mother and a father who taught me some things that are burned into my heart. If my Mother were living, I could still look her squarely in the eye with no flinching. I can look my wife in the eye and there is no flinching. I want for you every blessing of a great God but I also want every one of you to pay your debt to a great country, to a great College, to a great fraternity and to a good hoe. Heaven bless you, and I will try and represent you decently in Portland.

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