In the fall of 1906 four civil engineering students at the University of Illinois began planning and organizing a club of like-minded engineers that grew to the 16 founders of Triangle Fraternity by the time it was legally incorporated on April 15, 1907. They chose Triangle as a name rather than Greek letters because the shape is used in most structures. Think truss bridges or rafters. In the Fall of 1907 most of them moved into the first Triangle Chapter house. In 1910 they built a house meant to satisfy their needs for the next 53 years. The formal initiation Ritual and many other traditions were established around this time.
In 1909 the second chapter at Purdue joined in, followed by Ohio State in 1911 and Wisconsin in 1913. Shortly thereafter World War I started, members joined the Army, and by 1918 all four chapters had folded. There were no active chapters operating and all had either sold their chapter houses or rented them out to the Army. The dedication of the brothers to the idea of Triangle was too great to let it die. By 1919 all four chapters were up and running again. A year later the 5th chapter, Kentucky, was installed and by 1942 fourteen more were installed mostly in the Midwest. In 1921 the membership was expanded to include all engineers not just Civil. In 1946 Architects were added and in 1961 students in Science, that is Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics were included. In 1983 Computer Science was included. The Second World War also saw a decline in Triangle but surprisingly not as much as the earlier war. Membership was about half of normal by 1945 and eleven chapters continued to operate at reduced levels thru the war. By the end of 1946 almost all chapters were up and running again with houses. The next wave of new chapters started with Nebraska in 1963 and by 1972 eleven more chapters were installed. No new chapters were started in the next 7 years. Fraternities were unpopular on college campuses in the early 1970s. This was due to the perception that fraternities were part of the establishment. Many students were into the hippie and anti-Vietnam War culture. Some national fraternities lost half their chapters. Triangle lost 3. The Triangle national organization struggled to keep things together with the lower membership. By 1980 fraternities were recovering including Triangle. In the years 1979-89 seven chapters were added. By 1992 Triangle was on 39 campuses.
Unfortunately the 1990s and the first few years of the 21st century did not have good numbers for Triangle. Several chapters went inactive and by the Centennial in 2007 there were 28 operating chapters and 4 colonies. A colony is a star- up organization before it grows to be a full-fledged chapter. Membership was about 70% of its peak, at about 850. At the Centennial Convention in 2007 our National Council changed the focus of the fraternity by the slogan “We choose to grow”. Expansion was emphasized with two recently graduated staff members of the national office trained to start new colonies from scratch using techniques proven to work in other fraternities. They also help chapters grow and enhance the experience of their members. This approach has been very successful. There are new locations mostly in California and the South and several old chapters were restarted. Triangle is currently at 42 campuses with 1300 student members. More are planned. Another bright spot is that giving by alumni to the fraternity and Triangle Education Foundation is at an all-time high. This has enabled more scholarships and training programs for our actives that help in chapter operations. We look forward to a future that has Triangle at most major engineering campuses and as a leader in the fraternity world.