Lambda Chi Alpha, History in the Making: Early Leaders

Excerpts taken from “Our Story: A History of the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity”

JACK MASON: FRATERNITY MAN

John Edward Mason, Jr., was born in January, 1892. He took only two and one-half years to complete the four-year course of studies for the A.B. at the University of Pennsylvania. Ray Ferris noted that Jack’s transcript was a solid array of D’s—when a D grade stood for distinguished. Somewhat over a year later he received his master’s degree. His doctorate was not conferred until June 1930—his compulsive perfectionism had delayed his thesis on etiquette for years.

Jack Mason

When Jack Mason was initiated as a charter member of Epsilon Zeta at the University of Pennsylvania, Lambda Chi Alpha had but 17 members, nine in the allegedly functioning chapter at Boston and eight initiated at Massachusetts 10 days earlier. Some eight months later he was appointed to the Grand High Zeta by Warren Cole. Thus began a fraternal life that would touch every aspect of Lambda Chi Alpha.

Jack Mason’s name is most closely associated with our ritual of initiation and our coat of arms. While acknowledging his tremendous ability and skillful execution in ritualism, it could be argued that his greatest contribution was in the development of our publications. It was as chairman of the Board of Publications that Jack guided the infant organization by putting fraternal ideals, methods, and news into literate form. He was the founding editor of the open magazine, worked closely with Linn Lightner when Linn became editor in 1920, joined intellectual forces with Bruce McIntosh and Ernst Fischer to develop the Pædagogus, and guided the songbook to fruition.

Jack’s mode of working was somewhat erratic. Some days he would produce 20 to 30 pages of comments in his distinctive handwriting—with Bruce McIntosh, Linn Lightner, or Ernst Fischer the typical recipient. On other occasions his mail would go unanswered for weeks—even when his timely counsel was desperately sought. Working with him was both inspiring and frustrating as he offered brilliant insights and inanities in the same letter. Fortunately for the  Fraternity, his coworkers understood him and simply let his less appropriate suggestions fall on deaf ears. The office of Grand High Alpha was pressed upon him contrary to his wishes, but he took it up with a vengeance. Jack was particularly unrealistic in the time demands he made on others, especially on Bruce McIntosh and Linn Lightner. His tendency to qualify instructions with “if you think it advisable” vastly complicated the life of the Administrative Secretary. But with the leveling influence of Ernst Fischer, Lloyd Claycombe, Linn Lightner and others, the Fraternity survived his term of office. With pleasure he “stepped down” to the role of providing his superb advice/forgettable thoughts to the Fraternity for more than a decade.

“Mason was distinctly an individual. He was not unduly concerned about personal appearance. Although always seemingly freshly scrubbed, he could not be imagined as garbed in the latest style or perfect fit. Boyish features and very rosy cheeks gave him a youthful look, and a quiet, seemingly bashful manner belied his maturity and the profound quality of his character. His interest in youth was motivated by the yearning to inspire. This was his conception of achievement. His pastimes were chiefly intellectual, but he shared the enthusiasm of his students and Lambda Chis for the things they regarded as entertaining and important. He enjoyed a pipe and relished good wine or beer in moderation, but refused to drink with youthful students.”

“A sense of humor? Yes, droll, pointed, clever. A politician? Indeed, par excellence, adroit, diplomatic, smooth, always acquiescent, but always on the winning side (even if it be the wrong one).

“A gentleman? Too much so sometimes; I know of occasions when he should have slapped us down in our crudeness or thrown us out by the seat of the pants; but he wouldn’t do that, not gentleman Jack. A worker? Yea, verily, a horse for work.

“And let’s not forget Jack’s ever faithful pipe. It is both a pipe of peace and of war. Before the fireplace, musing over Ritual and Constitution as logs crackled or in the thick of the committee and convention battles, Jack’s pipe appeared as a symbol of poise, collected thought, and deliberate conclusion. Jack never held his head haughtily, bold up, but concentrated his powerful but beautiful eyes on the pipe, but those eyes never missed any phase of the reactions of his audience.”

“A fraternity achieves greatness only if some members devote themselves to the building of those intangibles which comprise the life blood of the fraternity. Jack Mason did just that for Lambda Chi Alpha. His every thought was of the Fraternity. Into the ritual he wove his philosophy of life. In his work as an officer of the Fraternity he exhibited those qualities which made of him an inspiring teacher and a loyal friend.”

LLOYD D. CLAYCOMBE: FRATERNITY STALWERT

“Warm personality”, “huge grin,” “booming voice,” “constant loyalty,” “outstanding ability,” and “a source of inspiration” were some of the phrases used by George W. Spasyk and Donald F. Lybarger to describe the character and personality of Lloyd D. Claycombe. He was born on February 7, 1889, in Marengo, Indiana. He attended high school in nearby Jasper, Indiana. Claycombe graduated from Indiana University in 1911. He also received his law degree from that institution in 1914. While a student at Indiana he was a member of the Independent Club, founded in 1855, and the track team.

