My condolences to the men of Alpha Tau Omega upon the passing of Colonel William E. Berry on October 20, 2016 at the age of 88.
Sometimes when I am wading through fraternity history, certain people intrigue me. Berry was one of those whom I could not help but admire. I was in awe of his service to Alpha Tau Omega.
When he became a member of the Delta Psi Chapter at the University of Mississippi in the fall of 1948, Alpha Tau Omega had but few awards it presented at each Congress. The most prestigious of these was the Thomas Arkle Clark Award, named for the Dean of Men at the University of Illinois. Clark is another of the fraternity men I admire and how fitting it was when Berry was named the National Thomas Arkle Clark Award winner.
A full page article appeared in the September 1952 Palm of Alpha Tau Omega.
After graduation, Berry served his country. In the U.S. Army, he saw tours of duty in Japan, Germany and the United States. As a White House Aide during his tenure as Assistant Adjutant General in the Pentagon, he was, on occasion, the Army officer standing behind President Kennedy in a receiving line. At President Kennedy’s funeral, he was at Mrs. Kennedy’s side as she acknowledged official guests to the White House.
The obituary on the ATO website noted:
Bill went on to serve as Advisor to the Adjutant General in Vietnam, Senior Advisor and Consultant to the Republic of Vietnam, Armed Forces Adjutant General, Joint General Staff, Saigon and concurrently Chief of the Adjutant General Advisory Branch, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam; Deputy Adjutant General, US Army, Headquarters, Pacific in Hawaii. In 1974 Bill was named Deputy Commandant, US Army Institute of Administration, Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. By 1975 Bill was a full Colonel and on a glide path to becoming General William E. Berry.
But 1975 was also the year his beloved ATO called him back into service. The National Fraternity had just emerged from a tumultuous half-decade and was looking for steady leadership. Bill became the Fraternity’s 30th National President. He felt strongly that to give ATO the attention he believed it needed, would require him to retire from the Army and walk away from the honor of becoming a General in the Army.
Bill said that the choice was not really that difficult because he believed he could influence so many more young men in ATO then he would have been able to as an Army General. He was right. Scores of ATOs over many generations of colleges students have benefitted from Bill’s leadership and wisdom. That is especially true of the thousands of men who joined ATO at Ole Miss.
The following paragraph speaks volumes, not just about ATO, but all our GLOs, “For if we truly subscribe to virtue, then we will seek moral excellence. If we really believe in truth, then we will remain true to ourselves, true to our vows, and true to the values that give meaning to men’s lives. And if we honestly love, then for our Brothers, one and all, we will show tolerance, forebearance, compassion, and understanding, even amidst controversy or crisis.“