Dr. Roffer Inducted into Iron Arrow Honor Society

The Iron Arrow Honor Society is an honor society at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida for students, faculty, staff and alumni. It is the highest honor that can be bestowed by the university.  Founded at the University of Miami in 1926, the society admits about thirty members annually, including undergraduates, students at the School of Law, and Miller School of Medicine. Membership requires unanimous votes of the membership. Criteria include scholarship, leadership, character, humility, and love of alma mater.


Above:  Dr. Mitchell Roffer and Dr. Peter Ortner in their Iron Arrow attire.

A Very Brief History of Iron Arrow

Shortly after the beginning of classes at the brand new University of Miami in 1926, the newly appointed Executive Secretary, Dr. Bowman Foster Ashe, had conversations with Francis Spencer Houghtaling about his idea of beginning a tap society(an honor society) for men employing Seminole Ritual. It was decided that if it could be started in 1926, the society would start traditions of the University from its very beginning. After Dr. Ashe had met with Professor Howard Southgate about the same topic, a meeting was called which included nine men (the “Founding Nine”); Dale C. Clarke, Robert Fink, Harry Gray, Francis Spencer Houghtaling, Norman Ted Kennedy, John C. McGuire, Gavin S. Millar, Leonard M. Tuttle and Clarke B. Wilson. The purpose of the society was to honor those male students who had contributed significantly to the “glory, fame & growth” of UM. The name “Iron Arrow” was a combination of parts of two ideas — Arrow from Bow and Arrow (straight path) and Iron from Iron Age. Dr. Ashe was the first sponsor of Iron Arrow.

Iron Arrow prospered from this time until the War period, when it was nearly forgotten and lost to the past. Thurston “Doc” Adams rekindled the flames just after the war, and Iron Arrow roared again. In 1952, Dr.Ashe died, which led to Dr. Jay F. W. Pearson becoming the second sponsor of IA. During this time, many of the tribe’s oral traditions and rituals were written down, and in subsequent years, a constitution drawn up. In March 1957, Iron Arrow helped unveil a statue in honor of Dr. Ashe. In 1966, Dr. Henry King Stanford became the tribe’s third sponsor. Soon after began a very turbulent period for Iron Arrow. The feminist movement challenged Iron Arrow’s policy of not admitting women, and there were charges that the tribe was demeaning to native Americans. The case was investigated by the Department of HEW, who found nothing demeaning to native Americans, but had a problem with the non-admittance of women.

A number of votes were taken by the tribe on several occasions to allow women, but all failed. As a result of IA’s resistance, the society was severed from the university in 1976. Prior to this IA had established the Bowman F. Ashe In-Memoriam Award, and the Seminole Scholarship. The society had also acquired a number of memorabilia from Chief Howard Osceola, from whom our jackets are obtained. Also in 1976, Iron Arrow: A History was written by Randolph Femmer. No on-campus IA functions were allowed by the HEW, for which IA filed a law suit. In 1981, Edward T. Foote II, became the fourth president of UM, and advised the tribe that it would not be allowed back on campus unless it decided to admit women, regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit.

Finally, in 1985, a motion to allow women into Iron Arrow was passed at a special meeting (after no less than six previous attempts) and the tribe returned to the University of Miami campus as “The Highest Honor Attained at the University of Miami.” Early in the morning of February 28, 1985, the tribe tapped the first woman into IA, Dorothy Ashe-Dunn, daughter of Dr. Ashe. Following her tapping, the Tribe also welcomed the first class to include women into Iron Arrow that day. These historic women members were: Jane Locke-Anderson, Dolores J. Chambreau, Jean W. Coburn, Suzanne Graham, Sherra Greenspan, Helene P. Kichefski and Kathryn Whitten. From that time to present, Iron Arrow has been vibrant and alive with the traditions which it created, and continues to be highly respected by all. 2009 marks the 25th Anniversary of this historic occasion, and one of which the Tribe is very proud, despite its tumultuous past regarding the issue of gender discrimination.

In 1986 President Foote was tapped into the tribe, and declared the fourth sponsor of Iron Arrow. The tribe enjoyed an amazing period of growth, expansion of role and increased respect and enigma under President Foote’s patronage and sponsorship during the remainder of his term as President.

In 1988, Elizabeth Rodriguez became the first female chief. Since that time, there have been five additional female Chiefs: Jennifer M. Loe (1995-1996), Elizabeth Blanco (2001), Cynthia J. Chapel (2002-2003), Alexis Martinez (2004-2006 – two terms), and Elena S. Doyle (2009-2010).

When President Foote retired as University of Miami President in Spring 2001 and took on the role of Chancellor to help spearhead the historic Momentum Campaign, the University of Miami sought out its fifth president. In unique UM fashion, part of the process involved the candidates being interviewed by the students themselves, who had input on the selection process. Former Health and Human Services Secretary and Chancellor of University of Wisconsin-Madison, Donna E. Shalala was selected to be the fifth President of the University of Miami, assuming office on June 1, 2001. Iron Arrow was invited to hold a special place at the inauguration, which took place on November 2, 2001. In Fall 2007, she was selected and tapped into the Tribe and declared the fifth sponsor of Iron Arrow.

Iron Arrow is not only the trustee of the traditions of the University of Miami , but a living tradition as well. The tribe certainly has taken “A Straight Path to Tradition” as envisioned by its Co-founders, Dr. Bowman Foster Ashe and Francis Spencer Houghtaling.

Re-Posted from IronArrow.com – Click HERE for original article.

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