Will Schick, Phi Delta Theta province president, John Papazian, '78, alumni chairman of the Colony Advisory Board, Greg Potter, '16, current president and JJ O'Brien, '16, former president, cut the ribbon at the fraternity's alumni event on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015. The chapter acquired its house through an application and presentation process. (Jacqueline Tenreiro/B&W Staff)

Phi Delta Theta alumni bring history back to the chapter’s new home

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As Phi Delta Theta chapter members moved their things into their newly established house on the Hill, a student walking around waved and shouted “Welcome, boys!”

That’s when it hit Connor Timmerman, ’16, a Phi Delt general member, that this was real. Phi Delt was returning to the Hill, and moving into House 97.

“It didn’t seem real at first, this has been our dream for so long,” Timmerman said.

And 14 years after being removed from Lehigh’s campus, and two years after their recolonization on Lehigh’s campus, they finally had a home. Although, it’s a little higher up this time.

Founded in 1876, Phi Delta Theta is one of oldest fraternities on campus, originally occupying the Umoja house. It resided on campus for 125 years before being suspended in 2001.

In the Fall 2012 semester, the fraternity was allowed to reestablish themselves, but the recruitment process didn’t begin until the spring of 2013 when it became a colony. A year later, it became an official chapter, and by Spring 2015 the chapter was allowed to apply for a house. After the application process, Phi Delta Theta was given House 97.

“It was a huge moment for us,” chapter president Greg Potter, ’16, said. “It’s what we had been working so hard for since we joined. Now we can finally enjoy it.”

However, the work wasn’t over for the fraternity. Over the summer the chapter raised around $100,000 through their alumni base and used the funds to help furnish their new chapter house.

“It was more work than we actually thought about  turning from just a residential facility into a house,” Potter said. “That process took longer than we thought.”

That’s why the chapter repurposed the house to their specific needs, creating a conference room where a closet existed and a chapter room in what was previously a party room, according to Potter.

But these additions were not the only things necessary.

“It was really important to us that we didn’t want to be Phi Delt living in (Lambda Chi Alpha’s) old house,” Potter said. “We wanted to be Phi Delt living in Phi Delt’s house.”

The alumni base became instrumental in carrying out this out, as they provided pieces of Phi Delt’s history in addition to their monetary contributions, Potter said.

They recovered old composites that spanned from 1962 to 2001, which alumni brothers had kept stored over the years. Other artifacts were also brought back, including an old bell that was rung at dinnertime.

“A lot of our heritage was returned to us like a plaque with all the names of the brother who served in World War II was returned,” said Alex Fuchs, ’17, the fraternity’s alumni relations chair. “All the composites we could find were brought back. We’re regaining our heritage, our culture and our history.”

Fuchs also said that the alumni taking care of those artifacts and later returning them to a chapter they haven’t really been a part of for 20 years is something special.

“We’re really thankful for our alumni,” he said.

On Saturday, the brothers held an alumni event to display their new home, show alumni where their donations went and hold a ribbon cutting ceremony. The members gave tours of the new chapter house and it’s facilities and later went tailgating and attended the football game with other Phi Delt alumni.

The chapter’s alumni support even extends to chapter meetings, at which an alumnus is always present and offers advice for the chapter, as well as stories of what Phi Delt was during their time at Lehigh. Potter even credits alumni for getting them back as a colony in 2012.

Now that they’re back on the Hill, the fraternity enjoys a physical presence in the Greek community, and Potter says it has opened up new opportunities for the fraternity to partner with other organizations around them.

We’ve been looking to  expand everything — from having barbecues or registered parties or even expanding our scholarship program to include some of our neighbors on the Hill,” Potter said.

More than just connecting the chapter to other student groups, the house has helped connect them as brothers.

“I think a big (thing) is just the little day-to-day interactions that may seem trivial (but) really add up to something important,” Potter said.

And on Saturday, after the alumni event, tailgates and game, the brothers were able to have a place to relax, blast music, eat some food and congregate around the fireplace. And it was all in the comfort of their own home.

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