Why Greek Life Is More Important Now, Than Ever

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Jim Delark ’66, an Alumni Brother of Chi Phi at Penn State Shares Thoughts on the State of Greek Life:

Jim Delark ’66 has hope, even at a time when the Greek system is facing scrutiny at colleges and universities across the country. He has faith that fraternities and sororities can survive if they take the time to evaluate their purpose and how they can reinvent themselves. His loyalty shouldn’t be a surprise to those that know him, though. After all, just 10 years ago, he and many others in our alumni group, stepped in to raise funds, rehabilitate the property and get it up to code, and to re-establish the chapter.

“We all made the decision to invest in Chi Phi so other young men would have opportunity we had,” he says. “And now, I think it’s important for alumni brothers to provide continuing support—the chapter will need support going forward to maintain what we established—and re-established in 2012.”

Now, Jim hopes Chi Phi is headed in the right direction.

“When we re-colonized the chapter, the fellows in charge of doing that certainly intended to redirect the focus of the fraternity,” he explains, noting the value of leadership education in addition to the social benefits that fraternities offer. “The fraternity system as a whole has had to reinvent itself. It just wasn’t sustainable the way it was. And there have been some incidents that have made national news regarding the Penn State Greek system—the Beta Theta Pi incident. That has everyone doing some soul searching and asking, ‘what is the purpose of the Greek system and how can we improve it?’”

Though Jim attended Penn State and lived in the Chi Phi house at a time when the main focus of fraternities were social gatherings, there were other benefits he’s grateful for today—benefits that he wants other young men to have the chance to gain from Chi Phi too.

“The biggest benefit was living with a group of people you didn’t know before,” he says. “You had to make friends, learn to get along, and essentially run a small business. We did our own budgeting, which was great experience to have. You make lifetime friends through the experience as well.”

“It was a great place to meet members of the opposite sex too,” he adds, laughing. “The sororities came to events quite often.”

Jim also wouldn’t have two of his best friends if it weren’t for joining Chi Phi. His friendships with Allen Gromko ’66 and David Betts ’67 have lasted more than 50 years.

“Throughout the years, I’ve always managed to see them quite a bit because I traveled a lot for business,” he says, explaining that he is now retired from his management role in the steel and plastic industries. “David lives in Arizona, so I’d pop in and see him when I was in the area. I also see him every Christmas. His daughters live in the Philadelphia area and when I go up to see my family there, we always get together. Allen and I ended up living in the same town after graduation and spent a lot of time together. I’ve watched both Allen and David’s kids and grandkids grow up. It’s just part of an extended family—it’s a great experience.”

In addition, Larry Parsons ’66 has also kept in touch and visited Jim over the years.

It’s friendships like these that make Jim remember the value of his Chi Phi years and give him hope that the experience will live on for others. He advises active brothers to “do everything in moderation and do the best they can.”

“If they do the best they can, they won’t have to look back and say ‘Gee, I could have done better,’” he says. “You get very few opportunities like this in life—to attend such a terrific university and have the opportunity to experience and learn all kind of things. You need to make the best of it.”

In the end, Jim admits the future of the Greek system—as well as higher education—is uncertain, but his hope for the best still shines through.

“The university obviously has gone through some difficult times,” he says. “The whole thing with Chi Phi is happening in context of the greater challenges that the university faces—and for that matter, higher education. Certainly there are financial aspects—there’s the increasing cost. I just marvel at how much money it costs to go to college. In fact, I couldn’t have afforded to go if the situation was the same back then. So what is the future of huge bricks and mortar campus that we see at Penn State and other big universities around the country? Is that a sustainable model for education going forward? I don’t know. There are tremendous costs with keeping up with that infrastructure and providing all those services and so forth. It’s an interesting time… but there are always challenges. It’s not something new—they’re just different challenges. Hopefully, the experience people have in going through a great university like Penn State help them at some future date to help solve those problems. That’s what it’s all about.”

We hope that other alumni share Jim’s faith in the future of Greek life. If you’d like to share your story, like Jim, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or make a gift to ensure Alpha Zeta's legacy lives on.