Alpha Phi Omega is dedicated to the principles of Leadership, Friendship, and Service.
The Beginning of ΑΦΩ
Our Fraternity was founded in December of 1925 at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. Since that time, the ideals of Alpha Phi Omega have been embraced on over 650 campuses nationwide and many more campuses internationally. Anyone who shares our desire to help our fellow man may join us. Rochester Insitute of Technology, located in Rochester, New York is home to the Xi Zeta chapter of Alpha Phi Omega.
The Beginning of ΞΖ
The history of the Xi Zeta chapter began in 1962 with Myron Rapkin, who at the time was a student at R.I.T. Myron had a deep interest in starting a service organization on his campus. He first heard about Alpha Phi Omega from a friend who attended Ripon College in Wisconsin. Myron loved the idea of Alpha Phi Omega and its relation to scouting. Over time he discussed his various Scouting adventures with Roger Kramer, which led to their consideration of starting a chapter of Alpha Phi Omega on R.I.T.'s campus. The idea was also discussed with other students including Dave Tan, Ron Graner, Roger Wolf, Dick Parett, and others. These discussions often took place after dinner in the Eastman Building cafeteria on Spring Street. The group became so engrossed in their discussions, that they would frequently lose track of time and Mr. Robert Day, who helped manage the cafeteria, had to ask them to leave as he closed.
After some time, a suggestion was made to organize a meeting. Shortly after, Myron posted a notice on the bulletin board in the Eastman Building to gauge interest in the creation of a service fraternity. (That notice can now be found in the scrap book titled Alpha “Pi” Omega.) Approximately 60 men signed the sheet expressing their interest. Excitement quickly grew around the idea, and as Myron said “We can have a damn good time and help the school too.”
To help get things started, Dick Parett, who became a very active and enthusiastic member, contacted Mr. A. Stephen Walls, the Director of Student Activities at R.I.T. and spoke with a number of Scouting advisors. He also attended a meeting of the Mu Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Omega at the University of Rochester.
The newly created "RIT Service Organization" held their first meeting at noon on February 23, 1962, in room 204 on the second floor of the Eastman Building. Those in attendence included Mr. Walls, Dick Parett, Jack Blair and a number of other interested members as well as an Alpha Phi Omega representative from Mu Lambda. Mu Lambda must be given credit for advising and doing everything possible to get Xi Zeta in its feet.
At the first meeting, tentative advisors were named and Mr. Walls, one of the first advisors, assured those present that the administration was behind this new service organization all the way.
During the few days before and after this meeting, many founders of Xi Zeta were very busy acquiring the information necessary for beginning this new chapter. Kevin Gilson and Dick Parett talked to Don Alloway, the district Scouting advisor, who became one of Xi Zeta’s advisors. Ken and Dick, along with John Blowser, Jack Blair, and Dick Parett worked on a constitution. On the night of February 23, 1962, Jack Blair and Dick Parett met with Mr. Joseph Scanlon, the National Executive Secretary of Alpha Phi Omega. Mr. Scanlon was flying to Syracuse that night from Kansas City, and called to say that he would make a stop in Rochester. It was a very snowy night, but the plane landed and Dick and Jack met Mr. Scanlon at the airport where they talked for some time about plans for forming a chapter.
During the same quarter, cookouts were held on campus to acquaint the male students of RIT with the purpose of the fraternity and with its future brothers. At this point plans were underway for the installation of the chapter. Near the beginning of December of 1962, John Bowser, then our corresponding secretary, read a letter from Alpha Phi Omega's National Office stating that we had permission to open a bank account under the name Alpha Phi Omega, Xi Zeta Chapter.
Winter Quarter began with plans for a pledge class and news regarding preparation for the installation that would take place.On Saturyday, January 19, 1963 Mr. Joseph Scanlon returned to Rochester. On that day at 5:30pm in room 125 of the Eastman Building at Rochester Institute of Technology, Xi Zeta became the 342nd chapter of Alpha Phi Omega. We were installed by the brothers of the Mu Lambda Chapter from the University of Rochester.
The group’s first project was assisting Mu Lambda at the Red Cross International Student Dance. Later that spring, the members helped paint R.I.T.’s Student Union and planted trees as some of for some of the first work done on the Henrietta Campus.
Our chapter has done a great amount over the years to improve campus life and school spirit. The fifth pledge class purchased the Victory Bell for the purpose of rallying the student body behind their athletic teams. The bell was installed in the Frank Ritter Memorial Ice Arena in the spring of 1965, and was rung at all of the hockey games until it went out of commission due to a crack. In later years, the chapter purchased a tiger cub, SPIRIT, and built a bridge and playground. Most recently the chapter has worked with the Red Cross and Special Olympics, worked on campus beautification projects, and has ushered all men’s home hockey games.
The Victory Bell
The Bell which currently stands inside the Ritter Ice Arena is most commonly referred to as the Victory Bell. This bell was donated to the Institute in the name of the fifth pledge class of Alpha Phi Omega for the purpose of rallying the student body to support their athletic teams. The following is a history of the bell:
In 1879, this bell was forged and was then used in the Ritchfield Spring Schoolhouse and weighs 400 lbs. One day in October 1964, Mr. A. Stephen Walls and his family were driving back home from a vacation in Vermont. While they were passing Palantine Bridge, NY, near Utica, Mr. Walls told the brotherhood about the bell, and on Tuesday, October 18, 1964 the brothers voted to purchase it.
