Mar 31, 2021

From Pi Alpha Alpha to Phi Delta Theta – Thoughts from Maryland Beta (McDaniel) Phis

From Pi Alpha Alpha to Phi Delta Theta – Thoughts from Maryland Beta (McDaniel) Phis

Pi Alpha Alpha Fraternity became a Colony of Phi Delta Theta at the 58th Biennial Convention in August 1970 and installed April 1971 as the Maryland Beta Chapter at McDaniel College.

BG Don Schenk, Bond # 2

Joining a fraternity is the most important act of my college experience and remains one of the three most important decisions of my life. For purposes of full disclosure, the other two were, in sequence, a career in the US Army and getting married and becoming a father (while I suppose that is three, let’s not quibble).

In March 1968, I pledged an existing local fraternity founded in 1923 as a leadership organization for Western Maryland College men. Our members made the gutsy decision in October 1969 to seek affiliation with Phi Delta Theta and petition for a charter. For the next two years, I served on the group’s executive board as it navigated and negotiated its way forward. As a chapter officer, I learned lessons in the planning and execution of large group activities, steering the executive team as a chief operating officer of an organization of over seventy diverse (and mostly aligned) peers, and leading the entire organization to achieve a strategic goal. That goal, of course, was becoming the Maryland Beta Chapter of Phi Delta Theta on 24 April 1971.

For a look at some of the typical correspondence between an interest group and General Headquarters in 1970, see these letters.

The most memorable experience of my senior year was our installation weekend. We initiated sixty-four new brothers of Phi Delta Theta on Friday, 23 April 1971. Those new members—sixty-one undergraduates and three alumni—gathered the next day for formal chapter installation officiated by Lothar Vasholz, then the recorder of the General Council, with the assistance of Bob Miller, Carl Scheid, Woody Prince, Bill Ross, Marv Perry, and Pat Nolan. Our celebration continued at the installation banquet held at the local Elks Club as a perfect capstone event. Guests included staff and faculty of Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College) as well as brothers from Maryland Alpha, Virginia Delta, Pennsylvania Beta, and the Washington, DC Alumni Club. On Sunday, I had the honor of presiding at the initiation of six more brothers in the bond, bringing our chapter size to seventy Phis.

I often reflect on those days as a young man of twenty-one. Inspiring others in this wildly eclectic group to achieve our shared vision, building consensus among all fraternity and college stakeholders, holding others accountable, and celebrating each success. Additionally, negotiating the bumps—at least one of which was quite remarkable—encountered on the journey.

I often tell others that what I learned as an undergraduate officer of a college fraternity was of far greater and lasting significance and relevance than any formal leadership training that I received during my first ten years in uniform as a commissioned officer in the US Army. It is for that reason that I repay Phi Delta Theta daily by volunteering at the chapter I led in 1971, with my local alumni club in Metro Detroit, and as a faculty member in the best leadership programming I have experienced.

Throughout every memory, it is always the people who have mattered the most and whose continued associations are the most meaningful. That group includes men of every conceivable background and professional experience. From it, I chose my best man. Others have hosted my family on road trips and gatherings in Maryland to which we traveled from our home in Michigan. Fifty years later, our core group gathers biannually to celebrate our friendship and brotherhood while recalling those taken from us too soon.

I lead the current chapter advisory board and am pleased to have Charlie Moore—my predecessor as president, Bond #1 of Maryland Beta, and one of my closest friends—as a board member. Other members of that board from across the decades are now just as close as those who signed The Bond with me in 1971.

The experience as a Founder grounded me in the fundamentals of making informed decisions, of making things happen, and of making a difference. Those fundamentals sustained me through a successful thirty-three-year career in our Nation’s Armed Forces, from which I retired in 2004, having led America’s treasure in tough assignments in peace and combat. They continued to undergird my time as an executive leader in a major defense company and its unique operational challenges with active interests in the US, Canada, the Middle East, and North Africa.

Saying my time as a fraternity man and as a Founder impacted who I am today would be an understatement. The positive and lasting impacts of leading, guiding, directing, mentoring, and accomplishing something that has had meaning for others remain the centerpieces of all I do as a volunteer in service to this Grand Old Fraternity.

Proud to be a Phi!

Joseph Powell, Bond # 9

Although the Fraternity had a different name during my first three years at Western Maryland College, it was my brothers’ help that changed my academic direction for the better. I was having real trouble with my genetics class. My roommate, David Moore, persuaded a brother who had taken the course to offer his assistance and stay up nearly all night to prepare me for the final exam. That’s the only thing that got me through that class.

A little later, I realized I was in the wrong major and that my real love was music, like David Moore’s. We were performing music together informally, both vocally and instrumentally, for nearly two years. To make a long story short, I changed my major, and my grades changed dramatically. I graduated with a BS in vocal music education and an honorable mention. Then, I earned an MA, taught music in New Jersey for more than thirty-eight years, and was a finalist for the New Jersey Teacher of the Year in 2003.

There is no telling what would have happened if that one guy hadn’t accepted the challenge to tutor me that night long ago.

Randolph “Randy” Dove, Bond # 44

The brothers from that initial class, and the classes that immediately followed, are my closest friends to this day. Being a part of starting the new chapter remains a strong and special memory but being a part of such a diverse group of individuals made it even more significant. A fraternity for life embodies the relationships we still carry in our lives.

Maryland Beta’s first fundraiser, organized by Randy Dove.

Maryland Beta’s first chapter update in a 1971 edition of The Scroll

Maryland Beta’s Golden Anniversary

More than fifty years later, this once fledgling emerging chapter, from local fraternity to Phi Delta Theta in 1971, prepares to celebrate its 50th Anniversary. Bond Number 2, Brother Don Schenk, is the current chapter advisory board chairman, showing a full circle of brotherhood and service.

Almost every year, the founders gather to commemorate days gone by while renewing their friendship and brotherhood.

See the chapter’s latest electronic newsletter with details of its upcoming Golden Anniversary.

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