The Alpha Zeta Chapter of Beta Theta Pi has an incredibly rich history that starts with men responsible for creating the University of Denver itself.
Colorado Seminary was founded as an educational institution in 1864 by early Colorado pioneers, primarily John Evans - the first governor of the Colorado territory and the founder of Northwestern University. Its early years were very difficult financially, and, according to Robert C. Shattuck (1926), Colorado Seminary was actually out of business for a time. New blood was added, the name was changed to the University of Denver, and the University moved from its original downtown location to the current campus.
DU hired its first chancellor in 1880. This chancellor, David Moore, was a graduate of Ohio University where he had been a member of Beta Theta Pi, and he wanted his two sons (William and Alfred) to have the same experience. The sons of the dean of students (Hubert and Wilbur Shattuck) were approximately the same age. These four and Earl Cranston (a legacy whose father was a member of the Ohio Wesleyan chapter) became DU’s first students to form a Greek-letter organization. In a short time they increased their numbers and became the founders of the new Beta chapter, which was chartered in 1889. The roll book of the chapter reflects that most of the chapter founders were initiated as members of the Rho Chapter at Northwestern University and their memberships were transferred to the Alpha Zeta Chapter at DU. Beta Theta Pi was the first fraternity established at DU and is the oldest fraternity in the state of Colorado, a previously chartered fraternity in Boulder having closed down many years ago. Probably the most prominent name among the founders was William Seward Iliff, the son of one of the wealthiest men in the territory, John Wesley Iliff.
One of the Alpha Zeta Chapter's Founders, William Seward Iliff (1865-1946)
William Iliff’s mother died when he was young, and his father remarried. While he was still young, Iliff’s father also died, and he was raised by his stepmother and her second husband, Methodist Bishop Henry Warren. Mr. And Mrs. Warren founded Iliff Seminary as a part of DU, and were loyal benefactors of both the seminary and DU. Fearing that DU would not survive, Mrs. Warren eventually managed to separate the Seminary and the University, while continuing to support both. The streets south of Evans Avenue (Warren, Iliff and Wesley) honor the contributions of the family to the city of Denver.
Iliff’s sons (John Wesley, named after his grandfather, and William Seward, Jr.) and Hubert Shattuck’s son (Bob) and grandsons (Rod and Don) were members of the Alpha Zeta Chapter as well.
Other prominent alumni of the Alpha Zeta Chapter include:
- Stanley Kuhl Hornbeck, #65 - the first Rhodes Scholar from Colorado, U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands, and the namesake of DU's "Hornbeck Honors List" which recognizes students with 4.0 GPAs
(We are currently in the process of going through the roll books and adding more accomplished alumni to this list.)