Jeff Ruser, ‘85, (second from the right in the top row) and his Kappa Sigma brothers celebrate their 30 year reunion in 2016 in Avalon, NJ. Alumni groups promote engagement between alumni and current students. (Courtesy of Jeff Ruser)

Greek alumni discuss involvement in Lehigh chapters

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For many Greek organizations, an alumni relations network is the primary connection between older and younger generations.

Alumni relations can serve as a useful tool for students to reach out to older alumni as they research job opportunities, living situations or other inquiries.

Some alumni choose to support their Greek chapters through donations.

Matt Tracy, ‘19, the former president of Alpha Epsilon Pi and current president of Lehigh’s Interfraternity Council, said the age of alumni can determine how active and involved they are within a chapter. He thinks it’s difficult for older alumni to relate to current chapter members.

Tracy said that his chapter’s alumni adviser, a 2013 graduate, is up to date with the Office of Fraternity Sorority and Affairs and other chapter news, which is a great asset for the chapter as a whole.

Alumni engagement was crucial to AEPi this past year as the chapter transitioned from being an off-campus fraternity to having a chapter house on the Hill.

“We had a lot of alumni engagement because we were fundraising for the house,” Tracy said. “We were talking to as many alumni as possible. I gave a tour last week to members of our house. We have an alumni open house coming up this fall.”

Vin Albanese, ‘20, the president of Theta Chi, said alumni associations are important for chapter can fundraising. The alumni groups have executive boards similar to active chapter boards, including presidents, vice-presidents, secretaries, treasurers and other positions.

Alumni associations are tasked with contacting other alumni, keeping them up to date with chapter developments and collecting donations.

Albanese said Greek chapters also have programming and education funds, which contain alumni donations protected by Lehigh. With these funds, chapters are able to provide things like scholarship reimbursements, CPR training, guest speakers, conferences and general house improvement.

Once a chapter decides to use these funds for any purpose, it must first notify the OFSA in order to access the money.

According to an email from Jennifer Cunningham, the assistant vice president for Alumni Engagement at Lehigh, there is a steady participation rate from the total alumni population, including Greeks and non-Greeks. About 14 percent of alumni donate and about 17 percent of undergraduates donate in an average year.

“About 32 percent of our 89,000 living alumni, including graduate alumni, are Greek,” Cunningham said.
She said last year about 19 percent of Greek alumni gave back to Lehigh. Over the last three years, between 19 and 21 percent of Greek alumni have given back.

When a chapter loses university recognition, however, it is unclear whether or not alumni involvement is affected.
Jeff Ruser, a Lehigh graduate who was a member of Kappa Sigma — which lost university recognition in July 2017 — said some of his friends are still involved in Lehigh Greek life. He said he was not surprised when the chapter lost university recognition but found it strange to see “House 87” instead of the fraternity’s letters on the building.

“It definitely bothered us to lose our house and our chapter, but I think everyone sort of recognizes that there’s a lot of things that can get houses in trouble,” Ruser said.

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