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Pennsylvania Delta Today After 115 Years on Penn's Campus

On January 24th there was an alumni board meeting in the chapter library at 4028 Walnut Street.  It was a most encouraging and satisfying meeting, for we witnessed a chapter which is on the upswing in virtually every way.

Our immediate goal as alumni is to assist in keeping the positive momentum going as we work to have SigEp continue to be a positive, supportive, and participatory opportunity for our undergraduate brothers.

As a New York pop artist once sang, "There's a Place For Us," for when the undergrads do it right, Penn Delta is SigEp at its best, and it enriches and even grounds the excellent education which Penn offers.

A few facts and some statistics:

  • Including our new member class of 15 this January, and last fall's new member class of 4, we have gained 19 new members in this school year.
  • The entire chapter now numbers 72 undergrads and the various educational paths which they are experiencing is, frankly, somewhat intimidating.  Many undergrads have dual majors in different Penn schools and others are seeking degrees in complex subjects, not merely chemistry or physics, but in discrete portions of chemistry or physics or engineering.

Many of us at the alumni board meeting were in awe of what their studies and campus activities portend for their futures. 

Senior Ryan Leone was awarded a coveted Thouron Scholarship to study in the UK next school year.  Established in 1960 by Sir John Thouron and his American wife, Lady Thouron, to promote closer ties between the people of the United Kingdom and the United States, the Thouron Scholarship program is among the most prestigious and generous academic scholarships in the world and only a few Penn students are selected each year.  Ryan also earned the “Ben Wagner Spirit Award” for his final sprint football season.

Another sprint football player, Sophomore Aaron Johnson, received incredibly high honors when he was selected as captain for next year and named Most Improved Defensive Player and Special Teams Player of the Year. 

Sophomores, Rakesh Ravi and Shabaig Chatha and Junior Rahul Venkatesh participate in PENN Dhamaka, an all-male, Asian-Indian inspired dance group which placed 4th at one of the most competitive dance competitions in the U. S., called Jhalak, which was held in Austin, TX, this past November.  Here’s a link to their performance on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enOc9eWRgYk

And a team/brotherhood building activity has developed over the past few years which is as welcome as it is startling in its simplicity:  Active group support for brothers participating in sports or other campus activities.  Brothers show up to cheer and otherwise support individual efforts, which has been a long time coming and is heartwarming.  It's a pleasure to see them enjoy themselves in this way. 

The chapter house is in good physical condition and recent updates have included updating the bathroom on the first floor with new stall dividers, sinks, flooring and most important, electric hand dryers. The pool table and kitchen dishwasher have been repaired. The front porch and parking lot have been refinished.  Some upgrades planned for this semester: new tables and chairs for the common spaces and library, along with new window shades for the first floor windows.  Plans are in place to replace all of the windows in the original 1901 portion of the house.

I shift now to discuss the Pennsylvania Delta Foundation as an entity in itself. 

Since 1946, when the Pennsylvania  Delta Foundation succeeded the old Sigma Phi Epsilon Club of Philadelphia as the alumni arm of our chapter, we have been sustained financially by alumni dues, various special contributions, and in recent times, summer rental of the chapter house at 4028 Walnut Street to West Philadelphia's Netter Center for Community Partnerships.

Having been financially viable for nearly 75 years has allowed the Pennsylvania Delta Foundation to pursue its two primary purposes:  supporting the undergraduate chapter in positive ways and providing organized events for alumni to get together (presumably "to talk about how great it is to be a Penn SigEp," to quote one of our more iconoclastic alums).

And--ready? -- the Penn Delta Foundation has reached a financial cross-roads, and we again turn to our alumni for augmented financial support to insure its continuing support for the chapter and for alumni events and communication.

For the past six years, based on a pending safety review of all campus chapter houses, the University has not permitted our renting the chapter house for the summer, resulting in the slow but steady depletion of  Foundation funds, needed to support chapter growth, maintain our alumni events—specifically Homecoming at the house in the fall, the NYC McCron dinner in spring, and Penn Alumni Week-end in May.  All that, plus insuring the financial means to support vital alumni communications such as the Delta Penn, our alumni data base and timely emails,

Thus, the Pennsylvania Delta Foundation must initiate a stronger annual dues/special gifts effort to shore up, sustain, and continue to provide resources for the primary benefit of our undergrads and in support of alumni communications and gatherings.

To that end, one alumnus has contributed $2,000 to the Pennsylvania Delta Foundation, and another has pledged $250/month.

Based on informal conversations among many grads, we think others (many others?) in our alumni body would respond accordingly. Thus, we have enclosed a more action-oriented, a more donation-centered alumni annual dues form.

We ask each of you to consider annual Pennsylvania Delta Foundation dues of $40, $75, $100, $250. . . or more.

There is also an opportunity to make to contribute larger gifts of $500;  $1,000;  $2,000;  $3,000;  or $4,028.   

Last, some of you may wish to make monthly gifts--please let us know, and please provide your email address for monthly reminders, if that would work for you.

A form and reply envelope is enclosed for our efforts as well as our customary request for augmentation of designated funds in support of the undergrads at the Sigma Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation in Richmond. 

Please know that, unlike gifts to the SPE Educational Foundation, gifts to the Pennsylvania Delta Foundation are not tax-deductible.

I close in remembering a stalwart, 60 year plus member of the Pennsylvania Delta Foundation board, Don Sontag, 1953, who died at age 88 this past October.  A Navy veteran, Don was a former president of the Penn Delta Foundation, a long-time and much appreciated adviser to what we now call the chapter's vice president of finance (comptroller), and who contributed a six-figure amount in our last chapter house improvement effort in the early 2000s.  Don is also widely remembered for his love of singing and harmony, and could be counted on as an undergraduate and as an alumnus to spark barbershop singing or other musical tours de force at the drop of a hat.   

Don and Nancy Sontag were strong and vital supporters of Penn Delta and their passing has left a vibrant memory in the hearts of a large number of present alumni.

Rest in peace (at Arlington National Cemetery), Brother Sontag.




Brett R. Danko, 1990


Pennsylvania Delta Foundation

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