Phi Delta Theta

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Phi Delta Theta
Chapter NY Eta
Recognition February 8, 1986
Type Social Fraternity
Members 44 Undergraduates

Phi Delta Theta, commonly referred to on campus as "Phi Delt", is a social fraternity at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The RIT chapter is referred to as the NY Eta Chapter and currently has about 42 undergraduate members. Although the chapter was established as Phi Delta Theta on February 8, 1986 it had previously been recognized under several different names and still continues many of the same traditions.



Sigma Beta Rho

The newly elected officers of Sigma Beta Rho meet to discuss their plans for the upcoming year. (Dave Wurtenberg, left and Irving Van Slyke, right)
On May 16, 1960 the newly formed Student Council approved the constitution of Sigma Beta Rho, making it an official organization of the RIT Student Association. Sigma Beta Rho was founded as a local honorary and professional fraternity of the College of Business with the expressed purpose to petition Delta Sigma Pi, an international business fraternity, for a charter. The stated objectives of the chapter were "to encourage the study of business, to promote student scholarship, social activity between the students and the commercial world, and to bring commerce closer to the students of the College of Business."

Membership was open to all upper-class male students of the College of Business who had a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5. Mr. Houston G. Elam, an instructor in The School of Business Administration. had been chosen as the organization's adviser. Elam was a second year professor in the School of Business Administration and had received both his B.S. and M.S. at Penn State in Business Administration. While attending Penn State he was initiated as a member of Sigma Alpha Mu. The initial elected officers were Irv Van Slyke as President, Dave Wurtenburg as Senior Vice-President, Dave Wrobel as Vice-President, and Don Stanton as Treasurer. Later that year, Irving Van Slyke was appointed as the Assistant Director to the Director of Alumni Relations. The appointment was to take effect September 1, 1960, and was announced by Mr. Alfred Davis, the Vice President of Development and Public Relations as well as Mr. Eugene T. Natale, the President of the RIT Alumni Association. Simultaneously, Van Slyke was serving as the Business Manager of the RIT Reporter.

By February of 1961 Sigma Beta Rho had submitted its application of membership to the national council of Delta Sigma Pi. At the same time they had been working with George C. Hedden, the Director of Admissions, to "establish an RIT guide service for prospective students, parents, and guests," which up to this point the Institute had been without. Soon after, on February 10, 1961, less than a year after organizing Sima Beta Rho received a letter from the central office of Delta Sigma Pi stating the organization's acceptance as the Epsilon Lambda chapter.

Delta Sigma Pi

Delta Sigma Pi Grand President Homer T. Brewer presents Epsilon Lambda chapter charter to new chapter's president, Irving Van Slyke, at installation dinner Saturday evening.

On Saturday, March 5, 1961 a group of 24 charter members were initiated into the Delta Sigma Pi fraternity. Following an informal luncheon at the Mohawk Manor Hotel the group was initiated at an installation banquet held at Schindler's Restaurant at 7 pm. The list of banquet speakers included Dr. Leo F. Smith, Vice President for Academic Administration, Edwina B. Hogadone, Dean of the College of Business; David S. Campbell, Sigma Beta Rho historian; and Irving J. Van Slyke Jr., Sigma Beta Rho President, who accepted the Charge and Charter. Several faculty members were also initiated with the group. The installation had made the Epsilon Lambda chapter the 116th chapter of Delta Sigma Pi.
The newly installed 'Delta Sig' held its first professional meeting Tuesday, October 17, 1961 in the Pioneer Room of Nathaniel Rochester Hall. Francis Drake of the Rochester Gas & Electric Co. was invited to speak on "Government Regulation of Utilities." Drake, the assistant first vice president of the company's research department, remarked on atomic energy and the preservation of free enterprise. By September of the following year the Epsilon Lambda Chapter had purchased and moved into 108 Troup Street in downtown Rochester. This caused a writer of the RIT Reporter to comment in the Summer Freshman edition asking "is a new social fraternity in the offing?" The next edition of the Reporter included a letter from the Executive Committee stating:

"Although we do engage in a limited number of social events, it is not our purpose to ever become or compete with a social fraternity. We do not mean to connote adversity to these groups. As a matter of fact, we have active members who are also social fraternity men. Our program includes professional meetings and we require a minimum grade point average of 2.5. Further, it is not unusual on many campuses that professional fraternities have houses. It just happens that we are the first one at RIT. We are thankful for the publicity given us by Mr. Snyder in his "social" column. However, we hope that any such future publicity will not attempt to identify us with social fraternities, but will allow us to retain our present status."

