Pi Mu Epsilon Celebrates 75 Years of Mathematical Activity

by J. Sutherland Frame

Published in 1989 in the Pi Mu Epsilon Journal

1. Incorporation and Early Days.

The Pi Mu Epsilon Fraternity, incorporated on May 25, 1914, under the laws of the State of New York, is celebrating its 75th anniversary as a national mathematics honor society, with over 250 chapters in 45 states and the District of Columbia. It is a non-secret organization whose purpose is the promotion among students and faculty of scholarly activity in mathematics.

The Syracuse University Mathematics Club, which parented Pi Mu Epsilon, first met on November 30, 1903, at the home of Dr. W. H. Metzler, who was named Director of the club. Dr. Edward Drake Roe, Jr. was elected Vice-Director, Mary B. Quinlan Secretary and Mr. Carpenter Treasurer, as recounted in the archives at Syracuse University. During the next ten years the club carried on an active program with many student papers (preserved in the archives), directed in turn by Metzler, Roe, Warren G. Bullard, Floyd Fiske Decker, Daniel Pratt and Lapine Hall Price. At the tenth anniversary meeting on November 17, 1913, a committee chaired by Professor Roe was established to consider a possible revision of the club’s constitution. Its report on December 7 presented four options, included in Professor Decker’s historical article about Pi Mu Epsilon (Pi Mu Epsilon Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1 (1949), pp. 8-12). The second option “to reorganize the club as a professional fraternity” was approved. Thus Dr. Roe’s influential ideas let to the establishment of Pi Mu Epsilon.

On March 2, 1914, a convention was held and a constitution was adopted. On March 23, the choice “Epsilon Pi Mu” was made among five sets of Greek letters proposed for the fraternity name, subject to changing the order of the letters to “Pi Mu Epsilon.” Eight faculty members and 42 students then took the following pledge and signed their names as charter members:

PLEDGE: I solemnly promise to give my best efforts to the improvement of my scholarship in all my studies and researches and especially in Mathematics: I will maintain a discreet silence concerning all the aims and obligations of this fraternity: I will cheerfully accept advice and admonition as long as I am a member of the Fraternity.

Officers elected at the convention on April 27, 1914, were as follows: Professors E. D. Roe, Jr. and F. F. Decker Director and Vice-Director, undergraduates Helen L. Applebee and Purley J. Bentley Secretary and Treasurer, and Olive Evelyn Jones Historian. Incorporation followed on May 25, 1914.

Additional chapters were chartered at the Ohio State University in 1919, at the University of Pennsylvania in 1921, and at the Universities of Missouri and Alabama in 1922. The officers of the Alpha Chapter at Syracuse University served as national officers until December 1922, when a national office was established. Additional information about the early days is included in Dr. Decker’s article referenced above, and in J. Sutherland Frame’s article “Fifty years in the Pi Mu Epsilon Fraternity” (Pi Mu Epsilon Journal, Vol. 3, No. 10 (1964), pp. 511-5).2. Pi Mu Epsilon National Reports and Meetings.

Pi Mu Epsilon has always considered its primary aim to be the encouragement of scholarly interest and activity in mathematics among undergraduate and beginning graduate students. The aim was fostered at first mainly by individual chapters, but partly by informal meetings of interested faculty and students, usually held once in three years at meetings of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA).  The American Mathematical Monthly (the Monthly) recorded national meetings of Pi Mu Epsilon in 1938 and on January 1, 1942. Meetings without formal talks were held in 1945, 1948, 1953, and 1959. Pi Mu Epsilon activities were reported in the Clubs and Allied Activities section of the Monthly, a section edited from 1931 to June 1935 by F. M.Weida, from December 1935 to July 1938 by F. W. and Helen B. Owens, from August 1938 to August 1942 by E. H. C. Hildebrandt, from January 1942 to December 1946 by J. Sutherland Frame, and from 1947 to 1951 by L. F. Ollmann.

