50 years of leadership, friendship, service
A. Sue Weisler
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The men who gathered in the Eastman Building cafeteria on Spring Street in the early 1960s talked until closing time about their days as Boy Scouts.
Reminiscing about their adventures got them thinking, remembers Roger Kramer ’65 (photography). Maybe they could start a Scouting fraternity and continue to serve the community while having a little fun.
They posted fliers and called a meeting on Feb. 23, 1962. A year later, they were installed as the Xi Zeta Chapter of Alpha Phi Omega and were supported by A. Stephen Walls, the director of student activities.
Kramer and other charter brothers celebrated nearly 50 years of the service fraternity during Brick City Homecoming & Family Weekend in October. Current members and alumni from across five decades joined them.
“We are very pleased the chapter has survived for so many years,” Kramer says. “It has continued to give support to the school and the community.”
The group has done many things over the years to improve campus life and school spirit. The charter brothers’ first project was helping the University of Rochester’s chapter at the Red Cross International Student Dance. They also planted trees on what would become RIT’s new campus in Henrietta.
The fifth pledge class bought the Victory Bell, which was installed in Ritter Arena in the spring of 1965 and continues to be rung at hockey games.
The group is also behind the RIT mascot. Kramer and the late David Page ’66 (photo science) formed the Tiger Committee with the purpose of acquiring a live tiger.
The 8-week-old cub arrived on Oct. 30, 1963, and was named Spirit, for Student Pride in RIT. Four months after his arrival, Spirit became too big to bring to campus. He died on Sept. 28, 1964, from an incurable genetic defect. In the years that followed, the group has experienced its ups and down. In 1982, women were admitted to the group. In the early 2000s, the service fraternity almost disappeared because of lack of interest.
But today, the group’s more than 30 members stay true to their values—leadership, friendship and service, says Christopher Tarantino, the 50th anniversary chairperson and a fourth-year marketing major from Enfield, Conn.
Members coordinate blood drives, sponsor campus clean-ups, host clothing and food drives, usher all men’s home hockey games and live in cardboard boxes on campus for a week to raise money for charity.
Last year, members put in more than 2,100 hours of community service. They are working on continuing to grow the chapter.
That pleases charter brothers such as Skip Millor ’65 (photography), who says Kramer is calling the 50th celebration the last work party for the original members.
“I am proud that all of the people who have followed us capture the spirit of the organization,” Millor says. “Forty-nine years have passed and that spirit is still there.”