Pledged Pi Lambda Phi fraternity so that his collegiate experience would be more than driving to campus, going to class and driving home again.
By Bonnie Eissner
Janine Perez ’14 contributed to this article.
Steve Silverman ’69 pledged Pi Lambda Phi fraternity in his freshman year so that his collegiate experience would be more than driving to campus, going to class and driving home again. “I realized I wanted more out of college than just that,” he says. “I wanted some socialization, and the fraternities offered that.” What he found was not only a social life, but also the key to his future.
Joining a fraternity was a pivotal moment in my life,” Mr. Silverman says. He explains: “I met Freddye [Kaufman] because of fraternity and sorority life…We got married [and] came down to Maryland to go to law school as opposed to staying in New York where I was born and raised. [We] made a life down here, started a family. Both of us have had successful careers…I am extremely grateful to not only the fraternity, but to my time at Adelphi for that opportunity.”
Freddye (Kaufman) Silverman ’71 was in Alpha Epsilon Phi when she and Steve started dating. They had first met at freshman orientation. He was a junior class counselor and involved in running orientation. By the following February, they were going steady.
Freddye Silverman lived on campus, and she, too, quickly realized that, “The Greeks, at the time that I was there, quite frankly, ran the campus.” She explains: “They were the workers. They were the ones that were totally involved in campus life, and that’s what I wanted.” She wound up as president of her sorority in her junior and senior years and co-president of her class in her senior year.
Adelphi Greek life, like Greek life elsewhere, has long had certain rites and rituals. The Silvermans fondly remember making floats for the annual homecoming parade and the tradition of homecoming sweethearts—sorority girls chosen by each fraternity—being escorted onto the football field during halftime. Freddye, the 1969 Pi Lambda Phi sweetheart, was escorted by Steve. The sororities put on skits—mini musicals, according to Freddye Silverman—as part of an annual competition. The fraternities and sororities had fundraisers for various organizations.
The drinking age was 18, and the Greeks hosted beer blasts, balls and other parties.
Freddye Silverman even has good memories of pledging—the rites required before one is initiated into a sorority or fraternity. She and her fellow pledges wore small Robin Hood hats for their entire pledge period, and the pledges wrote and performed skits for the sorority sisters. The bonding rituals gave her a sense of belonging.
Fraternity pledging tended to be more intense and, for some, pure hazing. Mike Lazarus ’68, a member of Omicron Pi, who later became an Adelphi trustee describes some of his pledging experiences: “They would make you shave off all your hair and wear a top hat and carry a brick around with you all the time…And you had to do that for about four weeks. It’s sort of like basic training—everybody suffers equally, so you become a unit. You become fast friends.”
Unlike Greeks at other universities, Adelphi Greeks lacked official houses. Rumors are that some of the fraternities had beach houses, but none was sanctioned by the school. Rather, Adelphi Greeks had the snack bar and later the Ruth S. Harley University Center cafeteria, where they congregated for meals and between classes.
Many say the experience of being together with so many other fraternity and sorority members in a relatively tight space shaped Greek life on campus.
Before the University Center opened in 1970, the snack bar—a long room in the basement of Chapman Hall outfitted with picnic tables and, in the back, a snack bar—was the de facto Greek hangout. Each fraternity and sorority had a table where the members met. Rush (the Greek version of recruitment) took place there as did some of the pledging. “All we and the other fraternities and sororities had as a gathering place was our own table in the snack bar,” says Doug Buchan ’65, who was in Chi Sigma. Freddye Silverman recalls: “There was so much kibitzing going on; it just really lent itself to a closeness that I don’t think you find probably today.” Mr. Lazarus echoes her, calling the snack bar the “focal point” of Greek life.
By 1970, the snack bar had shut down, and the dining hall in the University Center took its place. “The fraternities and sororities staked a claim to a table or two,” says Alan Markowitz ’74, who was in Pi Lambda Phi. Even today, he can rattle off the location of each Greek table.
“There were no cell phones. There was no Internet…You knew that between class, if you weren’t doing anything, you’d hang out in the University Center at your prescribed table.”
John Rebuth ’80, a member of Zeta Beta Epsilon (formerly Zeta Beta Tau), says that by the late 1970s, the Greeks were still a big part of cam.pus life—organizing beer blasts, charity events and other activities—but Greek life was less of a focal point and more informal. His fraternity made a point of being open and inclusive, organizing events, such as a basketball marathon for juvenile diabetes and beer blasts, which were available to the whole campus.
Cynthia (Favata) Rufe ’70 is now a federal judge in Pennsylvania, and she says her two years in Delta Delta Delta opened doors for her. By the time she pledged, she was already co-president of the junior class. She was drawn to the sorority because her roommate and close friend, Susan (Charles) Nelson ’70, was in it, and the then Dean of Women Ruth S. Harley ’24, ’50 (Hon.)—a mentor to Ms. Rufe—was a Tri Delta. The sorority’s activities, particularly the service activities, also impressed Ms. Rufe.
Ms. Rufe calls her experience in the Greek system the perfect complement to her Adelphi liberal arts education. “It wouldn’t be a great system if you needed it, if you couldn’t do anything without it,” Ms. Rufe says. “That’s not how our society is made up, and it would be unrealistic to think that that is a microcosm of society…The fraternity and sorority organizations offered enrichment in developing bonds, and providing service, that really couldn’t be duplicated easily.”
They are still doing that at Adelphi today. Last year, Adelphi Greek membership surged by 120 to a 20-year high of 532 members—nearly 11 percent of undergraduates. This past summer at the Pi Lambda Phi convention, the Adelphi chapter, which was revived in 2009, racked up a bevy of awards, including Outstanding National Chapter of the Year and Best Community Services Award for more than 750 hours of community service. From the festivities of Greek Week, the Greek Olympics and the Greek Gala to myriad chapter-run community service programs, Adelphi Greeks continue to flavor campus life.
And, as Steve Silverman points out, today’s Greek members can expect a lifetime of benefits. “Our fraternity had a credo that it’s not four years, it’s a lifetime,” he says. It was drummed into us that the friendships that we’re making are not just for four years, but these are bonds that should remain true for a lifetime. Again, it sounds corny, but it stayed that way. There are guys that I haven’t seen in 35 years, that I will walk up to and will get goose bumps because we feel that way about each other.”
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