In 1927 a vote of nine chapters on the question “Shall we have a National Publication for Pi Mu Epsilon?” was 5 to 4 negative. Years later, in 1949, Pi Mu Epsilon launched its own journal, with Ruth Stokes of Syracuse as Editor, Howard C. Bennett as Business Manager, and J. Sutherland Frame, H. T. Karnes, N. H. McCoy, and R. J. Walker as Associate Editors. The Journal contains papers written by undergraduates and others deemed to be of interest to them, as well as a puzzle section, a problem department. New member lists were included until 1972, and chapter reports, invited addresses, and other items of interest to Pi Mu Epsilon members were included until the 1980s.

Pi Mu Epsilon has been especially fortunate in having had a succession of outstanding problem proposers/solvers serve as Editor of the Journal’s Problem Department. The first so designated was the late Leo Moser, who edited the department beginning with Vol. 1, No. 4, through Vol. 2, No. 7. Together, C. W. Trigg and Leon Bankoff edited Vol. 2, No. 8. Murray S. Klamkin assumed the editorship with Vol. 2, No. 9 and continued for ten years. Leon Bankoff took over with Vol. 4, No. 9 and served through Vol. 7, No. 2. The next three issues were jointly edited by Bankoff and Clayton W. Dodge. Beginning with Vol. 7, No. 6, Dodge had been Editor.

Presentation of papers by students at Pi Mu Epsilon national meetings began at the National meetings of the MAA and American Mathematical Society (AMS) at Michigan State University in 1952, continued at meetings at the University of Michigan in 1955 and at Pennsylvania State University in 1957, and has continued since 1960 at most subsequent Pi Mu Epsilon national summer meetings, held annually with few exceptions (1962, 1974). Student speakers are supported for their travel expenses, encouraged to submit their papers to the Journal for publication, and lured by prizes for the best papers published by students below or just at the master’s level. To facilitate interaction between participants, Pi Mu Epsilon holds an informal get-acquainted reception the evening before student papers are delivered. A complete list of the papers presented appears as Appendix A to this article. [Appendix not included here.]

Most Pi Mu Epsilon national meetings have included a one-hour address by an invited speaker, notably that in 1972 at Dartmouth by President John Kemeny, entitled “Mathematical Models and the Computer” (Pi Mu Epsilon Journal, Vol. 5, No 8 (1973), PP. 373-86). At the 1973 meeting of the Council, Past President J. C. Eaves proposed and the Council approved a motion that this activity be formalized in a series of annual addresses to be known as the J. Sutherland Frame Lectures. Past President Frame was asked to inaugurate the series in 1975, and deeply appreciates the honor. Appendix B is a complete list of speakers and topics. [Appendix not included here.]

In 1964 a 50-year history of Pi Mu Epsilon by Frame was printed in the Journal. We look forward to our 75th anniversary meeting at the University of Colorado in Boulder in August 1989.3. Pi Mu Epsilon Financial Perspective.

In 1936, when national Secretary John S. Gold became national Secretary-Treasurer for Pi Mu Epsilon, his office issued charters for $10, and registration fees and certificates of membership for $0.25 each. The latter two charges were combined into a $1 initiation fee in November 1950, raised to $2 in 1957, to $4 in 1971, and to $10 in 1986, due to increasing expenses. Pi Mu Epsilon has never charged its members annual dues, but does encourage subscriptions to the Journal, which are included for one year in the initiation fee.

In 1937, the L. G. Balfour Company became the official jeweler for Pi Mu Epsilon, and in 1938 began remitting royalties on jewelry which totaled $3384.42 from 1951 to 1954, and varying amounts in subsequent years. At first, 10-karat gold keys or key-pins were sold for $3.75, but when the price of gold skyrocketed in the 1970’s and the key price rose above $12, Pi Mu Epsilon began ordering gold-plated pins in quantity from Balfour, and sold them to initiates for $5 in 1972 and for $8 beginning in 1979.

