This web page is intended to be a historical record of the 66 years that this student honorary society existed on the campus of Illinois Institute of Technology. Even now, there is still hope that another degree-granting program in fire protection engineering will exist at one of the Greater Chicagoland universities and that Alpha Chapter of Salamander can be revived.
Intended primarily to recognize students excelling in fire protection engineering studies, Salamander Honorary Society now has active chapters at the University of Maryland and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The society was formed in 1922 on the campus of Armour Institute of Technology (now Illinois Institute of Technology), on Chicago's South Side, where a Bachelor of Science degree program in FPE had been in existence since 1903. The program was discontinued in 1986, with remaining undergraduates finishing by 1988. At that time, the original, Alpha chapter of Salamander became dormant. For many years, Salamander in Chicago held the unique position of being the first and only fire protection engineering honorary at the only college in the world offering a degree in fire protection engineering.
Beta Chapter of Salamander was formed at the University of Maryland in 1967, and Gamma Chapter was chartered at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1984.
Prime requisites for initiation still are high scholastic standing, leadership characteristics and a desire to further the interests of fire protection. The objective is to promote high scholarship and original investigation in all branches of fire protection engineering. The society's membership also includes persons other than those currently enrolled in an FPE studies program but whose outstanding contributions toward fire protection have warranted affiliation with the society. The total number of initiates exceeds 600.
According to society tradition, the mythical salamander, born of fire and imbued with fire, takes its place not only in the name of the society but also in its emblem to remind us that fire is not only the destroyer, but also the comforter and the servant of civilization. This legendary figure also symbolizes the belief that our most compelling duties and routine services are not performed altogether in terms of rigid and lifeless formulas.
Alpha Chapter at IIT initiated its last members, #306 Carl Olson and #307 Tom Castino (both as Honorary), at about the time that the fire protection & safety engineering program was discontinued. Since its beginning, the FPE program had been strongly supported by the property insurance industry and Underwriters Laboratories, where many of the lab courses were held, but changing conditions led to a discontinuance of very broad and strong scholarship assistance to undergraduates. Ultimately, the demise of the program on the IIT campus was the result of a university decision to discontinue all non-"mainstream" engineering curricula.
Illustrations: Top, gold-plated key given to initiates, 1 in. high — Center, Salamanders pose for 1951 Integral, IIT student yearbook, l. to r. W. Mattern, R. Bright, Prof. W. Labes, R. Jensen, B. Cohn — Bottom, typical wood replica key made by pledges and worn on campus before initiation, 11 in. high.
Alpha Chapter members sought
Once in a while, it might be fun to have another of the annual initiation dinners, even without any pledges to cruelly quiz and, finally, initiate. Or, you might want to get occasional Salamander news. If you're still around and kicking (unfortunately, a large percentage of Alpha members are not), please send your name, mailing address, email address, phone number, and current affiliation, if any, to John Mertens or Bert Cohn. Also, send info on other members that you may know about.
Alpha Chapter initiates, in numerical order
Web page created by Bert Cohn, Salamander #163, April 2013