A fraternity (Latin frater : "brother") is a brotherhood, although the term sometimes connotes a distinct or formal organization and sometimes a secret society. A fraternity (or fraternal organization) is an organized society of men associated together in an environment of companionship and brotherhood; dedicated to the intellectual, physical, and social development of its members.
Best Fraternities For Future CEOsDavide Dukcevich, 01.31.03, 12:00 PM ET Forbes.com
NEW YORK - Don't be surprised if you see your company directors exchanging secret handshakes at the next board meeting. After all, about a quarter of all chief executives on the Forbes Super 500 list of America's largest corporations were members of college fraternities.
Despite what movies such as Animal House suggest, fraternities and sororities are more than just freshman rush and beer busts. The social skills that help students gain admittance into the Greek system are the same aptitudes that can later give them a leg-up in corporate climbing. Plus, once they've graduated, they can tap into the network of past fraternity brothers or sisters who litter all tiers of corporate America.
Big Companies, Old School Ties
These are the ten-largest American companies with fraternity members at the helm. Click on the CEO names for their profiles.
The numbers certainly seem to back this theory up. A mere 8.5% of full-time university undergraduates are members of either a fraternity or a sorority. Not only have fraternities been the breeding ground of those 120 Forbes 500s chief executive officers, they also have spawned 48% of all U.S. presidents, 42% of U.S. senators, 30% of U.S. congressmen, and 40% of U.S. Supreme Court justices, according to data from The North-American Interfraternity Conference.
Wachovia CEO G. Kennedy Thompson said that Beta Theta Pi, which he joined while an undergrad at the University of North Carolina, gave him "the opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds and places, and the connections have continued beyond my university years to my business life."
He is also a member of the fraternity that produced the most CEOs among the biggest 500 companies in the country. Beta Theta Pi can boast of 11 such CEOs, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Sigma Chi are tied in second at nine, Lambda Chi Alpha has eight, and Alpha Tau Omega seven.
There are known fraternal organizations which existed as far back as ancient Greece and in the Mithraic Mysteries of ancient Rome. Analogous institutions developed in the late medieval period called confraternities, which were lay organizations allied to the Catholic Church. Some were groups of men and women who were endeavoring to ally themselves more closely with the prayer and activity of the Church; Others were groups of tradesmen, which are more commonly referred to as guilds. These later confraternities evolved into purely secular fraternal societies, while the ones with religious goals continue to be the format of the modern Third Orders affiliated with the mendicant orders.
The development of modern fraternal orders was especially dynamic in the United States, where the freedom to associate outside governmental regulation is expressly sanctioned in law. There have been hundreds of fraternal organizations in the United States, and at the beginning of the 20th century the number of memberships equaled the number of adult males. (Due to multiple memberships, probably only 50% of adult males belonged to any organizations.)
In 1944 Arthur M. Schlesinger coined the phrase "a nation of joiners" to refer to the phenomenon. Alexis de Tocqueville also referred to the American reliance on private organization in the 1830s in Democracy in America.
There are many attributes that fraternities may or may not have, depending on their structure and purpose. Fraternities can have differing degrees of secrecy, some form of initiation or ceremony marking admission, formal codes of behavior, disciplinary procedures, very differing amounts of real property and assets.