A Personal, Anecdotal History of
Kappa Beta Fraternity
and the Kappa Beta Brothers
In the January 2001 issue of UAlbany Magazine I read an interesting article by Christine Hmson McKnight, “The Boys of Kappa Beta,” in which the early years of Kappa Beta Fraternity were described, largely through the eyes of Haskell Rosenberg ’40, one of its charter members. In June 2002 I had the opportunity to meet Haskell and some of the other KB brothers from the 1930s and 1940s and a few from the 1960s for the first time, as well as renew friendships with KB brothers I had known from the 1950s at the 65th Reunion of Kappa Beta. Another founding member who attended this reunion, Nahum Lewis ’38, offered to send me some material he had written about the beginning of Kappa Beta, which he did. In the Spring of 2004 I read a fascinating book by Marianne R. Sanus, Going Greek: Jewish College Fraternities in the United States, 1895-1945 (Wayne State UP, 2003) which documented the rise and decline of Jewish college fraternities from the late 19th to the mid-20th century and gave me some perspective on the early history of Kappa Beta. Finally, while trying to contact fraternity brothers from the 1960s and 1970s, I was introduced to the excellent Kappa Beta website that provided me with a great deal of information about the fraternity in the 1960s and 1970s. This series of readings, events, and “discoveries” inspired me to write this history of Kappa Beta.
As an active member of Kappa Beta from the Spring of 1953 through the Spring of 1957, I got to know KB brothers from the 1950s but had little knowledge of the origins of the fraternity and none of its subsequent history. I got to know a lot more of KB’s history as I corresponded with and spoke by phone to many brothers who were members, from its beginnings in 1937 to its disbanding in 1974. Although a number of Kappa Beta brothers sent me copies of articles, photos, newsletters, pledge books, documents, and memorabilia, no one knew where the files or boxes containing the official records of the fraternity were located. If anyone has any knowledge of their whereabouts, please get in touch with me or, better yet, Geoff Williams, University Archivist (email@example.com). It would be most appropriate to deposit the Kappa Beta records in the University Archives.
Much of this history is produced verbatim or almost so from letters, e-mails, and phone conversations with a substantial number of brothers and from my own memories. I appreciate the information and reminiscences that my KB brothers have shared with me and hope I have reproduced what they shared accurately. I also appreciate the editing done by my wife, Barbara Hillman Newman (Class of 1959), who was my date at the Kappa Beta formal dance in 1957. I have many fond personal recollections of life with Kappa Beta and consider this brief, anecdotal history my effort to memorialize the fraternity. I hope you enjoy reading this booklet as much as I have enjoyed compiling, editing, and writing it. Please send me your comments.
Arnold Newman ’56
Address: 227 East Main St., Kutztown, PA 19530
In the Beginning
Kappa Beta started as an all-Jewish fraternity in 1937. During the 1936-37 academic year, a group of about 15 Jewish students met in a Draper Hall classroom with the hope of forming a local Jewish social fraternity. Some wanted to rent a house where they could live and eat kosher food and in other ways maintain their Jewish identity. All believed, with justification, that they were excluded at that time, either explicitly or implicitly, from joining the other fraternities on the Albany State College for Teachers campus. Like so many students who attended Albany State before and after them, most were first generation college students from financially poor families, attracted to Albany because it offered a high-quality education without tuition, and like so many other Albany students, they were looking for ways to live cheaply and without the restrictions imposed by residence hall living. The desire for cheap living was intensified by the Great Depression which still imposed economic hardship on the great majority of Albany State students and their families.
Probably none of the students who were meeting to organize this local Jewish social fraternity realized that all-Jewish fraternities (and sororities) had been formed on hundreds of college and university campuses since 1895 for exactly the same reasons as theirs and had peaked in popularity during the 1920s. (Sanua.) Nor were any of them probably aware that the Theta Chapter of a National Jewish fraternity, Kappa Nu, had been established at the New York State College for Teachers at Albany in March of 1918. The Theta Chapter never appears to have had more than six or seven members and disappeared in a couple of years. There were few men attending Albany State at that time, about 10% of the school population, and very few of these men were Jewish. (Williams.)
Officers were elected to lead the newly formed fraternity, and a committee was formed under the chairmanship of Edgar Perretz ’38 to explore renting a house. The name of Kappa Beta was chosen a-s the inverted Greek letter form of B’ nai Chaim, which in Hebrew means Brothers for Life. In early June 1937 Perretz phoned Nahum Lewis ’38, newly elected Vice-President of Kappa Beta, to inform him that he had signed a one-year lease on an unfurnished two-story house at 264 Western Avenue and that he was turning over the keys to the new officers because he had to leave Albany to take a summer job. The new officers, President David Smith ’38, Vice President Nahum Lewis ’38, Secretary Paul Sapolsky ’40, and Treasurer Albert Architzel ’39, faced with the crisis of how to pay the rent during the summer months, came up with two ideas. First, they met with Harry Bergstein ’39 who planned to attend Summer School and who offered to manage the house, without pay, in exchange for remission of the three-dollar-a-week room rent. And second, they developed a plan in which the four officers would go on a door-to-door canvass requesting beds, dressers, tables, and other items needed to furnish the empty Western Avenue house so that rooms might be rented to students attending Albany State that summer.
When Smith, Lewis, Architzel, and Sapolsky went door-to-door on Western Avenue, they did not have much success; however, door-to-door solicitations on Madison Avenue, between Partridge and Main Streets proved highly successful. They loaded the furniture into Architzel’s 1935 Pontiac, and after many trips, they found they had acquired enough miscellaneous furniture to furnish several of the rooms in the newly rented fraternity house. Flushed with success, the quartet of young urban pioneers made the mistake of expanding their search to Ontario Street, where they inadvertently made a solicitation call at the home of an administrator at Albany State College for Teachers. Dean Moreland was less than pleased with the way in which the four young men were going about furnishing their new fraternity house. She insisted that the door-to door furniture search be stopped immediately and scheduled a session in her office at the college with the four recently elected officers of Kappa Beta at which she suggested that the local Jewish community should be asked to involve themselves with the furnishing of the KB fraternity house. She also indicated in no uncertain terms that if the project failed and became a community disaster, it might delay some graduations in the Class of 1938.
Lewis, who later became a successful Albany businessman, followed Dean Moreland’s suggestion, and sought help from Rabbi Bernard Bamberger of Temple Beth Emeth in Albany who recruited four generous ladies of the Congregation to help out. Mrs. Frederick (Nan) DeBeer, Mrs. Louis (Kate) Mayersohn, Mrs. Avrom (Rhea) Jacobson, and Mrs. Emmanuel Baere, after hearing about Kappa Beta’ s financial plight, each offered to lend the group $100, a large sum at that time, to be repaid, interest free, over a two or three-year period. The first three women went with Nahum Lewis and Harry Bergstein to the Fem Furniture Company on the comer of South Pearl Street and Hudson Avenue in Albany and talked Ruben Wallenstein, the owner, into selling Kappa Beta $400 worth of new beds and chests of drawers at his cost. This new furniture, mixed with what had been scavenged, enabled the officers of KB to furnish enough rooms to house 15 students and saved them from embarrassment or worse. Bergstein succeeded in renting all of the rooms to graduate students attending Summer School in 1937 for 3.00 a week, which provided enough income to cover the summer rent for the house.
After this somewhat shaky start, the fraternity moved forward and in September 1937 with active recruiting by Bergstein, who remained as House Manager, and Harry Karchmer ’40, who served as Assistant House Manager, rented all of the rooms to Jewish students. The students insisted on kosher food as part of the room and board for which they paid $8.00 a week. Consequently, Ida Cohen of Albany, an aunt of fraternity member Abba Koblenz ’44, was hired to run the kosher kitchen. Harry Bergstein later earned his Ph.D. and taught in the Education Department at Oneonta State College; Harry Karchmer became a Certified Public Accountant in Tucson, Arizona.
Toward the end of 1937, the four stalwart officers discussed with Dr. Ralph Clausen, Dr. Earl Dorwaldt, and Mr. G. Elliot Hatfield, faculty members of Kappa Beta, the idea of renting a large house on the comer of Quail and Morris Streets. With encouragement from their faculty advisors, Kappa Beta decided to move to these larger quarters that would have many more rooms to accommodate more residential members. This move was very successful and enabled the fraternity, at the end of its first year in the Quail Street house, to repay the $400 loan that the generous women of Temple Beth Emeth had made to them a year-and-a-half earlier. In 1938 Kappa Beta was welcomed as a full-fledged voting member of Albany’s lnterfraternity Council, a sign that KB was now recognized as an established fraternal organization on campus.
Life was not easy for Jewish or non-Jewish students at Albany State as the country struggled through the last years of the Great Depression. During these difficult years, Jewish students, many of whom came from New York City or vicinity, found Kappa Beta and the fraternity house a source of economic, emotional and religious support. Hyman Meltz ’41 recalls riding up to school in September 1937 the evening after Yom Kippur in a friend’s chicken truck with $25 in his pocket. Only the fellowship of Kappa Beta, he believes, enabled him to stay and graduate in four years. (Meltz served as an English teacher and assistant principal in the New York City school system for 25 years.) KB members who lived in the fraternity house pooled their resources, maintained a kosher kitchen, and found jobs for one another as shoe salesmen, waiters, day laborers, or anything else available. (Sanua, 178.)
