Alumni Report - A Major Stepping Stone in Omega’s Future
As you may know, we are in the early stages of a major capital campaign. While the current alumni corporation takes the lead on this project, we are going to need the support and help of other brothers. We are looking for brothers from every five-year period to act as era captains that will help with communicating information to their classmates, facilitate dialogue between the Alumni Corporation and each era, coordinate events, etc.
While I have heard from a few of you about lending a helping hand as an era captain, we are still looking for brothers from every decade. Please take the time to think about lending us a hand.
The capital campaign is going to be the major stepping stone in Omega’s future. It will facilitate buying the house back from National, bringing the second floor up to date with
the third floor, repairing the side porch, and other major projects throughout the house. While many of you donate every year to the corporation, the chapter needs far outweigh what we are raising year in and year out.
Our goal is to provide for the house not only for now, but for the next generation of brothers at Penn State.
If you are interested in acting as an era captain, or if you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to e-mail me. Again, thank you to everyone who has already volunteered. Thank you to those who continue to donate and support Omega Chapter.
Undergraduate Chapter Awards
Congratulations to the undergraduate chapter for their recent efforts to receive two prestigious Penn State Greek awards. The Omega Chapter was awarded with the following...
The Outstanding New Member Education Program Award
The Outstanding New Member Education Program Award is presented to the chapters that have provided the highest quality of education to new members. The award recognizes chapters that do not subscribe to the antiquated “pledge” programs of old. Instead, the chapter recognizes that new member education is the beginning of lifelong membership and involvement, and provides developmental activities that prepare new members for future leadership in ongoing contribution.
Chapter of Excellence
Through the development of the Greek Pride Initiative: A Return to Glory, the Chapters of Excellence Awards were created to recognize fraternity and sorority chapters that have proven to be the Penn State’s most outstanding chapters. The program is now in its fifth year and has continued to serve as a mechanism to acknowledge the outstanding work some of our organizations are doing annually. Each of the recipients has demonstrated significant progress in the areas of recruitment, educational programming, member education, service, philanthropy, leadership and involvement, alumni relations, advising, and chapter operations. Theta Chi, as one of the 2008 recipients of this award, represents the values that we hope will be embodied by every one of our fraternities and sororities in making Penn State’s fraternity and sorority community the strongest in the country.
Remembering Howard Alter ’41
by David L. Westol, Beta Zeta/Michigan State ’73 former National Vice-President and Executive Director of Theta Chi
Howard Alter Jr. ’41 entered Chapter Eternal on Saturday, May 9th, 2009. He will be remembered for many reasons—for his loyalty to the Fraternity and to Omega Chapter, for his dedication, commitment and service, for his quick wit and humor tinged with irony, for his inter-fraternal spirit and the many friend- ships he had with men and women from other Greek letter organizations.
He will be remembered because he is and will be the only man in our Fraternity to have served as National President, President of the National Board of Trustees (now Norwich Housing Corporation), as Executive Director and as President of the Fraternity Executives Association and on the board of directors of the North American Interfraternity Conference.
Howard was a leader within and outside of our Fraternity.
And why would someone be so involved at so many levels? It began, of course, at Omega.
I often told this joke at gatherings at which Howard was present: “I once asked Howard Alter if he said, ‘We should have stopped at Omega’—that our Fraternity should have ceased expansion after installing the chapter at Penn State. And Howard, in his Alteresque manner with right hand outstretched, said, “No, but I wish I had.”
The quote about stopping at Omega is generally attributed to Robert Hoge, an alumnus of Rho/Illinois, who wrote the original History of Theta Chi in 1927. Howard, who rarely had anything good to say about Robert Hoge, would smile when I recounted that story. I would usually add, “And if we had, that would have meant that Beta Zeta (my chapter) would never have been part of the national organization.” That, of course, was a high lob to Howard, who would then reply, “That would have been justification right there,” accompanied by loud laughter from the audience.
And that is how things were with Howard.
It can be said that most of us who became involved in the Fraternity as alumni did so in part because of our experiences as undergraduates in our chapters. For Howard, that was certainly a reason. In addition, he followed in the footsteps of another Omega man—George Chapman—as Executive Director. Between the two of them, an Omega man occupied the CEO position of our Fraternity for over 36 consecutive years.
Howard cared deeply for Omega regardless of how the chapter was doing. His loyalty was unconditional. He always seemed to know what was happening on Allen Street in State College.
In the spring of 2001, Omega celebrated “Howard Alter Day.” We scheduled a meeting of leaders from the three boards to coincide with the celebration. On a Saturday afternoon in March, we were at the chapter house. Two older men slowly made their way up the sidewalk to the chapter house.
Howard, who rarely displayed emotion, choked up for a moment. “That is the man who was president when I was initiated”, he told me, “and the other man was my Marshal.” And sixty years fell away. The men greeted Howard with handshakes and hugs. There were tears. Someone told three or four undergraduates standing near us that, “Right there, guys—when we talk about brotherhood...there it is”
Ironically, that fall of 2001 brought Omega to a point of collapse—a declining membership, some leadership issues, low morale, struggles with recruitment. I spent one evening in October sitting on my porch in Carmel, Indiana, while speaking via cell phone with several undergraduate members and a staff member. One undergraduate told me, “It’s over—we can’t make this work.”
