Family Ties: Growing Greek life binds students together
Written by Yvonne Schroeder • Photography by Jones Foto and Andrew Volk
Fraternities and sororities establish personal and professional ties that endure a lifetime, and TSU’s flourishing Greek life testifies to the importance of those connections.
In the past year, new fraternity houses built or in the works have drawn an increasing number of students to TSU to enrich their lives through brotherhood. For women, Alpha Sigma Tau, the university’s first national sorority, became part of the campus network this spring.
Ken Schneider, an alumnus of TSU’s Sigma Phi Epsilon, is a force behind the fraternity’s new house going up this year at 115 S. Darling St.
“Things are changing nationally,” said Schneider, an engineer for Vestil Manufacturing in Angola. “The larger fraternities are moving from the ‘Animal House’ stigma to the fraternity as an organization that develops men from boys. Sigma Phi is the largest fraternity in the nation, and the TSU chapter is 40 years old. We need a strong Greek system as part of the university to show prospective students their opportunity to participate in strong leadership.”
The L-shaped structure to wrap the corner facing the university at 115 S. Darling and Gale streets will eliminate houses on that site and at 108 S. Superior to create three single and nine double rooms for fraternity brothers, plus a parking lot.
The layout will support traditional fraternity life through its shared kitchen and dining room with cook and one main second-floor bath, Schneider says. “Doing things together is better because it builds brotherhood. It’s about unity, and in this house, they’ll see each other.” The fraternity broke ground in June and has targeted January 2009 for occupation of the new house.
Twenty brothers of Phi Kappa Theta moved into a new house on South Darling Street in fall 2007. There, members enjoy suite-style living with a center chapter room and five apartments.
Fraternity members appreciate the alternative, apartment-style living, said TSU and Phi Kappa Theta chapter alumnus Matt Clemens, who played an active role in bringing the new house to campus. “A lot of people were skeptical of the individual apartments, but it’s worked out real well. We like it a lot. They just leave their apartment doors open and mingle among themselves like in a dorm,” Clemens said.
TSU’s Theta Xi chapter of Kappa Sigma fraternity broke ground on June 11 for the chapter’s new house on Kinney Street.
Local bank official David Ballinger, BSBA 1970, serves as vice president of the alumni board for the Kappa Sigma chapter, and has been involved with the plan for the new house since 2005, along with local alumni Roy Meyer and Ryan Estes.
Ballinger traced the history of the fraternity’s location on the campus since its introduction in 1965. Originating at 613 W. Pleasant St. south of the campus, it became known as the “house on the hill,” where members published a news piece called the Hilltop Breeze. The fraternity moved to 311 S. Summit St. in 1968, and then acquired the Kinney Street property in 1996.
The female component of TSU Greek life also saw growth with the April addition of Alpha Sigma Tau. Bringing the national organization to TSU represented months of work for new chapter president, junior Nicole Dixon.
“I worked with Dean of Student Life Randy White since last summer to get a national here,” she said. Her chapter will support Habitat for Humanity nationally, Pine Mountain Settlement School in Eastern Kentucky, and a local organization such as Community Anti-Violence Association (CAVA) or the Steuben County Literacy Coalition locally. Each year, the national membership provides over $1 million in donations and volunteers nearly 60,000 service hours. With an average chapter cumulative GPA of over 3.0, it focuses on scholarship.
White welcomes the chapter and its benefits for women. “The national sorority provides the opportunity for leadership and networking with women throughout the world. It has a great influence on the lives of the women who join,” he said.