Haskell Rosenberg ’40, a charter member of Kappa Beta, recalls that almost all of the members worked, sometimes long hours for low pay. Rosenberg himself made five-cent sandwiches most days from 7 to 9 a.m. in the cafeteria located in the basement of Husted Hall. He also stacked books in the library for $15 a month, which he estimated worked out to about 20 cents an hour. But his best gig was selling shoes on Saturdays from 9 am. to 9 p.m. at the Miles Shoe Store on South Pearl Street-for $5.00. Rosenberg, who graduated on the day that Hitler entered Paris, returned from service in World War II and went on to establish a large, successful wholesale shoe business in Rochester, New York. Rosenberg became a grand opera buff and was instrumental in founding the Opera Theatre Society of Rochester. He remembers his college years fondly. He believes he would not have made it through life nearly as well as he did without the fine education he received at Albany State, and would not have made it through those college years nearly as happily without the support of Kappa Beta
Rosenberg further recalls that even though all students attending Albany State at that time were enrolled in a teacher education program, few brothers from Kappa Beta expected to secure jobs as teachers because of an implicit anti-Semitism in the hiring process, especially in upstate New York. So, they made their marks in other fields or entered academic life through less direct routes. Ironically, they often did better, financially, than their non-Jewish friends and classmates who secured teaching positions and established their careers in secondary education. Herman Kleine ’41, a brainy 15-year-old whose ” bedroom” was an upper stairwell in KB’s first fraternity house, went on to become a top-level U.S. State Department official. Bernard Arbit ’42 became a successful businessman and, not long ago, established the Bernard Arbit Fund, an endowment administered through the University’s Charitable Gift Annuity Program. Harry Passow ‘ 42 became a Distinguished Professor of Education at Columbia University. Recently, his widow, Shirley Siegel Passow B.A.’46, M.A.’52 set up an endowment in memory of her husband. Sol Greenberg ’43 served as Albany County’s district attorney for 25 years. Louis Rabineau ’45 became President of the College of the Atlantic in Maine, and George Erbstein ’47 became President of Dutchess Community College. Calvin Zippin ’47 became a distinguished Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California School of Medicine in San Francisco and recipient of the National Cancer Institute’s Lifetime Achievement and Leadership Award. More than half of the young men who were Kappa Beta brothers between 1937 and 1941 went on to earn doctorates. (McKnight, 3-5.)
However, the most famous Kappa Beta brother from the 1930s and 1940s (159,000 entries on www.google.com in September 2004) was Harold Goldstein who, when he decided to become a full-time professional actor, changed his name to Harold Gould. Harold started out in the Class of 1945, served two years in the military during World War II, and returned to Albany State as part of the Class of 1947. He was a protege of Prof. Agnes Putterer, the dominant figure in the Theater Department at Albany State from the 1920s through the 1950s. Under her tutelage, he developed a love for classic drama. Recently, he and his wife, Leah, established the Futterer Gould Endowment in honor of Agnes Futterer. Administered by the Theatre Department, this fund supports speech and voice training for students. He did graduate study in Theater at Cornell University and went on to teach at several small colleges. Then in 1960, at age 37, he decided to become a full-time actor. Harold, who was always good at playing older men, gained his most enduring national attention as the father on the television series, Rhoda and gained further renown as Katherine Hepburn’s lover in the TV movie, Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry. However, he loved the stage and continued to act in plays by Shakespeare, Shaw, O’Neill, and many other playwrights. Though he lived at home when he was in college (his father worked for the post office), he enjoyed his membership in Kappa Beta – “good on scholarship, tremendous in tennis.”
By 1941, Kappa Beta was an established fraternity at Albany State with more than 40 members.
Then on December 7, 1941, the Japanese Air Force, without warning, bombed Pearl Harbor, sunk most of the American Navy’s Pacific Fleet, and pushed the United States to declare war on Japan as well as the other Axis powers-Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The lives of most of the “boys” of Kappa Beta as well as their classmates were suddenly and dramatically changed as the U.S.A. plunged into World War II.
I am deeply indebted to Nahum Lewis ‘38 for almost all of the material on the founding of Kappa Beta Fraternity in 1937. In 2002, he generously sent me copies of all his historical notes and many of his archival photos. Sadly, Nahum died on November 22, 2003 and therefore did not have an opportunity to read this history of the fraternity that he was so instrumental in founding.
I am equally indebted to Haskell Rosenberg ’40 for his memories of the early days of Kappa Beta. These memories are described in an excellent article by Christine Hanson McKnight in the January 2001 issue of UAlbany Magazine titled “The Boys of Kappa Beta,” pp.3-5.
An article by Eleanor Koblenz, wife of Abba Koblenz ’44, titled “Kappa Beta B’nai Chaim to Note Depression Era Aid” published in the June 5, 1997 issue of The Jewish World gave me a new perspective and extra information about the founding and early years of Kappa Beta.
A recent book by Marianne R. Sanua, Goin2 Greek: Jewish College Fraternities in the United States, 1895-1945 (Detroit: Wayne State UP, 2003) provided me with an overview of Jewish college fraternities in the United States and a context in which to place Kappa Beta Fraternity. I have used material from Sanua’ s book here and there in this chapter.
Geoffrey Williams, University Archivist, provided me with the information about the founding at Albany State of the Theta Chapter of Kappa Nu Fraternity in 1918 and its brief life.
Most of the material on Harold Gould is derived from an article written for the Albany State Alumni Magazine in 1986.
Time of Transition
During World War II Kappa Beta and the other fraternities at Albany State closed down.
Most young men enlisted or were drafted into military service. Students who were scheduled to graduate in 1943 to 1945 now had to postpone their graduation until 1947 to 1949. Overall enrollment at Albany State fell by more than a third, from 1,379 in 1939 to 865 in 1943, and military service denuded the college of male students. In the late 1930s, they had constituted about one-third of the student body, but in 1944 and 1945, they constituted only one-twelfth. (Birr, 84.)
When World War II ended and military personnel were discharged, they were encouraged by the G.I. Bill to return to or enroll at colleges and universities, and they did so by the millions. When students on military leave returned at the end of World War II, they were allowed to re enter almost as soon as they were mustered out, and many additional veterans were quickly admitted. The three-year surge of returning veterans meant that the percentage of male students on the Albany campus rose from eight percent in 1945 to 29 percent in 1947. (Birr, 94.) More mature in every respect, they transformed the character of Albany State, and every other college and university in the United States, and compiled an outstanding academic record, a record replicated by every wave of older students that followed in their footsteps.
Paul Wagner ’48, who earned a doctorate at the University of Rochester and served as a scientist and administrator at Los Alamos, New Mexico, was a typical returning veteran. He was originally in the Class of 1945, along with Harold (Goldstein) Gould, Lou Rabineau, Sam Scott, and Gordon Baskin, and pledged Kappa Beta in December 1941.
Wagner writes as follows: “The fraternity effectively disappeared in June of 1942 and we all got involved in the war, many of us with the feeling that we would never return- those were dark days. I served with the US Army Air Corps [ref. my book, The Youngest Crew, Lagumo Press, Cheyenne, WY, 1997] as a combat bomber pilot in Europe. I was discharged as soon as the war ended in September 1945 and was actually the first veteran back at NYSCT [as we were known those days] in October. In January of 1946, the first wave of veterans returned to college, among them several of the KB folks. We notified the administration that KB was again to be active and I was elected president. My first act was to change our by-laws making KB a non-sectarian fraternity [previously only Jews could be rushed and admitted, except for faculty member advisors]. The driving force for the founding of the fraternity was to have a kosher home for those to whom this was important. This appeared to be a less popular regulation after World War II ended. I finished my time at State before the renewed KB really got going so I have few memories of what went on from 1946 to 1948 at which time I left for graduate school.”
Michael Levine ’48, a friend and KB brother of Paul’s who served in the New York State Education Department for almost 25 years as an administrator, remembers Paul as an outstanding Chemistry major whose mentor at the time was Dr. Oscar Lanford, an excellent chemistry professor who later became Dean of Instruction at Albany State. Paul, after he returned to NYSCT, took Dr. Lanford for a plane ride, which both survived.
Paul Wagner’s first significant act as President of KB, with the concurrence of his fraternity brothers, in the Spring of 1946, to make Kappa Beta non-sectarian was highly significant and initiated what would become a dramatically changed fraternity. Marianne Sanua ends her book, Going Greek: Jewish College Fraternities in the United States, 1895-1945, at the end of World War II. Her concluding chapter is titled “Epilogue: World War II and the Beginning of the End for the Jewish Fraternity System.” The majority of Jewish fraternities on college and university campuses were changing to non-sectarian fraternities, sometimes with a good deal of pain and soul searching. Public and overt anti-Semitism, one of the most important reasons for the formation of Jewish fraternities to begin with, had, thankfully, diminished. Non-Jews as well as Jews were shocked and horrified as they became more fully aware of the six million Jews, one quarter of them children, who were murdered by the “civilized” Nazi Germans and their “civilized” European collaborators. Millions of non-Jewish American men and women had fought and died, along with their Jewish-American comrades, to destroy Nazism. The other major reason for the original formation of Jewish fraternities, to maintain Jewish identity and support Jewish students who faced a sometimes unfriendly or hostile world, was a much more complex issue. Did Jewish fraternities want to give up the closeness that resulted from Jews doing their own thing in their own way with their fellow Jews? Most Jewish fraternities took the same path that Kappa Beta did and became non-sectarian, but it was an emotional wrench for s0me of them to do so.
