TKE Beta Pi History
1990s - Promises Fulfilled
At the first BOT meeting of Fall 1990, the BOT began the process of restructuring the Chapter's financial procedures, which had changed little for twenty years. Careful budgeting and aggressive collections ensued and the Chapter soon began to accumulate budget surpluses of several thousand dollars each quarter. The results were evident everywhere. The Chapter had money for whatever it wanted to do.
A few years later, the Chapter having attained financial prosperity and stable membership, the BOT decided that the time was right to build the long-promised New Social Quarters. The planning occurred in irregular spurts as the members of the planning committee had time. Sometimes progress was swift and sometimes nothing was done for months.
It soon became apparent that the BOT could not "build enough house" to make sense of financing through Georgia Tech's program to help chapters prepare for the 1996 Olympic Games. Fortunately for the Chapter, John Reagan and TKE alumnus Joe Evans met at Homecoming 1992. Fed up with the lack of clean bathroom facilities for his wife and daughter, Joe was eager to see construction begin. He proposed an arrangement through which small parts of the loan could be guaranteed by individuals. This was much less expensive for the Chapter than taking out a Foundation-guaranteed loan and enabled the BOT to borrow all the money it needed for the project. On May 3, 1993, an agreement was signed between Tau Kappa Epsilon of Georgia, Inc. and the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games for the use of the Chapter House during the 1996 Summer Games.
During Spring 1993, plans for the new house had progressed to where the BOT felt confident that the project could actually be carried out. By this time, the White House, used for little but meals, meetings, and storage, had deteriorated so badly that the BOT felt that it represented an "accident waiting to happen." Concerned about liability and desiring to send a signal to undergrads and alumni that the Board was committed to the construction project, the BOT contracted for the demolition of the White House in Spring 1993, even though financing for new contruction had not been secured.
Demolition was an all-day affair that provided much frustration for the workers and much amusement for the inhabitants of the area. Older members had long thought that the old house was fragile, held together by the electrical wiring or the dozens of coats of paint with which the exterior had been coated. (Frater Mike Skillman, who owned a paint store, supported the chapter for many years by providing paint for the house each Fall.) For most of the afternoon, the contractors dragged steel cables through the house, ripping through walls and tearing out interior supports. Crowds gathered along 5th Street and Techwood to watch. All afternoon they worked and still the house would not fall. By 5:30 pm, the crew was in bad shape. The work day was over but they could not simply leave such an obviously unsafe structure standing. Strange incantations drawn from the misty Anglo-Saxon origins of the English language were hurled at the building but it refused to fall. A crewman jumped into a bulldozer, ran it through the front yard, and rammed the remains of the front porch. The house shuddered. He backed up a little, raised the bucket, then drove up to the porch again and dropped the bucket on it. Slowly, with a great amount of screeching, snapping, and popping of wood, the White House slid down upon itself. Perhaps by design, little debris fell out of the house. More than anything, the fall resembled that of a house of cards. A great cloud of dust went up from the pile and a great holler went up from the crowd of onlookers. Over the next few days, workmen removed the debris and the old slab that Tekes had poured in the basement a dozen years before. So the last reminder of the old "Teke Village" was gone, replaced by a large, weed- and rodent-infested hole, and no new building was in sight.
Surely one of the most unusal periods in the Chapters history spanned the months between the demolition of the White House and the completion of the New Social Quarters when the Chapters only meeting and eating places was a round tent known as "the Tit", "Teke Mahal", "Taj Ma-Teke ", or, most commonly, "the Dome". Prytanis Stewart Nix did the research and arranged for delivery of a tent from Sprung Structures. Although made of cloth, it was a sturdy structure. The fabric of the dome was tough and the frame was made of steel. The contractor leveled an area on the northwest corner of the property. On September 14, the tent arrived in boxes and Tekes put it up the next day. The floor was covered with plywood laid over gravel. During the warm months, a set of double doors were left open. Flies were a problem. Heat was provided during the cold months by space heaters provided by the BOT but members still dined in their winter jackets. Meals were cooked in "the Magic Bus", a portable kitchen that filled a small, heavily-modified school bus. After meals, an line formed at the dish washing station. Members prepped their own dishes, which were later washed in a home-variety dishwasher that stood in the West Well.
The Summer of 1994 is widely acknowledged as one of the wettest in recorded Georgia history and progress on the House was much slowed by the weather. Construction dragged out until Homecoming 1994 when the Chapter finally occupied the New Social Quarters, which stands today.
The Chapter had never had an adequate social space such as finally appeared in Fall 1994. So used to remaining in their "corners" had members become that some doubted that the new space would be used but, by the beginning of Fall 1995, some patterns of use of the New Social Quarters had clearly emerged. The pool table was used often in the afternoons and evenings for individual and team play. The foozball table was moved from its place near the West Porch to in front of the trophy case near the Resident Advisors apartment. The West Porch became a favorite spot for partying on weekends. The pattern of table placement in the Great Hall for dinners gradually included areas that were not under the overhangs. The Great Hall became a popular place for studying on weeknights and for playing cards and drinking on weekends, especially during power outages.
No sooner had the Chapter settled comfortably into its new surrounds than renovation of the property for the Olympics got under way. Beginning in Summer 1995 and continuing until the end of Spring Quarter 1996, every bedroom, bathroom, and hallway in the "old" dormitory was gutted. Every bit of sheetrock was removed and replaced with new sheetrock over oriented strand board. BOT members Paul Remke and Michael Smith pulled computer network cable into every bedroom. Carpet was laid in every bedroom and the carpet in the halls was (mercifully) carried out - replaced with much more practical tile.
At the end of Spring quarter 1996, most of the Chapter left campus for their homes, each member having been charged with leaving his room in decent condition for inspection by ACOG housing. However, even though most members complied, there was still a lot of work to be done to bring the house into line with the agreement with the Olympic Committee. Electrical outlets had to be tested, scuffed up walls painted, molding placed on walls, some carpet installed, locks replaced, wardrobes assembled, the kitchen cleared of perishables, all cleaning supplies removed, and a lot of miscellaneous repair, cleaning, and yard work.
Enticed by an offer from the Board of Trustees, some fraters stayed and worked a few days into the break. In particular, seven fraters and one girlfriend (Jenna Tallent) stayed and worked almost the entire time up to the minute that the representatives from Olympic Housing arrived to look at the House (and a few hours after, in some cases.) The last few days were especially rough since it had become necessary to pull "all nighters" to be sure the work was done. But do it they did ... whatever it took. In those days, there was no time, day or night, during which work ceased in the House. The effort was magnificent.
The work went on down to the wire. Chad Colman and Michael Smith were laying carpet in the resident advisor's quarters an hour before inspection and Tim Marriott was repairing locks as Committee members walked through the House. As the inspection ended, the "Magnificent Seven" gathered in the living room and collapsed into the couches and chairs. Everyone was numb with fatigue but a little giddy. All were aware that there was still some work left and no one knew what deficiencies the Committee would point out. The Seven sat in silence. For the first time in days, there was little movement or noise. The House was quiet except for the sound of the ceiling fans and the quiet conversation among the inspectors and the members of the Chapter's BOT as they walked slowly through the building.
Much to everyone's relief, the property was acceptable. The Irish were on their way!
...to be continued with stories of growing dominance of Greek Week during the 1990s and adjustments to the changing environment at Georgia Tech.