Alumni News: Annual Grad Council Meeting

John Sayers ‘81 November 7, 2016 Alumni News, Graduate Council

Brothers of Phi Chapter: I wanted to update you on our annual meeting at Homecoming on October 8 and a couple of new initiatives.

Housing Investigation. As many of you know, the Kappa Alpha house has sat vacant now for several years, and the KA House Corporation has put the building on the market. National officers from KA have contacted our headquarters to see if Phi Chapter might be interested in the property. We’ve been kicking around the notion for a couple of years now. Frankly, before I examined the structure myself, I didn’t think this was a good idea at all, but felt we had a duty to at least kick the tires.

What we found was an essentially solid, intact structure (steel and concrete) needing considerable renovation, but nothing outrageous. Looking at rough costs for purchase, renovation and operation against income based on a floor of 15 residents (with a potential ceiling of 30), Phi Chapter could potentially own its own house for around half (or possible less) of the ballpark estimate of $1 million (to start) to build a new fraternity house.

Pathways to financing for the renovation are in sight via local and national resources. And income based on current student room fees appear to be able to handle estimated operational costs and easily make payment on note that would be retired in 10 years or less.

House ownership has always been on the table for Phi Chapter – we’ve kicked the idea around for years. There are big advantages and disadvantages, and all should be weighed with care before we make any decisions. Therefore, before we make any decisions, we’re moving forward in this manner:

  • BoG member (and current Phi Chapter associate member) Patrick Ford, a local development official for Hancock and Brooke counties, has arranged for the KA house to be inspected and realistic renovation costs estimated. (It’s what he does for a living.) We will have good firm estimates for that part of the equation. We have most-recent operating costs in hand, and will update those, and develop a financial plan for alumni consideration. We will work with local development resources and our own National Fraternity to nail down financing avenues, house corporation specifics, etc.
  • We want to sit down with the Bethany administration to discuss this possibility. No one wants a derelict building in Town or on campus, and the KA house might very well cost more to demolish than it would be to renovate. (It’s a sturdy sucker.) The College may have its own plans for the structure. We want to work with Bethany in both its interests and that of Phi Kappa Tau (see “Support for Bethany College,” below).
  • We want to work with our current student brothers to determine if this would be a good move for Phi Kappa Tau. We currently live in a house surrounded by sororities (and other fraternities). It is an old, deteriorating house that the College may or may raze and rebuild in the next five years. Living in town has its advantages and disadvantages. One organization has already failed in this location. We’ll have to work harder to succeed in such a move.

This could be the worst thing for us, or it could be the best thing for us. But we would be remiss in our responsibilities if we did not fully investigate the opportunity, accepting it or turning it down based on clear-eyed evidence rather than gut feelings. Stay tuned.

Support for Bethany College. Many of us have had the chance to meet Bethany’s new president, Tamara Rodenberg, and frankly, I am very impressed. She’s got a fascinating and solid background, exceptionally sharp mind, engaging personality and a no-nonsense, hard-working attitude. Like many small private colleges in today’s environment, Bethany faces some considerable challenges. But I truly believe that she is exactly the tonic our alma mater needs to grow and excel as an institution of distinction.

Dr. Rodenberg will soon be asking Bethany alumni to support an effort by the college to quickly (before year’s end) raise $400,000 needed to refinance a College bond. If she is successful, the lower rate on this bond will save the school $1+ million a year that can be used for operations, repairs, professor salaries, etc. She made her case in a compelling way to many of our brothers (including me), who will be donating $1,000 each (her call to alumni) in new giving to support this effort.

Furthermore, in recognition of the urgency of this need and our oath to be loyal to our college, the Graduate Council approved a motion to donate $5,000 to Bethany College for this effort. We will also issue a challenge to the other Greek organizations at Bethany to match or exceed this donation.

Brothers, I know this is a considerable donation — nearly 15% of our cash-on-hand in the GC treasury. Ordinarily, we would put such a proposal on our agenda in advance to give all the brothers the opportunity to weigh in, whether or not they could attend the meeting in person. However, a strong majority of the brothers in attendance felt that the need was urgent and the opportunity a worthy one. Bethany needs our support now, and we felt this donation is not only the right thing to do, but a good thing for Phi Chapter of Phi Kappa Tau, which does not exist without a strong Bethany College.

As I recall, Dick Meess always insisted that the Graduate Council and Harvard Red and Old Gold make regular financial contributions to alma mater. Think of this, perhaps, as catching up the accounts after a few years in arrears. And if you hear the call from Bethany to participate in this effort, please consider donating personally.

John Sayers (left) and Tom Skena present a check to Bethany President Tamara Rodenberg from Phi Chapter of Phi Kappa Tau to help in her new fundraising effort. Photo by Stephanie Gordon

John Sayers (left) and Tom Skena present a check to Bethany President Tamara Rodenberg from Phi Chapter of Phi Kappa Tau to help in her new fundraising effort. Photo by Stephanie Gordon

Officer Elections. Your current slate was re-elected: John Sayers (president), Brent Reynolds (vice president), Scott Berg (treasurer) and John Faber (secretary). As much as I’ve enjoyed my service, I plan for this term to be my last, and I know some of my other brother officers have the same desire. And really, it’s time for some of us old dogs to stay on the porch and let the younger dogs hunt.

Therefore, I’m going to ask Brother Reynolds to head up an effort to recruit and orient a new batch of potential alumni leaders from the pool of brothers who have graduated in the past 10-15 years. We always need volunteers to fill key roles on our Board of Governors, Graduate Council, HROG and other areas. Speaking of which …

95th Anniversary Reunion, October 2018. We’re a couple of years off, but it’s never too early to start planning for our big event. We’re looking for a Reunion Chairman and/or co-chairmen, and you’ll be helped in the heavy lifting by some of the old hands who have done this before. If you’re interested, contact me at

Finally, if there are any of these or other issues that you’d like to discuss further, with me, your officers, or other brothers, let me know. We’ve been kicking around the idea of a general alumni conference call, either regularly or on an as-desired basis. Please email me with your interest.

Thanks, everyone, for your continuing support of Phi Chapter, Bethany College, and Phi Kappa Tau.

Yours in Phi,
John Sayers ‘81
Graduate Council President

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