Civil rights and non-discrimination issues in the public arena also started impinging upon fraternity life. The three local fraternities, Potter Club, Sigma Lambda Sigma, and Kappa Beta by this time did not have any discriminatory restrictions. However, the fourth fraternity, the Albany chapter (chartered in 1915) of a prestigious national fraternity, Kappa Delta Rho, did have problems. Although KDR had “officially” removed discriminatory clauses from its national by-laws, it retained a “gentlemen’s agreement” that it enforced which excluded Jews and African Americans from all of its college chapters. The dramatic story of what happened when the Albany chapter in the Fall of 1952 offered a bid to Stuart Macnofsky ’54 and four other Jewish students is recounted in an absorbing article by Paul Grondahl, “The Right Thing,” which appeared in the Spring 2002 issue of UAlbany Magazine. The Albany State chapter refused to retract its bids to the Jewish pledges, the KDR national organization refused to bend much less eliminate its covert anti-Semitic and racist policy, and a huge ruckus ensued. The outcome was that the sixty-one members of the Albany State chapter resigned from the national, formed a new local fraternity, Alpha Pi Alpha, and inducted its five Jewish pledges. John Zongrone ’54, then President of the Albany chapter of Kappa Delta Rho, received a modest amount of hate mail from KDR brothers, but he and the Albany State chapter members all believed that they had done the right thing. The five Jewish students who were inducted into newly formed Alpha Phi Alpha very much appreciated the fraternity’ s support. And the incident was written up in the New York reflecting favorably on the Albany students. Possibly prodded by this incident, the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York in 1953 ruled that no organizations on SUNY campuses could bar students because of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, or other artificial criteria, and additionally barred fraternities or sororities with national affiliations from SUNY campuses. The ban held despite legal challenges, and the local fraternities continued to flourish. (Birr, 103.)
Robert Barron ’52 was the first non-Jewish member to join Kappa Beta and was initiated into Kappa Beta in a far less dramatic way than the five Jewish students were initiated into Alpha Phi Alpha. Bob recalls vividly the slow, personal process of joining Kappa Beta.
“When I got to State I was assigned housing at St. Mary’s Park more commonly known as The Barracks. My assigned roommate was Bill Kirman ’52. My folks did not like The Barracks and found a room for me in a private home that took in students on South Lake Ave. I was the only one there from NYSCT. I saw a lot of Bill but we actually did not live together. Another close friend at The Barracks was Mitch Burkowski ’52. One of the first people I met on campus was Max Fallek ’51. He got me a job in the cafeteria in Lower Husted and I worked there for 5 years.
“At that time the KB house was on Quail St. near Myrtle, and since I had no State friends at 73 South Lake, I got in the habit of going around the comer to the KB house where I got to know Don Cohen ’51, Howie Rosman ’51, Harvey Milk ’51, Phil Malafsky ’51 and the others. In the cafeteria I worked with Sy Fersh ’50. When it came time for the Spring Rush of 1949, Sy asked if I would accept a KB bid. I told him that I was flattered but my parents had forbidden me to join a fraternity in my freshman year and also that I did not qualify as I was not Jewish.
“My “Big Brother” was Clifton Thome ’49. (Cliff later became a Professor at Albany.) It was unusual for a senior to be a big brother, but he wanted to do it. Cliff introduced me to his friends, who were mainly seniors, and they all belonged to KDR. In fact it was sort-of accepted that I would join KDR when I was a sophomore. However, by that time all the seniors at KDR whom I liked had graduated; the members of my class who had joined KDR were not my friends. Bill and Mitch had joined KB so when they again extended a bid to me, I thought why-not I know everybody there, so I was the first non-Jewish member. The following fall a lot of Dick Wander’s friends – Neil Ryder ’52, Ed Castillo ’52, and Ed Cummings ’52 joined KB.
“During that summer KB had taken over Sayles Hall Annex, 203 Ontario St., where Doug Nielsen ’53, Ken Schoonmaker ’54, Arnie Smith ’54, Bill Taylor ’53, Konrad Maier ’54 and George Schaeffer ’54 had been living so they all accepted bids to KB so they didn’t have to move. And there you have the big change.”
The transition of Kappa Beta from a Jewish fraternity to a non-sectarian fraternity took place peacefully and naturally. Friends joined the fraternity where they had made friends. Groups of friends who had been living together joined the fraternity en bloc. The only unusual note sounded in Bob Barron’s lively, thoughtful recollection of the “big change” in Kappa Beta is that Bob seemed unaware that Kappa Beta had been officially non-sectarian since 1946 and that none of the KB brothers made it clear to him that it was not restricted to Jews. Possibly the KB brothers, when they rushed Bob in the Spring of 1949, may have been testing the waters of non-sectarianism cautiously.
Historical details in this and subsequent chapters are taken from Professor Kendall Birr’s engaging book, A Tradition of Excellence: The Sesquicentennial History of the University at Albany. State University of New York, 1844 to 1994. Virginia Beach, VA: The Downing Company, 1994.
The 1950s: A Rocky Road to Stabilization
By the time the Spring Rush of 1951 took place, the word was out that Kappa Beta was a non-sectarian fraternity that welcomed pledges, whatever their race, religion, or ethnicity. Since KB had a substantial number of enthusiastic, dedicated members and was also located in a good fraternity house, it attracted a substantial number of pledges.
One of these pledges, Kenneth Schoonmaker ’54, fondly remembers his connections with Kappa Beta. His reflections reveal typical Albany State fraternity life and fraternity house life as it existed in the early 1950s.
“My earliest memories are, I imagine, standard ones, of rush beer parties. Being a non alcohol drinker, I stuck to soda for the first few, then armed with a quart of soda, was able to wash down a glass of beer. When I didn’t get drunk, I was ready the next week to face a number of steins of suds and became a confirmed drinker the rest of my college career. When fraternity bids came out in February 1951, I can remember rushing to my mailbox in the basement of Richardson to see if the frats we liked also liked us. Then came the period of pledge time. Pledges of KB were expected to grow sideburns, or at least not shave above the lower ear line. Pledge time was busy, what with continuing our studies, making paddles, and putting on a show in front of a bank on Pearl Street to raise funds for a charity. During Hell Week I was told to take a live animal everywhere with me for 24 hours. I solved the problem by obtaining a chick from a butcher shop display and carrying him around in a shoe box with holes in it.
“That summer KB moved from its house on Lark Street to one on Ontario Street, next to Brubacher Hall, which was under construction. That fall each of us painted or wallpapered our bedrooms and cooperated in repainting the downstairs rooms. Since for most of us this was our first attempt at developing such a skill, it was surprising how well our efforts paid off. One benefit of the new house was that it came with a player piano. Jerry Roberts ’53 had a friend who had quite a collection of unused old piano rolls which he contributed to us. In addition, John Hanevy ’54 had a natural talent for being able to sit down at the keyboard and play the accompaniment for any tune one of us suggested for a singalong. With no television in the house at the time, we spent many an evening hour harmonizing in the living room.
“Most of us had to stretch our limited funds and found ways to do so. Since the only phone in the fraternity house was a pay phone in the dining room, it was not uncommon for a line to form in front of the phone of KB brothers waiting to talk with their girlfriends. Those of us fortunate enough to have ones with free telephone access would deposit our dimes, dial, let the phone ring twice, then hang up. Our girls would then call us back so that we could chat for nothing. One brother in especially straightened circumstances was Ron Ferguson ’54. Fergie lived in the attic at the Ontario Street house. While the rest of us ate our housekeeper-prepared meals communally in the dining room, Fergie cooked his on a hot plate. Like a starter bread, he continually added ingredients to whatever was left over, producing “Fergie Stew.” I don’t know if he ever ate the entire pot empty.
“We had a coal furnace which provided the hot water for the radiators of our fraternity house. This meant that a KB brother was responsible for maintaining the fire, stoking it with coal, shaking down the ashes, emptying the ash pit, and doing the other chores which were necessary to keep the house warm. During the Christmas vacation of 1951, with members scattered throughout the four corners of New York State, one brother who did not go home was delegated to keep watch over the furnace. Unfortunately, one night he went out partying on Green Street until the wee hours of the morning and stayed overnight at someone else’s house. During his absence, the fire went out, the temperature dropped, and the pipes burst. When we returned in January, we found the ice water had mostly melted and pretty well ruined a lot of the house. It was certainly unlivable, for the radiators couldn’t hold their supply of water. The College came to our rescue by allowing those of us who couldn’t make other arrangements to sleep on cots in a room at the end of the first floor of Husted Hall until the house was again made livable. We used a bathroom located on the first floor and found that Husted was very handy when we wanted to sleep late since we didn’t have to trek through five blocks of slippery sidewalks from the fraternity house to the campus.”
Those were the days.
After two years in the Ontario Street house, Kappa Beta lost its lease. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time. The Spring 1952 pledge class was very small-only about six people, and the fraternity was without a house in the Fall of 1953.
I asked Arnie Smith ’54, who was President of Kappa Beta in the difficult 1953-54 academic year how and why this low point had been reached, and this is what he had to say.
“We had a large (for KB) pledge class in my freshman year [1950-51]. I don’t trust my memory on exact numbers. However, I know we were in the teens, and I’d guess now that it was the mid to high teens. I think a lot of the credit for that pledge class has to go to Bob Barron, who recruited us vigorously and was forever making sure that we got to all the KB events. Once bids were out, he was also instrumental in seeing to it that they got signed.
“So what happened the next year? That’s tougher to answer. When Bob Barron was a senior and went off campus in the Fall of 1951 to do his student teaching, we lost a recruiting machine. I also know that in at least a couple of instances, prejudice was involved. I had a couple of people whom I worked hard to recruit tell me that they couldn’t bring themselves to join a Jewish fraternity, even if it had opened. I wasn’t supposed to take that personally. But I was terribly disappointed by those comments. Still, that can’t be the whole story. The great majority of the pledge class that I was in was non-Jewish. It may be that we were better at joining than we were at recruiting people. Or maybe it was a case of we didn’t know how important our participation in the recruiting process was. I know we did a lot of soul searching about that in the spring of my sophomore year. I don’t know if we ever really decided, but there were a lot of vows to work harder the next year, and we did do much better in the next two years. I don’t know if we were smart enough to make a formal assessment of what went wrong and what went right. It’s a highly subjective thing. Maybe if more of us had been future advertising executives, we’d have done better.
