Alpha Rho Chapter
Alpha Rho Chapter (Founded 3 November 1991) is located at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. The Chapter had 195 founding Brothers and is a member of the Dominion Region. The Chapter has produced three Distinguished Service Key Recipients and been honored with 29 national awards, including nine Joseph Torchia Outstanding Chapter Awards.
- 1 Chapter History
- 2 Chapter Events & Activities
- 3 Notable Alumni
- 4 Chapter Honors and Awards
- 5 Further Resources
- 6 In the News
On November 3, 1991, Alpha Rho Chapter was founded with 195 Brothers. At that time, the Chapter also elected it's first Executive Board. Despite the large number of Brothers, the initial start-up of the Chapter was a struggle. In the first meeting upon returning from the university's Winter Break, Christine Abom was forced to resign due to a heavy academic schedule. In addition, there there was a split among the membership, as some Brothers were interested in Phi Sigma Pi primarily for the attractiveness it added to their resumes, while some wanted Phi Sigma Pi to serve a much larger purpose in their college careers. After much debate and reduction of the initial membership, a smaller, more dedicated group began the journey to making Alpha Rho Chapter what it is today.
Through strong chapter leadership, Alpha Rho quickly earned recognition within the national organization. At the 1993 National Convention, just two years after the Chapter's founding, Alpha Rho won its first national award, the Steven A. DiGuiseppe Administrative Award. Over the next several years, Brothers such as Bill Patterson, Josh Marder, Britt Marder, Jeff Sugar, and Herb Higginbotham-- among others-- continued to build the programming, membership, and chapter standards within Alpha Rho. In 1996, Alpha Rho was recognized with its first Top Ten Chapter Award. The following year, the Chapter was recognized with another Top Ten Chapter Award, the Jeffrey L. Johnson National Chapter Fellowship Award, and its first Joseph Torchia Outstanding Chapter Award. The bar was set for future Alpha Rho Brothers to follow.
The honor of the 1997 Torchia Award proved not to be a high water mark; rather it was just the tip of the iceberg, as the Chapter continued to push itself to greater heights. Over the following decade, Alpha Rho continued to grow and become more involved within the Virginia Tech campus, the Blacksburg community, and the national fraternity. In the Spring of 1998, the Chapter was recognized by Virginia Tech for its excellence in service and programming as the university's Student Organization of the Year.
Alpha Rho challenged itself to develop and expand its programming to include a blend of small scale scholarship, leadership, and fellowship events covering virtually every day of the week, each week of the academic year. In addition, the Chapter started a tradition of several large events each semester which incorporate one or more legs of the tripod, as well as one or two philanthropic events to benefit a charity or scholarship fund established by Alpha Rho for Virginia Tech students. As another sign of the Chapter's strength, Alpha Rho was selected by the National Office to host the 1999 Grand Chapter Conference.
For its quality and quantity of programming, beginning with the 1997 Torchia Award, Alpha Rho proceeded to win seven consecutive Torchias. During this time, the Chapter was also recognized with another DiGuiseppe Award, a C.H. McClure Single Service Award, and four Charles W. Chance Alumni Awards for its excellence in alumni relations. In November 2006, Alpha Rho was honored with its eighth Torchia Award shortly after celebrating its 16th birthday.
Adversity & Tragedy
This period was not without its trials for Alpha Rho. On June 7, 1998, the Brotherhood was left reeling when Brother Mike Perry was killed with a friend in Blacksburg in a drunk driving related accident. He was the first Alpha Rho Brother to pass away. The Chapter renamed its fledgling 5K event in Mike's name, as he was an avid runner.
Tragedy struck Alpha Rho again on May 15, 2006, when Alumna Emily Specchio died suddenly and unexpectedly as the result of a brain aneurysm just two days after graduating from Virginia Tech. One of Alpha Rho's most well-rounded and popular Brothers as an undergraduate, her sudden passing left the Brotherhood shocked but determined to carry on her legacy of living life to the fullest.
On April 16, 2007, the Chapter was rocked by the tragedy at Virginia Tech that left 33 students and faculty dead as the result of a mass shooting. Erin Peterson, member of the Alpha Eta Initiate Class, and Reema Samaha, sister of Alpha Rho Alumnus Omar Samaha, were among the 32 victims. Erin passed Final Vote less than 24 hours earlier and was scheduled to be inducted as a Brother three days later. She was inducted posthumously with the rest of her class.