The Committee which went to Palantine Bridge to purchase the bell consisted of Mr. Wals, Richard Barazzotto (Chairman), Roger Kramer, and David McKay. The Bell cost $70.00, and the money was contributed jointly by Alpha Phi Omega and Alumni.
On the evening of October 19, 1964, the committee met at Mr. Walls's house for a late supper. Afterwards, they went to Palantine Bridge in Mr. Walls’s 1961 Chevy Wagon. Upon their arrival, they purchased the bell and brought it back to RIT.
The next day, Richard Barazzotto made all the preparation for cleaning the bell and unveiling it. The unveiling took place at a pep rally for the soccer team the Friday before their Homecoming game, which was on October 21.
After the ceremony the bell was kept in storage until the spring of 1965 when it was installed outside the Ritter Clark Gymnasium. When the Institute moved to the new campus, the bell was left at its former location.
The Fraternity, seeing a need for it, made plans to move it to the new campus. Both the seventeenth pledge class and the brotherhood decided that the bell should be mounted in such a way that it could be brought to sporting events regardless of location. A special cart was designed and built by the seventeenth pledge class. On a cold and rainy night in late October 1968, the bell was brought to the Fraternity House and mounted.
The Bell is presently kept in the Frank Ritter Memorial Ice Arena and rung by brothers at all hockey games. The fifty-second pledge class built a new frame for the bell.
The origin of the RIT mascot came about when David Page and Roger Kramer set up the Tiger Committee, which was composed of Roger Kramer, David Page, Dennis Kitchen, and James Black with A. Stephen Walls as an adviser. Their purpose was to acquire a live tiger as the RIT mascot. They solicited funds from the Student Association (now called Student Government) and by selling “Tiger Shares” to the students, faculty and staff. A four-month-old cub was purchased from the Dallas Texas Zoo for $1000. It was given to the Rochester Zoological Society and was housed at the Seneca Park Zoo.
The brothers were able to bring the cub to campus until it reached the age of six months. A contest was held to determine the name, and it was decided that he would be named SPIRIT, an abbreviation for Student Pride In RIT. Before and after the contest, the brothers affectionately called the tiger “Tora” (Tora is the Japanese word for tiger). Unfortunately, as SPIRIT grew it became increasingly less practical to bring him to campus, requiring multiple handlers.
The following year, SPIRIT was diagnosed with a calcium deficiency. In an attempt to correct this, calcium supplements were hidden in his food, but he would often dig the supplements out to avoid eating them. In a more assertive attempt to force SPIRIT to take his medicine, his food was presoaked in a calcium solution. At this point, however, an even more serious problem related to his pelvic bone structure became apparent. The condition would not be fatal as long as he was calcium deficient, but as long as he was calcium deficient he would not survive either. Unable to overcome either condition without causing the other to turn fatal, SPIRIT was put to sleep. RIT was given the skin, which is presently stored in the university archives on the third floor of the Wallace Library.
Shortly thereafter, the Alumni Association and Student Association approved another $1,000 to purchase a new tiger, dubbed SPIRIT II. SPIRIT II was an adult at the time of purchase and was never brought to the RIT campus. SPIRIT II died years later, and since he never mated while in captivity, the goal of an RIT tiger dynasty was never fulfilled.
￼Years later, a bronze memorial statue of the original SPIRIT was purchased and placed in the exact center of the RIT property.
Blair Memorial Bridge
The first completed structure on the new campus was the Blair Bridge. The bridge, named after Xi Zeta's first president, was constructed by the fraternity to enable students to cross Red Creek when entering the athletic fields outside of Gracie’s. During its existence, the bridge required numerous repairs. At one point, pledge Cliff Snider was tied to its side for an hour in order to re-stabilize it.
The thirteenth pledge class was marched out to the new campus and onto the bridge. Unable to withstand the weight of many marching brothers and pledges, the bridge collapsed. Finally unable to reconstruct it to any degree of safety, the bridge's components were taken apart by the sixteenth pledge class in 1968.
Later, the bridge was rebuilt and repainted by the thirty-second pledge class in the spring of 1974. During the winter of 1980, the bridge fell into disrepair and was washed away when the creek swelled and flooded in the spring of 1981. Since then, the bridge has not been rebuilt, but remains one of the most significant undertakings the Xi Zeta chapter has engaged in.
A. P. Opus
A. P. Opus (commonly, “Opus”) became a mascot of the chapter because of the work of Brother Michael Kim in 1985. A mural of Opus designed by Michael and painted by the brothers, was made in the residential tunnels that year and shirts were made.
Over the course of Opus’s life as the Chapter mascot, he has acquired a considerable number of accessories. Tammy Sharpstene made the blue and yellow jacket for Opus in 1986. The mother of Ryan Snyder made a hat for Opus in the spring of 2006. Amy Masterman (then a member of the SUNY Brockport chapter before coming to RIT for graduate school) made a purple cane for Opus (a reference to a bright purple suit owned by Chris Forbes) later that year.
Currently, whenever the Chapter receives a pin, either from a service project it participated in or a conference it attended, the pin is attached to Opus’s hat or jacket as a memento for future brothers.
Shanty Town is an annual philanthropy which the chapter hosts in order to help and raise awareness and funds for the homeless of Rochester. This enterprise originated with transfer brothers coming in from college campuses with visible homeless populations. During the week of Shanty Town the brothers build a makeshift shelter near the Tiger Statue out of wood, cardboard, tarps, and duct tape. They ask for donations from passing RIT students and sleep in the structure overnight. Originally in the early 90’s the brothers would sleep in the shanty for two nights and petition students to donate for three days, but over time the event got extended to an entire school week.
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