-The Executive Committee Epsilon Lambda of Delta Sigma Pi (October 5, 1962)

The chapter was not happy with the classification it had been given. It saw no reason why it had to be declared either social or academic, it merely saw itself as a brotherhood. This point was furthered in a response written to the RIT Reporter in the January 29, 1965 edition, in regards to being excluded from the RIT Reporter's coverage of fraternities at RIT.

"Dear Editor:
We, representing Delta Sigma Pi, the professional business fraternity, believe there is a gross misconception concerning the definition of "fraternity" on this campus. This misconception was reflected in the centerspread of the Reporter this past week. It was stated "On this page are the fraternity pins of each of the six fraternities on the RIT campus." We are confident that Delta Sigma Pi has as good or a better bond of fraternalism than any other fraternity at RIT — including the six referred to in the Reporter. Although we have a very active social program, the purpose of our fraternity does not parallel that of the social fraternities. We have a more academic aim— an aim which should be more widely recognized and respected in an institution of higher learning. Therefore, the time has come for RIT to recognize the fact that there are fraternities at RIT other than those conveniently sanctioned by IFC."

Gerald E. Hills, President
Patrick J. Russell, Secretary

The same year, Delta Sigma Pi began its annual tradition of hosting the Rose Dance, in November, where the Rose of Delta Sigma Pi was to be chosen. Women were nominated by members of the chapter and a winner was chosen by a vote at the dance. The Epsilon Lambda chapter often favored members of its sister sorority Pi Sigma Delta, which in 1967 became Phi Gamma Nu. The Rose of Delta Sigma Pi was a national competition, and the chosen winner at RIT would compete with winners from across the country. In 1966, the annual tradition of holding a 'Cash Blast.' The event was held the Friday before the Rose Dance, and was a raffle to various prizes, including cash, and one year a car. In 1967, the Rochester band "The Angry Men" was invited to play the event. In 1968 the institute abandoned its city campus and relocated to a newly built campus in the suburb of Henrietta. The Epsilon Lambda chapter moved as well into the top floor of the Helen Fish Building. Over the next decade traditions such as the Rose Dance and Cash Blast faded out while new traditions such as Woppadoola and an annual Christmas Celebration began.
As the chapter entered the 80s the identity struggle between an academic and business fraternity reached new heights. In 1975, the national convention directed the national board of directors to invoke emergency powers to resolve pending legal issues related to Title IX. The Board of Directors decided that chapters would thereafter be able to admit qualified female students into the fraternity, which was subsequently ratified in a constitutional amendment in 1977. The Epsilon Lambda chapter, having been historically male, rejected this decree and continued as a male fraternity. Also, in the early 80s the Institute began to restructure its business school, relocating some majors. This resulted in many brothers not being business students, but being in a business fraternity. In 1983, under increasing pressure from the national fraternity to become co-ed, the RIT chapter resolved that it would separate from the national organization. In 1984, the national organization revoked the Epsilon Lambda charter.

Nu Delta Sigma

Having been stripped of all national affiliations the chapter established themselves as a local fraternity Nu Delta Sigma, or 'Nu Delta Sig.' The chapter continued to operate as it had previously, but desired the benefits of being affiliated with a national organization. In response, an executive committee was created to explore options. The chapter faced an obstacle as no NIC chapter was interested in installing the chapter, as they viewed the chapter as a rogue organization. This was quelled by presenting a letter drafted by the grand council of Delta Sigma Pi stating the organizations had parted on good terms due to new organizational requirements. In 1985, the committee presented three options to the house and Phi Delta Theta was chosen. Soon after, the chapter was installed as a colony of Phi Delta Theta.

Phi Delta Theta

The brothers of New York Eta, December 2011.

After a short colonization period, on February 8, 1986, 39 brothers of Nu Delta Sigma were initiated as brothers of the New York Eta chapter of Phi Delta Theta. The founders of the new chapter were brothers which had pledged Delta Sigma Pi; in Bond order, Andrew J. Tapparo, Brent S. Lessman, Ray A. Linton, Peter D. Reikes, Peter J. Szczesniak, Mark S. Courtney, Matthew J. Mullady. Later, several brothers of Delta Sigma Pi and Nu Delta Sigma returned to be initiated as brothers of Phi Delta Theta.
In 1989, only three years after becoming Phi Delta Theta, the NY Eta chapter was awarded the President's Cup, by the Institute, for the 1988-1989 school year. In 1998, RIT began to relocate Greek organizations from Greek Row to the newly constructed Greek Circle. The New York Eta chapter abandoned its home in Fish and relocated to Building 28, Residence Hall A, where it still resides today. In the Spring of 2006 the New York Eta chapter began the annual event Pitch-a-Tent, an outdoor charity concert, and in 2007 they began the annual event Snow Bowl, a charity flag football game held in the winter. Both events are designed to raise money for ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease).

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