Fraternity Life

“I was one of the founding members of the Oregon State Chapter of Delta Upsilon, and was present at the installation – in fact, I had prepared the petition that was submitted to the fraternity, and was successful in getting the fraternity to set up the Oregon State Chapter.”

– Linus Pauling, 1988

Linus Pauling’s undergraduate career was characterized by the emergence of a number of the qualities that are now strongly associated with his personality. It was during this time that Pauling began to build his reputation as a confident, determined, and sometimes stubborn individual of great intellect. However, when Pauling first arrived here at Oregon State University – or Oregon Agricultural College as it was then known – not only was he lacking confidence, but his social skills were also in need of some improvement. Fortunately, Pauling found help with these matters from his Gamma Tau Beta and Delta Upsilon fraternity brothers.

Pauling’s fraternal associations began during his sophomore year at OAC when he was invited to join Gamma Tau Beta (probably, he later said, to help bolster the house grade point average). He accepted the invitation, and was quickly integrated into fraternity life with his newfound brothers. They gave him the rather dubious, but apparently affectionate, nickname of “Peanie” and always made sure to include him in house activities. For Pauling, social interaction of this caliber was new.

Unfortunately for Pauling, however, the younger members of Gamma Tau Beta were required to go out on a date each week. If this requirement wasn’t met, the offender would be subjected to the punishment of being submerged and held underwater in a bathtub filled with cold water. This punishment, called “dunking,” was a Greek custom, and it wasn’t long before it was administered to the then shy and short-on-money Pauling. Before being dunked, he decided that enduring the punishment once was probably enough, and put his scientific mind to work. He began to breathe deeply in order to saturate his blood with oxygen. When he was put in the tub, he let the seconds tick by until he had been under for an entire minute. Soon, his fraternity brothers became frightened and, thinking that something disastrous had occurred, quickly pulled him out. Pauling, of course, was fine, and never again had to worry about being dunked.

Hazing rituals aside, Pauling seemed to enjoy fraternity life and came to regard it as having served a crucial role in his maturation. Pauling comments on this fact in a letter to Thomas D. Hansen, the Executive Director of Delta Upsilon, written on June 14, 1988:

The Oregon State Chapter of Delta Upsilon and its predecessor, the local fraternity Gamma Tau Beta, played an important role in my life. My father had died when I was nine years old, and, up to the time that I became a member of Gamma Tau Beta, there was no one who strove to teach me how to get along with my fellow human beings. As a result, I was rather quiet and withdrawn, to such an extent that I had few friends. My brothers in Gamma Tau Beta and Delta Upsilon helped me to develop my personality and to communicate with other people more effectively. In particular, they encouraged me to participate in the college activities in public speaking and oratory and to develop my confidence in my abilities.

As it turns out, Pauling would become an important character in the evolution of Gamma Tau Beta. Sometime during his first two years as a member, he drafted a petition calling for the affiliation of Gamma Tau Beta with Delta Upsilon. In 1922, during Pauling’s senior year at OAC, the request was granted and the Oregon State Chapter of Delta Upsilon was officially installed.

Delta Upsilon chapter petition.

Delta Upsilon chapter petition.

Even in his later life, Pauling remained a proud member of Delta Upsilon. He stayed in contact with many of his fraternity brothers, and, whenever possible, would take time out of his extraordinarily busy schedule to attend fraternity reunions, anniversary banquets, and other events. In 1988, Pauling received the Delta Upsilon Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award.

For more information on Linus Pauling in Oregon, check out our Oregon 150 series. For general information on Linus Pauling, please visit the Linus Pauling Online portal.

Oregon 150


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