The first 4000-copy issue of the Pi Mu Epsilon Journal in 1949 cost $500. Between 1950 and 1954 the Journal received $0.75 of each $1 initiation fee, which paid for a one-year subscription. Printing costs continued to rise. In 1973 the two-year subscription price was increased from $1.50 to $4 for members, and from $2 to $6 for non-members and libraries; it was raised again in 1980 to $8 and $12 respectively for two years. In 1975 -1976 the Journal income of $6108.90 included $4000 from the Pi Mu Epsilon treasury, and expenses were $5426.26. In 1980-1981 Journal costs of $10,850.12 were subsidized from the Pi Mu Epsilon treasury. Cash assets of Pi Mu Epsilon on June 30, 1988, totaled $27, 185.79.

In 1966 the Council approved a prize of $100, to be awarded each year, for the best paper by an undergraduate that was published in the Journal. Beginning in 1971, first, second, and third prizes of $200, $100, and $50 were awarded, and eligibility was extend to graduate students working on or just completing a master’s degree. These awards were named the Richard V. Andree Awards by the Council in 1987. Of all the student-written papers, heretofore receiving first prizes, that of Donald John Nicholson on “A Ubiquitous Partition of Sets of Rn which appeared in Vol. 8, No. 1 pp. 2-7, has been selected as “best” and is reprinted on pages 663-668. [Not included here.]

Pi Mu Epsilon also encouraged local chapters by matching prize money up to $50 per chapter and assisting financially with student participation in sectional meetings. But the largest financial support to students was transportation expenses to national meetings. Travel subsidies totaling $486.21 for the 1952 summer meeting in East Lansing, Michigan, with student speakers, and $793.24 for December 1953 meeting in Baltimore for officers and delegates (no student speakers), was the first based on full travel expense up to $60 for speakers, and one-half rail fare plus lower berth up to $35 for delegates. In later years travel subsidies were based on minimum airfare for a speaker, with half these amounts for a chapter delegate, subject, however, to maximums which rose form $60 in 1952 to $150 in 1964, $300 in 1973, $400 in 1977, $500 in 1981, and $600 in 1985.

In 1957 Pi Mu Epsilon contributed $300 to help launch the Mu Alpha Theta high school math honorary sponsored by Dick and Josephine Andree. It contributed $500 in March 1973 to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) for its building fund, $500 in 1981 to the NCT toward a memorial to our past president Houston Karnes, $3000 in 1978 to the MAA for its building fund, and $500 in 1987 toward the endowed scholarship in mathematics or computer science at the University of Oklahoma in memory of Richard V. Andree.4. Pi Mu Epsilon growth in chapters and membership.

When national officers were first elected in 1922, there were five chapters of Pi Mu Epsilon (listed in section 1). When Dr. E. D. Roe, Jr., the first Director General, died in 1929 and was succeeded by Dr. Louis Ingold, there were 18 chapters. There were 31 chapters on April 1, 1936, when a new constitution was adopted and the offices of Secretary Treasurer, and Librarian were combined in the office of Secretary-Treasurer, held by the former Secretary, John S. Gold of Bucknell. Griffith C. Evans succeeded F. W. Owens as Director General, and was followed by W. E. Milne in 1939 and Tomlinson Fort from 1942 to 1948. By fall 1949, when the Pi Mu Epsilon Journal was started, and E. H. C. Hildebrandt was Secretary-Treasurer, there were 48 chapters. Membership totals on April 1, 1951, and July 1, 1954, were 18,857 and 22,897. At that time Richard V. Andree replaced J. Sutherland Frame as Secretary-Treasurer and three-year terms for National Officers began July 1 instead of April 1, to facilitate exchanges of files and information.

During C. C. MacDuffee’s term as Director-General, 1948-1954, he installed almost all then new chapters. His successor, S. S. Cairns, had a sabbatical leave in 1954-1955, and asked Vice-Director General Frame to act for him that year. By the end of Frame’s three terms as Director General in 1966 there were 120 chapters, of which Frame had installed about 50. Membership in Pi Mu Epsilon increased by 25,198 from 1975 to 1986 when Richard Good was Secretary-Treasurer, and should exceed 90,000 by 1989. On April 1, 1989, there were 257 chapters.