“When we lost our lease at the end of my junior year, I had just been elected president. I recruited whoever was going to summer school that year to be the house search committee. In the fall, we didn’t have anything. The KB brothers who had been appointed as house search committee that summer had followed some leads, but nobody wanted to rent to a college fraternity. I remember running into the same sort of thing all that fall while we continued looking. We didn’t reject houses. Potential landlords rejected us. I guess you can’t blame them.
“During the search process, Ainard Gelbond ’42, Financial Secretary for the College and a KB alumnus, was exceptionally helpful. Abel Blattman ’53, who preceded me as president, told me about him. I guess he’d gotten the word from Jerry Roberts ’53 who got it from Joe Friedman ’51, etc. Ainard was always a source of wisdom and down-to-earth good advice when we ran into troubles. I remember that when we finally found the house at 471 State St., I had a lot of trepidation about signing the lease. I’d never done that before, and I wasn’t sure what kind of liability I was taking on. Ainard reassured me that things like this had gone on before, so that I should be OK. He did suggest incorporating Kappa Beta to protect the officers from liability. The problem with incorporating was that it cost money. I think it happened eventually but not on my watch. The fraternity had to build up its membership so that it could afford to incorporate.
“I can’t remember how we found out about 471 State St. I vaguely remember viewing the house and being impressed with what I saw. I remember specifically meeting downtown with Mr. Porter (the owner) in his office. Another fraternity brother accompanied me. I remember that Mr. Porter was reluctant to rent to us, and when we heard the rental rate ($300 per month), much more than we had been paying for our previous house, we were highly reluctant to ask him to. After a considerable amount of soul searching on both sides and a number of phone calls, both sides made the commitment, and we moved in at the beginning of our second semester [Spring 1954].”
My own fond memories of Kappa Beta intersect and extend from this same period in the middle of the 1950s.
When I arrived at Albany State in the Fall of 1952, a naive, somewhat divergent soul, I had a negative preconception of college fraternities, thinking of them as havens for anti-intellectual, athletic, alcoholic, party loving, conformist students, people with whom I would not be comfortable. Kappa Beta broke all of these stereotypes. Since I had been born into a non-practicing Jewish family and raised a liberal Baha’i, the fraternity’s Jewish flavor appealed to me. The fact that some of its members were thoughtful, intellectually gifted students who were not afraid to admit it also appealed to me. I believed I was receiving an excellent, academically stimulating, inexpensive education at Albany State, and I was happy to find kindred spirits in Kappa Beta who felt the same way.
I found it appealing that Kappa Beta, at a time when homophobia was rampant, implicitly opened its doors to gay men, one of whom was a member of the small pledge class of 1955. A then recent graduate, Harvey Milk ’51, who had served in the military during World War II, attracted enormous publicity when in 1977 he became one of the first openly gay persons to be elected to public office in the United States. He was elected to serve on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (City Council). He was a gay rights activist who fought to secure a place for homosexuals in society as equals, not as people who were at worst, persecuted, or at best, grudgingly tolerated. Harvey Milk, whose official name, Glimpy Milch, reflected his Lithuanian Jewish ancestry, was tragically assassinated on November 27, 1978 by a homophobic former City Supervisor. When death threats multiplied after his election to public office, Harvey spoke often of the probability that he would be assassinated. He made a will naming acceptable successors to his seat which contained the famous line: “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.” In 1999, he made Time Magazine’s list of the most influential people in the 20th century, and in the Fall of 2004, he was honored by the New York City School System when the Harvey Milk High School, an alternative school for gay and transgender students, was opened.
I also approved of Kappa Beta’s becoming somewhat multiculturally diverse long before the phrase had been invented. Initiated in the small Class of 1955 were Al Peachey, an African American, and Gregorio Carrera, a Latino, both older students and both among the very few minority students enrolled at Albany State in the mid-1950s. Al, a man in his 30s but young at heart, occasionally played intramural basketball for our Kappa Beta team and played drums in the dance band that provided music for the Kappa Beta formal dances in 1956 and 1957. Greg, who had served as a cook in the U.S. Navy for several years prior to enrolling at Albany State, kept very different hours from the rest of us who lived in the fraternity house at 471 State St. His habits, which he developed in the Navy, had accustomed him to work at night and sleep during the day, which he did, in modified form, as a student who earned his B.A. and M.A. at Albany. He must have modified his habits even further when he accepted a teaching position in the Syracuse public school system after graduating from Albany.
Therefore, when Bob Barron recruited me in the Fall of 1952, I enthusiastically accepted a bid to join KB in the Spring of 1953.
Arnie Smith has already described some of the difficulties that Kappa Beta was struggling with in the Summer and Fall of 1953 when it was in the process of searching for a new fraternity house. I remember as a freshman pledge in the Spring of 1953 signing up to live in the fraternity house in the Fall of 1953 and finding to my dismay, when I returned to college in the Fall of 1953, that a KB fraternity house did not exist. I ended up having to accept a last-minute room assignment in the Barracks with a graduate student. The Barracks, leftover World War II Quonset huts that served as “temporary” housing, were not comfortable and were probably fire traps. I remember meetings of Kappa Beta held that fall in which progress or the lack of it in renting a fraternity house was discussed, including one distressing meeting at which a formal motion was made to disband the fraternity. I believe that a small group of the newer members felt that Kappa Beta did not have a future and believed that disbanding would provide a graceful exit for them to move on and, perhaps, seek a bid from one of the other three fraternities. With strong, united opposition from the older members of Kappa Beta, who valued the close brotherhood they had established over the years, and several emotional appeals from this constituency, the motion was defeated handily, and Kappa Beta soon after rented a house. I immediately signed up to live in the house, got early pickings, and was therefore able to claim a tiny single room on the third floor of the row house we had rented at 471 State St. I painted the room and lived happily in the fraternity house for the next two-and-a-half years until I completed my undergraduate degree in the Spring of 1956.
The acquisition of a place of our own helped immeasurably, I believe, in the recruiting of new members. Despite a late start, Kappa Beta in the Spring of 1954 was able to pledge approximately 15 new freshmen from the Class of 1957. KB then went on to pledge approximately 17 the next year from the Class of 1958 and then about 27 from the Class of 1959. Kappa Beta was back on its feet. Under the direction of Richard Erbacher ’57, Kappa Beta won the annual Christmas Sing in 1956 and 1957, thus establishing the fraternity as a strongly musical one, a tradition that continued for a number of years and which helped in the recruitment of new members who had musical talent and interests.
Most of us who graduated in the 1950s initially secured teaching positions in secondary schools, with some of us moving on to college and university teaching or administrative posts in education. Thankfully, anti-Semitic hiring practices had declined dramatically and Civil Rights legislation protecting racial and ethnic groups and women from employment discrimination was beginning to take root. However, a moderate number of Kappa Beta graduates, with their excellent education at Albany State Teachers College, chose to use their talents in jobs and professions other than teaching. For instance, Irwin Baumel ’50, became an electrical contractor; Ralph Moot ’54 worked for the State of New York Highway Engineers; Richard Siegal became a Methods, Planning, and Time Standard Specialist for General Electric; Jerry Cuba ’55, became a labor investigator; Marvin Goldstein ’56 became a research chemist at Cyanamid Corporation; Raymond Milnarik ’56 ran a successful insurance business; Fred Rudisch ’56 became an optometrist; Russell Hunt ’57 became an anesthetist with a specialty in tropical medicine; George Van den Houten ’59 became a professional actor. And the list could go on. New York State College for Teachers, staffed by excellent faculty and offering a fine educational program, was already in the process of broadening its program and approaching the time when it would become an energetic university in an upgraded, revamped State University of New York system.
Two Kappa Beta brothers who stayed in teaching became distinguished in their fields in quite different ways.
Mark Berger ’50 earned his doctorate from Columbia University and in 1956 started teaching at Albany where he remained until his recent retirement. Mark had a long and distinguished career in teaching and research, becoming a nationally and internationally known authority on ethical and political theory as it pertains to education. He was a Visiting Scholar at the University of London, Contributing Editor of The Review of Education, Fulbright Scholar, and Education Advisor to the Ministries of Education in Cyprus and Somalia He was appointed a Collins Fellow in 1990. In 1994, he received the Outstanding Professor Award from the Graduate Student Organization of the State University of New York, and in 1996, he received the Distinguished Teaching Award from the State University of New York at Albany. He published several books and numerous articles in his field.
Marvin Chernoff ’54 earned his doctorate from Hunter College in New York City and went on to achieve distinction as a college and university professor, retiring in 2002 as Professor of Counseling Psychology at California State University in Northridge. However, the intense interest in Theater that he had developed at Albany State never diminished. He has written a number of plays, the best known of them CHIAMS’s Love Song published by Samuel French, a leading publisher of plays. CHIAMS’s Love Song has played an 18-week run at the Broward Stage Door Theatre in Coral Springs, Florida, has run 208 performances Off-Broadway in New York City, and in 2002 had a four-week run in summer stock at the International City Theatre in Long Beach, California. In 2004, Marv had two one-act psychological parodies performed by the Group Repertory Theatre in Los Angeles.
