A little over two years ago, in June 2007, the Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity faced quite a dilemma: The size of their fraternity had dwindled, their neighbors had problems with their presence, and the upkeep of their chapter house on South 42nd Street had reached an all-time low.
It was not long before the city condemned the house and the Greek organization at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia no longer acknowledged them as a legitimate organization. In most circumstances, the fraternity would have discontinued and current members would move on with their college careers as non-Greeks.
But thanks to alumni support, the future of the fraternity that was started by five PCP students in 1919 is once again bright.
“The numbers had been declining and the amount of money to maintain a house that was built before 1900 became excessive,” said Robert Catalano PharmD’71, who helped spearhead the fraternity’s return.
A few active members began sending out e-mails to alumni, asking for any help they could get. As alumni slowly became aware of the tough situation their fraternity had gotten themselves into, word spread that something needed to be done. At an impromptu reunion at the chapter house in February 2008, the gathered alumni decided they would take it upon themselves to direct their beloved fraternity in the proper direction. The chapter house needed immediate attention.
“I felt uncomfortable touring the house, that’s how bad it had gotten,” Catalano recalled. It was clear that more than anything, the house needed restoration.
Their efforts began with a campaign collecting donations from all willing alumni. Upon reaching the necessary amount of $130,000, the work on the house began. Rather than paying construction workers to come in and do all the work, a group of 25 to 30 alumni gave up numerous weekends to gut the entire inside of the house. With help from current members as well, there were nearly four generations worth of fraternity men working on the project.
“It was quite a sight to see,” stated active member Thomas Kelley MB’10. “Our alumni put in such hard work for our fraternity when it would have been so easy for them to turn their backs on us.”
After the demolition, a contractor was hired, and the house restored. That was the easy part. The next step was gaining recognition from the University.
Alumni met with University administrators and came up with terms of agreement, which included a mentoring program for alumni to assist active members in acting as proper fraternity men. The strong-willed alumni had reached their goal: Upsilon Sigma Phi was again an active fraternity on campus, and in August 2008, students moved back into their newly renovated chapter house.
While fraternities across the country receive generous contributions from alumni every year, donations are very rarely on this scale. Asked why so much help was given, Ken Graham P’68, one of the most active alumni in the fraternity’s restoration, explained, “Walking back into the chapter house, something felt different. We got involved and gave back in order for the active members to experience the same things we did in our years.”
Upsilon Sigma Phi celebrates its 90th year of existence this fall and to commemorate its anniversary and honor the recent work of its alumni, Upsilon Sigma Phi will have a ceremonial reopening of its chapter house on November 7. Alumni interested in attending should contact Gordon “Mick” McCann P’90 at email@example.com