Secret society, Druids, announces return, awards two scholarships

When sophomore Jennifer Anukem came home to her Forbes Hall dorm room and checked her… When sophomore Jennifer Anukem came home to her Forbes Hall dorm room and checked her answering machine, she was perplexed to find a message congratulating her for winning the Druid’s Cathedral Fountain Scholarship.

Anukem said she had never heard of the Druids, a secret honors society historically made up of campus leaders.

“It sounded like a fraternity or sorority or something,” Anukem said.

Two days later, Anukem found in her mailbox an envelope with her name written ornately in gothic script. She opened the envelope to find a $175 gift certificate from the University Book Center, compliments of the Druids, Delta chapter.

Freshman Alex Capece received no telephone message from the Druids, but he, as well, was baffled when the same kind of envelope wound up in his mailbox in Towers.

“I just got a flashback from the movie ‘The Skulls,'” Capece said.

In a press release sent to The Pitt News on Oct. 31, the Druids announced “their return to the University of Pittsburgh after a short absence.”

“As a select group of highly motivated student leaders from a diverse set of backgrounds, we hope to once again help build the unparalleled Pitt spirit and camaraderie,” the letter announced.

“Our first move in this direction has been to award two $175 book scholarships — the Druid’s Cathedral Fountain Scholarship — to two Pitt students,” the letter continued. “One male and one female have been found deserving of this honor.”

Capece and Anukem were named in letter as the two recipients of the Druid Cathedral Fountain Scholarship.

The press release urged The Pitt News to contact the award winners because, “we are sure that this gift came as a pleasant surprise to them.”

The letter was signed with a large, capital D in red font.

Formed at Pitt in 1920, the Druids’ organization was last officially certified through the Student Organization Resource Center in 2000. When SORC required organizations to list at least 10 of their members, the Druids became more secretive.

According to the 1967 revised constitution of the University of Pittsburgh Delta chapter of the Druids, the aim of the organization is “to recognize and propagate among the undergraduate men of the University of Pittsburgh those ideals of leadership, scholarship, service and character which denote the outstanding student.”

The constitution names student leaders sought by the Druids, including a president of a fraternity, interest group or religious society; the editor of a student publication; a member of the Interfraternity Council; or a Student Government “senator or cabinet member.”

The Druids were last seen publicly in April 2002, when they paraded in cloaks through Hillman Library and the Cathedral. Since the midnight march, the Druids have remained relatively quiet, with only a few hints of their continued secretive existence on campus.

On sorority bid night last spring, a large cardboard “D” sign stood in front of the William Pitt Union, with notes on the ground below addressed to each of the sororities. Kappa Delta sister Michelle Turbanic witnessed the Druids and opened the note addressed to her sorority.

According to Turbanic, the Druids pulled up in a car, got out, set up the sign and left.

“They were completely cloaked in black robes,” Turbanic said. “You couldn’t tell who they were.”

The note congratulated the sororities on a successful spring rush and was sealed with a fancy, red “D.” The Druids remained quiet after the incident — until Capece and Anukem were awarded the Cathedral Fountain Scholarship.

Anukem is involved in numerous activities on campus. She is a Pathfinder, vice chair of political action for Black Action Society, president of Collegiate YMCA, a residential adviser for Forbes Hall and an undergraduate teaching assistant for a freshman studies class. She serves as the Freshmen Affairs Chair for Student Government Board and is running for board on a slate with Brian Kelly and Jarrod Baker.

“I’m not doing [all of the activities] to receive recognition from anyone, but it was nice to see that the Druids recognized me as a student leader on campus,” Anukem said.

Anukem admitted to not knowing a lot about the group, and she said she would have to know much more about them to ever consider joining an organization like the Druids.

“I don’t think they are a bad group at all,” Anukem said.

The other winner of the scholarship, Capece, is involved in community activities. An emergency medical technician, he works at UPMC Presbyterian in the emergency room. He volunteers at student health teaching CPR. He is a freshman majoring in emergency medicine and is an associate member of the Delta Chi fraternity.

Capece had not heard of the Druids before he received his scholarship, either, but now he is very curious about the organization.

“I definitely want something else to happen now,” Capece said. “Tell the Druids they can call my cell phone.”

SGB President Brian Kelly said the Druid Cathedral Fountain Scholarship is a great way to honor students.

“I don’t know what the requirements were, but I know Jennifer, and she’s an outstanding leader,” Kelly said.

Kelly admitted that people often ask him if he is a Druid because of his position as SGB president.

“People don’t believe me,” he said, “but I’m not.”

Historically, Kelly said, the Druids have been very community-based and have had a positive effect on Pitt.

“It’s definitely a good thing that they are back on campus,” Kelly said.