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40 Years Ago In The Tech - Death of DKE Pledge Prompts Examination of Hazing

Forty years ago tomorrow, the search for a missing Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity pledge came to a tragic end as volunteers recovered the body of Thomas L. Clark '59 from the ice-covered waters of Lincoln's Cambridge Reservoir.

Clark's death ultimately resulted from a fraternity initiation scheme that required Clark to find his way back to campus overnight after having been dropped off by fraternity brothers on a deserted Lincoln road on Thursday. The incident prompted the Institute and the Interfraternity Council to seriously re-evaluate their views on hazing in fraternity initiation proceedings.

The discovery of Clark's body ended an intensive six-day search. The only clue uncovered by Monday was the fact that Clark had asked for help from a Lincoln couple at their home Thursday night, but since fraternity rules limited how much information he could give, the couple was suspicious and turned down requests for help.

The first big break came a week later, as a patch of newly formed ice was spotted from a helicopter hovering over the reservoir on Thursday; soon afterwards Clark's scarf and shoe were found near the hole. The body was finally recovered Friday afternoon.

The following Sunday, the presidents of the twenty fraternity houses on campus met in a closed session with the IFC chairman and the associate dean of students to discuss possible dangers of fraternity initiation activities. The three-hour discussion involved frank disclosures of "hell week" activities in each of the fraternities.

After Clark's death, most of the campus fraternities, including DKE, immediately began making investigations into the philosophy and practice of hell week in their own houses.

New to TheTech, this occasional feature takes a timely look back at the news of years past. The article was researched and compiled by Brett Altschul.