By the time Dom DeCecco ’57, now an Albany County legislator, sent out an appeal in February of 1960 as President of the Kappa Beta Alumni Association requesting the annual $2.00 membership fee and asking for news and information to include in the next KB Newsletter, he could proudly and confidently say, “The fraternity has progressed rapidly so that we now are the largest fraternity on campus as well as the best. KB again won the Christmas sing and last May won the scholarship trophy.” Kappa Beta, near collapse in 1953, had stabilized and was poised to enter its period of greatest growth and to become a more traditional fraternity than it had been up to this point.
An Afterward to the 1950s
(The following page of memories from Doug Nielsen ’53 arrived shortly after I had had the rest of the History of Kappa Beta photocopied. However, I found the memories so interesting that I decided to include them as a kind of insert. In an informal way, they summarize the life of Kappa Beta in the 1950s.)
When I was initiated into Kappa Beta in 1950, it occupied a house on South St. Shortly afterwards, the fraternity moved to the old group house, Sayles Annex, at 203 Ontario St. I took a series of pictures of Brubacher Hall being built from the back third floor window of that house. It was our fraternity house, rented from the College, for a couple of years and was the scene of many an activity. For one year, our house mother was a lady named Mrs. Clem. She had to put up with a lot of grief from us, and we had to put up with some of her strait-laced ways. We may have been the first fraternity on campus that had a television set in its house. My parents bought a new one, and I brought our old one to the fraternity house where it remained for two years. We used to watch the Red Skelton show and many others from that era. I was drafted into military service at the height of the Korean Conflict and as a result, missed several years of school. When I returned to Albany State in January 1956, the fraternity house was located on State St.
In the Fall of 1956, we moved to a house on Washington Ave. across from Beverwyck Park. I have two outstanding memories from that semester. First, we won the Christmas Chorus competition among male group houses, thanks to having a good song arranger and some good singers, and second, we gained high esteem from the sororities because we were the only fraternity to hike up to AEPhi and serenade them with Christmas carols. The custom was for all the frats to visit all the women’s group houses, sing some carols, and be invited in for some refreshments. We had saved AEPhi for last and almost decided not to go, since it was so late, past 10 p.m., and we wouldn’t be invited in for cookies. But AEPhi was our sister sorority, so up the road we went. When we got there, the lights were off, and we figured everyone had gone to bed. As it turned out, the girls had turned in, greatly disappointed because no one had come to serenade them.
We started singing, the lights were turned on, and the girls came to the windows to watch and listen. We knew we were there after hours and were about to leave when the house mother came to the door and invited us in. Most of the girls were in nightclothes, but she let us in, anyhow. It was then that we learned that no one else had come to the AEPhi house to sing. We enjoyed the refreshments and, the next day, learned that word had gotten around to the other women’s houses that the rest of the guys had skipped AEPhi. Their names were MUD.
I remember that we did pretty well in athletics and very well in the scholarship competitions.
I loved playing third base and batting in softball. The games on old Page Field were always a challenge. If a ball got by the right fielder untouched and rolled into Western Ave., the batter was awarded a ground-rule double. If the right fielder touched it, the batter could expect a home run. The traffic did NOT stop for a softball rolling onto the road.
That’s a quick resume of my memories. Since we are talking 50 years ago, there may be errors and certainly are omissions, but I hope this helps.
The 1960s: Growth and Development
“Between 1959 and 1962, Albany changed its name three times. In the Fall of 1959, it became the New York State University College of Education at Albany. Two years later the ‘of education’ was dropped, and in the Fall of 1962 the institution became the State University of New York at Albany.” (Birr, 119.)
“In 1962 the college received national recognition in a lengthy article in The Saturday Review. Author David Boroff summed up his conclusion by observing that ‘Albany State has a distinguished history. As liberal arts colleges go, it is a good one. As teachers’ colleges go, it is superb.’ The accolades were well-deserved. But they arrived just as the institution was facing its greatest challenge: transforming a ‘superb’ teacher’s college into a public research university. The process was getting under way at the time Boroff summed up the achievements of the College for Teachers.” (Birr, 105.) Along with SUNY at Binghamton, Buffalo, and Stony Brook, Albany became one of the anchor universities in a restructured New York State System of Higher Education created during the administration of Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Earl “Buzz” Walker ’62 recalls that “the ‘college’ was going through the birth pangs of becoming a university but still retained the Teacher’s College nomenclature.” He further comments that “Those were interesting times, to say the least.” Birth pangs, as we know, involve pain and stretching.
Concurrent with this transformation was the transformation of Albany’s physical plant. A large new university campus, labeled the Uptown Campus, was constructed several miles north of the existing Albany State campus, now labeled the Downtown Campus. The architecture of the Uptown Campus was to generate almost as much controversy as the architecture of the gigantic downtown State Mall in Albany, also built during Nelson Rockefeller’s years as Governor.
Kendail Birr, in his Sesquicentennial History describes the building of the Uptown Campus vividly and dramatically. After a long and bitter legal fight, the state appropriated the Albany Country Club in 1961 and hired Edward Durrell Stone, an influential architect renowned for his formal structure, to design a new campus for a projected student body of 10,000. Rockefeller broke ground for the new campus on August 24, 1962, and site preparation took place in the Summer of 1963. Stone insisted on leveling the lovely old clubhouse and ripping up the large country club swimming pool, over the vigorous objections of college administrators, and designed an integrated formal quadrangle with residence halls at the four corners, academic buildings within the quadrangle, a large podium, and no parking. His intention was to create a calm, cloistered, neoclassical atmosphere for study and research. It was purportedly the largest single academic construction contract ever let. It was estimated that the construction used over 270,000 cubic yards of concrete and over fifty miles of copper tubing. Despite some major construction problems, the Uptown Campus was built quite rapidly, started to be occupied in the mid-1960s, and by 1970 was almost complete. Designed for a student body of 10,000, Albany’s enrollment by 1970 had increased to more than 13,000, so crowding was inevitable. (Birr, 124- 127.)
Although Stone was proud of and highly satisfied with the campus he had designed, most students in the 1960s were not. The striking, repetitive formal architecture gave the University a distinct identity, but the buildings were cold, literally and figuratively. The integrated academic complex supposedly sheltered its users from bitter upstate New York weather, but it did not. Shivering students, faculty, staff, and administrators often retreated in the winter to the service tunnel that connected buildings in order to move about campus. Even more crucial, while Stone believed that his integrated design would facilitate the development of a sense of community, just the opposite occurred. “The massiveness of the buildings, the formal design with its lack of warm colors and textures, and the absence of natural and small group informal places on campus all contributed to a sense of individual isolation.” (Birr, 128.)
In the early 1960s, the changes in Kappa Beta were modest. The pledge classes in 1960 and 1961 were good sized. The fraternity had established itself in a new house at 577 Washington Avenue. Donald Reinfurt ’60 underlines the continuing emphasis on music that characterized Kappa Beta at this time. During his first two years at Albany he was deeply involved with activities at Sayles Hall, the Men’s Glee Club, directed by Prof. Karl Peterson, and The Statesmen, a popular singing group. He didn’t pledge Kappa Beta until his junior year but was attracted to KB because some of his friends had joined, and a good many of them as well as other fraternity brothers were interested in music. At that time, KB, unlike Potter Club, was not excessively devoted to sports and was not a huge partying fraternity. As a group, the members diverged somewhat from the stereotype of the Animal House fraternity. Although Don never lived in the frat house, he participated in many fraternity activities and enjoyed his friendships with KB brothers. KB had lots of members, and there was a good spirit within the fraternity. Don went on to graduate school, earned his doctorate, and then accepted a position in the Highway Research Safety Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a position that he never left until he retired. He also continued to pursue his musical interests, singing with the regional Choral Society of Durham, a group that performs several concerts a year and to which he still belongs.
Ron Coslick ’62, president of Kappa Beta in his senior year, underlines the musical strength of Kappa Beta, recalling how the fraternity won the annual holiday sing in 1959 and how gratifying it was to have several of the fraternity brothers around who belonged to the premier male campus singing group, The Statesmen. Tim Brown ’64 describes how closely attached he became to Kappa Beta, even though he was involved with the fraternity for only one year. He writes, “I left Albany early to accept a job opportunity with General Electric in Schenectady, so my official campus time with KB lasted from ’60-’61. I did maintain close social contact until ’63 (I married a Class of ’63 Phi Delt). Three of our ushers were KB (’63, ’64 & ’65) with one APA (’64) friend joining the crew……………… I return to Albany every 5 years for the class reunions and have maintained “Christmas Card” contact with some brothers for all of these last 40 years. My KB paddle and ’61 membership photo still have a place on my workshop wall.” The early 1960s sound like a good, settled time for Kappa Beta with warm fellowship the prevailing mode.
The early 1960s was also a period of dramatic growth for Kappa Beta. More than 45 students from the Class of 1962 pledged Kappa Beta, thus making KB a much larger fraternity than it had ever been. Although the college was expanding in size and in diversity of programs as it moved towards university status, most students were still enrolled in teacher education curricula. Two fraternity members from the Class of 1962 who had distinguished careers in Education have fond memories of their years at Albany and their connections with Kappa Beta.
