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Actives and alumni at the 100th anniversary of Gamma Pi celebration dinner. Center front is classmate John Seeger, right, yours truly, left is the DGM. 

We recently caught up with our very own Earle Ryba ’56 and had the chance to ask him about his Kappa Sig experience, and where life since Penn State has taken him. Here's what he had to say: 

I pledged the Gamma Pi chapter of Kappa Sigma at MIT in 1952, and was initiated there in 1953.  Pledging and the ensuing hell week were very difficult, but, in so many ways, very necessary.  We had a small group of about 35 brothers and pledges, with 28 live-ins in a small rowhouse in Boston’s Back Bay area on the Charles River. 

When not in class, brothers did their work in several study rooms, each outfitted with homemade state of the art mono or stereo sound systems, to the accompaniment of a variety of classical music like Ravel’s Bolero or Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique.  Listening to these works led to my totally unexpected lifelong enjoyment of classical music.   

Prior to dinner there were usually several tables of bridge going in the chapter room.  Dinner times were pretty formal.  After dinner, while some of the brothers would hold deep discussions on the political antics of Pogo and his animal friends, others of us would usually gather around the piano and harmonize before hitting the books again.  The brothers were singers; in fact, we took second place in the popular All-Tech Sing two years in a row.  Singing together brought us closer as brothers. 

Saturday evenings were spent in the party room, dancing and partaking at the cash bar.  Near the end of the evening, brothers and their dates usually formed a large circle and sang all kinds of songs.  Being a non-drinker, it frequently fell to me to drive the dates back to their dorms at various girls’ colleges in Boston and its suburbs.  Most of the girls had curfews and risked being locked out if they returned late.   

One notable Saturday night, one of the brothers finished removing the engine from his Renault and, not having a good place to put it, decided to deposit the greasy hulk in the midst of the dancing couples. 

Getting pinned earned you an unwelcome swim in the Charles. 

Special times with brothers included trips downtown to a small basement venue called Storyville to hear performances by Louis Armstrong and George Shearing, and, of course, a date night at the infamous The Old Howard. 

A very special yearly event was the Mothers’ Day weekend.  Parents became acquainted with the brothers, and Saturday night dancing with all the mothers was a real treat!  Boy, could they dance…..latin, polka, foxtrot, waltz, Charleston, swing! 

Other favorite times included the triads, in which three fraternities would sponsor a formal dance at a large Boston hotel with well-known dance bands like Les Elgart and Count Basie.  A favorite performer during the band breaks was the notorious Tom Lehrer. 

After graduate school, we moved to State College and my faculty position at Penn State in 1960.  I can’t remember how or why, but, somehow, I was drawn to the new (old) Alpha Delta house on Beaver Avenue.  It wasn’t very long before I was asked to be the alumnus advisor, a position which I held for a number of years and seemingly endless Chapter meetings, mostly dealing with some serious problems in the Chapter.   

We had several get togethers at our home on Fahracres.  Along with liquid sustenance, the brothers pounded golf balls into our woods, and then inquired about the stack of roof trusses I had built for my garage.  In no time at all, they had all the heavy trusses up on top of the building.  I am forever thankful for this. 

After a number of dinners, formals, parties, luaus, and conversations with the brothers and alumni, I left the advising tasks to another alumnus for several years.  I took the position again when the chapter was quite low in numbers of actives and pledges. We must have done some things right during this time, for I received the Distinguished Service Commendation from the SEC, and, at another time, recognition from the Chapter for distinguished service. 

During this period, the Alumni Corporation Chairman and I organized a trip for the brothers to Memorial Headquarters in Charlottesville VA.  The new Rockwell (alpha delta alumnus) dormitory building had just been completed (?) and we had arranged for all of us to stay there for several nights over the weekend.  Our bus arrived late in the evening, and it was some time before we roused a caretaker, who informed us that the Rockwell building was not finished!  He let us into the headquarters building where we spent the cold night on window draperies on the floor.  The next day was dreary and dull until the bus driver decided to move the vehicle down the curvy drive and hung it on a large stone pillar, requiring a crane truck to lift it off.  A switch appeared to be thrown, and the party started with swimming, a visit to 46 East Lawn, and subsequently to Zeta. After a time, Alpha Delta and some of the Zetas descended upon Poe’s tavern (Poe attended UVA) with much gusto, and, I think, never allowed it to close all night. 

On several later occasions, my family did stay at the Rockwell Center when we went through southern Virginia. (The building was finished and very nice as a dormitory.) 

Some years later, I left the alumnus advisor position, until I was again drafted a third time to help straighten out the chapter finances and record keeping.  The GT and I met weekly to pay bills and wages, and take care of taxes, etc.  I knew little about financial matters, but the GT, who was majoring in finance, somehow decided he (and I also) had learned more in our weekly meetings than in several of his courses. 

Finally, I decided to turn my attention to other endeavors and haven’t had much contact with the Chapter or the alumni since, except for occasional football tailgating and the dinner for the reinstallation of the Chapter after recolonization.  I miss the interactions, but, now, age, and other activities have taken over.  I miss those times we had together.  Kappa Sigma changed me, and opened a whole new world for me, including sports and classical English cars, classical music, singing, but mostly becoming close to my brothers. 

 

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