“A Moment in Time”
“A Moment in Time”
The Story Behind the Phi Mu Kappa / Tau Kappa Epsilon Legacy Bench
Greek life at Plymouth State began with the founding of Phi Mu Kappa in 1963. While the community may have been hatched with the pursuit for social independence in mind, it became a gathering place and sounding board for so much more and helped students navigate a rapidly changing social landscape.

A granite bench honors the legacy of The Phi Mu Kappa/Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity and has raised funds toward the R. Stephen Eastman Scholarship. Located on University Way, facing the Samuel Read Hall Building (formally Hall dormitory), it is engraved with the fraternity crests and dates of existence as well as the lyric, “He ain’t heavy he’s my brother,” a song emphasizing PMK/TKE’s bonds of brotherhood.

With the purchase of the first and only off-campus fraternity house in 1968, Phi Mu Kappa joined a national fraternity, Tau Kappa Epsilon, and became known as The Lambda Rho Chapter of TKE. During its nearly 25 years of existence, over 250 members bore witness to a very special moment in time.

Plymouth State PMK/TKE members
Plymouth State PMK/TKE members gather at the newly installed bench on PSU’s campus.
When I came to Plymouth State College in 1969 the student body numbered around 1,120 students, of which about 40 percent were commuters and 80 percent New Hampshire residents. Nearly half would travel home on weekends, leaving others with little to do for entertainment, relaxation, or socializing.

Student life was in many ways a draconian existence. The stipulations of nightly curfews and permission to leave campus for female students made social interaction a hurdle, and inter-visitation did not burst onto the scene until 1972. Women and men ate at different times and coed dining was only allowed on Sundays.

Dorms with common rooms had televisions that received just one station and there was one pay phone per dorm. Students relied heavily on taking notes on index cards and papers had to be typed.

The main dormitories were arranged in a kind of triangle, with Blair and Hall dorms for men and Mary Lyon for women. During warmer months students would open windows at night and literally shout across to one another, giving rise to chants and insults that can’t be repeated here. Students also coded messages into song requests during evening dedication broadcasts on the college radio station.

These conditions created a desire for more social freedom, unity, and camaraderie, along with better ways to share information. Luckily for me, in 1963 a group of male students had formed a Greek fraternity, modeled on those found elsewhere, of which I later became a member.

The Phi Mu Kappa became a social mecca and by 1968 had outgrown their rented house. At the same time, discussions were being held to merge with the national fraternity Tau Kappa Epsilon. In 1969, the new Lambda Rho Chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) became the first and only fraternity on campus to own its own house, on 34-36 Russell Street.

The fraternity was key to the formation of campus athletics, including football and hockey clubs that later became Division III teams, as well as activities like Homecoming and student governance. Brothers also became active in nationwide social concerns.

It was a moment in time, but oh what a moment that I will always hold dear.
In the spring of 1970, the tragic death of four students at Kent State University bonded Plymouth students with the national conscience and outrage over the Vietnam War. Campuses across the US became powder kegs of frustration and students felt unable to express their anger and concerns. At Plymouth State, R. Stephen Eastman a Phi Mu Kappa/TKE brother who was also president of the newly formed Student Senate, stepped up. Steve led a series of debates and resolutions that calmed tensions and created a platform for Plymouth to deal with national issues on a regular basis.

TKE was the college’s first and only totally independent Greek organization. By the end of 1982 it had been joined by fraternities Kappa Delta Phi, Lambda Chi, Alpha Chi, Omega Omicron, Theta Alpha Tau, Alpha Theta, and sororities Tau Omega, Iota Delta Chi, Kappa Sigma Phi, Delta Zeta, and Chi Alpha Zeta. They gave rise to student leaders, some who are still active at PSU today, and their charitable and philanthropic efforts influenced the great work of today’s Greek organizations.

Plymouth’s first Greek era was an era of rapid changes, from the music scene, technological advances, and the beginning of social media. What stayed consistent was the camaraderie that Greek life brought to so many and the strong bonds that remain today.

It was a moment in time, but oh what a moment that I will always hold dear. ■ William Hunter Weidmann ’73

Editor’s note: This is an abbreviated version of the full article. To read the article in full and learn more about the PMK/TKE history and the R. Stephen Eastman scholarship, click here.

Past presidents and brothers of Phi Mu Kappa and TKE established an endowment fund in 2004 to support Plymouth State University students. The R. Stephen Eastman Scholarship was created to honor Steve by giving back to the next generation of leaders who live by Steve’s example. Since its creation, this scholarship has raised more than $40,000 and has awarded 14 student scholarships.