By George W. Chapman, Jr., '49
(reprinted with permission of Theta Chi International from the Spring 2000 Rattle)
Editor’s Note: Hundreds of guests and members of Theta Chi Fraternity visit the International Headquarters in Indianapolis every year. Be they participants in Fraternity events in the city or travelers on their way to some point on the compass, or conventioneers, or undergraduates on a road trip to “See National,” the impact upon them of Fraternal historical artifacts and emotional triggers seems to be consistent from one man to another. In the morning of November 2, 1999, a phone call that seemed initially like so many others was received by the Headquarters staff and a few casual and highly informative questions were answered positively. Less than an hour later, an alumnus brother and his wife walked back into personal and Fraternal history in a way only a few of our members could ever do. This is his brief recollection of that visit.
Our visit to Theta Chi Fraternity’s International Headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana was really unplanned. My wife, Marion, and I knew we would pass through the city but did not expect to have time to stop. When we found ourselves with a few extra hours, we called Theta Chi to see if a quick visit was a possibility. It was!
I should mention that my father, George W. Chapman, had been a former Executive Director of Theta Chi for exactly 20 years prior to his retirement on January 1, 1968. He, and a group of other students from Philadelphia, had formed Omega Chapter at Penn State in early 1919. So I have a special connection to Theta Chi, in addition to my own membership.
Brother El Ahlwardt, Director of Development, for Theta Chi Funds, Inc. and Editor of The Rattle, and Scott Thomas, Director of Chapter Services, met us at the front door of the beautiful Headquarters building.
I must admit that it has been many years since I have had the occasion to use the Theta Chi grip, but instinct took over and our formal greeting was as though rehearsed. Brother Ahlwardt and Brother Thomas were as fine a pair of gentlemen as we could have met anywhere, and a great credit to our Fraternity.
As part of our tour of that building, we were ushered into “The Chapman Library,” a beautifully furnished room that would seem to be the heart of Theta Chi since it contains displays of all items of our history since 1856. This was a most emotional moment for me.
I had previously visited “The Chapman Library” when the Headquarters was in Trenton, New Jersey. But I had assumed that, with the movement of the Headquarters to the Midwest in the early 90s and the passage of some 30 years, things would have changed. If the library still existed, it merely had a new, more modern name. I hope my brothers and my wife could excuse the choke in my voice when I saw my father’s portrait and a display cabinet of his writings, books, photos, awards, etc still intact in “The Chapman Library.” This was a thrill and a moment of nostalgia I shall not soon forget.
There were also mementos of other Theta Chi greats of that generation. Men like Sherwood Blue, Dusty Rhodes, Joe Ross and others, who guided the Fraternity through the difficult post-war years.
As a young man, I knew these men as colleagues of my father, but I did not yet understand the devotion, dedication, and drive with which they served their Fraternity. They gave freely of their time and energy and resources, sometimes at the expense of their personal and business lives. Their obsession was to see that Theta Chi grew and prospered, and along with all those devoted brothers who followed, this Fraternity has been well served.
We continued our tour throughout the great Board Meeting Room and through the various office areas where we met the staff members who keep the behind-the-scenes business of Theta Chi running smoothly. We inspected the Pathway of Brotherhood in front of the HQ building, paved with memorial engraved bricks. We noted with satisfaction the adjacent bricks with the names of my father, my brother Philip, and myself-all members of Omega chapter at Penn State.
One humorous incident came to mind during our tour. My father’s formal retirement in 1968 was held during the 112th Anniversary Convention in Miami Beach. He urged my sister, Ann; my brother, Phil; and myself to attend if we could. By pre-arranged agreement, we all advised him that we could not be able to join him. In the meantime, we made secret plans to fly to Miami and surprise him with our presence. We joined the reception line, but when our time came to greet Dad, there was no wild exclamation of joy as we expected. He merely shook our hands, and with a twinkle in his eye, passed on to the next guest. His usual dignity and poise turned the tables and we were the ones surprised-the joke was on us! It was the subject of much family humor for years!
Our thanks to Brother Ahlwardt and Brother Thomas for being such kind and friendly hosts on short notice. I can truly say that Dad would have been extremely pleased and proud to know of the beauty of the International Headquarters, and the excellence of the leadership and staff of our beloved Fraternity, Theta Chi. We also took great pride in the beauty and practicality of the Headquarters Building.
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