Theta Chapter was the third to be established west of the Mississippi River and became the eighth chapter of the National Fraternity. In 1915 a group of undergraduates met at the Agricultural building on the Missouri campus and organized the Colman Club of agricultural students who had common interests and backgrounds. Certain political factions and organizations on the campus practically controlled the student activities. The founders organized the Colman Club in an effort to combat the monopolistic activities.
In 1914 W.C. Hackleman, Delta, had come to the University of Missouri campus with the idea of initiating a new chapter of Alpha Gamma Rho. It was under his direction that the Coleman Club was established. The Club was named for the first USDA Secretary of Agriculture, Norman J. Coleman, a Missourian. On the first of May 1915, Sleeter Bull paid a visit to the Missouri campus and explained the ideals and principles of Alpha Gamma Rho. In the fall of 1915 they secured a house at 1209 Paquin Street, which was to become the first home of Theta Chapter.
In February 1916, Hackleman and H.C. Hensley presented the petition to the National Convention held at Pennsylvania State College. At 3:30 pm, February 11, 1916 they presented the petition before the convention. A short while later the members of the Coleman Club who had remained behind in Columbia received the official word that the club was to become the Theta Chapter of Alpha Gamma Rho.
The official installation was held on April 24, 1916, under the direction of Grand President Tom Harmon, Jr. He was assisted by M.K. Reed, Eta, D.W. Williams, Beta, and W.C. Hackleman, Delta. Professor J.C. Hackleman was the first man to receive the ritual. He was an alumnus of the old Argonaut Club at Purdue and brother of W.C. Hackleman. He and nineteen other men were initiated. Brother Harmon read the charge officially installing the chapter as Theta of Alpha Gamma Rho, and W.C. Hackleman was elected first Noble Ruler of Theta. Following the installation a banquet was held.
The newborn chapter decided to rent a house at 201 College Avenue for the following year. After getting in their second home in the fall of 1916 they voted to have the price of board set at $4.00 per week. The steward was given the power to borrow $150 to meet the outstanding bills. The chapter was losing money on the meals, so the board was raised to $4.50 per week.
In 1917 the first circular letters were sent to those brothers who were not in school. This was to forerunner of the Chapter Crescent. A service flag was also obtained. The days of World War I were trying times at Theta. The chapter put the building fund in war bonds. A houseboy was hired for $6.50 per week that fall. The chapter home was also moved to 711 Hitt Street. The war was closing in and it was decided to sell most of the chapter's furniture. Several articles were to be stored, cash was placed in Liberty Bonds, and the men prepared to make the best of the war situation.
In January 1919 Basil B. Branstetter, Theta, and John H. Longwell, Theta rented a house at 210 Hitt Street. In March 1919 the AGRs on campus discussed reopening the chapter house and elected officers. They cleared $225 the first semester and began paying off the loan on the house. Board was given another boost to $7.00. In 1920 a two-year lease was taken on the Alpha Phi house at 805 Virginia Avenue. This became the fourth home of Theta Chapter.
In October 1925 Theta was the host of the 17th National Convention, which was held at the Daniel Boone Hotel in Columbia. In 1927 Theta moved to its fifth home at 809 College Avenue. The chapter remained there until it moved to its present location in 1954. In the late twenties the chapter welcomed a new housemother, Miss Anna B. Shelton, succeeding Miss Anna Baumgartner. Miss Shelton stayed with the chapter until 1947 when Mrs. Irene Huskey came to the chapter. Mrs. Huskey retired in the spring of 1969 after serving the chapter for a period of 22 years. The chapter and alumni joined in honoring her at a special event held in her honor as an expression of their love and respect. In the fall of 1969, Mrs. Huskey was succeeded by Mrs. Joyce Selby.
During the thirties the chapter enjoyed many successful and rewarding years. Theta had many campus leaders, a crack wrestling team, and placed high in all intramural sports. In November 1941 twelve actives and pledges attended the first annual banquet of the newly formed Kansas City AGR Alumni Chapter at the Continental Hotel in Kansas City during the American Royal Livestock Show. This became a yearly event.
In 1941 Christmas formal was held on December 7th, the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The record for 1943 says that induction papers slowly but steadily rolled in at Theta. The second semester found the chapter carrying on with 31 members and 6 pledges. The University was converted into the largest training school in the six state area for both the Army and Navy, making it necessary that Theta close down before the end of the semester. The chapter closed its doors in June 1943 and did not open again till the end of the second semester in 1945. The house was opened again in 1945 and the men started in with renewed effort and determination. The chapter was soon in good shape and has maintained its status to this day.
In 1955, the chapter added another outstanding member to its ranks. J.C. Penney (nationally known merchant) visited the campus and the chapter invited him to the house. All the men met and talked with Mr. Penney and were inspired by his personality. Before he left, the chapter made him an active member with the pin number of 545. During 1955 True D. Morse, Theta, former Under-Secretary of Agriculture of the U.S. paid the chapter a visit at the annual Founder's Day banquet. This was a memorable year at Theta since it had just moved to its sixth home at 602 College Avenue. Other outstanding Thetas include Ovid U. Bay, Grand President, and Glenn W. Will, Grand Historian.