In the face of heartbreak, Alpha Rho proved to be united, strong, and resilient. During the most critical times in the Chapter's history, strong leadership and support from both within the Chapter and from fellow Chapters allowed Alpha Rho to emerge even stronger. Specifically, after April 16th, emails, cards, and care packages flowed into the Chapter from Brothers and chapters across the country. Tau Chapter, a longstanding sister chapter to Alpha Rho, organized an Alpha Rho Relief Fund which provided several thousand dollars to help Brothers in the healing process. The spirit and steadfast resolve of the Chapter in the wake of April 16th was further recognized at the 2007 National Convention when Alpha Rho was presented with the Chapter Most Able to Overcome Adversity Award. The award was presented by National Council member and Alpha Rho Alumnus Josh Marder, with the following words penned by former Council member and Alpha Rho Alumna Britt Marder: "[Alpha Rho is] being recognized tonight because their years of investment to build a strong and united chapter carried them through when all they had to go on was instinct. They are being recognized tonight because the strength of their commitment to one another shone through during their darkest hours and guided them out into the light again. Finally, and not least of which, they are also being recognized on behalf of all of you that supported them in their mourning and their rebirth."
The days following April 16th were some of the darkest in Alpha Rho history; however, out of this experience rose a stronger, more determined Chapter. The tragic events served as a catalyst to bring the undergraduates and Alumni of Alpha Rho closer together. The sense of commitment and loyalty to the Chapter was renewed and strengthened among alumni, which ultimately led to the vision of the Alpha Rho Chapter Endowment Fund. This endowment was chartered just over 6 months following April 16th, with the purpose of providing financial security for the Chapter by funding scholarships and other programming. Always a leader in the national fraternity, Alpha Rho became the first Chapter to charter an endowment fund with the Phi Sigma Pi Foundation. In April 2008, Alpha Rho made the first disbursement from the fund, awarding the first annual 4/16/07 Memorial Scholarship to Caitlin Grady.
Refusing to let the tragedy define the Chapter, the brotherhood also set out to with a renewed passion to embrace the ideals of Phi Sigma Pi. Many successful events were held in the year following April 16th, including the most successful 5K in chapter history which raised over $1,000 for drunk driving awareness, an alumni weekend that brought over 120 alumni, undergraduates and initiates together to celebrate the Chapter's accomplishments, participating in the university's Relay for Life as one of the top-3 fundraising student organizations, and holding numerous events that didn't just highlight one leg of the tripod, but rather blended the legs into one. No event more clearly demonstrated the Chapter's resolve and personified it's rebirth than a sunrise hike on the one year anniversary of April 16th. Over 40 brothers gathered in the darkness to hike to a scenic overlook and huddled together at the top to take in a spectacular sunrise as tears flowed freely. The event earned Alpha Rho the Claude A. Phillips Fellowship Award for the demonstration of fellowship in its purest form. The Chapter was also honored at the 2008 National Convention for all of its achievements of the past year with a Top in Region Award and its ninth Joseph Torchia Outstanding Chapter Award.
The Active Chapter
In recent years, the size of the Chapter has generally fluctuated between 55 and 70 Brothers each semester. Alpha Rho Brothers are very active within Phi Sigma Pi as well as other organizations on-campus, ranging from honor societies to social fraternities/sororities to academic department organizations to a cappella singing groups.
Alpha Rho carries out multiple large events each semester (as described below in the Chapter Events and Activities section), as well as numerous smaller activities on a more frequent basis. These activities include but are not limited to:
- Weekly mentorship program at a local elementary school
- Monthly trash clean-ups at the Virginia Tech Duckpond, the organization's Adopt-A-Spot
- Scholarship nights and road trips
- Open Brother lunch every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at an on-campus dining facility
- Annual Brotherhood Retreat
- Annual Semiformal Banquet
- Intramural sports
- Monthly theme parties
- Tailgates for every home football game
- Participation in other student organization philanthropic events and competitions
Chapter Colors and Mascot
The Chapter's official colors are red and black. The Chapter mascot is a platypus.
Brothers, Brothers, Brothers, We
Purple, Gold, Can't You See
Tech, Tech, VPI
Alpha Rho Platypi
The Chapter currently has a six member Executive Board. Officers are elected at the end of each fall semester to serve the following calendar year. The composition and size of Alpha Rho's Executive Board has continually evolved as the Chapter has matured. Unwilling to settle for the status quo, the Chapter has constantly refined the composition of the Executive Board to add and remove officer positions as well as shift responsibilities to meet new challenges.
