Last October, Delta Delta Tau (DDT) celebrated its 40th anniversary with a reunion coincident with FIT’s 55th year Homecoming. This quick-lived fraternity (1967–74) continues its strong fellowship for each other while remaining active in all things Florida Tech. One might ask how is this possible?
When I first approached my classmates and friends about submitting a Florida Tech Today article, one of my pledge brothers from 1972, Don Hooper (84-Chem) offered this:
- I remember a small, tight-knit school, in a sleepy coastal town trying to coalesce a unique sense of academic worth and identity.
- I remember engaged professors who gave of themselves to teach and mold their students into thinkers and do-ers.
- I remember a very active Greek community, that competed against each other and partied together just as hard.
- I remember student organizations that took a stand against bigotry, before it was fashionable to do so.
As for fostering fellowship, perhaps some of the magic comes from the diversity of our members. Another ingredient might be that we accept each other despite cultural and political differences that polarized the country in the late ’60s and ’70s. Certainly FIT being a sleepy coastal town offered us fertile sand to explore our passions.
With hindsight, we see that many of our members held leadership positions. Whether it was on the Student Council, officers in professional organizations, commanders in the ROTC or participating in various sports, DDT was always well represented. Not surprisingly, DDT-ers continued to advance their organizational skills after graduation. Some did this by careers in the military, others in civilian life, while even a few joined the clergy. This is not remarkable given the caliber of education and campus support offered at Florida Tech. Keeping each other in the loop then and now is easy given that we had training on how to reach out.
But how can alumni be active in the Florida Tech of today? More specifically, how does DDT do it?
One way is to be an alumni board member. Today’s Alumni Board has nine DDT members. The board promotes ideas, offers policy changes and interacts with the Student Council. Since 1974, DDT has had 21 members on the FIT Alumni Association Board. This includes five past presidents: Alexis Loo (75, Math), Russ Ballagh (74, O), Jim Downey, (74, MS), George Poidomani (73, MS), and Alan Prestwood (73, MS; 80 MBA).
Another way for alumni to be active is to host their reunions. These events are great ways for alumni to see the school’s growth and interact with today’s students. DDT has always supported FIT Homecomings, holding formal reunions in 2003, 2008 and, most recently, 2013.
For the 55th FIT Anniversary Awards Gala, DDT was the largest organization represented, filling six tables that represented 49 people. The diner theme was “There’s No Place Like Homecoming,” which used the Emerald City from the Wizard of Oz as its backdrop. People attending were treated to President Anthony J. Catanese playing the drums in an all-faculty, big jazz band. Even if you are an ancient relic of your former self, come to Homecoming and compete in the 5K. Myke Ussak (72, MS) did and took 2nd in his age group.
Another way to keep in touch is to plan a reception for your alumni in a novel place. They will see a polished Florida Tech and interact with a department or two. DDT had a magical evening on the roof of the F.W. Olin Physical Sciences Center thanks to Dr. Terry Oswalt. He offered the campus observatory and its lecture facilities. Besides showing us the stars and planets, FIT’s catering service provided an elegant atmosphere. That evening Dr. Daniel Batcheldor, the observatory’s head, described the equipment and gave talks on the different research and studies the university performs while we munched on hot food and cold spirits.
Meanwhile, the school’s archive manager, Diane Newman had two of her students interview DDT-ers during the reception. You might not know Florida Tech actively supports collecting and preserving its history. Besides housing a time capsule, a historical case filled with campus memorabilia is on the library’s first floor. Those three-to-five treasured minutes per person on camera tell first-hand accounts about our school and DDT. From humorous recall of capturing the campus flasher to the origins of the Bork foot prints in the Botanical Garden, DDT has 12 videos for their member’s enjoyment, easily accessed on their internal website. Contact Diane to see how you can preserve your organization’s legacy.
There will always be some who can not travel and websites offer one way to share pictures, videos, stories and forums. While Florida Tech offers an alumni site, your organization can stay connected even more by hosting its own.
One of DDT’s founding brothers, Wayne Rardon (69, COE; 72 Business) attended the 2013 DDT reunion. Despite his advanced Parkinson’s, Wayne anticipated for weeks being together with his classmates. His wife Carter of 30 years said, “Wayne had such a good time, especially riding the trolley in the Homecoming parade. His energy was at a new level.”
Still another way to be active as alumni is to share your knowledge. For example, alumnus and DDT-er Dr. Gary Lagerloef (71, OE) was a guest lecturer during Homecoming week. He shared his research as principal investigator for NASA’s Aquarius Mission.
DDT little sister Alexis Loo (75, Math) visits campus often and has been a guest lecturer. She is also a past Alumni Board President. As an alumni, you can sponsor potential students by being mentors and providing student financial assistance information. What a great way to be part of Florida Tech’s present and future.
Local alumni make it possible for distant alumni to be connected. One example is Palm Bay Pastor Ken Delgado (00). He provided DDT’s 2013 benediction at their reunion dinner and later, held sunrise service at DDT’s host hotel the Double Tree on Melbourne Beach.
Another local DDT-er, artist and curator Tom Powers (72) gave special tours of his Indialantic gallery for visiting alumni during Homecoming. While the FTAA Vice President Allyn Saunders (76, MS; 80, MBA; 83, MS) is not a member of DDT, he was a student when DDT existed and stepped in to give the fraternity a morning tour of the Botanical Garden. This was all the more special because Allyn recounted stories of the trails, the special plants and quoted President Keuper’s many conversations about managing the Garden. Still another alumni, Al Spotz (71), and his wife Nancy opened their Melbourne home to host a large cookout. The hospitality is always A+. The food was delicious and the laughs and memories kept coming.
To summarize what we covered: DDT, an organization that existed for only seven years in the late ’60s and early ’70s has a strong membership that recently had its 40th reunion. Looking back is a natural reunion thought process. What we are not doing is recounting individual stories. Rather, we are describing how DDT, not officially a campus organization for 40 years, remains active at our university. Specifically we believe these practices help nurture both DDT and FIT:
- Organize a reunion—visit your campus at least yearly
- Interact with professors and staff—they are significant resources
- Share your knowledge in some way—give a class or informal talk
- Become an Alumni Board member—take an office or committee
- Sponsor an exceptional student—ask a board member for candidates or help
- If local, invite distant alumni; if distant, seek out locals
- Keep in touch—use social networks, websites and Florida Tech events like the Dad Vail regatta
Last, I end with what was to be my introduction: My 40th fraternity reunion was 226 days ago as I write this. I had a wonderful time and one of many visits to campus since graduating in 1978. Reunions with classmates and friends are always special.
- DDT continues to have strong fellowship after 40 years!
- Organization skills are so important. Even as the DDT fraternity doesn’t officially exist, they reach out.
- FIT and DDT, they help each other for a win-win at every Homecoming.
- Reunions are essential for the growth of FIT and more important, the enrichment of our lives.
- Seeing the present, hearing of the future and being part of the foundation was (is) amazing. Visit your school’s archives.