The spirit of volunteerism and Pi Lam zeal for brotherhood honored the memory of Alfred “Koko” Kovner at the 60th annual Kovner Memorial Banquet. Nearly 60 alumni and 30 undergraduates attended the event, held on November 3, 2006 at Temple University’s Diamond Club, in a conspicuously cramped President’s Room.
Undergraduates enlisted the help of five of lovely coeds to check in alumni and hustle them for raffles, perhaps the first thing the chapter had done right in quite some time.
Alumni Show Spirited Support
With the chapter suspended and the house boarded up, alumni were challenged to attend this year’s banquet to pledge their support to the goal of reorganizing and revitalizing the chapter. As they have in the past, our alumni responded.
Former Chapter Advisor, Isadore Wachs once said of Alfred Kovner:
“Koke would fight like hell against anything that jeopardized the chapter. The great thing in his life was the fraternity and his brothers.”
Emulating Kovner’s example, alumni and undergraduates came to the banquet determined to put forth the effort needed to right the chapter.
The event would see some disagreement and animated discussion, but that was expected for something that we hold so dear. At event’s end, the PA Alpha Delta alumni would be more organized and better prepared to support the chapter than ever before.
State of the Chapter
Due to the circumstances surrounding the chapter, emcee Paul Lucas ’94, informed brothers that this year’s event would be a little different than those in the past. The banquet would also serve as the inaugural meeting of the PA Alpha Delta Alumni Association, which he then called to order.
Paul then called upon Ray Lerro ’97 to give a report on the state of the chapter. Ray was an active member of both the Temple and Penn State chapters, and recently played a role in revitalizing the PSU chapter. As a building contractor, Ray had invested much time over the last few months assessing the condition of the chapter house.
Ray described what his cursory assessments have indicated. Wear and tear, abuse, age, neglect, and tougher L&I requirements have all contributed to the chapter’s current housing crisis.
The house has substantial equity, minus a loan from the Educational Foundation and some past due utility bills. However, the house has many liabilities in construction and maintenance issues. Some are cosmetic, some structural, some are safety related, and some are mandated by L&I.
The house can be salvaged, but is it worth the cost? Ray pointed out that all of our options have yet to be considered, and any long-term decisions on the house would be made by the Alumni Association and House Corporation.
The condition of the house, while important to the chapter, is secondary to the health of the brotherhood. This would be discussed by former Chapter Advisor, Shawn Mahoney ’92.
Brothers in attendance questioned, how did things regress so far?
Without going into great detail, the crisis that the chapter now faces can be attributed to a number of cumulative failures, a disregard for regulations, and lack of risk management.
The chapter faces reorganization after being suspended by the IHQ for risk management violations during the 2005-2006 academic year. Charter suspension is in effect until June 2007. A summary of infractions include: fighting, hazing (physical and alcohol-related), inadequate GPA, and nearly a dozen police reports ranging from unauthorized parties to objects being thrown from the roof.
Shawn concluded that higher standards for behavior must be set. Brothers must be held accountable for their actions. Risk management policies must be established and observed, and the core values of Pi Lambda Phi must be emphasized.
The undergraduate Rex, Jim Bruer ‘07, and Archon, Bill Pounds ‘07, were given an opportunity to speak. At times verbal exchanges got a little heated as undergraduates denied culpability and alumni sought explanations.
Realistically, responsibility must be shared. The undergrads made mistakes, maybe more than in the past. But over the last few years the alumni have provided little positive influence, support, or guidance. The challenge to the undergraduates that remain is to have the courage to change.
The chapter reorganization process will address the issue of individual responsibility. It will determine the merits of brothers wishing to continue their affiliation with Pi Lambda Phi. Those who have demonstrated the best characteristics of brotherhood and willingness to take the chapter in a positive direction will be reinstated. Those who have not will be disaffiliated.
Jeff DiBlasi ’01 oversaw the election proceedings. He noted that putting the chapter back on its feet would require alumni brothers who are actively “in service.” The first step was to formalize our alumni organization by electing an Executive Board.
In the race for Treasurer between Scott Chambley ’02 and Christian Stearns ’92, experience won out over enthusiasm. Scott captured the mood of the event, proffering his services in his speech, “If I win, I’ll be here for Pi Lam. If I lose, I’ll still be here, working with Chris.”
Apparently, brothers found that the title of “Secretary” was not manly enough for their liking. Shawn Mahoney ’92 ran unopposed.
Two past Reges ran for the top office of the alumni association and both had a strong showing from their respective eras, the 1970s and the 1980s. Mike Naegele ’89 narrowly defeated Jim Kelsh ’75 for President.
Never let it be said that we don’t have our vices. Vice President was the most hotly contested office with four worthy candidates. Jim Kelsh ’75, Scott Chambley ’02, Tim Bryan ’86, and Ray Lerro ’97 all threw their hats into the ring. Jim Kelsh ’75 was elected Vice President.
Jeff congratulated the new Alumni Association Officers, and encouraged brothers to take advantage of other leadership opportunities, such as chairing a committee.
Shawn Mahoney returned to the podium to announce the formation of five core committees and encourage volunteers. Brothers needed little encouragement as over 30 in attendance volunteered for the five core committees:
- Event Planning/Kovner
- University Relations/ Philanthropy/PR
- House Renovation/Property Management
- Chapter Reorganization
Good & Welfare
After the winner of 50-50 drawing, Jay Gordon ‘97, generously donated the $165 door prize to the alumni association, Paul Lucas’ call for Good and Welfare received a resounding yea vote.
A number of brothers took the opportunity to express their thoughts on the chapter and what had transpired that evening for the Good and Welfare of Pi Lambda Phi.
Mike Zumas ’03 provided some well needed levity, saying that he had hand picked and personally trained the current crop of brothers, and therefore, he and he alone, was responsible for all the unpleasantness.
Kevin Mickelberg ’96, said a few things about Kovner… stylish clothing options for the fall season… and possibly something about the separation of church and state… I’m not really sure, as I didn’t get to eat and was pretty drunk by then.
Finally, Brian Brignola ‘94 proposed a toast to war hero and brother for whom we all gather annually, Alfred Kovner.
Though this banquet was not the typical blueprint for honoring its namesake, I think “Koko” Kovner would have approved.