The Constitution and By Laws of 1936 were revised in 1958, 1965, and 1972. A 1958 revision provided that the nominating committee appointed by the Director General should nominate three qualified candidates for the office of Director General, among whom the candidate with the second highest vote of the chapters should become Vice-Director General. Another significant change provided for the chartering of affiliate chapters at Pi Mu Epsilon at non-academic institutions. Only one such chapter was installed, at the urging of George Marks, at the General Electric plant in Evendale, Ohio, in 1958. It became inactive when Marks moved away. Constitutional revisions in 1965 changed the titles of Director General and Vice Director General to President and Vice President, shortened the pledge for initiates, and provided that charter petitions approved by unanimous vote of the Council did not require chapter approval. A 1972 revision changed the office of Vice President to President-Elect, at least one to be nominated, and provided for the automatic succession after a three-year term to a term as President, followed by a term as Past President and Council member.5. Who were our National Council Members?

Lists of names and dates do not tell the whole story. So what do we know about the men and women who have served as Officers and Councilors of Pi Mu Epsilon? Back numbers of the Pi Mu Epsilon Journal provide added information. The reference (1/1/1-9/F49), meaning Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 1-9, Fall 1949, refers to a photo and biography of the first Director General E. D. Roe, Jr., who was an astronomer as well as a mathematician. Director-General Griffith C. Evans served as Vice President of both the AMS and MAA, and was AMS President in 1938-1940. Tomlinson Fort served as AMS Associate Secretary and later as Bulletin Editor. C. C. MacDuffee was MAA President in 1945 and Frame served two terms (1950-1952 and 1958-1960) on the MAA Board of Governors. R. H. Bing was MAA President in 1961. Photos and biographies of C. C. MacDuffee, W. M. Whyburn, J. S. Frame, S. S. Cairns and Sophia MacDonald appear in (1/5/191-3/F51). Other portraits and biographies appear in (1/6/229-31/S52), (1/8/331/s53), (2/1/1, 31-4/F54), (2/6/279-81/S57), (5/7/356-8/F72), and (6/3/194-5/F75). Colton MacDuffee was born June 23, 1895, and died August 21, 1961, see (3/5/213/F61). Appendix C is a complete list of Officers and Councilors. [Appendix not included here.]

In 1957 Josephine and Richard Andree launched the high school mathematics honorary society Mu Alpha Theta (2/8/394/S58). Henry Alder and later J. C. Eaves (among others) served as Presidents. Cosponsored now by the NCTM and MAA, Mu Alpha Theta now has over 1200 chapters and 40,000 members in 42 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Canada, Germany, Japan, and Switzerland.

In 1965 J. C. Eaves proposed the C. C. MacDuffee Awards for Distinguished Service to Pi Mu Epsilon, described in (4/6/229/S67), and followed (4/6/230-3S67) by portraits of the 1966 honorees J. S. Frame, R. V. Andree and their wives. Subsequent honorees were former Secretary-Treasurer John S. Gold in 1967 (4/8/319-21/S68), Editor Francis Regan in 1970 (5/3/105-6/F70), Presidents J. C. Eaves in 1972 (5/8/371-2/S73), Houston Karnes in 1975 (6/3/123-4/F75), who died in March 1980, Secretary-Treasurer Richard Good in 1980 (7/3/149/F80), and Past-President Milton Cox in 1988 (8/10/634-5/S89).

After 21 years as Secretary-Treasurer, 1954-1975 Richard Andree served as President-Elect and then President, but died May 8, 1987 after a long illness. Richard Good was his able successor as Secretary-Treasurer 1975-1987 and now serves as a Councilor. In 1978 E. Allan Davis followed Houston Karnes as President. The four Councilors of 1975-1978 have all become national officers: E. Maurice Beasley, Milton Cox and Eileen Poiani as Presidents 1981-1984, 1984-1987, and 1987-1990, respectively, and Robert Woodside as Secretary-Treasurer 1987-1990. David Ballew, our Editor 1978-1984, is now President-Elect. Joseph Konhouser followed Ballew as Editor, Milton Cox is now Past-President, and Richard Poss, Robert Eslinger, and J. Douglas Faires are now Councilors. Under Eileen Poiani and her colleagues Pi Mu Epsilon should have a bright future.