Chuck Pegan (B.A. ’62, M.A. ’63) lived in Sayles Hall, worked in the kitchen/dining room with several other KB guys and also sang in The Statesmen with them. He writes, “Great Memories. Also played on the KB basketball team in ’59-’60. My Hell Father was Dave Brooker ’62 who became a science teacher in Westfield or Mayville, I believe. In the summer he was a deputy sheriff on Chautauqua Lake. One of the funny memories about my induction into the fraternity has to do with the statue of the general on the horse in front of the Capitol Building….Dave made me climb up on the horse and shout ‘Hi O Silver.’ Of course, he was hiding in the bushes somewhere. The story doesn’t end there, however. Our son, Jim, did a semester-long internship in the Senate while he was attending our local Jamestown Community College. He had heard the story about Dad climbing on the horse all of his life so when he had the chance, he tried it. Unfortunately, he was not as tall and lanky as his old man· so he couldn’t get his foot up on the horse’s tail which was the path to the top.” Chuck also reveals that his girlfriend in 1962, now his wife, helped him with his KB pledge paddle, painting a picture of a KB character as well as “Kappa Beta” on the paddle. It was considered one of the best. After graduation, Chuck taught social studies for eleven years at Fredonia Central School, then served as elementary principal and superintendent at Panama Central School, and later was appointed superintendent at Letchworth Central School in Wyoming, New York. In retirement, he has served as interim administrator at several schools and has taught at Fredonia College and at Jamestown Community College.
When Max Bassett (B.A. ’62, M.S. ’63) arrived in the Fall of 1958, he knew little about fraternities and sororities. He came from a rural area and a small school in the Adirondacks, west of Plattsburgh. Very few kids in the area went to college, and Max was the first in his family to go. Thus, there was no one around to tell him about college fraternity life. After his first semester on campus, Max developed some stereotypes about fraternities. Potter Club seemed to be for the athletes and Sigma Lamda Sigma for the partyers. Since Max was a quiet guy and not athletic, he warmed to the brothers in Kappa Beta, so when he was offered a bid to join KB, he thought it an excellent match and promptly accepted the bid. Because he was a Resident Assistant in Waterbury Hall from his sophomore through his graduate year, Max never lived in the KB house and therefore was unable to get as close to KB brothers as he would have liked, but he did participate in many activities. He remembers “Hell Night” vividly as seeming like a silly ritual, a weird experience, that he partly observed from a distance while doing all that was required. But after it was over, he and the other pledges felt that they had gone through a bonding experience together. Max became friendly with one of his fellow pledges, Tom Ellis ’62, who happened to be black. Since Max had grown up in a part of the Adirondacks where the only black people he had ever seen were on TV screens, he was glad that as a country boy with limited cultural experience, he had an opportunity to share fraternity life with Tom. They both loved to play ping-pong and would spend hours batting the ball back and forth. Tom was very competitive and Max liked that, but Tom was always a good loser and a gentleman. Max, like others from this time period, remembers KB guys as talented in music and comprising a large portion of The Statesmen. He also remembers KB brothers as having the reputation for being high academic achievers, clean-cut, dependable, of average athletic ability, and fun-loving but not hell raisers. After graduation, Max taught in Hudson Falls, New York, for three years and then went into higher education administration in New York, then in Florida, and finally for 30 years in Virginia until he retired in 2003. Since then, he has made strong efforts to re-connect with Kappa Beta brothers, some of whom he had not seen in more than 40 years. This re-connecting has been a joy and a most positive activity in his retirement. When he was sick and had to undergo surgery in the Summer of 2004, Max found that some of his greatest supporters during his illness and recovery were his KB brothers.
For Paul Michel (B.A.’67, M.A. ’69), 1963-1969 were truly great years enhanced by his membership in Kappa Beta. He thoroughly enjoyed fraternity life, participated actively in it, had lots of fun, and became Brother in Charge of Hell Night. A high point for him was the one year that he lived in the KB fraternity house at 577 Washington Avenue, across the street from Brubaker Hall. When Paul’s father couldn’t understand why he would choose to move from a nice residence hall to a room painted red in a dingy house, Paul would point to the wonderful friendships he had made with brothers in KB – friendships that he keeps up to this day. On a more somber note, he found himself stressed and distressed after John F. Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963, shortly after he started college. The camaraderie and interaction with Kappa Beta brothers, however, served as a calming influence in his early years at Albany, easing the stress and helping him through a difficult period. During Paul’s years at Albany, Kappa Beta was highly competitive in intramural sports and had several members elected to Myskania. The academic programs in which the fraternity brothers enrolled mirrored the changing programs that were offered at Albany. An increasing number of KB brothers chose to enter pre-med, pre-dental, and pre-law programs; nevertheless, most still enrolled in traditional education curricula. Then about 1968, Kappa Beta lost its house. The fraternity owed money and needed to make repairs on its house, but instead of encouraging KB to try to straighten out its affairs, the University insisted that the fraternity move into a floor in a residence hall of the newly constructed Uptown Campus. The movement of undergraduate classes and residence life to the Uptown Campus that had started in 1965-’66 continued to accelerate. Paul didn’t like the transition. He thought the University was growing too fast and moving to a cold, stark campus. He preferred the intimacy of the smaller campus and the pleasure of Kappa Beta living independently in its own house in its own way, but he knew that those days were gone forever. [Kendall Birr in his Sesquicentennial History confirms Paul’s statement that in the 1960s the University forced all Greek organizations to give up their houses and move into residence halls. Birr also mentions that fraternities and sororities continued to flourish through 1969, at which time there were nine each, some newly organized. (Birr, 140.)]
Rich Jaffee (B.A. ’69, M.A. ’71) paints a particularly vivid picture of the changes that were occurring at Albany in its transition from college to university and the impact of these changes on Kappa Beta. When he arrived at Albany in the Fall of 1965, there was a clear feeling of transition on campus. Students were housed at both the old and the new campuses, and those students like Rich (who lived on the 17th floor of Stuyvesant Hall) had to commute by bus downtown to the old campus and take classes at the various halls and annexes around that part of Albany. Just as the entire school was evolving from a state college to a good-sized university, so too the local Greek organizations were evolving. By the late 1960s, the University had made all of the fraternities give up their houses, and KB had relocated to floors 18 and 19 of Stuyvesant Hall, which is why Rich came into such close contact with his future fraternity brothers.
Rich thinks that many of the Kappa Beta brothers would have been at home in any of the other fraternities. They were mostly guys who were interested in succeeding in school and at extracurricular activities. Some members got deeply involved in the local bar sport of dart shooting, so much so that about 1967 a dart board was hung in the recreation room of the fraternity. The main hangout after 1967 was The Municipal Golf Course Bar (“The Muni”) which had a dart board that was constantly in use by KB guys. Kappa Beta brothers had many a wild time at The Muni, presided over by the head bartender – a great guy named Dewey. However, Kappa Beta could not be stereotyped as easily as the other fraternities. KB had greater ethnic and racial diversity among its membership than the other fraternities and also had a larger number of older students in its ranks, especially veterans. KB brothers also were somewhat different from members of other fraternities in that they maintained close friendships with students who were not members of Kappa Beta, typified by the induction of George Comptompasis, an Independent, and Mick Teeter, a member of Potter Club, into KB as honorary members.
One of the most appealing characteristics of Kappa Beta brothers in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Rich feels, was their capacity for developing warm, genuine friendships with each other. KB brothers enjoyed each other’s wit and enjoyed being with one another, whether it was in their section of Stuyvesant Hall, out drinking in the bars, at beer parties, or on double dates. Some of the friendships of KB brothers continue to this day. Many of the brothers get together at the Saratoga Jazz Festival in late June each year, and some also go to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival every April. The brothers from the late 1960s and early 1970s continue to exemplify Kappa Beta’s motto, “Brothers for Life.”
Two Kappa Beta brothers from the 1960s who achieved national prominence were Robert Peterkin ’66 and Walter “Bud” Gates ’68.
Robert had a varied, exciting career in Education. He focused on alternative forms of education, particularly in public schools and public school systems. Starting out as a Special Education teacher at the Albany Home for Children, Robert was recruited to become Director of the Albany Street Academy, an alternative school with about 200 students, all of them disaffected former school dropouts or potential dropouts. Here, he successfully created a democratic, positive atmosphere and promoted a great deal of interaction between students and faculty. As a result, most of the students thrived. At 29, Robert applied for and was hired to be Headmaster of the Boston English High School. He was appointed on the day the courts ordered Boston’s public schools desegregated. Drawing on his alternative school background, Robert was able to prevent at Boston English High School much of the violence and turmoil that plagued other Boston schools following this desegregation order. He kept police out of the school, choosing instead to institute new programs that appealed to the newly integrated student population and got parents actively involved with the school. He spent ten years in the Boston public school system, rising to Deputy Superintendent of Boston Public Schools in 1984 and concurrently earning a doctorate in Education, Administration, and Urban Education from The University of Massachusetts. He was then recruited to serve as Superintendent of the Cambridge, Massachusetts public school system where he established such an excellent system of school choice that the public schools were drawing students away from Cambridge’s private schools. When it looked as if his job as change agent in Cambridge was almost done, he was offered and accepted the position of Superintendent of Milwaukee’s public school system, the 10th largest system in the country, serving more than 100,000 students. Here, he attracted national attention by implementing, among other programs, magnet schools that focused on educating young black males. These schools emphasized contributions by Africans and African Americans to American culture and civilization and provided mentoring, role modeling, and assistance in improving the self of students, most of whom were young black males. In 1991, Robert accepted a position as Director of the Urban Superintendent’s Program and Francis Keppel Senior Lecturer on Education at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. (From an article written by Peggy L.S. Barmore in the Winter 1991 issue of UAlbany Magazine.)
