Known as the oldest, continuous men’s social club since 1943, Frater Sodalis is proof that it doesn’t take a common stereotype to draw a crowd. Rather, it takes courage, a change in direction and a continuous sense of self-respect for the constant endurance of a lasting tradition – and maybe three large pledge classes to tie the knot.
Combining both brotherhood and inclusivity, the once small group of navy-collared boys has grown into a sea of diverse men seeking unity through Christ and within one another.
President of Frater Sodalis Daniel Tapia, senior graphic design major from Los Angeles, California, said one of the greatest accomplishments of the club is the emphasis on “knowing thy brother as thyself” and not just the name and major of your corresponding club member. Joining the Frats at age 23, Tapia said joining helped him build some of the most concrete relationships during his time in college.
“At first, we weren’t big enough to be clique-ish,” said Tapia. “When we were only 25 guys, we knew everyone and could hang out with everyone. We really are just like brothers.”
Accepting more than 73 members within the past three semesters, the club has seen an exponential growth exceeding their expectations. Overjoyed by this new phase of growing and gaining popularity among potential pledges, the Frats mistook the blessing in disguise.
Kolton Burkhalter, junior digital entertainment technology major from Amarillo, said although the choice to accept more pledges than normal seemed exciting at the time, other officers were a bit overwhelmed that the spirit of the Frats could dwindle.
“We were talking about ‘do we really want club to be this big’,” said Burkhalter. “And then, this year we got 35 or so guys, and we strived for that idea of keeping it really small. We really want to be connected to each other and not let anybody feel left out. Just to have everybody feel welcomed and know everybody else. That’s the key part is when everybody is close with everyone. That’s what makes our club good.”
Tapia said although the clubs growth seems to only be taking a more positive direction in the coming years, the Frats will simply emphasize visits and collective gatherings to keep the connection strong – growth should not interrupt kinship.
“It’s definitely been a challenge, but I don’t think we are losing [the small-club feel] at all,” said Tapia. “We are definitely pushing visits very hard. We take that very seriously because we find it unacceptable that if you want to be part of club and enjoy whatever perks come with being in club and not put in the work to know the guys who are in club with you. We really want to push having personal relationships.”
As one member greets another with open hands ready for a strong handshake, a warm salutation of “Hello, Brother,” is spoken. Through small in size, pledges and members believe it isn’t a title, age or major that makes you to take time out to say hello. Rather, it is the yearning for new relationships which motivates constant communication to each other. Suddenly, their eyes lock as the conversation intensifies revealing small secrets and anecdotes from their past, and within just a few moments a bond which rested between the lines of stranger and friend were crossed – true brotherhood has formed.
“By putting [pledges] in situations where they have to work together and regardless if they are doing the task correctly, we want to emphasize that they need to do things together,” said Tapia.
Though such a small phrase, two words have never meant so much to a group of men. Whether it be grabbing lunch on a Friday afternoon, talking about the latest video game or sharing intimate details about their date last night, the milkmen of Frats were ready to listen.
“We’re being intentional about having those friendships and that intentionally is coming through opportunities like having barbecues and things like that,” said Tapia. “There’s always just a venue where guys can just be together and talk to one another.”
Hatus Santana, junior marketing management major from Abilene, said one of the best things about Frats is how established the club has remained within the past 75 years.
“I’m definitely happy that we are technically the longest standing club on campus. It kind of gives bragging rights since we haven’t been kicked off or anything,” Santana said. “[Frats] care more about me and want me as a friend instead of like an asset of the club.”
Looking around the buildings of campus, one can see multiple Frats working. Their diligence, servitude, humble beginnings and ‘nice-guy’ demeanor, makes them stand out among the rest. Proudly wearing the blue and yellow letters stamped on their shirts, the men of Frats seem more eager to continue the legacy than changing their motto – “Semper Paratus, Semper Fidelis.”
“Frater Sodalis literally means brothers together,” said Tapia. “And those values, I think are what excite me to this day, that’s the value we pass down and are striving to pass down for the next 75 years, hopefully, more.”