Notable Alumni

"It is astonishing enough that each of these great men attended the same University, let alone were members of the same fraternity."

Without question, the Alumni of the Zeta Phi chapter of Beta Theta Pi most clearly illustrate the quality of men that are selected for membership. Quite simply, the men that choose to spend their collegiate days at 520 South College Avenue go on to achieve many great things. There is no denying that these men have tremendous individual qualities, but the academically enriched and hard-working environment of Beta Theta Pi is the one common denominator in all of their successes. These men are only a few of the great men that have been members of the Zeta Phi chapter of Beta Theta Pi:

Dr. Hugh E. Stephenson, 1943:

Dr. Hugh E. Stephenson, M.D. is one of the most active alumni ever been initiated into the Zeta Phi Chapter of Beta Theta Pi. Dr. Stephenson has enjoyed personal and professional success all the while giving back enormously to the Zeta Phi Chapter at the University of Missouri, as well as the General Fraternity.

Dr. Stephenson had his beginnings right here in Columbia, Missouri. After high school, another future Zeta Phi Wall of Fame member and rush chairmen, Samuel M. Walton, invited Dr. Stephenson into the Zeta Phi Chapter. Dr. Stephenson graduated at the top of his class in 1943 with two bachelors degrees from the University of Missouri. His academic achievements included his initiation into the Phi Beta Kappa society at M.U.

Like many Zeta Phis, Dr. Stephenson continued his endeavors beyond M.U. He was selected by the United States Chamber of Commerce as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Nation in 1956. He also was honored with the University of Missouri Citation of Merit.

After receiving his medical degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Dr. Stephenson was named the first full-time faculty member of the four-year medical school at the University of Missouri. Despite being on the Board of Directors of countless organizations and authoring numerous works, his most famous accomplishment is his invention of the portable defibrillator. During his 50 years on MU’s medical faculty he served as professor and chair of surgery and chief of general surgery. He also spent 12 years as the first elected chief of staff at University Hospital and served as interim dean of the medical school.

Along with his accomplishments as a physician, Dr. Stephenson also had a profound part in the development of the Zeta Phi Chapter and the politics of the General Fraternity. Dr. Stephenson led the campaign to build an additional chapter house in 1958, which was named in his honor and stands at 1307 Wilson Avenue. He served as Counselor from 1965 through 1968, Chief of District XXI from 1967 through 1973, and Vice President of Beta Theta Pi from 1973 to 1976. He was named President at the 1978 General Convention and served until 1981. For all of his service, Dr. Stephenson received the Oxford Cup in 1998. He is the third Zeta Phi to ever receive such an honor.

Despite all of his awards and obligations, Dr. Stephenson never forgot his Beta Spirit, which is evident with his attendance at every intramural championship, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, the pledge test, and virtually every important event during the year. Dr. Stephenson is clearly a great man, but more importantly, a great Beta.

Sam M. Walton, 1940:

Samuel Walton grew up like every normal child of the Dust Bowl era. His father earned his living repossessing farms during the Great Depression, but his family couldn’t escape the financial turmoil of the 1930s. Like many of his generation, he had to work his way through life. He grew up in Columbia and went to Hickman High School. As quarterback for the football team, he led the Hickman Kewpies to a state championship in 1935 over Jefferson City. In fact, he never lost a game that he played in. After high school, he naturally attended the University of Missouri-Columbia. Due to his parents’ financial instability, Mr. Walton delivered newspapers to pay for his college tuition and clothing. He was rushed into Beta Theta Pi because of his personality and athleticism. His sophomore year he was elected rush chairman and that summer could be seen driving all over Missouri in his old Ford truck looking for potential Zeta Phi members. He had a bright personality and it is said that he always said ‘hi’ to someone before they could say it to him. Mr. Walton was the kind of person who knew everyone, from the Dean of the University to the members of the maintenance staff.

When Mr. Walton graduated from M.U. in 1940, he decided he wanted to be in the retail business. He was married on Valentine’s Day, 1943, to his wife Helen. Shortly after his marriage he enlisted in the US Army Intelligence Corps and reached the rank of Captain by the end of World War II in 1945. After the war, he bought his first store in St. Louis with fraternity brother Tome Bates. He then moved to Arkansas and bought a store in the Ben Franklin franchise. Here, in Newport, Arkansas, a man named Harry Weiner taught Mr. Walton what was to be the future philosophy of Wal-Mart. The first Wal-Mart opened on July 2, 1962. Mr. Walton was forty-four years old, but his patience paid off.

