THE TEKE Sitdown with Ed Pohl: From Initiate to Diplomat

THE TEKE Sitdown with Ed Pohl: From Initiate to Diplomat

This article was originally published in the Fall 2017 issue of THE TEKE. To get your copy of THE TEKE as soon as it releases and receive stories like this straight to your mailbox, sign up for the Life Loyal Teke program. At the Gray level, for $18.99 per year, you get 4 issues of THE TEKE, Life Loyal Teke Certificate, Membership Card, Houseplate Brick Upgrade on Better Men for a Better World Courtyard and Life Loyal Teke Pin. It also counts as a tax deductible contribution. Your tax-deductible gift to Life Loyal Teke provides a direct grant to Tau Kappa Epsilon for leadership development through educational programming.
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Some stories are just too big to tell. The world is full of these stories. They come from all over ... and nowhere. They come from grandfathers, grandmothers, a story from a neighbor, or a tall tale passed down through the Fraters of your chapter house, sparked by a curious nature and a will to discover the trail leading from a long-forgotten relic ... a piece of memorabilia, the tangible flotsam of an ephemeral and expansive life that has long since faded to obscurity in a sea of stories just like it.

The fact that there are millions of these stories, and thousands more created every day, should in no way detract from their importance. Nor should the search for these stories be regarded as hopeless. These stories teach us about more than the lives they contain; they teach us about ourselves, our place in the world and the world's place in our lives. These stories show us that we are not on a path alone, but are part of a greater story.

Ed Pohl has a story like this, and it is an honor to be able to share it with you. Listening to Frater Ed tell his story, you quickly develop a sense that we are all connected in this world. The ties that bind together his life are many and their reach is far. Ed's story is 93 years in the making, and hearing him talk, it is plain to see that it is far from over!

This year, several members from the Offices of the Grand Chapter had the honor of being welcomed into Ed's home in Estes Park, Colorado. Through Ed and his wife Joy's generosity, they were able to learn the fascinating history of this wonderful couple and even a few things about our beloved Fraternity that had been lost to the sands of time.

Those of you who attended Conclave 2017 in New Orleans this year had the privilege to watch our short video from this interview. The video shows a white-haired man, with vibrant eyes, as he reminisces on TKE and days gone by. Frater Pohl's story is his own, but it mirrors the stories of so many men from his generation, a generation that helped put TKE at the forefront of the fraternity world.

As I researched the TKE archives in preparation for this story, I learned nuances to the Fraternity's history that I had never considered before. I learned of the effects that wars and economic turmoil can have on an organization like ours. I also learned that, through the dedication and forethought of our early Fraters, TKE not only survived-it thrived.

As a World War II veteran and Foreign Service diplomat, this Teke from Louisiana Tech has seen more of this world than most. Frater Edward Burt Pohl laughed as we asked him to say his name for the camera. To hear him tell it, "During my school days, I was always referred to as Eddie because I was originally christened Eddie … but later in life, for professional reasons, I had it changed to Edward." And with a grin, "At which time, they promptly decided to call me Ed … but that is another story."

Ed first became acquainted with TKE in 1946-47 when a TKE Field Secretary came to Louisiana Tech and began talks with the local fraternity Alpha Lambda Tau. Eventually, Alpha Lambda Tau was accepted and brought into the TKE Family, bringing with them a young Ed Pohl.

However, Ed's story began to take shape prior to that. In the fall of 1941, he entered college at the young age of 16. A few months after that, the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor.

Home from school on a break, Frater Ed had wanted to catch a movie at the local theater. He left the theater shortly after midnight, and already, he could hear the news boys shouting "Japanese Bombing Pearl Harbor - War is declared."

Like many youths all across the world, Frater Pohl was immediately ready to take up arms and join the military. His father, in what Ed considers a moment of wisdom, said to him, "No, you wait until you are a little bit older." Frater Pohl was only 17 at the time, so he went back to school and finished out his freshman year.

Then he voluntarily went into the United States Navy. He began his military career as a Navy photographer. Following his training, he spent the next 16 months in Southern England doing submarine patrols, flying very low, at about 800 feet, looking for subs for hours on end. They carried anti-submarine bombs that they referred to as zombies. To a modern ear, the operation he describes is nothing short of intense. To fly so low, on the lookout for enemy ships, is an experience not many Fraters have shared.

