There’s a new triad of Greek letters coming to the Gannon University campus.
A group of male students headed by Robert Fisher and Andrew Fenstermacher have spent the past few months conducting interviews, submitting paperwork and spreading the word for their efforts to start a new chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon at Gannon. At present the organization has 51 chapters in the United States and Canada.
According to Fisher, a sophomore criminal justice major, the idea to establish a new fraternity chapter rose from conversations Fisher had with his friends during his freshman year.
“It started out as about 10 of us last year just joking around about it at first, honestly,” Fisher said. “But then we thought we should see what we can get accomplished.”
The conversation resumed this year, and Fisher began researching fraternities throughout the country to determine which organizations had “a good list of values” that best reflected the group.
Fenstermacher, a junior chemical engineering major, said that the Gannon chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon will have a “scholarly and service-centered” focus, despite still being a social fraternity.
He added that the new chapter aims to avoid the social stereotypes associated with fraternities.
“We’re not just another party fraternity,” Fenstermacher said. “We don’t want people to come to only have a good time; we’re looking for the development of these people also.
“The fraternities on campus are great if you want to meet new people create great friends but we’re looking for something that gives a little different twist on that.”
Fisher and Fenstermacher recently met with the Student Organizations and Leadership Development office to discuss their agenda and were surprised to face little opposition.
“We were prepared for anything that they could ask us because we figured that they could be defensive about it,” Fenstermacher said. “But they were very enthused with us about bringing a new organization to campus. It was actually astounding.”
Last week the founding group received word that the international office of Delta Kappa Epsilon approved its application, meaning the Gannon group is now considered a “colony.” Fisher said the group took some time to celebrate the milestone.
Once the founding group pledges and is initiated into the fraternity, it can then start recruiting new members and work toward the additional requirements necessary to become a chapter.
All that stands in the way of official university recognition is approval of the colony’s constitution and petitions to Gannon’s SGA and the Interfraternity Council. Fenstermacher hopes the entire process will be completed by a year from now.
“The lengthiest time will be about a year and a half to full chapter status just the same as every other fraternity on campus,” Fenstermacher said. “Optimistically, I feel by this time next year we would be petitioning IFC for membership and also have chapter status by then.”
Kevin Cuneo, a local alumnus of DKE, said he met with the student founders and came away impressed.
“They’re bright young guys,” Cuneo said. “They seem like they’re serious about the scholarships and traditions that they will carry on for years and years.”
Cuneo, 58, became a member of the fraternity during his time at Vanderbilt University. He graduated in 1977. Cuneo also said he felt like he connected with the enterprising Gannon students.
“I hit it off with these new guys,” he said. “They reminded me of myself when I went to school 35 years ago.”
Fenstermacher said the group is not waiting around for recognition to begin its volunteer work.
“Once we get university recognition, the word’s going to spread like wildfire I imagine,” he said. “So we want to start doing some positive reinforcement in the community. We want both Gannon and Erie to say, “Hey look at those Dekes, they’re doing good things.”
But both Fenstermacher and Fisher stressed that they’re not out to compete with the other fraternities on campus.
“We’re not looking to cut anyone down; we don’t want to take away from the other fraternities,” Fenstermacher said.
“That’s our biggest fear at this moment, that as soon as everyone finds out they’re going to say, ‘Oh they’re trying to steal membership.’
“That’s not what we want to do at all. We want to attract a different crowd, people who would be hesitant about Greek life in general. But if they want to find out we’re here and accepting of everyone.”
“We don’t have much of a recruiting base yet; we’re just trying to find people that would work well with the founding group,” Fisher said.
Cuneo said the new fraternity group is a “win win” for both the upstart fraternity brothers and Gannon.
“We have really high standards for our chapters,” he said. “The top schools are where we are. These are individuals who are serious and have a positive role on campus. They’re top-notch students. Gannon will be pleased.”
This article by Dan Kubacki was originally published in the Gannon Knight.