JFK honorary fraternity brother at Worcester school

WORCESTER, Mass. (WHDH) — John F. Kennedy was not only born and raised in Massachusetts, but he also became an honorary member of a fraternity at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Sixteen millimeter film, rainy from heat damage, shows a young JFK as he took the stage to become an honorary member of the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity.

"Because we were sort of the only catholic fraternity in Worcester at the time, they contacted the chapter about sort of making him an honorary member,” said Alan Humphrey, Phi Kappa Theta fraternity.

Then a Massachusetts senator, Kennedy was already thinking big.

"As sort of to show that catholic side of him, because he then went on to be the first catholic president of the United States. So this was part of that process of getting him, getting catholic support for him as president,” Humphrey said.

"I had about 20 minutes to a half an hour that I kept Jack and Jackie entertained by telling them about the history of the fraternity and the history of the national fraternity and what we did at Worcester Polytechnic Institute,” said Len Dutram, Phi Kappa Theta alumnus.

He stalled the man who would be president, and chatted with the couple who would soon become beloved American icons.

"The thing that I remember mostly about it was how easy both Jackie and Jack were to talk to. They were just, charming is a strange word to use, but that's the only word I can think of,” Dutram said.

The past 55 years have brought plenty of change to the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity, but the current brothers are embracing the past, and JFK’s legacy.

"I think this house, knowing who JFK was and what he believed in, he'd be really proud of. These guys lived by a motto 'give expecting nothing thereof and act as servant leaders'. And I think that JFK embodied that,” said Nicholas Pelletier, Phi Kappa Theta alumnus.

After the ceremony the video was put away and nearly forgotten about, but has since been shared with the JFK Library in Dorchester.


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