Alpha Rho pioneered the concept of a split Vice President model in the 1990s, moving from one Vice President overseeing six committee chairs, to separate Vice Presidents focused on different aspects of the Chapter's activities. The Vice President Internal (VPI) coordinates the internal matters of the Chapter, overseeing the Leadership, Scholarship, and Fellowship committees. The Vice President External (VPE) manages the external facing relations of the Chapter, overseeing the Interchapter Relations and Special Events committees.
In 2004, in an effort to better meet the needs of an ever-expanding Alumni base, Alpha Rho created the Alumni Development position, transitioning it from a semester chair position under the VPE to a year-long Executive Board position.
In 2007, in response to challenges in planning and acquiring sponsors for the Chapter's special events, the position of Community Relations was created. This officer oversaw the Public Relations committee as well as the Chapter's Student Government Association representative. By 2010, in order to reduce the number of officers and streamline responsibilities between positions, the Chapter decided to eliminate this position and move the position's responsibilities under VPE.
In 2012, following a yearlong chapter suspension, the greatly reduced size of the chapter required modifications to the Executive Board to combine several positions. Additionally, in order to improve officer transitions from year-to-year, the chapter decided to move from the academic year term format that had been in place since the chapter's founding to a calendar year term format.
2013 Alpha Rho Executive Board
- President/Alumni Development - Devon Descutner
- Vice President - Matt Bielen
- Secretary/Treasurer - Eric Rolfe
- Parliamentarian - Anamitra Bose
- Initiate Advisor - Jack Scher
- Historian - Zach Martinez
Alumni Advisory Board
The Chapter has an Alumni Advisory Board "to guide, counsel, and support the chapter in matters that affect the Chapter's present and future viability through regular communication with and advisement of the brotherhood." The Board is comprised of the previous Chapter President and four elected Alumni. The elected Alumni serve two year terms, with two positions turning over each year.
2012-2013 Alpha Rho Alumni Advisory Board
Past Chapter Presidents
- Christine Abom (1991-1992)
- Laura Zatkin (1992)
- Brian Keel (1992-1993)
- Bill Patterson (1993-1994)
- Kristi Perri (1994-1995)
- Josh Marder (1995-1996)
- Jeff Sugar (1996-1997)
- Brandon Rash (1997-1998)
- Jeff Owen (1998-1999)
- Sarah Hagedorn (1999-2000)
- Katie Rossini (2000-2001)
- Dave Johnson (2001-2002)
- Meghan Riley (2002-2003)
- Afton Dawson (2003-2004)
- Rich Harris (2004-2005)
- Rachel Mitnick (2005-2006)
- Lisa Gryncewicz (2006-2007)
- Bill Hamilton (2007-2008)
- Zach Schwind (2008-2009)
- Katie Kane (2009-2010)
- Kate Williams (2010-2011)
- Laura Phillips (2011-2012)
- Victoria Dounoucos (2012)
- Devon Descutner (2013)
- Eric Rolfe (2014)
- Rachel Beato (2015)
- Josh Kim (2015-2016)
- Michaela Goldammer (2016-2017)
- Andrew Balluck (Fall 2017) - resigned from position
- Moira Miller (Spring 2018)
- Taylor Zelman (2018-2019)
- Audrey Boling (2019-2020)
- Zach Hirsch (2020-2021)
Alpha Rho selects one initiate class each semester following a rigorous Rush process. Initiate classes typically range between 12 and 18 members, although this is not governed by any chapter policy and exceptions do occur.
Alpha Rho follows a nine week initiation curriculum that has been developed and refined from year to year. One of several unique components of the curriculum is the Alpha Rho Chapter History Appreciation List, which requires initiates to locate items and places important to the history of the Chapter and University. At the end of the nine week process, initiates are inducted into the Chapter, pending passage of a Chapter Final Vote and successful completion of all national and chapter requirements.
Chapter Events & Activities
Alpha Rho celebrates the Chapter's founding each November 3rd. The Chapter holds a large-scale Founder's Weekend open to other chapters each year between mid-October and mid-November. In 1997, chapter leadership of Alpha Rho and Beta Delta agreed to combine Founder's Weekend celebrations due to proximity of the chapters in regards to both location and founding dates. The event was a success and became a long-standing tradition, with the location alternating each year between Blacksburg, Virginia and Raleigh, North Carolina.
In 2000, the chapters began awarding an annual Spirit Award to a Brother that demonstrates the highest level of spirit and embodiment of the tripod. Each Chapter selects it recipient by vote of Active Members with the winner being announced at the formal banquet held Saturday night of Founder's Weekend.
