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It’s All Greek!

Franciscan Magazine

Although I never joined a Greek organization, I always knew the brotherhood and sisterhood ran deep among those who did. Just how deep? Our fellow alums explain below in their own words.  
Lisa Ferguson ’84, English

Thomas Sokol ’69, Business, TKE
TKE came along at an important time in my life.  It was through one of my brothers that I met Donna (Imgrund 69) and changed my life forever.  Giving her that fraternity pin and my continuing  relationship with many of my brothers remains a gift from the University that keeps on giving.

Jim Kirby ’71 Mathematics, TKE
Fraternity life in the late ’60s and early ’70s combined friendship, studies, social life, spiritual awakening and athletics. Many memories include pledging, inter-fraternity team sports, Greek Hum, occasional good grades and lots of parties. But the best part is the lasting friendships that originated over 40 years ago and continue to this day.

Tau Kappa Epsilon alumni have been meeting annually for the past several years in many places (Pittsburgh PA, Canton OH, Annapolis, MD, Fulton NY, and of course, Steubenville). The friendships that exist today are a result of the fraternal bond that was developed while in school. Also, many new relationships have been created with brothers and their families who were not in school during the same time. Unfortunately, my best memories involved alcohol. The stories grow a little each year at our TKE reunions.

Michala Jeffers Smith ’77, Political Science, DZ
Where do I start? Pledging Delta Zeta, seeing the sheet sign on the College sign after hell night with all of our names on it, welcoming us as new sisters; sitting around in the dorm, talking and laughing; the DZ parties; the TKE house; TKE tea; TKE parties; Greek Week; Greek Hum; the sports; summer stags at the Jersey shore; candle lighting ceremonies; my little sisters; my big sisters; new pledges; new sisters; rush week; Mass with Father Jack; beer blasts; keggers on the cliffs; car washes; pretzel sales; carnation sales; tears and laughter with all my sisters; and the best—Delta Zeta sisterhood. So many wonderful memories of so many wonderful women!

Tony Walker ’78, AXP
In the fall of 1972, a young man from Passaic, New Jersey, first walked onto the campus of the College of Steubenville never having been away from home and scared to death. In the beginning, [I] never thought that others were in the same spot. It was a good thing we were the only ones there.

Luckily for me, I was able to make some friends quickly, and that helped. We were a bunch of high school jocks, so we had something in common. Now these guys were from many places, from Cleveland to Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. Oh, did I mention I was the only black guy?

So, here I was, a black guy from New Jersey, hanging out with a bunch of white guys, across the river from West Virginia, four years after I saw cities burned. Believe me, I had more than one ‘What did I get myself into?’ moment. 
Fortunately, the friends I made were accepting, and I never really felt different; I was just one of the guys. That always stayed with me. During that fall and winter, I got to visit many of their families, an experience that I treasure. Without exception, they all welcomed me with open arms and open hearts.

We did what freshmen do: played ball, got drunk, and chased girls. Thank God for the girls. We were all pretty good students, so academics came easy, at least, at first. We attended Mass together, needless to say we were pretty close. As stated before, we were all jocks, so naturally, we became interested in intramural sports.

We were amazed at the way the fraternities played the games and dreamed that someday, maybe that would be us on that field or on that court.
The thing that impressed me most was how it seemed as if each fraternity was playing for something bigger than the game, and I got that feeling about all of them.

So naturally, when rush season started, we were all interested. We decided that our group would all go one way. Now, if I’m being honest, I’ll tell you I wanted to go another way, but I sat and talked to someone I trusted, and told him of my dilemma. He didn’t hesitate and told me to go with my friends. Thank you, Joe Brush, you were right.

So that spring, my friends and I pledged AXP [and] never looked back, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. We went on as a group to make our own history and memories. I have always been proud to associate myself with that group of men and proud to have helped shape other groups that followed. Truth is, a lot of who I am was forged there and I can honestly tell you that I love those guys 40 years later, those who showed me the way as well as those who I showed the path. Those guys are still my best friends and that is why I still say I am a proud brother of AXP. Those letters NEVER fade.

Georgia (Lentz ’81) Sager, Accounting, DZ
I have been thinking about what the most memorable Greek event for me would have been. In the end, there were too many to single one out—Lamp Lighting Night (hell night), Greek Hum win, intramural victories, Activation Weekend, the fall PJ Pledge Party. The list goes on.

In the end, it is knowing that my sisters are still there for encouragement and support even after all these years.  And when we are together at reunions it is like time has stood still.

Rick Welday ’82, Biology, AXP
I came to the College of Steubenville as a shy, backward freshman from Miami , Florida. I quickly became friends with some of the Brothers of Alpha Chi Rho, playing basketball in the gym with some of them and another freshman named Mike Ferguson. I was pretty good in sports and the Crows were the “Jock” fraternity on campus. Mike and Mark Johnson, Randy Lind, and Gerald Mosko befriended me, took me under their wing, and brought me out of my “shell.” I admired the friendship I saw between these “brothers” and the bond they had as members of the fraternity, as well as the pride they took in being a part of that group. I liked the passion they had for sports, and I knew that I wanted to join this group of men. 

