Honor societies and fraternities are a fixture in U.S. colleges. Most often they use Greek letters for their names, and some have names in English. However, the men's honor society of Santa Cruz High School (Santa Cruz, California) is called "Hi Tow Tong".

A tong is the local form of a triad gang. Tongs were famous and the Tong Wars lasted decades in nearby San Francisco. They were ongoing when the organization was apparently founded.

According to a blog post containing much later text from the school student newspaper,

Hi Tow Tong Men’s Honor Society was organized in 1910. The first initiation ceremonies were adopted embracing the sentiments of Confucius, Jesus and other world leaders to emphasize the thought that leadership ability carries with it the responsibility to serve.

The earliest primary source mentioning it that I have found is in Santa Cruz Evening News, May 21, 1910. According to the Evening News, February 9, 1915 the "Chink fraternity" was in full swing. Its members were all white.

How did an honor society get a name for a Chinese gang? Does "Hi Tow" (which looks something like a Wade-Giles spelling of Cantonese) actually mean anything?

1915 Hi Tow Tong

News article on the society

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    Note the literal translation of 'tong' is hall or meeting place, which would seem appropriate for an name for a school group. The association of the term with criminals is perhaps due to the influence of the triads, not vice-a-versa? – justCal Aug 19 '18 at 17:10

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