After the Civil War, many families were torn apart, due to brothers fighting on opposite sides. A Virginia Military Institute student, Otis Allan Glazebrook, had a vision to reunite the North and the South in brotherhood based upon Christian principles. His ideals would start the first organization that would be considered a national fraternity, and it was with Erskine Mayo Ross and Alfred Marshall that he sought to bring together the two factions. On September 11, 1865 Glazebrook’s goal was realized with the founding of Alpha Tau Omega (ATO).
Since its beginnings over 145 years ago, ATO has grown to be ranked annually among the top ten national fraternities for number of chapters and number of members, with more than 250 chapters, 200,000 lifetime initiates, and 6,500 undergraduate members. ATO placed great emphasis upon leadership and high academic achievement, so it is no surprise that many ATO men have gone on to accomplish great things, such as James P. Hoffa (President of Teamsters Union; son of Jimmy Hoffa), Cris Collinsworth (former NFL wide receiver; sports anchor), Guy Fieri (star of the Food Network), Greg Kinnear (actor), and Thomas “Tennessee” Williams (playwright & novelist). With Brothers like these, it is easy to see why so many men want to wear the ATO azure and gold!
Leadership development has played a significant role in ATO ever since its founding, and in 1986 the LeaderShape Institute was launched. In its more than 25 years, the LeaderShape Institute has grown from a leadership school for ATO undergraduates, to a week-long leadership development experience for coed students. LeaderShape has had tremendous success, having expanded from five to more than seventy yearly sessions, secured more than one million dollars in corporate funding, added sections in ethics, communications, goal setting, and an outdoor challenge course, and has brought more than 25,000 students through the curriculum.
The personal integrity and moral strength of the founders of Alpha Tau Omega was great enough to help heal the wounds of the Civil War, and they are the same qualities found in the Brothers of ATO today. As the first fraternity to be founded on a set of new ideals, not in response to or opposition of another fraternity, the hope for brotherhood, both within the fraternal community and the outside world, has been a goal towards which all the Brothers of Alpha Tau Omega strive, fulfilling the desire of founder Otis Allan Glazebrook, “To bind men together in a brotherhood based upon eternal and immutable principles, with a bond as strong as right itself and as lasting as humanity; to know no North, no South, no East, no West, but to know man as man.”