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From the Archives

Phi Iota Alpha Celebrates 75 Years of Brotherhood

Rensselaer has been educating working professionals in Hartford for 50 years.

Phi Iota Alpha — the oldest Latino fraternity in existence — was formed at Rensselaer on Dec. 28, 1931. With chapters throughout the United States and in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, and Belgium, the organization quickly became the strongest international fraternity of its time.

During the 1960s, the effects of World War II and the Vietnam War drastically reduced the enrollment of Latin American students into American universities.

The significant decline of potential members took a toll on Phi Iota Alpha, and by 1968 the Rensselaer chapter was the Latino fraternity’s last survivor.

In 1973 the last active secretary of Phi Iota Alpha graduated from Rensselaer. When he left, he took with him the fraternity’s official documents and Phi Iota Alpha closed its doors.

Ten years later, the Poly ran an article about the power and influence that Phi Iota Alpha held during its peak years. A group of Latin students became interested in the fraternity. After conducting further research, they decided to bring Phi Iota Alpha back to Rensselaer.

“I cannot tell you how disappointed we were when my friends and I discovered that there was a Latino fraternity at Rensselaer that closed its doors a decade before we arrived,” says William Feliciano ’87. “I am Puerto Rican, and I grew up in the South Bronx neighborhood of New York City. When I got to Rensselaer, I befriended some Latino classmates and we studied and socialized together. Given the influence of Greek life at RPI, we dreamed of starting a fraternity.”

Phi Iota Alpha Crest
In 1984 the students — now called the “Founding Fathers” — became the next generation of Phi Iota Alpha. They re-established the fraternity at Rensselaer and worked to rebuild the organization’s infrastructure and expand its reach to other universities. Currently Phi Iota Alpha has chartered 31 chapters across the United States.

“Our struggle to establish this fraternity and spread it to other campuses was rewarded by a closeness and formation of brotherly bonds that will last a lifetime,” recalls Feliciano, who says he is honored to be a Founding Father.

Phi Iota Alpha will celebrate 75 years at Rensselaer in October. For details, visit www.phiota.net.


Related Links:
Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity
Latino history at RPI celebrated
Celebrating Rensselaer's Rich Hispanic Heritage

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