- The Society’s Beginnings
- The Goal of the Society
- Rituals and Traditions
- Membership and Growth
- The Society Becoming Coed
- History Of Officer Titles
In the late months of 1910, Curtice Rosser conceived of creating a senior society for students at the University of Texas, since no such organization existed at that time. Rosser asked Marion S. Levy to meet with him in his room at the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house. Together, Rosser and Levy set forth the founding characteristics of the group, which was to admit four men from the junior and senior classes to be selected not primarily on the basis of scholarship, but on the basis of a significant contribution to the University through activity in the various representative phases of university life. As they included others in their discussions in the early part of 1911, the name and symbol of the Friar was agreed upon, and eight members were admitted to the charter group.
Since these humble beginnings in the spring of 1911, the Friar Society has grown into one of the finest “ forces for good” in the University and in the state of Texas. The organization and its members have served their university, state, and nation well over the last 90 years as governors, ambassadors, university chancellors, faculty members and presidents, regents, congressmen and congresswomen, judges, and state legislators. Members of the Society have built the University and Texas through well-placed political and social influence, and through hard work outside their professional fields.
Wherever a Friar goes, he or she pays heed to the words of the Society’s sacred admonition to “be ever studious of conditions, needs, and the trend of the times, and be ever anxious to lend a hand in the social, moral, and intellectual uplift of that society wherein it may be [their] lot to dwell.”
The Society Constitution drafted by Rosser and Levy in 1911 states the following as the Society’s purpose: “to associate together leading members of the senior or graduate classes for mutual benefit and cooperation, and to promote the best interests of the University and the student body.” While this simple statement is not very revealing at face value, it is the core of how the members of the Society, both active and alumni, work together for the common good of not only the University—though this is the focus of the Society’s efforts—but also that of “ the society wherein it may be [their] lot to dwell.”
Since the early months of 1911, the traditions of the Society and the process by which it selects its members have been under a cloak of secrecy known only to Friars. The Society’s secrecy is necessary to maintain the organization’s integrity, to prevent the “solicitation” of membership for private gain, and to allow the Society to accomplish its ends in the most efficient and productive manner.
The aspects of the Society’s traditions and selection process described here on this website are only those necessary to paint an accurate historical picture of the Society’s progress over the last century, and to give the reader a basis upon which to reflect and formulate his or her own opinion of the Society.
Active members of the Society go through great pains to seek out and confirm those students who have made significant contributions toward the betterment of the University. It is essential that each prospective member have made a significant contribution to the University of Texas while a student at the University. Such contribution may be tangible or intangible, one act or many, and must be marked by individual innovation and unusual accomplishment in some area related to the University.
For the first 37 years of the Society’s existence, four students each from the junior and senior classes were admitted into the society. Seniors were admitted in the fall before their graduation. Juniors were admitted in the spring, contingent upon their continuation at the University as seniors. Only one exception to this early rule was ever made: In the fall of 1925 there were only three junior members returning for their senior year, so five junior-class men were selected in accordance with the Society’s preference of maintaining an active membership of eight.
With the return of men from World War II, the University of Texas saw dramatic growth. Accordingly, in 1948 the Friar Society saw fit to amend the Society’s Constitution to allow for a maximum of twelve initiates to be selected each year—six each semester. This change was first implemented in the spring of 1949. This had the effect of changing the Society from one that was obscure and highly secretive to one which began have a bit more visibility. But what didn’t change was the Society’s aversion to minimum initiate class size quotas. If there were ever a shortage of qualified candidates, fewer were selection. The Friar Society has always placed the highest premium on the quality of its initiates and integrity of the selection process, regardless of numbers.
Since then, the class-and-semester distinction has been replaced by a general 75-class-hours requirement (or graduate student status), though it is not clear when this change happened. What’s more, there is no longer a limit on the number of new members selected each semester. However, new member classes rarely exceed 12 per year.
For most of the Society’s history, membership was limited to men only. However, at a breakfast meeting among active Friars and alumni in spring of 1972, a heated debate broke out regarding the idea of integrating women.
In the early 1970s, no honorary society at the University was co-ed. Further, the Dean of Student Life, Arno “Shorty” Nowotny—a Friar himself—was vehemently opposed to admitting women to the Society. After long discussion, Friars Joe Krier and Sterling Holloway concluded that position papers should be drafted, with the goal to settle the matter six months later at the Friar’s fall 1972 meeting.
Friars in support of integrating women won out. Indeed, one of the strongest supporters of admitting women was Greg Lucia, who himself became Abbot in the spring 1973. On Sunday, March 25, 1973, in Room 143 of Townes Hall at the law school, active Friars selected the first women initiates: Cathy Alleman, Patti Biggers, Martha Hill, Diana Marshall, Jan Patterson, and Diane Wood. With that, the Friar Society became the first all-male organization to open its membership to women at UT.
The Friar Society’s 1911 Constitution established five officers: Abbott, Almoner, Scrivener, Councilor, and Summoner. Each officer must be an active Friar and holds his or her position for one semester.
The Abbot is the president of the Society. The Almoner is the treasurer. The Scrivener is the secretary. The Councilor organizes the new member selection process. The Summoner manages all social events.
Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
Darren Walker is our 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient. The Distinguished Alumni Award is presented each fall semester to a Friar alumni voted on by the current Society membership. The recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award embodies the Friar Society’s core values of history, service, and honor.
Darren Walker is president of the Ford Foundation, the nation’s second-largest philanthropy, and for two decades has been a leader in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. He led the philanthropy committee that helped bring a resolution to the city of Detroit’s historic bankruptcy and chairs the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance.
Prior to joining Ford, he was vice president at the Rockefeller Foundation where he managed the rebuild New Orleans initiative after Hurricane Katrina. In the 1990s, as COO of Harlem’s largest community development organization, the Abyssinian Development Corporation, Darren oversaw a comprehensive revitalization program resulting in over 1,000 new units of housing, Harlem’s first commercial development in 20 years and New York’s first public school built and managed by a community organization. He had a decade-long career in international law and finance at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and UBS. He serves as a trustee of Carnegie Hall, New York City Ballet, the High Line, the Arcus Foundation, and PepsiCo.
Educated exclusively in public schools, Darren received the Distinguished Alumnus Award, the highest honor given by his alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin. In 2016, Time magazine named him to its annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the recipient of 10 honorary degrees.
2017 Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship
The Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship (FCTF) is awarded annually to one outstanding undergraduate professor. At $25,000, it is the largest undergraduate faculty award at the University.
Alumni Call To Action
Members of the Friar Society can do the following to stay connected