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Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity was founded by five methodist seminarians in 1899 at Illinois Wesleyan College as the "Knights of Classic Lore".

These men "desired an organization different from those represented by the existing fraternities." Their desire was to establish a fraternity in which the primary requisites for membership would be the personal worth and character of the individual rather than the wealth he possessed, the honors or titles he could display, or the rank he maintained on the social ladder. The Founders of the Knights of Classic Lore had little regard for many of the common characteristics of fraternities at that time, including their usual snobbery and disdain for persons outside of a fraternity.

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