In the Fall of 2006, I was among what was then the largest freshman class in CUA history. Like so many students I was totally unprepared to take my first real step towards adulthood. My lack of experience, distance from home, and public school education left a lot to be desired. Only a few precious weeks into my freshman year I was on track to fail all of my classes, and was wasting my time, money, and potential partying when I should have been studying. Honestly, I hadn’t seen the inside of a church since I started classes — but a group of brothers from the national Catholic fraternity, Alpha Delta Gamma (ADG), changed my life.
One night after returning home from a social event, I struck up a conversation with a senior named Daryl, who was well-known for being president of the student government. Daryl, who is also a member of ADG, invited me to join him and some other brothers for a late-night run to the Pryz. The pizza was terrible, but the company was great. I didn’t know it then, but I was taking my first steps towards joining ADG.
Greek life has become, like so many other parts of traditional life, a target of those who are long on rhetoric but short on understanding. While stereotypes abound, the truth is that Greek organizations, and particularly those based on faith, are a critical backstop to save young people from losing their way during their time in college. Nationally, Greeks have a graduation rate that is 20% higher than non-Greeks.
Just a few years after taking part in the D-Day invasion a young architecture major named Charles Scalera began attending CUA on the GI bill. During his time at CUA, he and a small group of friends founded the CUA chapter of ADG. They saw the need for an organization based in faith and forged by friendship to help themselves and other students with the rigors of college.
A few weeks after that night of terrible pizza, I was invited to join ADG and I agreed to start pledging. Only a few days into the process I was finding out that being part of a “frat” requires more of you than the movies portray. Mass was now a mandatory part of my schedule, and brothers in charge of academics began keeping track of my classroom attendance, while other brothers made sure that I was keeping my room clean. Over the rest of my freshman year and my time at CUA, the brothers of ADG helped me acclimate to college, raise my GPA, receive the sacrament of confirmation, and provided me with leadership coaching and internships. But more than that, the brothers of ADG became my best friends and family away from home.
It is easy perceive Greek life as a group of college kids causing trouble. But in reality the factor which has allowed Greek life to continue to succeed in the US college system for the last 130 years is the powerful encouragement, opportunities, and structure that Greek organizations provide.
By my junior year I was making strong marks in my classes, I was traveling to ADG events around the country, and I had been elected president of the CUA chapter of ADG. We went on to win numerous, national Greek awards, but none of those awards could compare with who ADG introduced me to that winter. It was our annual Super Bowl party my junior year where a fraternity brother, my best friend, introduced me to his sister, Caitlin. This past June, many of the same brothers who attended that party, including Daryl, sat in the pews of St. Joseph’s Church on Capitol Hill as Caitlin and I got married.
The bonds formed through Greek life are unlike any other in the college experience. When CUA had a stronger Greek life in the 60s, 70s, and 80s many mentorships, friendships, and marriages where formed. Just ADG and its sister sorority KTG have produced dozens of Catholic marriages and countless children, establishing a unique community of support and love through faith-based values.
CUA has always been about more than academic achievement. It is about shaping and forming complete individuals who thoughtfully and ethically participate in our American society. It is about the sponsorship and development of a more just and egalitarian America through our Catholic values. Most of all, CUA is about love. The life I have built for myself has been centered on the many loving enduring connections I built through Greek life while at CUA. If CUA truly seeks to accomplish its goal of creating an environment that is “characterized by the generosity and mutual support required for collegial life and personal growth,” then maintaining and expanding Greek life should be its first priority.
This year, ADG will have raised $50,000 toward a scholarship to ensure that future members of the ADG community will have a resource to help fund their tuition. However, there are numerous Catholic and service-based fraternities and sororities that offer students the structure and values-centered college experience that I received. Beyond benefitting members of the student body, expanding Greek life would enrich the community built around the school. ADG has raised the most money for the Relay for Life Foundation of any CUA organization for the past three years, and brothers participate in an average of 150 hours of service each semester.
As readers can see from my experience, ADG gave me the opportunity to grow personally, spiritually, and professionally. The incoming freshmen of today face many challenges, and each student has the opportunity to use their time at CUA to reach their full potential or to lose their way. CUA must provide students who aspire to something greater with a diversity of Greek life options to help them grow into men and women that will use the values and education they received from CUA to influence the world. I urge CUA to make this campus, in the words of the ADG prayer, a “holy and powerful influence for peace and union of hearts.”