ZBT: Forming Fraternity around philanthropy
Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862
KINGSTON, R.I. -- March 7, 2004 -- Since the 1970s, the word "fraternity" has conjured a number of images, many of them unflattering. But since 2000, Zeta Beta Tau, the University of Rhode Islandís largest fraternity, has been busy forging a legacy of its own.
ZBT was reorganized in 2000 at URI with a commitment to serve the community. It possesses "a philanthropy focus as opposed to social," according to last semesterís fraternity President and current brother Adam Oliveri.
Cory Bousquet, the founding president of the fraternity said "My goal in taking part in the founding of the Rho Iota Chapter was to return the fraternity ideal to its roots and change the stereotypes and the climate of Greek life from the inside out."
"The organization [ZBT] already epitomized many of the ideals that we valued. We particularly identified with the non-pledging and non-hazing atmosphere because we feel that a brother of our fraternity should be chosen based upon his individual merits and ideals," Bousquet said.
ZBT brothers have perpetuated what Bousquet described as the founders' desire to "create a positive change within the University community."
"We've found that often our best bonding experiences occur doing community service," said Oliveri. "The little moments are what really make service fun for us, like the goofing around in a pile of leaves at a campus cleanup or the humor of trying to figure out exactly how random objects like a huge plastic fan find their resting place on the beaches of Point Judith," Oliveri recalled.
Holding the title for the best fraternity grade point average for the past five consecutive semesters and second highest for fall 2003, ZBT has received multiple awards from the Interfraternity Council for its excellence in academics and service. In 2002, the IFC named it "Fraternity of the Year" and honored it for scholarship. ZBT was also the recipient of the Presidential Award and the Theodore G. Rich St. Louis Alumni Association Award for the best community service nationally. The chapter also won URI Philanthropy Week for 2003.
ZBT brother and Truman scholar Greg Hughes recently became the first URI student to receive the $200,000 Gates Cambridge Scholarship, awarded to 100 students in the nation, toward graduate school tuition at Cambridge University.
Among its numerous activities, ZBT has participated in the URI Adopt-a-Walkway program by cleaning and maintaining the Dieter Hammerschlag Mall, the stretch between the library and the Multicultural Center, and is continuing a campus beautification project in which 10 to 15 brothers devote every Saturday afternoon to cleaning one area of the campus per month. Last semester they logged roughly 600 hours of service time.
In January, the brothers helped Meeting Street, the special needs facility in East Providence, prepare for a telethon. ZBT emptied the classroom where the telethon was to be held, stripping it of heavy equipment and other teaching materials. "It was such a big project that we would have been there all night. They were such an amazing help," said Katie Carlson, development officer at the facility. The brothers did not have the opportunity to meet the children who attend Meeting Street, but offered to help during field trips and outings, and, according to Carlson, have continuously inquired about the next time they can help.
The fraternity also gathered to create texture cards for blind children, but their most recent project is a mentoring program for students in the North Kingstown school district. ZBT brothers will be mentoring individual students, helping special education classes, after-school clubs and homework help.
ZBT not only organizes their own philanthropic events, but aids other organizations' activities as well, such as the Student Peace Patrols during the Major League Baseball playoffs, the URI Silent Witness Domestic Violence Vigil, and the Hillel Foundationís Holocaust Vigil.
Oliveri said the night of the 24-hour Holocaust vigil was one of his most memorable ZBT experiences. ZBT participates faithfully every year and Oliveri was supposed to read victimsí names for a half-hour, then leave. However, he, the vigil organizer, and fellow ZBT brother Brendan O'Grady felt drawn to stay the night and continue to take turns reading names until the end of the list.
"I found that this event not only helped the community by serving as a reminder of the horrors of the Holocaust, but it helped me personally to truly learn about the impact the Holocaust had and formed a unique bond between Brendan and me."
"When we succeed, we do so together and similarly, if an event doesn't work out the way we had hoped, we share in the desire to improve upon it," Oliveri said of ZBT's philanthropy, while he simultaneously described the true spirit of fraternity.