In 1958 Brother Jerry Litton was elected to serve Theta as Noble Ruler after his pledge semester. Brother Litton went on to have a very successful career in politics, serving as a United States Representative from Missouri. However, in 1976 he was killed in a place crash after winning the Democratic primary for United States Senator from Missouri. Before his death, he was widely anticipated to be the Democratic Party's presidential candidate in 1992 and carry the election.
In 1964 the Inter-Fraternity Council initiated the Cecil Keasler Memorial Award to be given to the outstanding fraternity man at the University of Missouri. This traveling Memorial is in memory of an outstanding Theta, Brother Cecil C. Keasler. Brothers Cecil Keasler, Virgil Romine, and Lemmie Johnston lost their lives in a truck-car accident during Easter vacation in 1964.
The men of Theta have gone on to useful lives in many varied professions from Brother True D. Morse, Under-Secretary of Agriculture under President Eisenhower, to John H. Longwell who served as Dean of the College of Agriculture at Missouri and later as mayor of the city of Columbia. Brother Lowell Mohler served as Director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture from 1993 until he accepted a new position in 2002. Brother Ovid Bay served as Grand President from 1970-72. Brother Zane Akins served as Grand President from 1986-89 and spent several years spearheading the national fraternity's strategic planning undertaking that preceded its 100th anniversary. Brothers Bay, Morse, Litton and Akins are all members of the Alpha Gamma Rho Hall of Fame.
In September 1969 the chapter house was practically wrecked by a fire during the night caused by faulty wiring. The wiring in a jukebox donated to Theta by Jerry Litton caused this. It was possible to rent two residences located side by side so the chapter was able to remain together, but unable to serve many meals. The alumni immediately proceeded to rebuild and remodel the house, as it was possible to utilize the existing walls. It was ready for occupancy in August 1970. Fire struck again in 1981, but was quickly repaired.
By 1998 the alumni of the chapter had grown concerned about the future of the chapter house. After much discussion, it was decided that renovating the existing house was not feasible and a new building needed to be built. A massive fundraising campaign headed by Brothers Steven Ellis, Lowell Mohler, Doug Thomas, and Ed Turner made it possible for Theta to break ground for the new chapter house at 602 South College Avenue in the spring of 2001.
In August 2001 Theta moved into its new $2.4 million dollar chapter house, capable of holding 81 men and meeting the needs of the chapter well into the future. The year 2003 was a landmark year, as Theta had a member elected president of the Missouri Students Association: Brett Ordnung. The men of Theta celebrated the 100th anniversary of Alpha Gamma Rho with a banquet at the house February 7, 2004 held in conjunction with its AGR Classic Steer and Heifer Show. By 2004 the Classic, started in 1993, had grown into one of the Midwest's largest and most prestigious cattle preview shows.
At the 2006 AGR National Convention, Theta was recognized with the Maynard Coe Award for Chapter Efficiency. This is the highest award given by Alpha Gamma Rho. Additionally, Brother Zane Akins was inducted into the AGR Hall of Fame. The 2008 National Convention in Chicago elected Brother Larry Warren as Grand President. Larry is the fourth Theta brother to lead our fraternity. Brother Bill Hayen, ’91 received the Grand Presidents Award for outstanding young alumni and spoke at the 2008 Alpha Gamma Rho/Sigma Alpha Leadership Conference in St. Louis.
The 2010 AGR National Convention was held in St. Louis. Several Theta alumni served on the convention committee including Ken Morrison, the convention chairman. Theta Chapter brought home several national awards including runner-up for the Maynard Coe Chapter Efficiency Award.
During the 2010-2011 year, we continued to be a force on the Mizzou Campus. Among our successes were CAFNR Outstanding Organization, IFC Spotlight Chapter, and three Greek Awards – the Brotherhood, President’s, and Columbia Cup.
The 2012 AGR National Convention brought home several honors for the chapter and individuals. Theta Brother Charlie Napier was inducted into the AGR Hall of Fame and Theta Chapter came home with the Maynard Coe Chapter Efficiency Award (top ranked AGR chapter) along with several other awards such as best management program (Marty Napier) and outstanding adviser (Ryan Milhollin).
Theta chapter continues to be a leader in both the College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources and on the University of Missouri campus. Membership in Theta continues to reach new bounds, as the chapter outgrew its house in 2002 and had to turn to out-of-house membership. By the fall 2012, Theta's membership was exceeding 100 Brothers.
In 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2012 Theta chapter was honored by the University of Missouri-Columbia's Greek Life Department with the Excellence Cup for excelling in scholarship, leadership, campus involvement, brotherhood, service, and chapter management within the Greek Community. This is MU's most prestigious fraternal award. Thetas members continue to be active in numerous organizations on campus. The Brothers remain dedicated to maintaining the great brotherhood that has held Theta men strong for nearly ten decades.