I spoke with Howard about the situation. He knew most of the story. I told him, “Howard, we are not going to give up on Omega.” He paused and then said, “I’m sorry that I can’t do more to help, David.” That was his signal or his code to proceed at flank speed—that he would assist.
We didn’t give up. Staff members volunteered to help with a virtual recolonization of the chapter. Progress was slow but steady. We found the right men...Omega men. And Howard was always there...a call to a key alumnus here, an encouragement to an undergraduate there, quiet advocacy for improvements to the chapter house. Unconditional loyalty.
I visited the chapter two years later. After a meeting with the undergraduates in the living room of Omega, I called Howard at his home in Plum Borough near Pittsburgh using my cell phone and passed the phone around the room. And you could watch the young faces of our members and know exactly what was happening in the conversation. Each member took the phone with a mixture of awe and uncertainty on his features. There would be an exchange—Howard usually asked for the hometown of the member—and then a smile and laughter. You knew that Howard was dishing out insults along with an encouraging word or two.
Howard often used a quote to conclude meetings or events. The verse appeared on page 11 in the original History of Theta Chi that was published in 1927.
“A glorious past is ever telling
Of friendship that shall never die,
Within us peace and union dwelling,
While honor crowns the Theta Chi”
For Howard, that meant Omega Chapter.
Thank you for shaping and inspiring Howard and for sharing him with generations of Theta Chi men, Omega.
Omega alumni share their best memories of Howard Alter...
“It was always a special occasion when Howard came to the house. He had just graduated when I got there. I remember one Sunday in ’41 or ’42 Howard was there – slim, dark suit with vest, perfectly attired, gold watch chain across his vest. Howard was always Howard – knowledgeable, well spoken, polite. When answering he liked to tuck his right thumb and forefinger into his upper right vest pocket with the ornament end of the gold chain. I’m glad I got to know him. Always glad he was ours.
By the way, that vic could cause real trouble. We had a record, ‘Whee, I’m a Gman’ which started with a Whee that could shake the house. The trick was to get it going full blast during study hour and then try to outwit Bill Brown with his paddle. We had a bona fide mystery one time. Repeatedly someone would get it going; Brownie waited on the stairs paddle in hand; and nothing. No miscreant anywhere. One Saturday we had an afternoon cleanup outside and the problem suddenly was solved. There was Bob Thompson, Thompson Roses, Kennett Square, lean, tall, ungodly strong, climbing the front of the house and into his third floor room. But Bob was doing it at night and when anyone checked, Bob was at his desk studying. Try it sometime. But if someone falls and gets killed, don’t blame Bob (or me).
Those of us in Omega were delighted when Howard returned. I can still hear his voice. We’d gather around him and usually wind up with some kind of a discussion. Howard always made the point (Dale Rauch many times mentioned it) that he was not a joiner. Of course, one could always reply that he had joined Theta Chi. But that wasn’t what Howard meant. Many people join a huge number of organizations; you can see all the attachments on their stationery and they do little; Howard joined and worked. He brought what he was a part of into his life and immersed himself completely. We, our fraternity, and the world too are better off because Howard was here.”
- Dick Crowers ’45
“One of the last things I did at Theta Chi in 1983 was to give Howard a lift from our house to the State College airport to catch his flight home on a rainy overcast day. I still have the letter he sent me later to thank me. He was a true gentlemen and I will miss him. The world is diminished by his passing.”
- Curtis Whalen ’83
“Howard was a role model for me as a freshman in 1938. Of all the upperclassmen, he seemed to understand the consternation of a green freshman. Howard was one to talk to and one to listen to when I was trying to find my way having never been away from home before and now with the challenge of college ahead of me.
When Howard was the Executive Director in Trenton we met and talked about the future of fraternities. Howard was always positive and looking toward the future.
Just last Christmas I got a nice note from Howard affirming our long friendship and shared hope for the future.
I will miss Howard and his words of encouragement and wisdom.”
- William Grun ‘47
Matthew Keller ‘00 reports “Karen and I now have two sons, Matty and Mikey. I will be completing my dermatology residency in June and will be joining the Jefferson University Hospital practice in August.
Chapter Report - New Members Establish New Philanthropy to Benefit CASA
This past semester, we recruited ten new members and eventually initiated ten young gentlemen. During their education process they were taught how to dress, how to talk to women, and all of the history related to Penn State and Theta Chi.
However, one learning experience stands out above the rest. To truly experience
the emphasis we place on service and philanthropy here at Omega Chapter, we believe that you must serve the community with us. These fine young gentlemen did that in the most extraordinary way. For their new member project they created F.L.I.C.K.S., an Ultimate Frisbee tournament philanthropy to benefit the Pennsylvania branch of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates).
PA CASA is an organization made up of trained volunteers who speak for the best interest of abused and neglected children in court and then find them a safe and permanent home. At the service event, more than 20 teams from various areas of campus and State College competed in Ultimate Frisbee play, with the eventual champion being members of Penn State’s own Club Frisbee Program.
With the creation of this new and annual philanthropy, our new member class has lived our motto of The Helping Hand in the fullest way possible.