Psi Brothers Speak Up

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In last month’s e-letter, we sent out a survey to our Psi Alumni. Now, we’d like to share some of our favorite responses with you! If you want to answer these questions yourself, please CLICK HERE to take the survey. You may see your Psi memories, photos or reflections published in a future newsletter or e-letter. We’d love to hear from all our Psi Alumni! Here are our Brothers responses. 

Chester Buckenmaier Jr. ‘59

"I'd say the most valuable part of my Phi Kap experience was the opportunity to mature into adulthood with a strong appreciation of social graces, a recognition that scholarly work was valuable, and financial rewards. I worked as an intern at U.S. Steel Industrial Relations and Industrial Engineering Divisions for three summers and was offered a full-time position upon graduation in 1959.

I always look forward to receiving the PSI Chapter Newsletter "PSIDELIGHTS." Of course, as you age, you see less and less news regarding your Brothers of your era. I might suggest enticing those of us PSI Kaps still socializing with each other to provide some commentary and photos for our Newsletter, maybe a section called, "OLDE 'BONES'"). For instance, we have an active group of PSI Kaps from the '58 - '62 period that still correspond and go on cruises together. Back in about 2014, we did a multi-page photo journal tacking together memories outlining the great time six '58 - '62 PSI Kaps and their better-halves had on a Caribbean cruise!

I think the pandemic will be of short duration and, hopefully, forgotten quickly. I think maybe a few new customs that prevail today, because of the pandemic, ones we never thought of until recently, might involve a more sensitive appreciation of one's personal space, at least for the elderly, who fear disease the most. Otherwise, enjoy your friendships in a responsible, adult manner.

After serving 20 years in the USAF (ROTC commissioned) of which almost 10 years was consumed with design and development of the B-1 strategic aircraft (LANCER) as a User -Systems Integration Project Manager (Human Factors, crew training, etc.) and 18 more as a consultant in the human factors and crew training integration disciplines, I have retired with my wife, Carolyn to Punta Gorda, FL, where we party, play golf, race sail boats, party some more, travel, visit our two son's families and our six beautiful adult grand-kids."

Chris Larry ‘86

"I love my Brothers (and little Sisters) of the bone. I think having a house on campus helps solidify our presence. It is a foundation for all of our memories. Remember Big Red, remember the Ice Box, remember the Toga Parties, etc. Without the house, those memories may be lost.

The most valuable part of my Phi Kap experience was the Brothers, Sisters and people around the house, as well as the events and the Brotherhood. During my time there I was part of the IFC and spearheaded a requirement for a Safety Officer within the house. This person was supposed to be responsible for the safety of everyone during our events. This would have prevented the events at fraternities on campus recently.

We have a great alumni association. The newsletter is great and while I do not get to attend many events, I am sure they are great. We could do more charitable work or improve our efforts for the things we do support. During our time on campus we supported THON, Big and Little Sisters of America and founder the Little Sisters Skullympics.

Our distillery has reduced making whiskey, rum, shine and vodka and have started making hand sanitizer. If the house and its Brothers (association) could focus our efforts on a goal such as supporting elderly or the overrun hospitals or organizing a charity, that would be good. The Pandemic works against social organizations so group events are out but if we could do them virtually then we could do good there.

Scott Williams was a best man at my wedding and for the first 5 years after graduation we were close but he has fallen off the radar. I stay in touch with my PSU Rugby Team Brothers (Lenny Dore, Eric Chizmar and Rich Cassidy-hope I did not leave anyone out). Brian Anderson is planning a trip to Richmond soon. John Stuart, Todd Sesler, Kevin Olsavsky (Platee Helmentaz), Mike Ferrero, Lee Cappelen, Andry Silich, Jeff Gary, Sue Kosko…ok I have to stop.

I’m living in Richmond, VA. I’m married to Melissa (she was a little Sister at TKE and a CHI-O). We have two grown children; Stephanie who lives in Pittsburgh (with two grandchildren) and Trevor who lives in NYC. And I am partner in Three Crosses Distilling Company and two new companies (4Pillars Sustainable Solutions and Sustainable Development Fund which are building sustainable communities in developing countries)."

