You are sitting in class, listening to a lecture, a typical morning for a University of Miami student, until you hear a faint echo of a kettle drum from a distance. Slowly, the drumbeat approaches the outside of the classroom, growing louder and louder, until a tribe of men and women wearing brightly colored jackets enter the room, stopping all activity and breaking the morning’s spell. One of the jacket-wearing members puts an arrow upon your shoulders and the drumming comes to a halt and the person says, “Congratulations! You have been tapped into Iron Arrow.”
That would be the highest honor you could receive at the University of Miami.
Iron Arrow was founded with the opening of the school in 1926 to encourage all forms of student service and leadership throughout the university community. The purpose of the society was to honor those who had contributed to the “glory, fame, and growth” of U.M.
Many well known South Florida figures have been tapped into Iron Arrow, including Al Sunshine, investigative reporter for CBS; Tony Segreto, the NBC 6 anchor; U.M. quarterback Ken Dorsey, and former U.S. Congressman and U.M. alum Dante Fascell.
Members of I.A. wear authentic Seminole jackets made in the Howard Osceola Seminole village. The colorful patchwork designs vary in colors, chosen to represent each individual member.
Former Son of Chief (treasurer) of I.A., Michael Plasencia, a graduate from the school of engineering, says his jacket was mostly orange because the color represented spirit. As Son-of-Chief, Plasencia tapped the nominees, which he describes as his favorite among all of his responsibilities, especially when he got to tap Coach Larry Coker of the Miami Hurricanes.
Iron Arrow was the idea of Dr. Bowman Foster Ashe, the first president of the University of Miami, who had the help from the nine founding members of the honor society. It was also his idea to use Seminole ritual in tapping and initiating new members.
Gale Sheeder, administrative assistant to the Dean of Students at U.M. and a member of Iron Arrow, says I.A. doesn’t raise money or hold activities like other programs, but “it promotes pride in being associated with the University of Miami at any and all levels.” Iron Arrow members do, however, participate in the annual homecoming parade and greet the U.M. Hurricanes football team in pre-game and half-time lineups.
There are five criteria for selection to the honor society: love of Alma Mater, character, leadership, scholarship and humility. In addition, students must have a minimum of a 2.0 cumulative average, while faculty, administration and staff must have been associated with the university for at least five years.
Iron Arrow members must nominate and unanimously select each tappee, a trait that separates this society from other U.M. organization. New members are chosen and tapped before Homecoming ceremonies in the fall and before Carni-Gras in the spring.
Originally men were only tapped into the society. In the mid seventies, Dean Soia Mentschikoff of the U.M. Law School challenged this custom. A few years later, the society still refused to admit women and U.M. President Stanford banned Iron Arrow from U.M. grounds. When President Tad Foote took office in 1981, as the fourth president of U.M., he advised the tribe that it would not be allowed back on campus unless it decided to admit women. In 1985, Dorothy Ashe-Dunn, daughter of Dr. Ashe, became the first woman to be tapped into Iron Arrow.
For more information, log on to www.ironarrow.com or call (305) 284-IRON.