When a sub was spotted, they would drop sonic buoys that would activate when they hit the sea, sending up a plume of smoke. The planes would then drop the zombie at the plume of smoke, the torpedo would go after whatever was making the sound, potentially striking an enemy target. For completing these combat missions, he would later receive the Navy Air Medal.

"There is a type of camaraderie. Fellows who are in TKE right now will probably understand what I mean by that, more than those who are not. The closeness and the friends that were developed were long and life lasting."

After the war ended, he returned to Louisiana Tech to resume his college experience. During this period, he began his association with Alpha Lambda Tau. And not long after that, they became the Beta-Zeta chapter of TKE. So began Frater Pohl's time as a Teke. Pohl went on to serve as an officer in his chapter. Most important, he also began to experience the brotherhood that is TKE. The same camaraderie that we are so familiar with today. The kind that creates long-lasting relationships.

"There is a type of camaraderie. Fellows who are in TKE right now will probably understand what I mean by that, more than those who are not. The closeness and the friends that were developed were long and life lasting."

These relationships would have a dramatic impact on Ed's life. After graduating with a degree in journalism, he was offered a chance to become a Field Secretary for TKE. The Field Secretaries were a new position at TKE Headquarters. They were developed in response to the losses that occurred due to the war. In order to reestablish chapters that had been closed or in decline due to military service or the Great Depression before it, TKE created the Field Secretaries-a position not unlike the ones held today by our Regional Directors and Expansion Coordinators. For the next year, Frater Pohl traveled the South as other Secretaries traveled the rest of the country, helping to lay the foundation for what TKE is today. Louisiana Tech University still credits him for bringing their chapter into the fold, a fact that Frater Pohl is very proud of.

As it got close to the end of his first year as a Field Secretary, then Grand Prytanis R.C. Williams asked him what he intended to do next. Like many men as they leave college, Frater Pohl wasn't sure.

As Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service, with a rank of rear admiral, R.C. Williams knew a thing or two about government work. Knowing that Frater Pohl had enjoyed the traveling that working as a Field Secretary afforded him, he asked how he felt about being a diplomatic courier for the government.

"I didn't know what a diplomatic courier was," Frater Pohl confesses, "but once he explained it to me, about how I could travel around the world and see all these different places, it became very attractive." With Frater R.C. Williams' recommendation, Frater Pohl quickly found himself working as a diplomatic courier, learning later that his personnel file had a red star on it. The red star means political influence.

"I didn't even know it!" Pohl said with a grin, "but I was happy about it."

He spent the rest of his professional life in the Foreign Service, first as a courier, then later working at embassies in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere, even acting as a chargé d'affaires at his embassy shortly before retiring.

Along the way, he met his wife who also held various positions in the Foreign Service. In a twist of fate straight out of a Hollywood movie, Frater Pohl tells us the story of how he met his wife.

"I received a telegram offering me a job as a courier, which I accepted. That was a major part of my life. And many years later, I met a young lady while I was assigned to the embassy in Paris. And married her. And we are still alive and happy 63 years later."

Frater Pohl continues, "The interesting thing about it was, on one of our assignments to Germany, the director of the Information Service was the man she had worked for in Washington. And when we started putting things together, we realized that she was originally, back in 1948, the person who had actually sent me the telegram offering me a job in the Foreign Service. Coincidental? I like to think it was fate."

TKE changed his life tremendously. Had it not been for the contacts he made, and the experience he gained, he would not have been in the Foreign Service. It was a waterfall effect. When asked how TKE has impacted his life, Frater Pohl said he had never really considered it before, but it had impacted his life greatly: "Had it not been for TKE, I wouldn't have joined the Foreign Service. It went right down the line; I saw all these countries, met the love of my life, married over 60 years now. If it had not been for the experience with the Fraternity … my whole life was shaped by the Fraternity … and it has been a good life. I have enjoyed every minute of it."

For more information, please contact:

Garrett Thomas
Communications Specialist
317-872-6533 ext. 252
gthomas@tke.org