Sometimes while working at the archives, we find ourselves unveiling documents that spark a personal interest. During homecoming week this semester, we were digitizing photographs of previous winning floats for a patron. One of these float-winners in 1957 was an organization called Tri Mu Fraternity. One of our employees being in a Greek organization, took personal interest in the patron’s request.

1957-First Prize Homecoming Float: Tri Mu

The ultimate resource for all things Northern Michigan University is in a book compiled by Dr. Russell M. Magnaghi titled A Sense of Time: The Encyclopedia of Northern Michigan University. We were fortunate enough to find an entry on Tri Mu Fraternity:

“Tri Mu Fraternity was organized on December 19, 1922. One of its founders was John Voelker who was responsible for the writing of the Tri Mu song (lyrics only, melody is the Purdue fight song) and initiation ceremony. The three “Ms” stand for mind, morals, and muscle…In 1961, the members of the fraternity decided to become a chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon, a national fraternity…. (Magnaghi 380).”

Several interesting factoids! Firstly, we couldn’t believe the infamous John Voelker, of all people, would be a founding member of the Tri Mu Fraternity. John Voelker is best known as the author of Anatomy of a Murder which was adopted into a film starring James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara and George C. Scott. Voelker was a former prosecutor, state supreme court justice and avid fisherman. He typically wrote his novels under the name of Robert Traver and based his novels from his previous court cases.

John Volker

John Voelker

Secondly, how very fascinating that, a picture we stumbled upon during a normal patron request, would reveal some history to a Greek organization that exists on Northern’s campus still today. Tau Kappa Epsilon is one of the two fraternities (along with Alpha Sigma Phi) remaining after the majority of NMU’s Greek life was dissolved in the 1980’s. To think that Ishpeming’s John Voelker played a hand in creating a brotherhood that we still see on campus today is awesome!


Tau Kappa Epsilon in 1961

Tau Kappa Epsilon in 2015

Written by Kelley Kanon and Peter Dewan


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