In 1985, Forbes Magazine named him the "richest man in America." Mr. Walton’s success earned him the highest individual honor given by Beta Theta Pi, the Oxford Cup. Sam Walton is still admired as one of America’s most famous and wealthiest self-made men, but more importantly as a Zeta Phi.

Harry Cornell, 1950:

In the fall of 1945, Harry Mack Cornell, Jr. moved to the University of Missouri-Columbia from the small town of Carthage. In 1950, he received his BSBA and immediately began to work for Leggett and Platt. He quickly worked his way up the corporate ladder and in ten short years became C.E.O.

A short time later, Cornell built a small furniture and bedding business into the largest producer-supplier of components for bedding and furniture in the world. Mr. Cornell’s honors include the Business and Public Administration’s Alumni Citation of Merit in 1993. He was the chair of the Business and Public Administration’s annual fund and also of the Herbert J. Davenport Society, both in 1994.

In 1995, he was presented with the University of Missouri’s Faculty/Alumni Award. In 1998, Leggett and Platt ranked 28th among 476 of the largest companies in the United States as "America’s Most Admired Corporation." Harry M. Cornell is truly one of the most successful businessmen ever to have walked through the halls of the Zeta Phi Chapter and to have graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

R. Krosby Kemper, 1950:

R. Crosby Kemper, Jr. was born into an influential banking and railroading family in Kansas City, Missouri. Both his father and grandfather were very successful in their professional endeavors. Mr. Kemper was born in Kansas City and lived there until about the age of sixteen. He attended Southwest High School in Kansas City until he transferred to Andover Preparatory High School in Massachusetts.

After graduating from prep school he served his country during World War II. He was first stationed in St. Louis before being sent over to the Finger Lakes in Japan. After returning home, Mr. Kemper enrolled in the University of Missouri-Columbia following in his father’s footsteps. He was married while in college to Cynthia Warrick-Kemper, the daughter of a lawyer. In 1950, he went to work for the United Missouri Bank, which is now UMB Bank of Kansas City. He later became president in 1959.

Mr. Kemper wasn’t satisfied with his successful banking career. He ran for the U.S. Senate in 1962 on the Republican card and in the same year chaired the Kansas City Industrial Committee. He is still very active in the running of The Kemper Art Museum, which was named in his honor. Although he never obtained a degree from M.U., he received an honorary degree from William Jewel College.

Brother in kai and another Zeta Phi Wall of Fame member, Samuel M. Walton, often referred to Mr. Kemper as his "personal banker."

Kenneth Lay, 1964:

Kenneth L. Lay, Ph.D., the son of a Missouri preacher and farmer, is the archetypical example of a young man from small town America who made good. The former Chairman of Enron Corporation and Deputy Secretary of Energy, Dr. Lay enjoyed a long and impressive career as an expert in the area of energy and as a captain of industry. The former Chapter President was an early proponent of deregulating U.S. utilities; Lay was at the forefront of many changes that have been implemented in the energy industry and in public policy at both the state and national level.

After Graduating from the University of Missouri in 1964, Dr. Lay received his doctorate in economics from the University of Houston, and has taught graduate courses at George Washington University. He became chairman and CEO of Enron when Houston Natural Gas merged with InterNorth Inc. in 1985. Lay has served on the board of directors of Compaq Computer Corporation, Eli Lilly and Company, and the Trust Company of the West. He has been a member of the President’s council on Sustainable Development, The Business Council, National Petroleum Council, and The American Enterprise Institute and is a trustee for the John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment. Until his death in 1996, Dr. Lay and his wife were major philanthropists within the city of Houston. Dr. Kenneth L. Lay has left his mark on many aspects of society, including the Zeta Phi Chapter of Beta Theta Pi.

Phillip J. Yeckel, 1933:

One of the most generous and loyal Zeta Phi ever to walk through the chapter doors was Phillip J. Yeckel. After graduating from the University of Missouri in 1933, he is most famous for founding Hidden Valley Ranch. However, throughout his professional career he never forgot about his years at 520 S. College Avenue. Not only did he contribute towards the annex at 1307 Wilson Avenue and its library named in his honor, but recently, through his widow, a substantial donation of new computers was made on his behalf. The computer room, valued at over $25,000, is not rivaled by any other fraternity on campus. His contributions also extend to the University.

