Alpha Phi Omega (APO)
By: Mike Walton (blackeagle)
Posted On: 2020-02-03
Image of APO brother at a workshop.
Paul asked me if I knew anything about APO:
"Hey, Mike!! When I was in Scouts (and you too probably), there was a page and a half in our Scout Handbooks talking about the Scout Fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega. Today, I don't hear about them, don't see them on our campus (University of Minn.) and in talking with many of the Scouts, they don't seem to know about them. What happened? Did the fraternity go away or was it a victim of the BSA's "PC-ness" back in the 90s? I don't see a chapter at the school you went to, either...so it must not have been important down your way... thanks!"
There's a story (isn't it always? *smiling*) about why Eastern Kentucky University did not and still does not have an APO chapter there. But please let me catch others up with some facts and information about Alpha Phi Omega.
By far, Alpha Phi Omega (APO for short) is the largest collegiate fraternity in the USA with chapters on more than 300 campuses, an active membership ranging from 20 to 27K students, and over 520 thousand alumni members. There are also active chapters in the Philippines, Australia and Canada.
APO is one of several national co-ed SERVICE fraternities, as opposed to a "social fraternity," and because of its nature, APO does NOT own nor leases any homes or facilities on college campuses. APO, as some may be familiar with, prides itself on three essentials: brotherhood to all and especially to fellow APO brothers (both male and females members are referred to as "brothers"), leadership in small and grand ways to their campuses, their communities and their national partner organization, the Boy Scouts of America; and service in a wide variety of manners locally, nationally and in some cases, worldwide. APO's purpose is "to assemble college students in a National Service Fraternity in the fellowship of principles derived from the Boy Scout Oath and Boy Scout Law (the "3 and 12" you have read from me and others); to develop Leadership, to promote Friendship, and to provide Service to humanity; and to further the freedom that is our national, educational, and intellectual heritage."
Anyone -- whether they are a member of a social or campus fraternity or sorority, with or without a Scouting background -- may pledge and become a member of APO. The pledge period lasts half of a semester in most locations and emphasizes what the fraternity is all about. Like all Greek community fraternities, APO does not condone hazing, drug or alcohol usage, and has a no-tolerance policy in dealing with those and other matters.
What makes APO fun to be a part of is the service and leadership aspect of the organization. APO brothers are LEADERS on their campuses and in their communities. They engage as leaders or principle helpers for a wide variety of community projects and events. You may not even know that there's an APO presence at an art opening or an open house for a new school until well after the game was over and done.
Their service to Scouting is legendary. APO brothers man awareness booths at every National Scout Jamboree since the third one; they also serve as staff members all over the Jamboree site, to include the introduction of the Summit in West Virginia. Some of your sons' merit badge counselors are APO brothers, recruited, or simply asked to come to assist your District or Council in coaching and providing awareness of a merit badge subject. When service is needed -- APO brothers, males, and females, are standing knee-deep in water or mud or both right beside the brothers from the Order of the Arrow and adults from area Scouting units, fixing or dragging out whatever needs to be done.
As you wrote, Eastern Kentucky did not have and still does not have an APO chapter. In fairness to the "Campus Beautiful," at the time three other APO brothers and I made a petition to the Director of Student Programs and Services back in the late 70s, the campus already had six service fraternities and sororities. But it was the name. The University had some severe issues with the "Ques" and "Alphas" (Omega Psy Phi and Alpha Phi Alpha, two of the oldest African-American fraternities in the nation) and their EKU chapters. Bringing on another "Alpha Que" chapter, even as a service organization, was thought of being too much. The Director denied it. Twice. So at EKU, the core which later became the core of the nation's first College Scouter Explorer Post pledged and became members of the University of Kentucky's APO Chapter, Alpha Zeta. It was hopeful that APO Region V would assist us with "colonizing" EKU's chapter. It did not happen, and we moved onward as the Blue Grass Scouting Alliance Club (BGSA) in 1979.
Close to 15 years later, my second wife Jessica pledged APO while she attended Western Kentucky University, and I asked the chapter's leadership if I may pledge alongside her. Like many students hearing about "stupidity," "hazing," and "uncool things," which goes on just so one could become a "Greek letter person," Jessica was first not interested. I told her and assured her that this was different. Jessica proved to be a great leader -- serving as a Cub Scout Den Leader and as a reader at one of the elementary schools. She loved it so much that she changed her major from business to elementary education and credited her APO experience with influencing that decision. We both became members of the Xi Phi Chapter in 1993.
I can put you in touch with the APO folks at the U, Paul if you like. The University of Minnesota hosted the APO's national conference a few years back and it gave me the chance to meet some folks I have been talking electronically with via APO-L, a mailing discussion list similar to Scouts-L (the list is basically dead now, with everyone moving onward to various social media outlets). To answer your questions, no, APO is NOT dead but its relationship with the BSA needs to be tied back up and strengthened. No, APO wasn't the "Boy Scout fraternity," but it was based upon and still is on the qualities found within the "3 and 12," which all of us brothers try our best to strive to do. The information about APO wasn't a page and a half but rather a half-page with the full-color crest of the Fraternity. Finally, yes, I did it twice and I had my wife to become a member and be active with me for three years before she graduated and we moved onward.
Leadership, Brotherhood, and Service! Long live Alpha Phi Omega!