"Today's Chapel Sing may look different than the event of Dr. Roberts' day, but the bonds formed between pledge class brothers continue to be strong and loud."

Fall 1998

"That fall, I joined 27 other young men from many different backgrounds. They would become my 'pledge brothers' and, later, some of my best friends."

by John R. Roberts '83

Wabash offers so many opportunities for young men to explore and grow, and that growth can occur in the classroom, on the playing field, working for a student publication, or on the stage, among others. I participated in many of those pursuits, but for me the most important were my experiences as a pledge at the Beta house.

It goes without saying that any group of people cannot become a "team" until they have been challenged with a common obstacle. The most recent compelling illustration of this point was the portrayal of the men in the movie "Saving Private Ryan." I certainly don't want to equate my fraternity experiences to those of the men at Normandy, but for an 18-year-old in the fall of 1979, the rigors of pledgeship were pretty challenging.

As a clueless "rhyne," I joined 27 other young men from many different backgrounds. They would become my "pledge brothers" and, later, some of my best friends. All but one made it to the end of pledgeship. I know the whereabouts and activities of all but two. I could recount a hundred experiences that, when taken individually, sound like little more than ridiculous fraternity stunts. But they led to something greater. It wasn't until the end of that fall that I was able to grasp the bond that had developed between the members of our class. We felt an extreme sense of accomplishment and pride. We even called the upperclassmen "friends."

I recall being road-tripped with Parvin Gillim '83 early in the semester. Our pledge brothers were told we were missing and they would have to do push ups until we returned. Parv and I hardly knew each other at the time. Rob Stevenson '81 and Alan Clauser '81 drove us around in circles for 30 minutes before they dropped us about half a mile from Wabash. We didn't panic, but used the few non-cultivated brain cells between us to figure out where we were and made it back to the house in about 20 minutes. The actives were shocked and dismayed to see us jogging up Wabash Avenue and our pledge brothers reveled in our impertinence (as did their triceps).

Another memory involves Mike Lewinsky '82, now an attorney for a prominent Indianapolis law firm. He had a little stuffed monkey that he always had to have nearby when studying. He called it the "study ape." Led by Ralph Olson '83, a few guys in the class kidnapped that monkey. The entire pledge class took part in hiding the ape and littering the Beta house with clues and ransom demands. We kept it up the entire semester. We also did a LOT of push ups.

To those who weren't there, these events no doubt appear ridiculous and without purpose. On the other hand I'm sure many of the readers can recount similar endeavors. I truly feel that fraternities at Wabash are unique in their ability to promote positive change in young men. When I add up all the silly things we did to drive the actives crazy and to maintain our sanity, I realize pledgeship was the most intense team-building exercise of my life. I didn't capture a pill box or save a mother's last son, but I did learn to work with others and to build friendships that will last a lifetime.

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