Walter Bradley Tripp was a professor at the then-named Emerson College of Oratory. He was born on July 31, 1868 in Cincinnati, Ohio and died on August 8, 1926 in Boston, Massachusetts. He founded the Phi Alpha Tau fraternity in 1902 with a group of students as a means to safeguard freedom of debate and expression on campus.
The fraternity was initially formed as a secret forensics society dedicated to maintaining student independence within the debate society. Tripp served as advisor from the fraternity’s founding until 1922.
Excerpts from Tripp’s memorial, as collected in Honorary Brother John Coffee’s history of Emerson College, “A Century of Eloquence.”
“Walter Bradley Tripp became a member of the faculty of Emerson College in 1889 as a teacher of rhetoric, and from 1900 on would teach dramatic art, oratory, and literary analysis there until his death. He was born July, 1868 in Cincinnati Ohio – he lived ‘beside the Ohio. As a child he played upon its banks and climbed its great bluffs, whence he saw its breath and sweep. He thought much about it, of its majesty and its mystery, and often spoke of it in after years.”
He died in the summer of 1926, and was eulogized by the president of the college, Southwick, who said, “He loved life and the fullness thereof. He dressed well and he ate well. No man could plan a dinner more artistically…He had a fine musical taste, appreciated many forms of musical expression but his catholicity included, I think, no tolerance for jazz…”
“Of him it was said ‘His entire work, both as reader and teacher, is characterized by a commonsense conciseness and artistic sanity…In fact it is the element of poise and balance that renders Mr. Tripp one of the most attractive readers upon the platform and an unusually strong teacher.”
Milton J Stone wrote: “The lovely melody of his voice bore you along as on the bosom of a great river, and as you left the hall you found your hand in your pocket, ready to give something to any poor wayfarer you met.”