Walter “Bud” Gates ’68 graduated from SUNY at Albany with a degree in mathematics and physics and taught high school math for a while before opting for a business career as marketing strategist extraordinaire. Bud, who says that while his Harvard Business School M.B.A. “legitimized” him in the eyes of the corporate world, it was what he learned in his father’s 27-seat diner that set the stage for his success as a high-powered marketing executive with a knack for determining what sells in middle America. After Harvard, his career started with Wilson Sporting Goods, where he took the company’s athletic footwear business from $1 million in sales to $35 million. Then came his tenure as senior Vice President of Marketing for Wichita-based Pizza Hut, where he headed up the team that developed the pan pizza, a product which totaled $1 billion in sales its first year. In 1986, Bud joined Rent-A-Center, also based in Wichita, as Vice President and was promoted to CEO the next year when the company merged with the British company, Thorn. He retired from Rent-A-Center in February on his tenth anniversary with the firm because he’d achieved his goal of taking it to $1 billion in sales and thought it was time to do other things he wanted to do. His personal holding company, Gates Enterprises, owns many Rent-A-Centers in New York State, an apartment complex in Reno, the largest sports bar in Wichita, nine Pizza Huts in the Glens Falls, New York region, and a real estate company in Telluride, Colorado. (From an article written by Ginger Henry in the August 1996 issue of The Bolton Breeze.)
At a 2002 Reunion of Kappa Beta brothers from the 1960s and 1970s, it is interesting to note that on a matching quiz in which participants were asked to link professions with KB brothers, none listed were schoolteachers, reflecting the dramatic changes in curricula that had occurred as Albany became a multi-university with a wide variety of programs. Below is the Match the Brother with his Current Occupation quiz which was part of the Reunion Edition of the Kappa Kronicle that served as part of the program for that gala event.
As we know, the 1960s were turbulent, especially for young college and university students. The horror of Vietnam was reaching a peak in the late part of the decade, and young people were at the cutting edge of this tragedy. Racial tensions were extremely high, and young people were in the forefront of civil rights conflict. Not only the assassination of John F. Kennedy, which had such a depressing effect on Paul Michel and so many others, but the equally violent and senseless assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King left young and old mourning the destruction of Camelot in America. The counterculture, mostly the young, felt deeply alienated from mainstream culture, mostly the middle-aged and old. Many of these tensions reached their peak in 1968 when the United States and the world were rocked by disturbances and riots on college and university campuses. The local campus scene was stressful and unstable. New York College for Teachers at Albany was changing rapidly and dramatically to the State University of New York at Albany. It is a tribute to Kappa Beta that it held together so well, grew substantially larger, and helped establish a network of friends which supported many of the brothers during these difficult times. But the seeds for the demise of Kappa Beta had been sown.
The 1970s: The Road to Disbanding
If my count is accurate, the Class of 1968 had about 43 pledges, the second largest in the history of Kappa Beta. The Class of 1969 had about 31 pledges, the Classes of 1970 and 1972, about 23 pledges each, and the Class of 1971, about 36 pledges, the third largest in the history of the fraternity. Then the numbers dropped precipitously, with the Classes of 1973, 1974, and 1975 having only a few pledges each. About 1974, Kappa Beta disbanded.
Why did this happen?
To start with, the turbulence that characterized America in the late 1960s reached Albany in the 1969-70 academic year with a vengeance.
1. In November 1969 students erected three “Vietnamese huts” on the podium as a political protest. One hut was burned and a student arrested before students agreed to remove the remaining structures.
2. Not long after this incident, a couple of students presented Acting President Allan Kuusisto with a bloody pig’s head as he was presiding over a University Senate meeting.
3. Radical Left-wing attorney William Kunstler spoke to 6,000 on campus on March 5, 1070, raised his fist in the “power to the people” salute, and told his listeners that the movement had progressed from a period of “protest” to a stage of “resistance.”
4. One week later, students, angered over a tenure decision, smashed windows in the administration building.
5. On March 19, 1970 fifteen students were among twenty-nine people arrested for disorderly conduct while staging a four-hour sit-in, blocking the entrance to the Albany Induction.
6. On March 19-20, classes were suspended for two “Dialogue ” Students and faculty pondered the University’s problems in department meetings and workshops.
7. Shortly afterwards, some black students were involved in a fracas in the dining hall at Colonial Food service workers were assaulted, and the dining hall was vandalized.
8. The turbulence reached its peak in May 1 On April 30, President Nixon announced that American troops had expanded the Vietnam War by moving into Cambodia. Four days later, Ohio National Guard troops fired on and killed four protesting students at Kent State University. The Albany campus, like others across the country, exploded in protests.
9. On May 4, students entered the library, threw books off shelves, dumped others on the ground outside and tried to burn them, and broke windows. Two days later, students from Albany and elsewhere marched downtown to the Capitol, protesting both American involvement in Vietnam and the state of American race relations. The march occurred without viol But that night on campus, Molotov cocktails were thrown at the Administration Building, and firebombs started blazes in both Colonial and Dutch Quads; the Flag Room was destroyed. Students struck in an attempt to shut down the University. (Birr, 155-157.)
Not surprisingly, interest in end-of-the-year fraternity parties dissipated and interest in fraternities waned as students became more and more involved in political and social action.
Let me backtrack to the late 1960’s before trying to answer the question of why Kappa Beta collapsed, mainly in the words of Kappa Beta brothers who were active during that period.
Martin McMahon ’70 writes that although he was active in Kappa Beta for only a short while in 1968-’69, he and fraternity brothers Terry Baxter ’69 and Peter Jogo ’71 had a Rock and Roll band named the Candy Coated Outhouse which played at many fraternity and sorority parties. This would lead me to believe that at least a segment of the Kappa Beta brothers were in tune with the contemporary campus mood and music.
Mike Hoff ’71, a KB member between 1967 and 1971, writes fondly and nostalgically about his years in the fraternity. Some of these memories sound similar in character to the memories shared by other Kappa Beta members from the mid and late 1960s. He writes, “As a freshman living in Waterbury Hall in 1966-’67, I didn’t pledge a fraternity. I was introduced to KB when my roommate, Joe LiPuma, and friend, Dave Goldstein, pledged in the Spring of 1967. I was also influenced by Andy Davidson, a KB brother and RA in Waterbury Hall. Andy changed my life by apprising me of the fact that a 2.0 was necessary to remain enrolled at the University, and by recommending KB. When I pledged as an 18 year old sophmore in the Fall of 1967, KB had everything I was looking for. KB had cool guys, the best parties, the best jackets, and the brothers seemed to attract most of the sorority girls in the Student Center. Jim Lucy was President, Roger Forando was my fraternity “father” and Bob Peterkin was my fraternity “grandfather”. Almost everybody had a nickname. My pledge class included Barry “The Rot” Poletick, Howie “Young Turk” Dobbs, Danny “Bosco” Goldstein, and Howie “HD” Dorfman and his wonder dog Caesar. Rich Patrie started calling me “Mr. Special” when I refused to comply with some particularly degrading order. Tom Carlson was the Pledgemaster. Pledges had to memorize that Carlson was from Horseheads, NY, and Jack Jones was from “Penn Yann, a friendly town.” Hell Night was held in somebody’s unheated, ramshackle camp on the icy Mohawk River. Jim Grady and Dave Goldstein were brutal to me on Hell Night, much of which I spent in “The Queen”, a bathtub filled with freezing cold water. I’m still planning my revenge. At dawn the following morning, I set out on my Hell Trip to Long Island with Dobbs and Ray Cascia in my grandma’s ’58 Cadillac. As we headed down the Thuway, I fell asleep at the wheel and slammed into a falling rock zone. Nobody was hurt but the Caddie was totaled. A few months later when I asked grandma to borrow her new Plymouth, her answer was “not in this lifetime”.
Mike further writes that “In 1968, Dave Breiter became President, and I became Pledgemaster. We had a great pledge class including, if I recall correctly, Phil Abitable, Alan “Fat Head” Barocas, Dave “Eggs” Benedict, Larry Rizzi, Joe Amato, Craig Flood, Pete “Sugarbear” Forester, Mike Hartigan, Marty Levi, Elliot Nirenberg, Mike Scott, John Shufon, Frank ”El Gin” Susi, Kenny “Kahuna” Turow, and Alan “Zeke” Zaremba. I was elected President in 1969-’70. I ran against Larry MacDowell who was a much better guy, not to mention a great bowler, but I won on the strength of a successful pig party I had organized the Saturday night before the election. I’m embarrassed about that now, but at 20 years old I was immature and politically incorrect. I guess the guys who voted for me were also immature and politically incorrect enough to think I had some leadership skills.”
So to raise the question again, why did Kappa Beta, which seemed to be thriving in 1970, disband in 1974? Mike Hoff, himself, poignantly and incisively gives his answer to that question in the same e-mail in which he recalls his active days in KB when the good times rolled.
“In my view, the Greek world began to change in 1968 with the war in Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. The cultural revolution during the late ’60s changed people and their priorities with amazing speed. Many typical fraternity guys who went home for the summer of ’68 returned to Albany in September with long hair, love beads, bell bottoms, and a mindset that KB was not as important to them as it had been in May. I’m not criticizing any of them. They were just an early adopters of a political and cultural outlook that viewed Greek life as less of a priority, or not cool at all. As the war continued in late 1968 and into 1969, many of us embraced the counterculture or at least aspects of it, and lost interest in fraternity life. During this period, schisms developed between more traditional KB brothers who those who had become “hippies”. By the time I became President, we still started the weekend on Thursday night at the Muni, but our numbers began to dwindle. It became increasingly difficult to get a decent turnout to a Beer Party or to even raise money for a keg. As “free love” became prevalent, being a Greek became less of an advantage and could be a disadvantage when trying to meet women. These social forces began the decline of KB in the late 60s and ultimately led to its demise around 1974. Other fraternities at SUNY Albany met the same fate around the same time. I think a few may have survived a little longer, but I don’t know why. In my egocentric view, KB was the best frat on campus in the late 60s.”
