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Lifetime Legacy

Greek membership lasts a lifetime. That’s why the involvement of Greek alumni in chapters plays a key role in the continued existence of fraternities and sororities. Chapter houses, for example, often are maintained by a group of volunteer alumni, while other alumni serve as advisers.

Photo by Mark McCarty
Grice says he was nervous about how the Rensselaer chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha would receive him when he began serving as an academic adviser in the mid-1990s. “One brother, Jamie Burts ’96, literally dragged me to the chapter house and said ‘Here they are, say hello!’…and I did,” he says. Grice hopes more alumni who are interested in getting involved with a chapter will connect with a member in order to decide how they can best contribute.

The Alumni Inter-Greek Council (AIGC), a subcommittee of the Rensselaer Alumni Association, is another vehicle for alumni involvement. AIGC is charged with assisting the mutual welfare of all of the Greek organizations on campus. Mark Anderson ’79, a brother of the Rensselaer Society of Engineers, serves as president of the AIGC.

“Here at RPI, we’re looking to ensure that success is our path,” Anderson says. “Greek alumni are developing a positive relationship with the university, and are always looking for ways to work together to further the Greek community cooperatively.”

AIGC hopes to build a dynamic relationship with the university. Anderson envisions a “vertically integrated” Greek community, where the AIGC communicates with undergraduate Greek councils and can produce a consistent message.

“We know that the Greek connection is very strong; for example, the majority of the Rensselaer Alumni Association board is made up of Greek alumni,” he says.

Apgar encourages alumni who are interested in becoming involved with their chapters to contact the Dean of Students Office. “We’ll help you get in touch with the chapter and the national organization, because we want alumni to be involved,” he says. Even an alumnus or alumna who has no formal fraternity or sorority advising experience can be a benefit to a chapter.

“A new person, even with no advisory background, can be very positive,” says Apgar. “They may be more open to new ideas and trends, and that can be uplifting for the chapter.”

Dean Smith says alumni play an important role in developing chapter leadership. “They can help create better transitions from one year to another, from one president to the next,” says Smith. “They can also provide moral and physical support to the chapter leadership, so that if there are problems, the alumni can be proactive.” Strong chapter advisers are those who have become involved and have sustained positive working relationships with undergraduate officers and are able to help them to meet future challenges, Smith says.

Grice agrees. Over the years, he has helped the brothers of Lambda Chi Alpha deal with life crises, career planning, and academics, in addition to the day-to-day challenges of living in a fraternity. It’s a key way, he says, of continuing and strengthening the legacy of Greek life at Rensselaer. “I wanted to help out and pay back for all the things that I’ve gotten from my fraternity over the years.”

RSE Resurgent

Rensselaer Society of Engineers
The alumni of one of Rensselaer’s oldest fraternities resurrected their organization after violations of Institute student life policy put the chapter out of business for three years.

In the late 1990s, Rensselaer was forced to suspend the Rensselaer Society of Engineers (RSE) and revoke its ability to recruit new members after a series of judicial violations. The punishment was appealed until it ended in 2000 at the New York State Supreme Court, which elected not to make any ruling on the interactions of a private institute and its students.

Alumni members of RSE rallied to help the fraternity survive and correct past mistakes.

RSE was founded in 1866 as the Pi Eta Scientific Society. Arriving on campus at about the same time as some of the first fraternities, it has remained one of the oldest “local” organizations in the U.S. Since it has had no other chapters at other colleges, nor a national organization, a strong base of alumni have served to guide the chapter through its long history.

“What do we need to do to protect our history?” asked Mark Anderson ’79, a member of the RSE board of trustees. “We didn’t have the luxury of a national organization, which could colonize on some other campus if we went away.

“We energized our alumni to turn the situation around,” says Anderson. “We adopted and constructed policies with elements drawn from national organizations, even though RSE is older than almost all national fraternities.”

Relations with the Institute were a focus of their attention. “We found ourselves in a situation where we had a diminished relationship with the school and that just fell apart,” says Anderson. “In our charter, we state our position is to support RPI, so we needed to make sure that our behavior was in support of that.”

By working with national organizations such as the Association of Fraternity Advisors, RSE was able to get back on track and meet the expectations that would take them off suspension, which was lifted in 2000.

Since then, RSE members have gained respect and leadership roles in the Greek community. RSE member John Muller ’03 just finished a term as president of the Interfraternity Council, and was also selected as Greek Man of the Year in 2002, while Mark Anderson ’79 is currently president of the Alumni Inter-Greek Council.

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Rensselaer Magazine: June 2003
President's View Your Mail From the Archives Hawk Talk Class Notes Features
Front Page At Rensselaer Milestones
In Memoriam Making a Difference Staying Connected
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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in March, June, September, and December by the Office of Communications.

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