Symbols And Traditions
The mythological ideal or patron of Tau Kappa Epsilon is Apollo, one of the most important of Olympian divinities. Apollo is the Greek god of music and culture, of light and the ideals toward which all Tekes constantly strive. Typifying the finest development of manhood, the selection of Apollo is most appropriate.
The official membership badge, made of gold and adorned with three white pearls, is by far the most important item of TKE insignia in general use. This badge may be worn only by initiated members. Jeweled badges, crown set with pearls, diamonds, rubies or emeralds, according to choice, may be worn by alumni members. Frequently the standard membership badge is used as a token of engagement. Miniature badges are also available for mothers, sisters, wives, chapter sweethearts or for engagement purposes. The TKE 'badge of gold', unique in its design and distinctiveness, has never been changed since its adoption.
The red carnation is the flower of the fraternity. From this flower the color for the coat-of-arms, flag, and other symbols are derived. Red carnations are also worn at TKE banquets. The Red Carnation Ball is a dance that many chapters celebrate, and is named after the flower. Tau Kappa Epsilon chose this flower because it is the longest surviving after being cut from its stem.
The heraldic definition of the TKE Coat-of-Arms is "A shield of a Norman form, upon which has a bend with five equilateral triangles, surmounting a scroll bearing five Greek letters, and surmounted by a skull, or death's head, three-quarters profile. This assemblage is done in the official colors, crimson lake cherry and pure silver gray, properly mantled." It may be used only by official members of the Fraternity on stationery, jewelry, and other personal effects. It is used by the Fraternity upon its official stationery, membership certificates, and other documents. Modified slightly several times during the early years of Tau Kappa Epsilon, the present Coat-of-Arms, adopted in 1926, was designed by Dr. Carlton B. Pierce and Ms. Emily Butterfield.
The present design of the TKE flag, as adopted at the 1961 Conclave, features five voided triangles, in cherry red, on a gray bend surmounting a red field. Because it is patterned after the shield of the fraternity Coat-of-Arms, the flag is readily associated with Tau Kappa Epsilon. Individual chapters may also purchase and use pennants and wall banners of various designs. These usually employ the name or Greek letters of the fraternity and chapter, and may incorporate the basic TKE insignia. TKE insignia may be purchased only from the Offices of the Grand Chapter or a merchant licensed by the fraternity headquarters.
Founders' DayOn or near January 10 of each year, alumni associations of Tau Kappa Epsilon celebrate the founding of our Fraternity and honor the five Founders. This day is known as Founders' Day, is usually celebrated by a traditional banquet. At this celebration, contributions are collected for the Founders' Student Loan Fund, and the Grand Prytanis sends a subtle message to each chapter to be read as part of the program.
The Horse Shoe
In April 1921, members of the Fraternity at The Ohio State University made their way to the Conclave in Madison, Wisconsin. At the conclusion of the vote granting their charter as Omicron Chapter, one of the members pulled from his pants pocket a rusty horseshoe which the fraters had picked up along the way. Believing that the horseshoe had granted the chapter good luck, the tradition began to pass the horseshoe down to each chapter. The original horseshoe was lost during World War II at the Alpha-Chi Chapter, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky (it was replaced with a new horseshoe to continue the tradition).
In mid-1995, the original horseshoe was discovered by Past Grand Prytanis Rodney Williams among some artifacts belonging to Alpha-Chi Chapter, which had been held for years by a charter member of the chapter. At the 49th Biennial Conclave, the original TKE horseshoe from Omicron Chapter was displayed, and the story behind its loss explained.
The horse shoe, now an adopted symbol, is traditionally displayed on a plaque given to new chapters at their founding.