In September of 1922, the new incoming freshman class, as well as a number of students transferring from other schools, opened the Fall Quarter at the University of Florida. As it turned out, three of the newly transferred students had previously been initiated as brothers of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity while at their former schools. These three “stray brothers” of Pi Kappa Phi were Russell P. Cureton from Stetson University, (Chi #37), Lee Hartwell Poe from Georgia Tech (Iota #124) and James Lloyd Knight also from Georgia Tech (Iota #119). Poe and Hartwell, who obviously knew each other from their days at Georgia Tech, soon became aware of Russell Cureton’s presence on campus and sought him out. The three, quickly decided that they would like to continue their affiliation with Pi Kappa Phi, however there were two obstacles which had to be overcome.
First, there was no Pi Kapp chapter on campus at Florida at that time, and secondly, there was no formal standardized method in place at that time for colonizing a fraternity. So instead of starting a Pi Kapp colony, they first founded Phi Beta Psi as a local fraternity. The name Phi Beta Psi was taken from Russell Cureton’s former “local fraternity” at Stetson…which had officially become the Chi chapter of Pi Kappa Phi in 1921. The first meeting of the new organization was held on October 1, 1922 at the Law School Building on the campus of UF. Joining brothers Cureton, Knight, and Poe were 11 students and 2 professors. Soon after, on January 1, 1923, a temporary Chapter House was rented and the plans were put in place for a newer house which would be located on University Avenue and only a short distance from the school. The group closed out the school year with the understanding that fourteen men would return in the Fall and plans were put in place to continue to grow the organization.
However, two of the original founders, Russell Cureton and James Knight graduated in the Spring 1923, and as it turned out, Lee Hartwell Poe transferred back to Georgia Tech. As a result, none of the three “stray brothers” returned to school in the Fall of 1923. So Thomas A. Steele (Chi 56, Stetson), who at the time was the only official Pi Kapp in residence, stepped up in a leadership capacity and took it upon himself to keep this fledgling group of young men together.
In the Fall of 1923 Brother Steele wrote a petition to National Office of Pi Kappa Phi, seeking a charter for a new chapter of the national fraternity at the University of Florida. A charter was soon granted and Phi Beta Psi officially became the Alpha Epsilon chapter of Pi Kappa Phi with 26 charter members.