The recently erected Natural Resources building bears a plaque in his honor and an extraordinary display of African and North American animals made possible by him and his wife, Jane Yeckel.

William E. Cornelius, 1953:

William E. Cornelius made a name for himself in the corporate world with the Boeing corporation. The Boeing corp. is one of the largest manufacturers of commercial military and prototype aircraft in the world. He was the Chairman and Chief Executive of Union Electric Company, and currently with AmerenUE, for more than four years until he retired in December of 1993. He also has served as Director of Boatman's Bankshares, Inc. and the American General Life Insurance Company.

Like so many other great Betas before and after him, Cornelius was an extremely dedicated person. He was the type of man who wouldn't be satisfied with anything less than the best. He would contribute his whole self to any give project at any given time. William E. Cornelius’ spot on the Zeta Phi Wall of Fame is largely due to his strong will and refusal to forget his brotherhood.

James J. Ellis, 1956:

James J. Ellis made his career in Dallas, Texas after graduating from the University of Missouri in 1956. He joined Mutual of New York in 1960, received his Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation in 1972, and became a general manager with MONY in 1976.

The recipient of several industrial awards, Mr. Ellis served on the Managers Advisory Committee for the company's central region before his retirement in 1992. He is now a managing partner for Ellis-Rosier. He is currently serving on the board of directors at Merit Medical, Jack Henry & Associates Inc., and Challenger Capital Group.

In 1988, he received the University of Missouri’s Faculty/Alumni Award and Business and Public Administration’s Alumni Citation of Merit in 1993. He has also served as president for the University of Missouri’s Dallas Alumni Chapter.

Harold S. Hook, 1965:

"Action today, not tomorrow." This quote by Harold Hook epitomizes the powerful businessman. The former chairman for American General Insurance Corporation, and one time member of the Zeta Phi Chapter, Hook earned the honor of being a Wall of Fame member because of his impressive accomplishments with the national fraternity and as a business executive.

Harold S. Hook made a name for himself in the field of management. After majoring in Business Management and Accounting at Missouri, Hook didn't stop until he had reached the top. Soon after graduation, Hook entered the Navy and served his country for three years. This led him back to Missouri where he went to work as an assistant for the President of National Fidelity of Kansas City. In only five short years, Hook was named the President of the California-Western States Life Insurance Company. Shortly thereafter, American General bought California-Western States and named him President in 1975 and then chairman and CEO in 1978.

Away from the office, Harold Hook has continued to devote time to other areas of his life. Growing up as the son of a Kansas City dairy farmer, Hook became involved in Boy Scouts at a very early age and eventually reached the top honor of Eagle Scout. Then in 1988, Hook was named the National President of the Boy Scouts of America. As a dedicated member of his fraternity, Hook took on the task of Trustee of Beta Theta Pi. His efforts did not go unnoticed. Hook received the Oxford Cup, Beta Theta Pi’s highest honor, in 1992.

Stephen N. Limbaugh, 1951:

Typical of men raised in southern Missouri, Stephen N. Limbaugh was instilled with a strong sense of character and dedication. He grew up in Cape Girardeau, Missouri where he first became interested in the field of law. He made the decision to travel north to the University of Missouri and graduated in 1951. Shortly after, Limbaugh obtained his law degree. Limbaugh wasted no time out of his schooling to begin his career in law. He made a rather large name for himself and was appointed a seat as the United States District Justice. Stephen Limbaugh was actually appointed this position for the Eastern District of Missouri by the United States President, Ronald Reagan. While in office, Limbaugh represented nothing less that the ideal of honor, truth and justice. Stephen N. Limbaugh maintained his strong character and dedication throughout his life. These characteristics were enhanced as he passed through the halls of the Zeta Phi Chapter.

Limbaugh, apparently, is not the only one in his family who has achieved success through hard work and determination. His son, Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr. also has accomplished many things in his own career. He currently sits on the Supreme Court for the State of Missouri. Another well-known relative of Stephen Limbaugh is Rush Limbaugh, the famous outspoken conservative.

Alumni Chairman: Bobby Hofman – (314)-520-3500 – This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it