Alumni Profiles

Neil Batiancila '99

Q & A with Neil Batiancila '99

January 2, 2006

As I prepared to leave the hallowed (or holed) walls of Sig Ep 6 years ago, I was lucky enough to be graduating into a fantastic job market. Despite the opportunity, though, I chose a different path – one of giving back.
I had plans for graduate school, but first, I wanted to distinguish myself from the competition. So, I joined an AmeriCorps program called City Year. City Year is a national program that recruits diverse young adults to spend 10 months of their lives as full-time tutors, mentors, and role models for children in cities across the nation. Here in Philadelphia, we have built the largest site in the City Year network and one of the most successful AmeriCorps programs in the country. Our "corps members" come from all walks of life – ethnic, religious, socioeconomic, educational – and work with kids, grades k-12, providing academic assistance, delivering character development lessons, and engaging children in volunteer opportunities. They break down their social barriers through the common ground of community service.

What's unique about City Year is that we see our work as part of a national movement – the national service movement. Our vision is that, one day, the most commonly asked question of every young person will be, "Where are you going to do your service year?" We spread the word of our service through a high-profile advisory board, a network of community champions, and a corporate partnership program, which connects the corporate community with the work that our corps members do.

One of the true values of City Year is that it does, in fact, distinguish its members from their peers. From last year's City Year corps alone(2004-2005), we graduated two members with full-tuition scholarships to law school, one to the Graduate School of Education at Columbia University, another to medical school, and one to one of our biggest corporate partners, Comcast. If you understand how to leverage your experience with City Year, then the opportunities are limitless. I personally benefited as well, being awarded a scholarship to an MBA program in Boston, but I stayed in Philadelphia to keep leading our site. I currently serve as City Year Greater Philadelphia's Deputy Director – only 5 years after I did my AmeriCorps year with the program – and there is nothing more gratifying than working with an organization that has the potential to change the world.

I remember thinking 6 years ago, that I wanted to find a place where I could carry on Sig Ep's core values of virtue, diligence, and brotherly love. One of the things I appreciated the most as an undergraduate was the gratification of brotherhood, and at City Year, I am fortunate to have found that sense of brotherhood among the people who wear the City Year red jackets that you might see everyday in the community. We all fight everyday for a cause larger than ourselves – the chance to make a difference.

I hope that some of you can consider giving back for a year after you graduate. I can tell you that City Year would welcome any Sig Ep who wanted to make a difference, as there are four Sig Eps currently at my own site. It's a small sacrifice for an experience that you can take with you forever.


Neil Batiancila
Sigma Phi Epsilon, Penn Delta, '99
City Year Greater Philadelphia '00
Deputy Director
City Year Greater Philadelphia

You can learn more about City Year Greater Philadelphia at or can contact Neil at 267.386.7049/ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. AmeriCorps positions with City Year are available for the 2006-2007 year.

Robert G. Dunlop ’31

He Made Sun Oil Rise

Robert G. Dunlop, W'31, hon'72

Robert Dunlop called himself a "bean counter." Despite his sober self-assessment, Dunlop led Sun Oil Co. in innovative marketing strategies and aggressive acquisitions. His leadership converted a regional company into a fully integrated corporation by greatly expanding its marketing territory, manufacturing, and production.

The valedictorian of his Wharton class, Dunlop joined the Philadelphia oil company as an accountant. At the age of 37, Dunlop was handpicked to become the first president of Sun outside the Pew family, whose patriarch Joseph Newton Pew founded the company in 1886. Endowed with remarkable recall — always remembering the names of employees after an initial meeting — Dunlop was serene and pensive, as well as sometimes self-effacing, often referring to his accounting roots but obviously proud of his superb technical prowess.

Under Dunlop, Sun Oil in 1958 introduced an innovation that is now familiar: the Custom Blending Pump, a novel system for dispensing a choice of five octane grades of gasoline from a single pump. It revolutionized the method of marketing gasoline, allowing companies to market higher-priced blends. A model of the pump is on display at the Smithsonian Institution.

Sun expanded into Canada, and later into Venezuela beginning in 1957. The Venezuelan Sun Oil Company produced more than one billion barrels of oil from Lake Maracaibo before ceasing operations in 1975 when the Venezuelan government nationalized Sun's holdings. When Sun Oil merged with Sunray DX Oil of Tulsa, OK, in 1968, the company's assets increased by a staggering 50 percent.

Dunlop's ability to adapt to changing energy market conditions increased Sun's business volume fivefold by the time he retired as chairman and CEO in 1974. Dunlop died in 1995.

Adam Barrist '98

Adam Barrist '98 was recently asked to share his thoughts and motivation behind The Concrete Lawyer, a novel written by Adam. The novel is about a Philadelphia Lawyer who gets involved with some new clients that bring along a dangerous series of events that take place in Paris and Philadelphia as the main character has to take action to save his career, marriage, and even his own life. Please read what Adam has to say about his motivations behind the novel and support him by purchasing his novel.

Writing The Concrete Lawyer was the culmination of a longtime dream for me. I originally conceived the idea of publishing a novel when I was living in the Pennsylvania Delta Chapter House as a sophomore. Oddly though, my compilation of SigEp experiences ranging from hiding dead fish carcasses underneath brothers' mattresses to planning pledge scavenger hunts didn't provide me with the compelling premise that needed to create a page turner.

I was invited to join the family of SigEp pledge brother, Marc Menkowitz, for a vacation to Jamaica during semester break of our sophomore year, 1995-96. During that trip, Marc's mother, Sue, would introduce me to the author who would change my outlook on reading – and writing. She provided me with a copy of Nelson DeMille's then-recently published The Gold Coast to read by the pool. Although never a fast reader, spellbound with Mr. DeMille's captivating storytelling and gripping descriptive narrative, I managed to rip through the entire text during the four-day trip.

From that point forward, I wanted to be both DeMille's polished and debonair lawyer protagonist, John Sutter, and DeMille, himself. While by no means an economics expert (unlike the majority of my Penn Delta brothers, I studied at the College of Arts and Sciences and never so much as set foot in Wharton's Steinberg-Dietrich Hall), I figured that it would be more fiscally sound to become a lawyer before I became a writer.

So far, that strategy has worked out well. Practicing as a lawyer in Philadelphia for roughly a decade provided me with the knowledge and ability to publish The Concrete Lawyer and its in-production sequel, Blue Blood Justice. Although everything that I write about is strictly fictional and fantasy, seldom does a day pass that I don't see or hear something in a courtroom or office that inspires me to write.

To think that this love affair with writing and the law is derived from a SigEp brother's mother bestowing a single book upon me is – well – inspiring in itself.