Lambda Alpha International

2020 will mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of LAI. In 1930, a group of students at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, formed Lambda Alpha -- a fraternity to honour and engage with the teachings of renown economist Richard T. Ely. In the years since, LAI has changed, grown and diversified becoming a leading global, multi-disciplinary, honorary Society for land economics. 30 chapters in the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, Mexico, India and Japan constitute an international federation devoted to connecting professionals, sharing knowledge and advancing best practices. ;xNLx;To mark the anniversary, we have begun to assemble a history of LAI using an online timeline. It provides context for the reading of LAI history, but also provides a framework into which additional relevant information can be placed. This new LAI timeline constitutes a significant contribution to the ability of our members to not only learn, but also to contribute to the ongoing development of, the history of our Society.;xNLx;As you will see, the timeline not only highlights significant events in the history of LAI, but provides a means to capture, store and present pictures and stories of the people that have over the years contributed to the making of the Society. For new members especially, the timeline offers an opportunity to learn about the Society in which they have become life-long members and to readily appreciate its values and traditions.;xNLx;The timeline will also allow for the stories of our many Chapters to be told. Parallel timelines can offer individual Chapters the ability to build their own timelines with links to the LAI timeline. All Chapters are invited to participate in the ongoing development of the timeline by assembling a history of the Chapter with dates, names, events and pictures. It is quite easy to build and edit a timeline directly. ;xNLx;I close by sincerely thanking Christine Williams and those who supported this significant effort. It is a most valuable contribution to the betterment of our Society. ;xNLx;Robert McBride, MLAI, P.Eng., RPP;xNLx;LAI International President 2018-2019;xNLx;

1930-11-05 00:00:00


A group of men majoring in the Land Economics and Real Estate curriculum at Northwestern University, students of Richard T. Ely, sought to supplement their classroom experience with discussions of issues and solutions related to land use. An organizational meeting for International Fraternity of Lambda Alpha was held on the downtown Chicago campus of Northwestern University. Jack J. Harrington Jr., who became Lambda Alpha's first International President, joined other founders James N. Massey, George R. Stone, Adrian D. Theobald, and A. Gordon Thompson at this historic meeting. An adviser to Lambda Alpha, Adrian D. Theobald (1906 - 1982) was on Ely’s staff at Northwestern. Professor Albert Greene Hinman (1894-1956), another adviser, came to Northwestern with Dr. Ely from Madison as a Research Associate and Assistant Professor of Real Estate and Land Economics in 1930. One of LAI's bedrock principles derives from a statement by the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents in their support for Dr. Ely in his academic freedom trial: “Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere . . . we should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.”

1931-02-20 00:00:00

Traditions / James N. Massey

In a letter to James N. Massey, the honorary professional fraternity is formally recognized by Northwestern University. Its members adopt a constitution, ritual, and key. The original keys were 10-carat gold and could be engraved with initials on the back. In 1980, with the rising price of gold, LAI began to present 10-carat rolled gold plate to initiates. In 1981, Edward Johnson, a student of Richard T. Ely and Fraternity founder, spoke at the Biennial meeting. He recalled that the LAI key was copied from Professor Ely's ring, perhaps a Phi Beta Kappa ring or the Ely Family Crest.

1931-03-29 00:00:00

Initiation Ritual

Original initiation ritual explains the land economics roots of new fraternity.

1931-03-29 00:00:00

Richard T. Ely / First Honorary Members

The honorary professional fraternity is formally recognized by Northwestern University, and its members adopt a constitution, ritual, and key. Professor Richard T. Ely (1854-1943) is initiated and becomes the fraternity's first honorary member. As a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Ely was the inspiration for Lambda Alpha. At the time of his initiation, he was Director of the Institute for Research in Land Economics and Public Utilities at Northwestern University. At the time that his students organized LAI, Richard T. Ely was 74 years old and in the twilight of his long, distinguished career.

1931-05-19 14:06:19

Richard T. Ely "Heartened" by Fraternity

In a letter addressed to founder Adrian D. Theobald, Richard T. Ely (Director, Institute for Research in Land Economics and Public Utilities) writes: "I do not know when anything has been done that has heartened me so much as the activities of our Lambda Alpha Fraternity. It makes me look forward with more confidence for the future than I would otherwise have."

1931-07-01 00:00:00

First International President 1931-1932

James "Jack" J. Harrington, Jr. was the first elected President of the fraternity he had helped found while at Northwestern University. Mr. Harrington spent his career as a real estate broker with the family firm. He was born in 1910 in Chicago. When Brother Harrington died in 1967, he left a bequest of $10,000 to Lambda Alpha as a scholarship fund.

1933-07-01 00:00:00

Richard E. Weiss 1933

Reflecting LAI’s status as a college fraternity, the 1933 President graduated from Northwestern University in the same year he held office. Richard E. Weiss was born in Hammond Indiana in 1914. He returned to hometown after graduation and began his professional career and life of civic service. He was an Ensign with the Naval Reserves, with active service including commanding a Navy destroyer in 1945-1946. In Hammond Mr. Weiss developed industrial real estate. He was a director of Mercantile National Bank and Lake Country Title. He served as president of the Chamber of Commerce and Board of Realtors, and he chaired the Lake County Development Committee, studying social and economic issues of Northwest Indiana. Mr. Weiss died in 1970 at age 57 when a twin-engine plane that he was piloting crashed. His wife Lois and his mother Florence also perished in the accident.

1934-07-01 00:00:00

Burton Rubloff

Burton Rubloff is International President. During his tenure, Lambda Alpha reorganizes to have chapters in various cities consisting of qualified men who were engaged in some business aspect of land use, making the organization international in scope.

1935-07-01 00:00:00

Robert B. Whitaker

New President Robert B. Whitaker has Wisconsin roots.

1936-07-01 00:00:00

Franklin B. Bowes

Franklin B. Bowes (Ely Chapter) headed Bowes Realty, a firm begun by his father in 1907. Both father and son played important roles in the development of Chicago's "Magnificnt Mile" along Michigan Avenue. Franklin B. Bowes is remembered as a land economist and unofficial historian of the area. (1908-1993)

Lambda Alpha International

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