A few days ago I wrote a post, Beta, Pi Phi and P.E.O. When I wrote it, I’d forgotten that Beta Theta Pi’s Founders’ Day was just around the corner – the eighth day of the eighth month. In that post, I mentioned the connection Beta Theta Pi had on the founding of P.E.O., a Philanthropic Educational Organization founded at Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, on January 21, 1869.
About 30 years earlier than the founding of P.E.O., on August 13, 1839, it was Commencement Day at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. At the first official meeting five days earlier, on August 8, eight young men established Beta Theta Pi, the first men’s fraternity founded west of the Allegheny Mountains. The men, “of ever honored memory” were John Reily Knox, Michael Clarkson Ryan, David Linton, Samuel Taylor Marshall, James George Smith, Charles Henry Hardin, John Holt Duncan, and Thomas Boston Gordon.
Back to the chapter at Iowa Wesleyan University. One of the founders of the Beta Theta Pi chapter there was Will Pearson, brother of Suela Pearson Penfield, a founder of P.E.O. The future husbands of two other P.E.O. founders were also members of the Beta Theta Pi chapter at IWU. Charles Stafford, husband of Mary Allen Stafford, and Washington Irving Babb, husband of Alice Bird Babb, became members of the chapter. During that time it was the only fraternity at Iowa Wesleyan. The Babb sons, Max Wellington and Miles Thornton, were initiated into their father’s chapter. (Coincidentally and as an aside, the Babb’s daughter, Mary Alice Babb Ewing, was an Alpha Xi Delta.) The husbands of P.E.O.s are called BILs and Charles Stafford and W.I. Babb were two Betas who were also BILs. (Hemmerle B. Williams, husband of Lulu Corkhill Williams coined the term BILs, short for Brothers-in-law. Some P.E.O. chapters use variations on this theme.)