I pledged Crow in the fall of 1978 with Mike Ferguson and Ed Jolly, picking Gerald Mosko as a Big Brother. I found that I could not have made a better choice for a Big Brother, as Gerald and I have grown very close over the years, and I truly look at him as the older brother I never had. As a group, the Crows took great pride in securing the “All Sports Trophy” every year that I attended Steubenville. However, most importantly, as a member of AXP, I made my friends for life.    

Deciding to attend the College of Steubenville is one of the best decisions I ever made, and I can honestly say that I enjoyed my time on campus immensely, mostly due to the fraternity and the friendships I forged there.   

Tara P. (Hoeflich) Holian, DZA
As we neared the bridge, a familiar feeling washed over me. August 2013, 80s Alumni Reunion, the first time I had been back on campus since I left in 1986, 27 years ago. I felt nervous. Would people recognize me? Would it be awkward? Would I fit in? The same feelings I had when I arrived as a freshman in 1983. My first night on campus I arrived in the middle of the night. I tried to get into my dorm room quietly, so as  not to wake my new roommate. Bumping and fumbling, I failed in that attempt. We talked into the night, and my fears were put to rest. I came to Steubenville an eager 18 year old, wondering what my future would hold, where my life would take me. I returned to Steubenville having found the answer to some of those questions: mother of three boys, successful banker, living in North Carolina. The reunion weekend also reignited my friendships with my sorority sisters and my Greek friends. 

Over the last three years I have reconnected with so many of the people I went to Steubenville with. Some were in the same sorority I was, Delta Zeta Alpha, others were in one of the other five Greek organizations that were on campus when I attended. Having been Greek Council President when I was a sophomore, I knew many people in the different Greek organizations. We had been chatting over Facebook, recounting our time at Franciscan. It was very clear that our Greek bonds were still strong. Meeting at the reunion only made that more evident—it was like old times. We laughed and stayed up way too late. We celebrated accomplishments and sympathized with each other’s struggles. Life had been kind sometimes and hard sometimes, just as life is. But we had come almost three decades later with the same bond of friendship we found in our sororities and fraternities.

The night I got into my sorority was one of the most exciting times I had at Franciscan.  It was such an accomplishment to come up that hill and see our sorority crest painted on a white sheet outside J.C. Williams. All of my friends and other Greeks gathered to share in our celebration. I felt that way coming back to the reunion. Coming over that hill and seeing so many of my old friends with their Greek letters on was like coming over the hill that night! What I didn’t know the night I got in, but what I know now is that those friendships and bonds would last a lifetime. 

Since the reunion, we are all still in touch. Other get-togethers have been planned. Last year my sorority travelled to Ft. Lauderdale for a week. In attendance were sisters from my time and many from before my time. It didn’t matter that we had never met before; we shared that sister bond. We sat on the beach, made meals together, sang at the top of our lungs and called other alumni who could not join us. We talked about our lives and recounted those that have left us too soon. Being a part of the Greek system at Franciscan has rewarded me with the kindest, dearest friends that I have had for a lifetime. Our bonds are as strong today as they were then. God blessed me when I became a member of my sorority with people who care for me and share their lives with me. It is a blessing I cannot repay.

John (Josh) Donlon, AXP
There are many stories I could share, but I would actually like to share one that took place about 30 years after graduation, for when we pledged, we did not pledge for that moment, for that semester, for our time at Steubie. Brotherhood was for life, and you can see that at the many photos taken at brothers’ weddings when it was like a mini Crow reunion!

I live in lower Manhattan, and when Hurricane Sandy struck us, I was in what was called the “red zone.”  We got hit, and we got hit hard.  I shared pictures of my street on Facebook, and many commented how it looked like a war zone with the damage that was done.  I live on the 20th floor, our lobby had a foot of water in it, and the water seeped into not only our building’s garage but the sub cellar where the generators are located.  By 8:30 the night of the storm, we were without electricity and by morning we lost water and heat as well.  Now we were told to evacuate but hey, being a thick-headed Irish guy I stayed. HUGE MISTAKE! I did end up packing a bag and spending three weeks with a friend on the upper west side where they did not have so much as a leaf on the ground.  Uptown and downtown were two different worlds. The subways were flooded so basically we were stranded on the island. Now mind you, if you have to be stranded on an island and its not Hawaii, Manhattan is a good second island to be on.

I did head down on occasion just to be sure certain elderly neighbors were OK. They had tents popped up all over the neighborhood with National Guard presence. It was another world.

Rick Welday invited me out to Ohio. He saw the damage and felt perhaps a few days away would be needed. He was right.

