Tau Beta Pi National History

The Tau Beta Pi Association, national engineering honor society, was founded at Lehigh University in 1885 by Dr. Edward H. Williams, Jr., “to mark in a fitting manner those who have conferred honor upon their Alma Mater by distinguished scholarship and exemplary character as undergraduates in engineering, or by their attainments as alumni in the field of engineering, and to foster a spirit of liberal culture in engineering colleges.” (Preamble to the Constitution.)

Founder Edward Williams was born in Proctorsville, Vermont, on September 30, 1849; he died at Woodstock, Vermont, on November 2, 1933. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, he was head of the mining department of Lehigh University when he determined to offer technical men as good a chance of recognition for superior scholarship in their field as that afforded by the other society in the liberal arts and sciences.

Working alone he conceived an organization, gave it a name, designed its governmental structure, drew up its constitution, prepared its badge and certificate, established its membership requirements, and planned all the necessary details for its operation including the granting of chapters and the holding of conventions.

Thus, with only a paper organization, he offered membership to qualified graduates of Lehigh and received their acceptances and enthusiastic endorsement. Late in the spring of 1885 he invited the valedictorian of the senior class, Irving Andrew Heikes, to membership and he accepted, becoming the first student member of Tau Beta Pi.

Mr. Heikes returned for graduate work and in the fall of 1885, he, Dr. Williams, and two alumni initiated the eligible men from the class of 1886 and organized the chapter. Alpha of Pennsylvania, the parent chapter, existed alone until 1892 when Alpha of Michigan was founded at Michigan State University.

Since the founding of the Michigan Alpha chapter, Tau Beta Pi has grown steadily; there are now collegiate chapters at 236 institutions, chartered alumnus chapters in 59 cities, and a total initiated membership of 469,739 as of July 31st, 2004.

The official badge of the Association is a watch key in the form of the bent of a trestle, engraved on the reverse side with the member’s name, chapter, and class. The colors of the Association are seal brown and white. The official quarterly magazine is THE BENT of Tau Beta Pi. The name of the Association, its badge, and the title of its magazine are registered in the United States Patent Office.

For more look at the history pages on the National Tau Beta Pi site

Tau Beta Pi Chapter DE-A History

Tau Beta Pi Chapter Delaware Alpha was founded on November 25th, 1933 as TBP’s 65th chapter.  Our Bent is outside the front Evans Hall, once home of the College of Engineering.  It was installed in 1981.  In our 74 years, we have inducted thousands of outstanding engineers.