Alpha Chi Epsilon has reinvented itself several times during its
75 years. At one point it was Cornells version of the clean-cut
Omegas in Animal House," in appearance if not in spirit.
AXEs in the 50s tended to bel ieve in the value of
careful dress, gentlemanly behavior, and all-around involvement
in sports and academics. We probably also possessed the undeserved
air of sophistication, confidence, and self-satisfaction that is
often identified with preps," says Dan Kellams 58,
a writer and communications consultant in New York City.
We AXEs were, on any given day, more likely than the Owls
to wear a crisply ironed button-down shirt under a V-necked sweater,
more likely than the Milts to use a napkin when eating, and more
likely than the Delts to have taken a shower.
In the 1960s, AXEs had the distinction of being known by
the women on campus as the gentleman fraternity, ' "says
Doug Kirkpatrick 65, an OB-GYN in the Denver area.
Whenever a girl was pinned, all the AXE brothers
would serenade that girl outside her dormitory after the curfew
Serenading is an AXE tradition that came and left, along with
AXE sticks (black umbrellas carried on rainy days) and dinners at
the Amanas. Others, such as biting the applle (an onion hung
around pledges necks), have endured.
The lore of The Rock has been part of the AXE experience for more
than 50 years. John Keck 53, owner of Keck Inc. in
Des Moines and a former NFL official, recalls his group digging
up The Rock in front of College Hall and, with the help of a crane,
setting it at the entrance to King Chapel. Garrett Knoth 68,
associate director of admissions at Hope College, says pledge classes
alternately dug up The Rock or buried it. An informal survey of
AXE alumni turned up one theory on the tradition of burning The
Rock, which seems to have begun in the 1980s: Burning it produced
a nice black finish so the red crest would stand out nicely when
painted on," says Matt Miller 94, a Chicago multimedia
AXEs plan to celebrate their milestone with a variety of homecoming
activities, including a ceremony during which AXE alum William
Parsons 67, chief of staff of the United States Holocaust
Memorial Museum, will receive the Distinguished Achievement Award.
A future judge (the late Arthur Janssen 29) and his
roommate founded Apha Chi Epsilon in 1927 and gave it the motto
Brothers in Work and Play." It was considered an academically
oriented group for its first three decades. In 1971, the group disbanded
for two years because some members felt they had given up independence
for homogeneity. In the early 1980s, the AXEs inaugurated their
annual Toga Party and began to hold functions at the AXE farm.
By the 1990s approximately half of the wrestling team were AXEs.
A charge against the group for a pledging activity in fall 1997
sent the group into probation for a year, and during that time the
group lost its charter for a semester over two policy infractions
during pledging. The AXEs today have 14 members that senior Shane
Amundson describes as fun loving and dedicated to each other."
The AXE connection for me mirrored the Cornell experience,
says Cornell trustee George Caldwell 52, whose experience
sums it up for many AXE alumni and Cornell social group members
in general: Beyond a good liberal education, we learned lessons
of loyalty, friendship, working together, understanding individual
fit in a group, the group fit in a larger community, and finally,
friendships that endure."