As a Northwestern Greek graduate, I felt the need to reply when I read Alex Schwartz’s column from last week. My priorities in college were to both launch a career and to grow as a leader. My Greek days at Northwestern were long ago in the 1950s. However, I have viewed the campus through the eyes of my son and my grandson since then — I don’t think the Greek experience has dramatically changed. Even so, my main Greek historical perspective is the character building experience it provided me.
First, I strongly dispute Schwartz’s claim that Greeks exist “primarily for the benefit of society’s most privileged members.” I came from a low-income family in Chicago and only got to Northwestern by winning a scholarship via competitive testing. Once on campus, I rushed because I hoped it’d build a bridge to the diverse makeup of students on campus. I was in engineering and knew its long labs and study requirements could easily build a cocoon around me. So I rushed, and joined Pi Kappa Alpha.
This introduced me to the Dolphin water ballet shows, where I became stage manager, and to Waa-Mu where I worked on the stage. It gave me personal partnership contact with brothers who were designers, journalists, varsity athletes, economists and planners. These were “up close and personal” relationships since we were all pulling for the same team. These relationships also built most of my lifelong friendships.
As fraternity house manager, I gained management experience. Later, as fraternity president, I built leadership experience guiding over 70 fellow fraternity members to reach important goals. I’m proud of my Greek experience, and wish current members well.
Gerald Petersen, McCormick ‘57