Each fraternity and sorority has them. They are members of the "old guard." Those who led our organizations for much of their lives, and then passed the torch to a new generation. They appear at our conventions, and we feel blessed to be in their presence, to give them the grip. Most of them have gray hair, walk a bit slower, and spend most of their time telling stories of days gone by. If we're smart, we do whatever we can to get a bit of sage wisdom from them when we can. If we're lucky, we end up seated with them at a dinner or other function. For them, fraternity stopped being about all of our problems long ago. They have transitioned into a state where fraternity is fun again - and the brotherhood and sisterhood is paramount. All they want to do is celebrate being a part of one of the greatest organizational movements in the history of our country. They talk with the enthusiasm of a grandparent describing life lessons to their grandchildren. Their passion may be tempered, but is forever relentless.
The fraternity world lost one of its old guard this past weekend with the passing of Howard Alter. Brother Alter was one of those larger-than-life characters in Theta Chi fraternity, of which I'm proud to be a member. Our top award is named in his honor, and Howard always found a way to make it to fraternity events. He was well-known to even our youngest members.
I was invited once to speak at the opening of Theta Chi's convention, and after my brief remarks, I was beckoned over by Brother Howard, now using a wheelchair. I bent over to hear him tell me how good I did, which was a surreal experience given how much I admired him. I only wish that now I had spent just a few more minutes with him. Perhaps I could have gained one more insight or pearl of wisdom to add to the thousands he provided our fraternity. Howard Alter was a man in full, and I will never forget him.
If you are attending a convention for your organization this summer, find a way to spend some time with your members of the "old guard." You never know when these legends will leave us. Consider your own legacy as well - what can you learn from them?
Farewell Brother Alter
John Shertzer '99
Gamma Kappa/Miami University