In 2009, due to increasing scheduling and logistical difficulties in co-hosting the event, both chapters agreed to return to hosting their own event.
Alpha Rho hosts an annual Alumni Weekend each spring, inviting its Alumni to return to Virginia Tech, reconnect with fellow Alumni and meet new Brothers and Initiates. The main event of the weekend is a banquet on Saturday night, featuring a formal dinner, speakers, slide shows, and dancing. Awards are also presented including the Loren P. Johnson Outstanding Alumni Award, Rexford J. Card Exemplary Local Alumni Award (if applicable), the Alpha Rho Tripod Scholarship, and the 4/16/07 Memorial Scholarship. The incoming Alumni Advisory Board members are also announced at the banquet.
Other activities for the weekend typically include a social gathering on Friday night at a Blacksburg bar, a variety of activities during the day on Saturday, and a farewell brunch at a local restaurant (usually Macado's) on Sunday.
Michael B. Perry 5K
Alpha Rho holds this annual 5k race each Fall in Blacksburg. The race is named for Alpha Rho Brother Mike Perry who was tragically killed by a drunk driver in the summer of 1998. Proceeds from the event are donated to charity. In 2007, the event attracted the highest number of participants in it's history, with 112 registered runners, resulting in over $1,000 being donated to local D.A.R.E. programs. The 2008 race attracted over 80 runners and raised $1,200 for local drunk driving awareness programs.
Relay For Life
In 2003, Alpha Rho began participating in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life at Virginia Tech and quickly became one of the top fundraising teams at the event. In 2006, under the organization of team captain Emily Specchio, the Phi Sigma Pi team raised nearly $5,000, placing it in the top 3 fundraising groups at the event. In 2007, the team raised the bar even higher, raising over $7,000 under the leadership of team captain Megan Wicks, making it one of the top 5 fundraising teams. In 2008 and 2009, Alpha Rho continued to be one of the major fundraising teams at the event, bringing in over $11,000 in the two years, as Virginia Tech grew into the single largest Relay for Life event in the country. In 2010, Alpha Rho achieved all-time bests with 37 participants and over $8,000 raised, placing it as the 8th-highest fundraising organization for the event, as Virginia Tech was once again the largest Relay For Life event in the country.
Several major events have been discontinued during the Chapter's history. The specific reason for retiring each event varies, but overall it has allowed the Chapter to limit the number of major events to 2-3 per semester in order to make each event as successful as possible.
Main Article: List of Alpha Rho Chapter Retired Events
- Paige Bayliss (Founder: Fall 1991) served as Chapter Alumni Relations Chair and Service Chair. Awarded a Chapter Service Key.
- Andrius Benokraitis (Theta Class: Fall 1995) served as a Chapter Interchapter Relations Chair, PR Chair, Information Systems Chair, and a member of the Alpha Rho Alumni Advisory Board. Awarded Loren P. Johnson Outstanding Alumni Award in 2002 and Chapter Service Key in 2006.
- Rex Card (Omicron Class: Spring 1999) served as Initiation Chair, Information Systems Chair, and a member of the Alpha Rho Alumni Advisory Board. Awarded Alpha Rho Spirit Award in 2001, Alpha Rho Tripod Scholarship in 2002, and Above and Beyond the Call of Duty Award in 2004, which was then renamed in his honor in 2006. Former member of the Alpha Rho Alumni Advisory Board.
- Ted Daniels (Epsilon Class: Spring 1994) is the songwriter of the officially adopted fraternity song Brother. Awarded the Distinguished Service Key in 2001. Current Director of the Phi Sigma Pi Foundation.
- Heather Davis (Epsion Class: Spring 1994) after graduating from Virginia Tech in 1996, went on to be named Miss Maryland in 1998 as part of the Miss America organization.
- Pete Gingrich (Pi Class: Fall 1999) served as Initiation Chair, Fellowship Chair, Initiate Advisor, and a member of the Alpha Rho Alumni Advisory Board. Awarded Alpha Rho Spirit Award in 2002, Loren P. Johnson Outstanding Alumni Award in 2004 and Chapter Service Key in 2009. Current member of the Alpha Rho Chapter Endowment Fund Board of Trustees and former member of the Alpha Rho Alumni Advisory Board, Phi Sigma Pi Foundation, National Development Committee, and Sanctions Appeal Board.