Sister Sophie Kandler ‘89

"As an alum, I know my role is limited. After all, the actives have their own world. Alums are treated with respect, but are no longer a “part.” That is as it should be. Also, it gives us plausible deniability. That said, the most valuable thing we can give is time- volunteer. I attended the Grand Chapter in 2018, and met so many great people. I hope I represented Psi Chapter well, in my role as an “expert” of my field.

I know how cash-strapped the house can be, and have felt bad that I couldn’t do more. The problem here is lack of participation. Such a small percentage of alumni give of their time and resources that it’s pitiful. How many Skull alumni are out there? How many give back in some way? This sets a bad example to the actives- if they see minimal participation, they will not participate as alumni. The alumni are the “Infrastructure” and we exist so the actives don’t have to worry about real world issues.

What is the potential? I can’t imagine. A house without financial issues? Seniors who have easier times finding jobs? Greater resources to services outside the University for actives?

The pandemic could spell the end of the chapter. We already have issues with low numbers in the house, which means few house bills bringing income. So few alumni donate (for whatever reason- mine is unemployment) that it can’t make up the shortfall.

What can we do? Remember that we swore an OATH to PKS. Skull is a lifetime commitment- I believe that so few of the alumni care about it. I tell the actives when I visit that “pledging never ends.” We always are dedicated to the chapter. That’s how I saw it when I was an active (and I caught hell because of it: “dork,” etc.) That’s how I see it now. If we want to keep the chapter going, we ALL need to do our part, be it time or treasure. Otherwise, we’ll be gone. Again. I, for one, felt sick seeing another group’s letters on our house years ago.

I am only in touch with a few Brothers from my era. I’d love to reconnect with Darren Dougherty, but he has “vanished.” I started the Skull 80s-90s FB group to keep in touch with people of my time. There are 130 members, but many of the alums are not on FB.

I was a “transfer” so I was a bit of an outcast- also because I was quite different from the rest of the Hood. I accept that. Also, I transitioned, which further distanced me from so many (but conversely made me closer to a few.) I accept that as well. However, my love and pride for Psi chapter is unabated after all these years.

I am back at PSU University Park, working on my PhD in Adult and Continuing Education, with a minor in Gender Studies. My daughter is now 12.

As I noted above, I transitioned to female back in 2014. I’ve known my Truth all my life, but denied it. I transitioned to live in Peace. I discuss it on my blog:"

Brother Dick Solt ‘60

"I am working with a local student to put a small part of my life in a book. 

Coming from a small town to a large university was an awesome challenge. To flunk out put one to the top of the draft roster and the front lines with the grunts in Vietnam. The fraternity helped me avoid that route. And it got me into the Air Force. 

My book signings are being postponed because of the coronavirus! Also my Granddaughters graduation from Arizona State is postponed. And our Viking river cruise from Amsterdam to Switzerland will be postponed. And our annual summer trip to Portugal. And the stock market has been affected too. Big impact!

I stay in touch weekly with several Brothers. We just went on our second cruise.

Eventually, I worked for the Secretary of Defense and received the Department of Defense Superior Service Medal personally from the Secretary of Defense.

I was not a fighter pilot like I wanted to be, but I had a career and challenges unlike anyone else I know in the Air Force. I was always under a lot of pressure, like ringing that bell as a pledge and doing the menial jobs to become a Brother.

These lessons enabled me to work the Royal Saudi Air Force.

I worked on the F-15S program for 11 years, and the Commander of their Air Force and about 30 Saudi generals and other officers gave me a massive farewell dinner in their Officer’s Club when I left the Kingdom. Top leaders in Boeing also attended. No Boeing contractor will ever again get this going away. The King’s son and I were best friends."

Mark Nowakowski ‘73

"I really valued my time at the House and appreciate all the efforts by the Alums that are trying to keep the House up as best they can. I know my contributions are small but I hope more guys will pitch in as some are very successful. I also saw that if no donations are made in the next few years there will be no publications mailed to those alums so I wanted to keep those pubs coming.

The most valuable part of my Phi Kap experience was, of course, the camaraderie. The House was full of so many personalities that there was always someone to join in anything you wanted to do, but I also spent a lot of time with my non-frat friends.

I wish we had much more participation from the alumni. I was a late joiner so many of the guys had already made strong friendships but I would like it if there was a reunion of sorts for the early 70's guys.

I am only in touch with one Brother, Robert Busch. He was in my small pledge class and we talk regularly plus get together at least once a year.

I just moved to Asheville and built a home here. I love it here."