The Order of Prometheus is a Social fraternity currently in existence at the campus of SUNY Potsdam in remote, upstate NY. The organization utilizes the greek letters THETA OMEGA PHI, which was an overzealous attempt to translate '(TH)e (O)rder of (P)rometheus' by one of the founding fathers back in 1956. As modern students of Greek will point out, the actual letters chosen in Greek would make it read 'The Awrder of Frometheus', but hey, if you can't laugh at your founders . . ..
Despite the quirky choice of letters, the Order of Prometheus began rather true to the ideals embodied by the mythological figure of Prometheus himself, with a keen eye on the horizon to forecast the shifting climates of fraternity life in America. Founded in 1956 at SUNY Geneseo, the original founders of the Order of Prometheus were veterans of the Korean War. Due to the rocky history of the Alpha Chapter and the rapid turnover of 'generations' of college fraternities, there is some confusion and folklore regarding the original founders by the surviving chapter's current membership. One version of the story is that the founders were all Korean War Jet Veterans, and they flew a jet which they had nicknamed Prometheus. This, of course, flies in the face of common practice to name ships and warplanes with female names and personas. (cf. Memphis Belle, Enola Gay, etc.) The other version of the story is that they were infantry in the Korean War in the same platoon together, and that they were stranded in a firefight in the middle of the jungle, and were rescued by jet fighters 'in the nick of time', and one of the jets they airlifted out on was named Prometheus.
Either way, the founders took the name The Order of Prometheus, and in 1956 when they were recognized by Inter-Fraternity Council at Geneseo, they were forced to choose letters to represent the Greek House, and the small 'whups' was committed and sealed into history forever. All of which is mildly amusing, but the original intent and focus was to go by the name of The Order of Prometheus, and use the letters as secondary designations only, which has continued more or less in common practice to the current active membership today.
In the middle of the 1950's, when fraternities were in their 'golden years' of Animal House-type behavior, the Order of Prometheus was founded with one major difference in principles and ideals. In 1956, the Alpha Chapter chartered with a strong insistence that the members of Prometheus would never haze. This tradition has continued unbroken into the new millennium.
In 1964, the Beta chapter of the Order of Prometheus was founded at SUNY Oswego, and in 1968, the Sigma chapter was begun at Potsdam State, in the basement of Van Housen residence hall. The success of the other two chapters was somewhat shaky, and in 1971 the Beta Chapter in Oswego re-formed into the Delta Chapter, and with that reformation took on a new identity, serving as the fraternity which many of the Vietnam Veterans joined upon returning from the war. In a time where the political atmosphere was charged and polarized on campuses across America, the idea of belonging to a fraternity started by veterans originally was attractive, and gave the Vietnam Vets a rallying point at Oswego's campus. Unfortunately, after the last of those vets graduated, the common bonds seemed to fade and the Oswego chapter faltered in terms of numbers and eventually went defunct in 1974.
With the changing social attitudes on campus in the 1980's, the Alpha Chapter began to feel more and more pressure to compete with the other fraternities on campus. With a small alumni base for support and donations, the Alpha Chapter began to consider merging with one of the national fraternities. Despite efforts of Promethean alumni to the contrary, in 1980 the Alpha Chapter merged with Phi Kappa Sigma, and became Phi Kappa Sigma, the Order of Prometheus. Later contact in the mid-1990's with the former Alpha Chapter found that the lore of the national fraternity had become intermixed inseparably, so that members of Phi Kappa Sigma were surprised to hear a representative member from the Potsdam chapter singing along with what we knew were distinctively 'Promethean' songs, but which the Phi Kaps thought came from the national side of things.
In 1992, however, the Geneseo chapter of Phi Kappa Sigma, under pressure from their national office to curb their rampant hazing practices, split off from their national and reformed into Phi Kappa Chi, the Order of Prometheus. Unfortunately, while the common heritage is acknowledged and the previous Alpha chapter would not be necessarily turned away from Prometheus events, the rumors were confirmed in person that the reason they left their National was to be able to continue to haze their pledges. This violates the very spirit in which the Alpha Chapter was originally formed and the only inviolate rule handed down during chartering. This means that while they undeniably have a right to the use of the name of The Order of Prometheus, the Sigma Chapter still considers itself the only sole surviving chapter of The Order of Prometheus as it was first conceived in 1956.
The Legacy of the Sigma Chapter
The Sigma chapter of Prometheus has continued to operate upon the basic ideals of the founding fathers and the charter members of the organization. With membership fluctuating between 15 and 30 active members each semester, the active brothers continue to look to the future of fraternal life and strive to cooperate with the administration of SUNY Potsdam's Campus Life. Although it has at times been viewed as an unpopular opinion, the Order of Prometheus maintains a commitment to the ideal that hazing serves no purpose in fraternal life.
The Sigma chapter has been actively involved in community service over the 35 years since its inception, leading the other fraternities at Potsdam College by raising a cumulative total of over $125,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association over 15 years of fundraisers. The brothers regularly donate time and money to local charities and other service projects, and one of the conditions of pledging is the organization and completion of a pledge class service project. Past brothers have adopted a local family of German-American immigrants, the Tischlers, to aid the family in dealing with the tragedy of having three of their children succumb to Muscular Dystrophy.
Perhaps even more interesting from an ethnographical point of view is that the Order of Prometheus maintains a body of living oral lore regarding the myth of Prometheus, and this is a body of lore which is periodically reexamined and reinterpreted to suit the understandings of the changing times. This continues the spirit of mythological development in a rather surprising niche of collegiate life.
Now with the advent of the internet, the Order of Prometheus continues its mission to uphold the ideals of community service, academics, and a broad view of the future of college life, all the while engaging in a rigorous social calendar in the frozen climes of the North Country of New York State. With an active alumni association and networking possibilites across an expanding number of job markets, the Order of Prometheus is doing much to strengthen the futures of their own members and to benefit the college community as a whole.
You can access the Alumni Association's web site at http://www.prometheus.to/