- Herbert Higginbotham (Epsilon Class: Spring 1994) served as Chapter Treasurer, Vice President, and a member of the Alpha Rho Alumni Advisory Board. Awarded Loren P. Johnson Outstanding Alumni Award and Chapter Service Key in 2001. Former Director of Fundraising of the Phi Sigma Pi Foundation. Member of the Alpha Rho Chapter Endowment Fund Board of Trustees.
- Loren Johnson (Founder: Fall 1991) was awarded a Chapter Service Key. Namesake of the Chapter's Outstanding Alumni Award, of which he was the first recipient in 1996.
- Britt Marder (nee Martin) (Delta Class: Fall 1993) served as Chapter Initiation Chair and Initiate Advisor. Awarded Chapter Service Key in 1998. Served as Vice President of Alumni Development (1996-1998) and Senior Vice President (2000-2002). Awarded the Distinguished Service Key in 2000. Member of the Phi Sigma Pi Foundation.
- Joshua Marder (Gamma Class: Spring 1993) served as Chapter Initiation Chair, PR/Inter-Chapter Chair, Alumni Relations Chair, President and a member of the Alpha Rho Alumni Advisory Board. Awarded Chapter Service Key in 1996. Served as National Secretary (1998-2000), National President (2000-2002) and Vice President of Finance (2004-2010). Awarded the Distinguished Service Key in 2002. Member of the Phi Sigma Pi Foundation.
- Justin Nemmers (Kappa Class: Fall 1996) served as Chapter Fellowship Chair and Information Systems Chair. Awarded Chapter Service Key in 1999. Awarded Loren P. Johnson Outstanding Alumni Award in 2011.
- Emily Specchio (Alpha Alpha Class: Spring 2004) served as Chapter Executive Assistant. Awarded Alpha Rho Tripod Scholarship in 2006 which was later renamed in her honor in 2009. Passed away two days after her graduation due to a ruptured cerebral aneurysm.
- Jeffrey Sugar (Epsilon Class: Spring 1994) served as Chapter Treasurer, President and member of the Alpha Rho Alumni Advisory Board. Awarded Loren P. Johnson Outstanding Alumni Award in 1998. Former Director of Membership of the Phi Sigma Pi Foundation.
Chapter Honors and Awards
- 1993 Steven A. DiGuiseppe Administrative Award
- 1996 Top Ten Chapter Award
- 1997 Jeffrey L. Johnson National Chapter Fellowship Award
- 1997 Top Ten Chapter Award
- 1997 Joseph Torchia Outstanding Chapter Award
- 1998 Steven A. DiGuiseppe Administrative Award
- 1998 C.H. McClure Single Service Award
- 1998 Top Ten Chapter Award
- 1998 Joseph Torchia Outstanding Chapter Award
- 1999 Charles W. Chance Alumni Award
- 1999 Top Ten Chapter Award
- 1999 Joseph Torchia Outstanding Chapter Award
- 2000 Top Ten Chapter Award
- 2000 Joseph Torchia Outstanding Chapter Award
- 2001 Charles W. Chance Alumni Award
- 2001 Top Ten Chapter Award
- 2001 Joseph Torchia Outstanding Chapter Award
- 2002 Charles W. Chance Alumni Award
- 2002 Top Ten Chapter Award
- 2002 Joseph Torchia Outstanding Chapter Award
- 2003 Charles W. Chance Alumni Award
- 2003 Top Ten Chapter Award
- 2003 Joseph Torchia Outstanding Chapter Award
- 2006 Top in Region Award
- 2006 Joseph Torchia Outstanding Chapter Award
- 2007 Chapter Most Able to Overcome Adversity Award
- 2008 Claude A. Phillips Fellowship Award
- 2008 Top in Region Award
- 2008 Joseph Torchia Outstanding Chapter Award
- 2013 Jeffrey L. Johnson National Chapter Fellowship Award
- 1998 Virginia Tech Student Organization of the Year
Main article: List of Alpha Rho Chapter Internal Awards
- Alpha Rho Chapter History Appreciation List
- List of Alpha Rho Members
- List of Alpha Rho Alumni Members
- Alpha Rho Chapter Website
- Alpha Rho Chapter Portal
- Alpha Rho Chapter Endowment Fund Website
In the News
- Phi Sigma Pi to host 5K run in honor of fallen brother
- Two College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences students honored as Undergraduate Man and Woman of the Year
- Hokie Alum to honor 4/16 victim with Habitat for Humanity homes
- Reason to run in Perry 5K
- Funeral for Erin Peterson