When Ed Hopper, Akron ’65, went to college, it was to play football. His older brother Jim, ’63, introduced him to Phi Delta Theta. This relationship would lead to a lifetime of support through volunteering and donations.
Ed has fond memories of his time at Ohio Epsilon. There were thirty-three guys in his pledge class. At that time, Akron was a private school, and the professors were very tough academically. He is proud that all the chapter brothers worked hard and won the Sound Learning Award. They also won the All Sports Award in intramurals six years in a row.
After graduating with a degree in business administration, Ed and some chapter brothers went to work for Firestone and BF Goodrich. Ed was always independent and a self-starter, so when the opportunity to be a partner and then owner of a restaurant occurred, he took the chance. It was arduous work, often working seven days a week. During this time he also had the opportunity to invest in oil and gas drilling in West Virginia. This was his first real opportunity to be an investor, and it was also very risky. He did his homework, met the drillers, and was lucky that out of thirteen holes drilled, only one was dry. A few of them are still producing oil today. Eleven years later, Ed decided to sell his three restaurant locations when the offer was right. He decided to retire to Florida for a few years and moved his parents down with him.
But Ed wasn’t sitting still for long. He was volunteering for Phi Delt with his mentor, Dr. John Davis Jr., Washburn ’35, as an assistant sports editor for The Scroll. He began working in the insurance business and invested in real estate. He found his niche in real estate development as he had a knack for taking a risk and having it pan out. Ed was working in Tampa when he attended an alumni event. He met then General Council President C.T. “Tal” Bray, South Florida ’65. They struck up a friendship, and Tal recommended to Ed that he should volunteer for the Fraternity on a local level.
During this time, he met and married his wife, Ruth Ann. They lived in the same condo building and met through a familiar friend. Ed credits Ruth Ann with keeping him grounded and in line and refers to her as an “honorary Phi” due to her assistance during his seventeen years as a province president. She would drive so that he could work in the car while they went from chapter to chapter in his province. He served the Chi South province from 1987 to 1997 and Chi North from 1998 to 2004. Out of the ten chapters active in Florida, he oversaw seven. He was a province president when the Fraternity implemented alcohol-free housing, and Ed is proud that none of his chapters lost a charter during this turbulent time.
In 2002, Ed received the very first Oliver J. Samuel Outstanding Province President Award at the 74th General Convention in Toronto, Canada. Previously the Outstanding Province President Award, this award recognizes an outstanding serving province president of the Fraternity. This award was established to recognize the services rendered by the late Oliver J. Samuel, longtime Mu West Province President. Brother Samuel dedicated twenty-five years of his life as a Phi Delta Theta province president from 1969 to 1994.
Ed remembers his first Phi Delta Theta Foundation solicitation letter. It was shortly after graduation and the early days of his career. He was trying to decide whether he should donate ten or twenty-five dollars. He sent in a check for twenty-five so that he could get a Phi Delt t-shirt and lapel pin. He still has that lapel pin affixed to a blazer.
That first donation was just the beginning. He believes that education leads to better citizens. His primary motivation in deciding to be a Campaign 2030 lead donor is scholarships. He wants undergraduates to focus on their studies, not on economic worries regarding the cost of a college education. He also believes that a fraternity helps to make a better man. The Pursuit of Greatness program will help Phi Delts become better leaders before graduating, giving them an edge over others in their respective fields.
Ruth is also from the NW Ohio area. In 2015, wanting to be closer to family, they purchased a summer lake house on Lake Erie, while keeping their condo in South Pasadena, Florida. In 2019 they moved back to Ohio full-time. Because Ed had retired from work and his General Fraternity volunteering, he was free to give back to his local chapter for the first time. Having no children of their own, Ed and Ruth have adopted the young men at Ohio Epsilon. Ed speaks glowingly of the men at Akron and is only too happy to support them. The first act of support was during the Ohio Epsilon housing campaign. Ed says he has always had a talent for fundraising, and when asked to host an event at his house in 2017, he and Ruth agreed and raised a quarter of a million dollars. More recently, he and Ruth bought a parcel of land behind the house from the university so that another Greek organization could not buy and build there. This property is referred to as The Commons and offers the chapter a pavilion for social events, a basketball and pickleball court, plus some additional parking spaces. Long-term, the members of Ohio Epsilon will be supported by the Hoppers with the Edward F. and Ruth A. Hopper Endowment Fund Scholarship. This scholarship was created by the Hopper’s desire to support and encourage young men who have demonstrated the capacity and motivation to achieve significant educational and career goals in life and have developed the leadership skills to achieve these goals through active participation in the Ohio Epsilon Chapter. To continually fund this scholarship, the Hoppers have bequeathed their home to the university, which will facilitate the sale of the property. That money will then go into the scholarship fund.
There is a Hopper family motto. “If you can, do. If you’re blessed and able, help people.” Ed feels that the easiest way to help Phi Delta Theta is to write a check, but he remembers those early days in Akron when he was broke. There are other ways of giving back, like staying in touch with your chapter to mentor the young men and guide them to the correct path. When asked why he is proud to be a Phi, he said he thought he knew everything, and then he met Phi Delts. He met men from other backgrounds and learning from them made him a better man. Becoming a Phi Delt gave him a positive identity, one he didn’t have after graduating from high school. He carries this with him to this day.