I want to share a recent email conversation between Grand Brother Kevin Stockdale (Beta Alpha #146, Gamma Nu #1C), Brother Dorsey Howard (Beta Alpha #58) and 6 or 8 other Brothers. Grand Brother Stockdale begins…
Good Morning Brothers,
Lynn and I went to see the movie “The Current War”. The story of AC vs DC power in the days of Edison, Westinghouse and Tesla. Probably won’t win any awards, but I have to tell you that I thought of AJ Wurts throughout the whole movie. Every time a laboratory was shown with all these scientists buzzing around Pittsburgh, I pictured a young graduate of Sheffield school right alongside George Westinghouse.
And another memory came back too. I remember when Grand Brother Bill Fermoile was inducted and the event was held in Niagara Falls, NY. First time ever that I walked the US side of the Falls. And walking along that day were Tito Reyes and Jonathon Rigney who (with Josh Jones) all rode up with me for the induction ceremony. Pretty sure Bruce Johnstone was there as we walked along the path on Goat Island. Somewhere within that park were numerous references to Tesla and his plans to convert Niagara’s water to electricity. Even at that time Wurts and his Nernst light invention popped in my head.
Thank you Dave, Mike and Dorsey for all you AJ Wurts research.
Brother Howard responds…
Hello Grand Brother Kevin,
I found your remarks about the historical period surrounding the early adult life of A. J. Wurts to be quite fascinating. I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that Wurts was the “first” electrical engineer in the country. I’d try to find that reference but I’m in the middle of a family literary work that I’m preparing as Christmas gifts for my family members. Niagara Falls and the development of water-powered turbines was the epicenter of electrification back in those days.
I remember very clearly the “walk” that you and those younger brothers took along the border in Niagara Falls back in 2011 and listening to the comments of those Hopewell, VA brothers who were amazed at the reality of an international boundary with rules and regulations. That event in Niagara Falls was very memorable.
In retrospect, there’s only one thing I wish Founder Wurts had done. We have comments made by Founders Dann and Jackson about the founding of Gamma Delta Psi but not a word from Wurts. The more I study Wurts’ life the more I become aware of how profoundly modest he was. He never seemed to want to have the spotlight on himself and never seemed to claim credit for his own towering achievements. We have copies of technical publications and handwritten personal letters to his sister but nothing about the fraternity. I’ve often lamented the absence of any small reference to his memories of April 13, 1879. I keep hoping that such a comment exists but has not yet been discovered. I cannot imagine that he did not correspond with Brothers Dann & Jackson over the years yet no such letters have ever been discovered.
In Warm Fraternal Bonds,
…and Brother Howard adds to his earlier comments…
Hello Again Brothers,
Let me add a bit of thought to my earlier comment concerning the modesty (and privacy) evident in our Founder Alexander Jay Wurts. Founder Dann wrote an article in the first Edition of the Garnet & Silver from 1907 in which he set forth some of his memories regarding the Founding of Gamma Delta Psi. In that article Founder Dann (Alpha #1C) left no doubt whatsoever that Brother AJ Wurts was the primary Founder of the fraternity. Dann wrote : “It needed only the suggestion of the formation of a Greek letter fraternal society to arouse the enthusiasm of Brother Alexander Jay Wurts, to whom all credit is to be given for his untiring zeal in the pioneer work of organization.”. (Note: Italics are mine)
Logically Wurts would have been designated as Alpha Chapter Brother #1C, yet he obviously chose to assign the Alpha Chapter brother numbers in alphabetical order. Thus we have Dann-1C, Jackson-2C, Jones-3C and Wurts-4C. Can there be any doubt whatsoever that Wurts would have been designated Alpha 1C had he not clearly declined to accept that honor? Such a selfless act seems to be typical of the profoundly modest personality of Alexander Jay Wurts during his entire lifetime. It is likely that we would never have known about the paramount role that Wurts fulfilled as the primary Founder of our brotherhood had Dann not recorded his memories in that First Edition of the Garnet & Silver. It’s my thought that the reason we have no surviving personal comments from Wurts about the founding of our fraternity might be that he did not want to appear to be taking credit for his primary role in it’s founding even decades after April. 13, 1879.
Enough can’t be said about the great work our Historical Society has done to look into our great organization’s past. Thank you Brother Bob Miller (Alpha Omega), Brother Dave Bartlett (Gamma Alpha), Brother Dorsey Howard (Beta Alpha), Grand Brother Michael Kuch (Gamma Alpha) and Grand Brother Kevin Stockdale (Beat Alpha, Gamma Nu).