URI’s Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity breaks ground today for new chapter house
Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862First fraternity construction on Kingston Campus in 25 years
KINGSTON, R.I. -- March 24, 2005 -- Zeta Beta Tau, a fraternity at the University of Rhode Island respected for its strong commitment to campus and community service and academic performance, broke ground today for a new chapter house.
Active brothers, alumni and University officials participated in brief ceremonies to mark the first new construction of a fraternity house on the Kingston Campus since 1980.
The 10,000-square-foot, 2-story house will be built at 8 Fraternity Circle, the site of the fraternity’s former house, which was destroyed by fire in 1994. The design was taken from drawings of the original house. The $2.2 million dormitory-style structure is scheduled to open by September 2005.
The new fraternity will house 47 brothers, with a central entrance tying two separate wings together. The common area will have two connected rooms with a series of sliding doors and access to a courtyard. There will be a kitchen, but there are no immediate plans for a food service. The chapter house will be fully wired for internet access.
The Providence-based architectural firm of Lerner/Ladds & Bartels, Inc. designed the structure and Shawmut Design and Construction of Providence is building the fraternity house. Shawmut Vice President Brian Stys is a graduate of URI and an alumnus of the local ZBT chapter.
Leo Robinson, a 1996 psychology graduate of URI and president of the ZBT alumni corporation that is responsible for the construction project, said he has seen a number of groups try to re-establish the fraternity since the 1994 fire.
“I have watched this current group of undergraduate brothers since the beginning and they are a special group with a good sense of values,” said Robinson, who has been alumni president for five years.
Because of the outstanding record of the current group, “we decided to do whatever we could to help them out. We would not have done it without this kind of a group because the risks are high. These students are really the future of what the fraternity system can be.”
Tom Dougan, URI vice president of Student Affairs, who oversees the URI fraternity system, said “Zeta Beta Tau fraternity has a long history and tradition at the University. These undergraduates are a reflection of the values under which fraternities were founded--leadership, scholarship, and service to others.”
Saul Fern, who was adviser to the forerunner of ZBT at URI in the 1960s and former national president of ZBT, said the time was right to build a new house.
“We wanted young people who accepted our national philosophy that prohibits hazing and pledging,” said Fern, who serves as a non-voting life member of the ZBT Supreme Council. “To make this kind of investment, you have to have faith in the young guys who are going in, and we do.”
In the last five years, the brothers of Rho Iota chapter at URI have become known for their campus leadership and community service.
The local chapter brought home four awards from last summer’s national convention in Indianapolis, Ind., including the prestigious Brummer Cup, the award given to the top ZBT chapter in the nation.
Reorganized in 2000 as a colony at URI, it focuses on philanthropy and community service. One of URI’s strongest fraternities in terms of academic performance, ZBT has received multiple awards from the URI Interfraternity Council for its scholastic and service excellence.
Among its numerous activities, ZBT has participated in the URI Adopt-a-Walkway program by cleaning and maintaining the Dieter Hammerschlag Mall, the walkway between the library and the Multicultural Center, and is continuing a campus beautification project during which 10 to 15 brothers devote every Saturday afternoon to cleaning one area of the campus per month. The brothers helped Meeting Street, the special needs facility in East Providence, prepare for a telethon. The fraternity has also been involved in a mentoring program for students in the North Kingstown school district.
“You see and hear nothing but nice stories about the brothers,” Fern said. “They have taken our philosophy to heart and they are passionate about it.”
Scott Mintz, a 1990 URI graduate who served as chapter president as an undergraduate, said he’s been receiving email notes from ZBT alumni about the project. “They are overjoyed about the house,” said Mintz, currently the vice president of the ZBT alumni corporation. “The alumni are really psyched because the project is bringing back all of those great memories.”
Mintz said he can’t imagine being in a fraternity without a house, but he said the alumni board has been nothing but impressed with the record of the current brothers.
“As the process continued, the alumni corporation made a decision to involve the undergraduates in the design of the new building.
Dan Riley, the current chapter president and an accounting major from Tiverton said there are now 75 brothers in the fraternity, most of whom live in campus residence halls. For the past five years, the group has met each Monday in the Memorial Union for its chapter meetings.
A member of the Student Alumni Association who organized a past Midnight Madness celebration and who is running the Oozeball fund-raiser this spring, Riley said once the house is open the focus won’t change.
“We are not going to lose sight of our values, and the qualities we look for in our members,” the junior said.
He said he and other members of the fraternity are emphasizing the need to respect the amount of hard work that has gone into the new facility and the need for respect when they move in.
“I know I am going to be cleaning the house, keeping the scuff marks off the wall. We respect the work that has gone into this and we want to leave a great house for young brothers who follow us.”