Alumni of Phi Kappa Psi have joined together to fund the creation of a new house for the brothers of the Valparaiso University chapter. The initiative, which has been in development for five to ten years, has drawn contributions from the national Phi Psi organization and alumni.
One of the alumni pushing for this project is Don Fites, a former Valpo engineering student and CEO of Caterpillar. He was the catalyst for building the new house and it was Fites who initially brought up the idea to fraternity and sorority life leaders at Valpo such as Carolyn Whittier.
Through time and commitment, the brothers have worked hard to turn their chapter into something they are proud to be a member of.
“Every year we’ve just continuously improved, gotten better, changed to a different mindset and goal set and that’s really where a lot of this comes from. We have shown to be a much better chapter in our national organization,” Cintron said.
The leader of the national Phi Kappa Psi foundation, Ben Nicol, also happens to be a Valpo alum. The brothers credit their strong connection with alumni as a major reason that the project is occurring.
“During the week of homecoming we had a call-a-thon event where we called alumni that had already given a certain amount of money or said they will give a certain amount of money. [We] called them and basically left a message or had a personal conversation with them [to say] thank you, this is gonna impact the entire chapter, it’s gonna change the whole way that we operate with the new house,” Jenny said.
Both Cintron and Jenny agree that a house is a pivotal part of fraternity life. The new house will be located close to both the ARC and the sorority houses in order to bring a more unified relationship to fraternity and sorority life on campus. Planned spaces include a grilling station, a basketball court and a pavilion that can be used to host events. In regards to the actual brothers who will live in the house, having their own spaces and areas to connect is what truly makes the fraternity a brotherhood.
“You’re friends with somebody but you never really know who they are until you live with them. I think that growing up and learning how to live with thirty people, like you live in a dorm and you live with 300-400 people in there but you don’t know everybody. In a fraternity house setting, you know everybody and you have to learn to deal with them, you have to learn how to live with them,” Jenny said. “I think that’s really important, just growing up from high school to college. It’s just like a camaraderie thing like, this is our house, we love it.”
The house is also important for Phi Psi to be able to function well as an organization. Along with day to day life, Phi Psi uses rooms in their current house for meetings with the entire chapter and e-board.
“When you’re running an organization, or some level of running that organization, there’s a lot more face value when maybe somebody doesn’t do their job and you live with them, rather than they live off campus in this apartment or everyone is kind of scattered across,” Cintron said. “It’s a lot easier let’s say if someone does a really good job on organizing this philanthropy event or this event or this event that it’s very face value, like you were there, you’re in that moment.”
The philanthropy aspect of Phi Psi is one of the main points that has gained the chapter so much respect from alumni and the national foundation. The brothers of Phi Psi have acculated the most service hours of all organizations in the last few years. In addition to service time, the fraternity strives to create a safe space for everyone who enters the house, and to be above average across the board.
“When I’m talking to potential new members when they’re like ‘what does your fraternity look like’ and I tell them it doesn’t look like anything. It doesn’t have a specific look to it. I always say if you put me, Harrison and another one of our members next to each other, you’re not gonna typically say that they’re from the same fraternity,” Cintron said. “What I mean by that is we are a bunch of different guys from a bunch of different backgrounds who come together.”
The new house will feature a larger capacity and new location, furthering the possibility that VU will eventually have a sort of fraternity and sorority row. The house is set to include multiple different room setups, a homage to the unique living spaces in the current house. In addition to the architectural changes, the new house will employ a kind of “house dad” an older man, likely a Phi Psi alum, who will help make sure that everything is running smoothly and keep the new building in pristine condition.
The lot has officially been purchased and digging is set to begin in the next few weeks, with the estimated completion time being August 2020. As seniors, both Cintron and Jenny will not have the opportunity to actually live in the house, but instead are excited to see how Phi Psi will adapt as well as continue their traditions and the hard work they are extremely proud of.
“I’m just excited to see what this place is like in twenty years. In 25 [years] or however many more, if my son comes to Valpo, I would like this to be just as well standing of a chapter and have him join that. It’s just wanting the continuous success to be pushed for this Phi Psi chapter,” Cintron said.