Linn Lightner, Jack Mason, Lloyd Claycombe

Lloyd Claycombe initiated negotiations with Ernst J.C. Fischer in 1916 to bring the Independent Club into Lambda Chi Alpha. The negotiations were successful and the Independent Club was installed as Alpha-Omicron Zeta. In recognition of his key role in the negotiations he was initiated into the chapter on May 12, 1917, as No. 1 on the Alpha-Omicron roll. This event would mark the start of more than a halfcentury of his leadership and service in our Fraternity.

His official services to Lambda Chi Alpha began as a delegate, representing the Indianapolis Alumni Association to the pivotal Ann Arbor Assembly. At this Assembly he impressed the leadership and delegates so much that he was made chairman of the reorganization committee. Though he was strongly urged to accept a nomination as Grand High Alpha, he declined. Instead he accepted an unopposed nomination for Grand High Pi. Starting with the Ann Arbor Assembly, Claycombe attended 22 consecutive assemblies including his last at French Lick, Indiana, in 1966. At the Chicago General Assembly in 1933, Lloyd Claycombe was elected Grand High Alpha. He served on the Grand High Zeta for a total of 22 years.

Claycombe greatly influenced the development of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity. He was chiefly responsible for the creation of the new constitution formulated at Ann Arbor and Indianapolis. He also wrote our Fraternity’s first statuary code. He was largely responsible for the acquisition and organization of the early central office in Indianapolis. He played a prominent role in achieving the union with Theta Kappa Nu. Behind the scenes, he was a wise advisor, skilled diplomat, and steady influence on the progressive growth of our Fraternity.

SAMUEL DYER: THE FORGOTTEN LEADER

Sam Dyer was born on January 1, 1891, in Truro, Massachusetts. Upon graduation from Attleboro (Mass.) High School he entered the University of Maine from which he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering in 1912. He was the City Engineer for Attleboro from 1913 to 1917. After service in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War I, he became Town Engineer for Framingham, Mass., where he supervised municipal gardens and designed bridges and buildings. Upon his death in1952, flags in Framingham were flown at half-mast.

Sam Dyer

Sam Dyer was one of the founders of Psi Alpha Lambda local fraternity at Maine. In January of 1911 the local merged with Delta Kappa, another local that also had been founded in the fall of 1908. The new group retained the ritual, badge, and constitution of Psi Alpha Lambda but chose to use the name Delta Kappa. In October 1912 Warren Cole wrote to a member of DK, Norman Junkins, asking if the group was interested in national affiliation. Dyer went to Providence, R.I., on business in December and met with Cole, Louis Robbins, and other members of the Brown chapter.

Dyer later stated that he was not much impressed with the group of five, but that he did respond enthusiastically to the drive and spirit of the two national leaders, Cole and Robbins. Several other contacts were made between DK and the struggling Lambda Chi Alpha of six chapters and scant resources. With Dyer’s positive opinion carrying great weight in Orono, Delta Kappa petitioned to become Beta Zeta in February of 1913. Installation took place March 29 in Bangor with 25 alumni of the local attending. An unusual feature of the ceremonies was the ritual used.

Coming less than a week after the Boston Assembly, the new or “Mason” initiation script was not close to completion. Cole, for some reason, preferred not to use the earlier ritual. So Delta Kappa was installed as a chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha using the Delta Kappa initiation ceremonies. Dyer attended the March 1913 Assembly in Boston even though Beta Zeta had not yet been installed. He greatly impressed the delegates and fraternity leaders and was elected to the Grand High Zeta and the Ritual Revision Committee a week prior to his initiation as an alumnus member of the Fraternity.

His work under Grand High Alpha Cole was summarized by Jack Mason: “As business manager of the Purple, Green and Gold, Brother Dyer carried the [open] magazine through the most critical part of its existence. Under his leadership, the national Committee on Scholarship kept track of the scholastic standards of our chapters, and held prominently before our undergraduates one of the cardinal principles of the Fraternity. As a member of the Ritual Committee, Brother Dyer did valuable advisory work, besides writing the ritual for the installation of officers. As a delegate to the Interfraternity Conference [now NIC] and as a national officer, Brother Dyer well exemplified the virtues that he laid down in his charge to the High Alpha.”

Virtually alone he published the 1914 Directory of members.

Many years later, Bruce McIntosh wrote: “Dyer’s calm reason compensated for the almost rash expansionist enthusiasm of Cole and Cross and the sometimes impractical idealism of Mason. He was the master of logical routine, the patient recorder and organizer of a record system sorely needed by the young fraternity. Never spectacular, he contributed dignity and stability.” Of even more importance was his role as mediator in the conflict between Cole and Cross/ Mason/Fischer. Had it not been for Dyer’s attempts at reconciliation and then his tireless efforts to bring order out of chaos in the early years of Fischer’s term as Grand High Alpha, Lambda Chi Alpha might well have perished because of this internal warfare. Sam Dyer, with the loyal and patient support of his wife, Alice, devoted thousands of hours to Lambda Chi Alpha during his decade on the Grand High Zeta. At Chicago in December 1923 he quietly announced his retirement from the Grand High Zeta and then, in Fischer’s absence, presided over the Assembly.

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