Tony Walker, a brother who lives up in Rochester, drove down, and Rick had a few of the local brothers come out as well.  We got together that Saturday night at his place, and it was just what the doctor ordered: just being among my brothers, leaving NYC behind for a few days and letting me lean on their shoulders just for that evening. When I returned to NYC I was rejuvenated and the gloominess that hung over me due to the storm had lifted.  It was a time that was “food for the soul.” It was just wonderful to be among those I have known for so many years, with whom I shared a common bond and a brotherly love. That to me is what brotherhood is all about: knowing that in the time of a crisis there are those there to support and be there for you in whatever way they can.  It is more than the sports and the parties. It is about the bond. It always has been.

Thirty years later I have brothers come out to NYC, 30 years later we have our reunions, 30 years later that bond is still as strong as it was from the day we entered and received our letters. I am just as proud today to be a brother of Alpha Chi Rho as I was 30 years ago.

Jodie Picciano ’90 Sociology, DZA
I attended Franciscan University from 1986-1990. Pledging DZA and becoming a TKE Little Sister were highlights of my college life. Activation weekends created lifelong memories as they were opportunities to meet alumni sisters, take photos with your “family tree,” and, of course, get dressed up in semi-formal attire for the Activation Ball. My fondest college memories are of Greek Life, being Greek Council President and participating in Greek Hum. I still smile remembering the AXP brothers singing Aretha Franklin’s “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” dressed as women or the Sigma Phi sisters singing ”Love Shack.” Of course, Delta Zeta Alpha rocked our songs!

Greek Life solidified my belief that people from all walks of life can find common ground, accept one another, and support each other. I lived with two sisters of Theta Phi Alpha our senior year and love them today as much as I do my DZA sisters. I am blessed to be friends on Facebook with so many FUS Greeks, and no matter what letters we wore then, I KNOW we continue to be our own support system now. Their prayers have helped my family and I through some rough times as my husband battles cancer. I have been blessed with several mini-reunions, and my kids were amazed at how my sisters and I interacted as if time never passed. I strongly believe that Greek Life at Franciscan University was unique and unlike any other college campus because sororities and fraternities were faith-based. I still hold Delta Zeta Alpha’s motto from Sirach 6:14 close to my heart. “A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; (s)he who finds one, finds a treasure.” Greeks were, and are, treasures to one another.

Graceann (Filutze ’90) Taylor, Mental Health, DZA
This is a photo of myself and my husband of 23 years, Bernie Taylor (OAK).   The Greeks on campus must have seen something before we did, as we did not begin to date until the next semester.  Even before we dated, everyone referred to us as Mr. and Mrs. Greek. We have four daughters, one (Therese Taylor) who is a sophomore at Franciscan University and a member of the women’s basketball team. We both have enjoyed coming back to campus for reunions and to renew old bonds, as well as make new ones with the brothers and sisters we meet. The Greeks who return for the reunions now realize we share a common bond, and it has been great to have those who were once rivals now interact as friends, sharing stories, laughs and a couple of adult beverages. We have also found that staying in touch has been much easier using the various alumni groups on Facebook, especially the ones that are just for the FUS Greek alumni. Bernie and I look forward to seeing all the brothers of AXP/OAK and sisters of DZA at the next reunion.

Jason Gossman ’93, OAK
When I arrived at Steubenville in the fall of 89 from Arizona, I was totally out of my element. Growing up in a devout Catholic family like so many others, I always had a strong bond with God, but I was still young and finding my way in life and did not find comfort in the household system as others did. I yearned for a stronger bond and the Greek system fit my personality much better. It was truly a bond of brotherhood that provided a bond of friendship that surpassed that of households. This has been evident to me over the years, as it was then, as I go back to Steubenville and observe the most represented category of students at the alumni reunions are mostly Greeks, especially the last one in 2013 for the ’80s reunion. The friendships (brotherhood) we’ve maintained over the years is unsurpassed by any other group on that campus. I know many others who were in households and they rarely see each other, but the Greeks always seem to gather at some point year in and year out.

When I was an OAK, we were a solid group and compatible with faith and friendship. Our faith committed us to community service. We helped neighborhoods in town that were affected by the flood in, I believe, 1990. We spent countless hours shoveling mud out of houses and trips to the dump to rid the area of garbage and unusable goods. We held a Dance-A-Thon every year to raise money for cancer research. On and on it goes with our service to the community. We built bonds through competition with other Greek fraternities formed with respect for one another. Competition is healthy, hence the intramural sports programs that still exist. The competition among Greek organizations is similar but revolve around a different premise. We all had the strength of brotherhood that the households just didn’t seem to have. For those outside the Greek system, it is difficult to understand. But for those of us who were members, you will see that bond throughout our lives. And those bonds aren’t just with the OAKs that attended while I was there, it is with all brothers from generations prior. John Donlon asked me to write. He was in Steubenville more than a decade before I arrived, and he is just as much my brother as those I knew during my time at Steubenville. This I have never seen from any household.

It is the history, the bond, the brotherhood of being an OAK that I will forever cherish and am grateful to the University for allowing them to be at the campus while I was there, and I am saddened they no longer are, for current students and future students will forego an experience and opportunity that they will never get a chance to take part. My time at Steubenville and my life now was forever changed. Forever changed for the better. OAK’s #1!!!

Originally published in Franciscan Magazine.

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