Tau Kappa Epsilon’s 116th Birthday and a Walgreens Connection

Having just returned from Florida where there seems to be a Walgreens every three blocks, I was delighted to find a connection between Tau Kappa Epsilon and Walgreens. It seems like a fine story to tell on TKE’s Founders’ Day.

Tau Kappa Epsilon was founded on January 10, 1899 at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois. In a meeting at 504 East Locust Street, Charles Roy Atkinson, Clarence Arthur Mayer, James Carson McNutt, Joseph Lorenzo Settles, and Owen Ison Truitt formulated plans for a fraternity they first called the Knights of Classic Lore. In 1902, the name was changed to Tau Kappa Epsilon when the men rented the Wilder Mansion, a home which formerly belonged to the College’s president. It was the first men’s fraternity house on the campus.

The five founders of Tau Kappa Epsilon. Clockwise from top left: James Carson McNutt, Owen Ison Truitt, Clarence Arthur Mayer, Joseph Lorenzo Settles, Charles Roy Atkinson

The five founders of Tau Kappa Epsilon. Clockwise from top left: James Carson McNutt, Owen Ison Truitt, Clarence Arthur Mayer, Joseph Lorenzo Settles, Charles Roy Atkinson.

In 1925, Charles R. Walgreen, Jr. was initiated into the Upsilon Chapter of TKE at University of Michigan. He had grown up in Chicago and as a boy he made deliveries from his father’s second store on the south side. After college, he went to work in the family business. When his father died in 1939, he became the company’s president.

According to an obituary on Forbes.com:

After graduating from the University of Michigan School of Pharmacy in 1928, Walgreen Jr. returned home to work for the family company, where he served on the store opening crew, in the ice cream plant and in personnel, sales, manufacturing, purchasing and real estate before becoming vice president in 1933, executive assistant to his father in 1935 and president shortly before the senior Walgreen’s death in 1939.

Walgreen Jr. served as the company’s president until 1963 and as chairman of the board from 1963 to 1976. As a trained pharmacist, his personal goal, the company said, was to raise the professional stature and working conditions of pharmacists. He reduced pharmacists’ hours at his stores from the industry norm of 66 a week in 1939 to 40.

In the 1950s, Walgreen Jr. redefined the retail drug business, converting Walgreens from clerk-assisted shopping to self-service. In the 1960s, he led the company into new markets, acquiring retail operations in Mexico and Texas and opened a number of Walgreen “Super Stores.”

He served as the company’s president until 1963 when he took over as chairman of the board of directors. He retired from that position in 1976. There were many changes in the pharmacy and retail world and Walgreen was responsible for many of them.

Walgreen also served his fraternity. He was TKE’s Grand Epiprytanis (Grand Vice President), but found it necessary to resign in 1943 due to business pressures associated with the war years and being the president of the drug store chain.

He gave a start-up grant for the TKE Leadership Academy and provided a $300,000 challenge grant for TKE members to contribute to the program. He served as chairman of the Foundation’s Centennial Endowment Campaign. In 1976, the fraternity named him Alumnus of the Year. He was awarded the fraternity’s Order of the Golden Eagle in 1989 and he was the first recipient of the Foundation’s Fraternity for Life Award in 1997. Walgreen was a Life Loyal Teke. The fraternity offers a named scholarship and award in his honor.

Walgreen died in 2007 at the age of 100.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2014. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory/

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