When two Delta Tau Delta fraternity members went searching for antique objects to display during a presentation celebrating the chapter’s 150th anniversary in October 2017, they didn’t expect to find the chapter’s original Bible.
Juniors Joshua Waechter and Vincent Miozzi found the Bible in a plastic container brought up from the basement of the Kappa chapter house.
“I don’t think anybody had any idea this Bible was down there,” Waechter said.
Hillsdale’s kappa chapter of Delta Tau Delta lost its charter in 2003 and didn’t have a charter at Hillsdale again until 2008. Waechter said a lot of paraphernalia had been taken from the Delt house after the chapter left campus.
“It kinda got scattered in the four winds, and it’s been a process trying to pick it up,” Waechter said. “I don’t know who saved the Bible and where it had gone, so I think at that point, it just kinda had gotten moved around and ended up in the basement of our house.”
Despite being stored in a basement for over 10 years, Waechter said the Bible, published in 1846, was in relatively decent shape.
“The pages were a little yellow, a little spotted in some areas,” Waechter said. “The exterior definitely wasn’t in the greatest shape.”
After displaying the historic Bible for the 150th anniversary celebration, Waechter considered restoring it. During the same time period, assistant professor of English Kelly Scott Franklin was giving a talk on rebinding books.
Waechter approached Franklin about restoring the Bible after attending the talk. Franklin said he had learned to bookbind during graduate school.
“My mom always said I needed a hobby other than reading,” Franklin said. “When I found out you could have a hobby that still involved making books, I was really excited about that.”
Franklin said he uses his hobby to rebind journals and make them more beautiful.
“I’m sorta like Tolkien’s elves,” Franklin said. “I think the things we use should be beautiful.”
Franklin considers bookbinding an artisan skill.
“It’s a craft, but it’s also an art form,” Franklin said.
Although he was interested in helping the Delts, Franklin said he didn’t feel qualified to take on the task of restoring the Bible.
“I’m an amateur bookbinder,” Franklin said. “The work that was done on the Bible was a lot more elaborate.”
Franklin referred Waechter to Hillsdale College public services librarian Linda Moore, hoping she would know somebody who could restore the Bible.
Moore told Waechter she knew of a bookbinder in Ann Arbor, Dianna Samuelson, who would be able to restore the Bible.
In the spring of 2018, Moore took the Bible to Samuelson to be examined.
“She looks at it to see if the cover is coming off, if the sewing is kind of coming apart, if there’s red rot in the leather,” Moore said. “Then we leave the item with her, and she sends a proposal.”
Moore said the proposals often include several options with different costs. After agreeing on a proposal, Samuelson keeps the material until she’s done working on it. The total cost of the Bible’s restoration was $530.
Waechter said he knew the restoration was going to be expensive and wasn’t sure if the members of Delta Tau Delta could raise enough money to cover all of the restoration costs. In response to this concern, Franklin reached out to Senior Director of Institutional Advancement Calvin Stockdale to inquire about finding donors for the Bible’s restoration.
“I just thought: ‘There’s got to be donors that would pay for this and that would be interested in supporting the Delts and supporting the college,’” Franklin said.
Stockdale contacted Peter Beckwith, who is the former Hillsdale College chaplain and Delta Tau Delta chapter adviser. Additionally, Beckwith was a member of Delta Tau Delta while he was a student at Hillsdale.
After reaching out to several donors, Beckwith found three men willing to make donations: Richard Danforth, David Potts, and Ronald Reynolds who Beckwith said have been active on campus with the chapter.
Up until the time of the Bible’s discovery, Beckwith said the chapter has been using a small Bible instead of a lectern size for its formal meetings and initiations.
“That Bible has a permanent place in those ceremonies, so it’s really neat to get that Bible back,” Beckwith said.
For Beckwith, the Bible has a special meaning.
“That was the Bible I put my hand on, as did my [biological] brother,” Beckwith said.
Waechter said he feels fortunate to have found such an important piece of the kappa chapter’s history.
“As someone who is a history major, it means a lot to me to have something in an organization I care so much about, to have that history there,” Waechter siad. “For Greek fraternal organizations, I mean really any organization, history is what ties people together.”
Delta Tau Delta president-elect Luke Grzywacz said Christianity is a very important aspect of the chapter.
“We have part of Micah 6:8 in our mission statement: ‘Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly,’” Grzywacz said. “Part of the Delt Creed says ‘the strength of fraternity is the everlasting arms,’ which is another allusion to the Bible. Not only is it great for us to have this old Bible as a part of chapter history, but it also ties into our bigger message for both the college and the fraternity in regards to Christianity.”
Grzywacz said he is also excited to have the Bible for the initiation process of new chapter members.
“It’s going to be amazing for future young guys, when they get brought in, to have that original piece of Kappa Chapter history staring them in the face,” Grzywacz said.
Echoing Grzywacz, Waechter said he feels the Bible is a powerful piece of tangible history for the chapter.
“I think it’s going to help usher in a new phase of the fraternity as we’re growing together as men, bound by this common sense of purpose and mission,” Waechter said.