Dale Good ’69, talks Alpha Zeta, and a heart-stopping, joyous moment

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Alpha Zeta was a game changer for me. I would not be where I am today, nor have had the career I had, without Alpha Zeta. When I think of Alpha Zeta, the first thing that comes to mind is the image of the magnificent fraternity house with its white columned facade, what you see as you emerge from West Halls, as you traverse Burrowes Road.

However, the game changer was not the magnificent building, but the brotherhood—those living inside. I really cannot put a finger on how being part of such a brotherhood changed me; I just know that after having been dipped into the camaraderie, the striving for academic excellence, and the agricultural society that defines it, I came away with something worth more than I can every repay.

Two events took place at Alpha Zeta that set me off on an international career that I always dreamed of. The first involved my big brother, Roland Romberger ’68. I recall Roland as being a bit of a philosopher. He was an Ag Econ major, as was I. One fall, during a bull session in our suite, he recounted to me a visit he had made the previous summer to the U.S. Embassy in Bonn to meet with the USDA’s Agricultural Attaché.

We both agreed that representing the USDA in a country like Germany, tackling agricultural trade issues, carrying out U.S. market development activities and reporting on Germany’s agricultural situation, as it impacted international trade, would be interesting. The conversation registered, but the likelihood seemed well beyond my reach.

The second event took place the spring of my senior year, after having been accepted into Penn State’s Ag Econ Department’s natural resources graduate program. I was at the right place, at the right time in my upstairs suite, when someone shouted up the stairs, “We have a visitor—anyone interested in going to the Congo?” Whoa! In a second, I was on my feet and down the stairs to learn that the International Volunteer Service was looking for four Ag Economists to set up a Pilot Agricultural Credit Program in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development. I was on my way.

My career with the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service included 2-4 year assignments to Belgium, Tunisia, Algeria, Germany and Singapore. It was in Tunisia where I had my one international encounter with a Penn State Alpha Zeta alum. (Keep in mind, this was about 37 years ago... his name eludes me at the moment.) He graduated a year or two before me. I was the USDA’s Agricultural Attaché stationed in Tunisia, working, in part, to establish a model Dairy Farm. A Golden Gene geneticist (Riverdale, CA) was hired to visit Tunisia and consult on the project. When I saw him walk through my office door, an Alpha Zeta alum, well, it was a heart-stopping, joyous moment!

My list of memorable Alpha Zeta events grows longer, the more I reflect. Which was the most memorable? Was it, as a pledge, the tearing down of a metal goal post after a Penn State victory in Pittsburgh and holding the long crossbar, as it dangled outside the car doors, as we drove through the city on our way back to State College? Or was it, on a whim, two car loads of brothers pilfering a limestone quarry cave doomed to being destroyed the next day—of select formations, late at night, hearing sections of the cracked walls and ceiling fall as we hotfooted it back to the entrance to safety? I can recall leisurely rides through the mountains with our House Mother Suzie; excellent evening meals served up by Suzie’s daughter Jenny, with the brotherhood well seated in the dining room; watching late-night horror flicks, the creaking of a casket lid, as the movies came on and the brothers’ hilarious commentary and voice-overs as the movies progressed.

A lasting memory of Alpha Zeta and Penn State is passing the spring of 1972 with Roland, sharing a large dilapidated farm house on the northern edge of campus. Sitting on its porch, smoking pipes, as we overlooked a small wooded valley and Beaver Stadium. This was a lull between my post-Congo and pre-University of Minnesota grad school days. As Mary Hopkin so beautifully sang: “Those Were the Days!”

No wonder we refer to it all as Happy Valley. For me, Alpha Zeta was its heart. I owe more than I can repay!