National honor society traces roots to TROY

May 29, 2018

A national honor society with 4,600 members and more than 100 chapters sprouted from an idea at Troy University a decade ago.

Iota Tau Alpha, the nation’s only professional honor society for students pursuing a degree in athletic training, formed in 2005 at TROY, the brainchild of John “Doc” Anderson, professor emeritus and the University’s former longtime athletic trainer.

Anderson was 15 years into his second stint at TROY when he developed the idea for an honor society as a way to reward excellence among students in the burgeoning field of athletic training.

The University’s Honors Convocation sparked Anderson’s imagination.

“After going to the Honors Convocation, I said, ‘This curriculum we have in athletic training is not a walk in the park,’” Anderson said. “It’s demanding. There are high standards to get in and high standards to get out. We need to have an honor society.”

At that point, the concept became a team project at TROY.

First, Anderson needed a name for this new society. He went to his friend, Dr. Peter Howard, who currently serves as chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Classics.

“I told him that we have all these fraternities with Greek letters, so we needed something significant that pertains to our field,” Anderson said. “About a week and a half later, he comes back and says, ‘Look at this — Iota Tau Alpha.’ It’s Greek for ‘We heal those contending the prize.’ It was perfect.”

Next, the newly named ITA needed an emblem, something to represent the group in print and elsewhere.

For this task, Anderson approached Jerry Johnson, a TROY professor of design.

Anderson approached Johnson with a sketch of the Greek status of Nike, the goddess of victory.

Johnson and his design students worked with the sketch and developed ITA’s official emblem, the Nike statue encircled by an olive wreath, symbolic of peace and honor.

A broadcast journalism student from Crete, Ioanna Dafermou, wrote a narrative for ITA, describing the meaning of the wreath.

Finally, Barbara Patterson, the current Director of Student Involvement and Leadership and Panhellenic Adviser, took the lead in establishing ITA as an honor society on campus.

With the group finally established, Anderson took it to the National Athletic Trainers Association symposium in Atlanta, where he explained the concept and the process for establishing a chapter.

Within a year, 35 chapters popped up around the country, and the growth soon led Anderson to cede control of the national group to the National Athletic Trainers Association.

“It’s a big deal, and the thing I’m most proud about is that it was a ‘we’ endeavor, not a ‘me’ endeavor,” Anderson said. “I’m just a messenger — I carry the baton. I think that was great that we had all these different departments involved in this, and every one was essential, from Pete Howard in the classics to Jerry Johnson in design to Ioanna to Barbara, who had to walk this through different councils to get this approved on this campus.”

As the society has continued to grow, Anderson’s quick to remind the association where it started.

“It’s another first for Troy University, and I’m glad it started here,” he said. “It’s a feather in our cap. The credibility of this academic aspect of this, we’re right up there with anyone else nationwide. I’m a competitor, and we’re not going to be left behind when it comes to academic credibility.”