Mike concludes in much the same way that so many of the other Kappa Beta brothers have ended their letters, conversations, or e-mails when he writes: “Despite the tumult of the late 60s, the friends I made during a few short years in KB have lasted a lifetime. I’m proud and privileged to be a brother of old KB.”
Gene Auciello ’72 comments much more briefly but essentially supports Mike Hoff’s view as to why Kappa Beta disbanded. He writes that he was a member of KB from 1969-1972, at a time when membership was high, but that unfortunately, after 1972, fraternities and sororities fell out of favor with college students at UAlbany and elsewhere.
And finally, Michael Ungerleider ’75, who was a member of Kappa Beta when it disbanded, comments sadly and apologetically about its end as an active fraternity on the Albany campus. Michael underlines what Mike Hoff and Gene Auciello have already said, that KB membership was still reasonably high in the early 1970s but that interest in fraternities at Albany was on the wane. He also describes what happened to Kappa Beta in its final few years and what he believes triggered its collapse.
In 1971, the majority of the members lived on campus, housed on the 18th floor of Stuyvesant Tower on the Uptown Campus. The 19th floor was inhabited entirely by freshmen, Michael being one of them. The relationship between the 19th floor freshmen and the 18th floor upperclassmen, all of them Kappa Beta brothers, was like the relationship between old dogs and playful pups. The freshmen were occasionally invited to the parties, sometimes showed up whether they were invited or not, and played pranks on the KB brothers who, in turn, played pranks on the freshmen. As the 1971-’72 academic year moved on, the members of KB came to realize that they had a disproportionately high number of graduating seniors on their roll and needed to take in a significant number of freshmen pledges or face possible collapse. Kappa Beta in 1971 had become one of the most selective and traditional fraternities on campus. Kappa Beta members were very much involved with traditional fraternity customs, such as paddling and Hell Night, which was an issue, because when the freshmen on the 19th floor were rushed, they agreed to accept fraternity bids only on the condition that there would not be a Hell Night. Some of the freshmen were approached and took a position that fraternities should give bids to all the freshmen on the 19th floor or to none at all. Michael didn’t go along with this demand and pledged Kappa Beta, became active during the next two years, and lived in the KB section of the 18th floor during his junior year. Unfortunately, a significant number of the other freshmen pledged by Kappa Beta in the Spring of 1972 never became active members.
A number of graduates from the 1970s who were active Kappa Beta brothers did go on to distinguish themselves after they graduated from the University. In the late 1990s, George Bochetto ’75, an attorney, became a leading mayoral candidate in Philadelphia, particularly interested in promoting tax reform and increasing job opportunities, and Charles Brennon ’75 served as mayor of a northern New York State community.
Interest in social fraternities and sororities continued to wane so that by 1980 only three Greek organizations were left on campus. Sadly, Kappa Beta declined and finally collapsed about 1974. If KB had been able to hold together for a few more years, it might have survived and prospered, for surprisingly fraternities and sororities made a spectacular comeback in the 1980s. In 1991, the University counted twenty fraternities and eight sororities whose total membership included one out of every four undergraduates. Some were local, but more had national affiliations (the University had retracted its ban on chapters of national Greek organizations). Some occupied space in residence halls; others operated “unofficial” houses from downtown residences. (Birr, 95-96.)
My own feeling is that although a changing campus culture and distressing national and world events played important roles in the demise of Kappa Beta, the most significant factor leading to its collapse was the loss of its off-campus house in the late 1960s. However grand the newly built, severely neoclassical Uptown Campus looked to many of us who did not have to live, work, and attend classes there, to many students and faculty that had to deal with it on a daily basis it seemed chilly and sterile. It did not fit the lifestyle of a great many students in the late 1960s and early 1970s who could practice free love but were not free to shift a trash can from its appointed location. One of my cousins, a Student Life Administrator at SUNY in Binghamton, told me that the Uptown Campus at Albany had the reputation of being the most vandalized in the SUNY system. Many in student life positions around the state speculated that much of the vandalizing that took place was not the result of anti-Vietnam protests but the result of students who disliked the campus and who felt uncomfortable with it taking revenge on the buildings. With little immediate hope of regaining off-campus homes of their own, Kappa Beta and most other Greek organizations at Albany lost energy and lost their appeal to incoming students.
And so Kappa Beta disbanded about 1974. However, the story is not over.
The Kappa Beta Afterglow
Many Kappa Beta brothers have fond memories of their active days in the fraternity and have kept in touch with each other individually after graduating from Albany. In addition, a surprisingly large number have gotten together at reunions and at other gatherings, feasting and fondly recalling the good times they had when they were active members of KB. Often in connection with and as outgrowths of or in preparation for reunions and gatherings, newsletters and directories have emerged, enabling KB brothers to keep in touch with each other.
Nahum Lewis ’38 notes that in the Summer of 1947, approximately 26 people held a Kappa Beta reunion picnic in Thacher Park, the first World War II get-together, followed by a second picnic reunion in May 1950 held on the farm of Phil Malofsky ’51, to which 25 people came. Nahum further notes that other reunions of early Kappa Beta brothers were held in the 1960s at Jack’s Restaurant and Howard Johnson’s Restaurant in Albany and three more in the Catskills, arranged by Joseph K. Schwartz ’40. One of these, held in August 1964 at the Swan Lake Hotel, attracted 30 adults and 21 children. Schwartz, who owned an insurance agency in Ellenville, New York and had business connections with the Catskill resorts, assisted KB members in making arrangements with the Swan Lake and the Nevele Hotels.
From Spring 1954 through Spring 1956, Ron Ferguson ’54 and then Arnold Newman ’56 produced a simple newsletter and directory that was distributed to current members of KB and alumni, which helped to keep KB brothers in touch with each other. This newsletter and directory continued to be produced in the late 1950s, and in 1960 and for some years afterwards, more extensive newsletters and a comprehensive directory were produced and circulated. Under the leadership of Dominick DeCecco ’57, the Incorporated Alumni of Kappa Beta was formed, which attempted to improve communication between current members and alumni and do some modest fundraising.
The fortieth anniversary of the Old Kappa Beta Group, which was celebrated on the new Uptown campus, October 15-17, 1976, attracted 68 people. It was a gala, nostalgic weekend for everyone who attended. The Group recalled the tragic loss of six brothers: Saul Ikler ’39, Gadlin Bodlin ’41, Paul Sapolsky ’40, Jack Shapiro ’41, Baird Poskanzer ’42, and Harold Feigenbaum ’43 and established The Kappa Beta Memorial Fund in their honor which would be used to provide books for the Alumni House Library. This was followed by a forty-fifth anniversary celebration of the Old Kappa Beta Group, attended by 50 people from as far away as Venezuela. The Group memorialized those brothers who had died in the preceding five years: Dan Preston ’41, A. Abba Koblenz ’44, Saul Stolboff ’44, and Harvey Milk ’51 by collecting enough money to purchase a handsome bulletin board for the Alumni House.
In 1988, Kappa Beta brothers, mainly from the 1960s, organized a reunion. And in 1997, the Old Kappa Beta Group held a sixtieth anniversary reunion. On June 6, 1997, KB brothers and their spouses attended Temple Beth Emeth’s Friday evening service and publicly thanked the Beth Emeth members who had given them the interest-free loan in 1937 which had been used to purchase furniture and had enabled the fraternity to get started. The loan had long since been repaid, but as a special gesture, the brothers raised $400 which was presented to Congregation Beth Emeth for its Youth Scholarship Fund.
Ron Coslick ’62 with help from Don Fear ’63 and others organized summer reunions in 2002, 2003, and 2004 for brothers from the Classes of 1960-1965. These gatherings were held in Ron’s home and in the home of Alden Pierce ’64. In the first two years, 12 brothers attended, but in the third year, 23 brothers attended from as far away as San Antonio, Chicago, and Atlanta.
In 2002, Kappa Beta celebrated its 65th anniversary year with two reunions.
The Kappa Beta brothers, mainly from the Classes of 1938-1959, celebrated the event during Alumni Weekend with an informal reception on June 7th in the Patroon Room of the Campus Center and a reunion dinner on June 8th in the Assembly Hall with a dinner and speaker, Dr. Mark A. Raider, Chair of the Department of Judaic Studies and Director of the Center for Jewish Studies at UAlbany. More than 75 Kappa Beta brothers attended both events and thoroughly enjoyed meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends. All brothers managed to sing their way through the Kappa Beta Drinking Song without staggering. Haskell Rosenberg ’40 was the chief organizer of this highly successful event with much assistance from Ken “Schoony” Schoonmaker ’54.
The Kappa Beta brothers, mainly from the Classes of 1960-1972, held a big reunion in October. More than 100 brothers attended this reunion, which was held at the Marriott on Wolf Road outside of Albany. In preparation for this reunion, Igor Koroluk ’68 and others set up an excellent website which not only listed the names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of KB brothers, 1959-1975, but also provided information, photos, and a means for brothers to connect and reconnect with each other before and after the reunion. Mike Zimmerman ’68, with help from others, organized the reunion which was a huge success.
And so the spirit of Kappa Beta has lived and continues to live on in the hearts and minds, the friendships and reunions of brothers from all time periods in KB’s existence, underlining the motto of the fraternity: B’nai Chaim, Brothers for Life.
Route to Roots: Old Kappa Beta’s Link to the Jewish Studies Program
In the early 1970s, a Judaic Studies Department and program was founded on the SUNY at Albany campus. Starting quite modestly, this Department increased dramatically in size, scope, and quality during the ensuing decades. In 200I, the University announced the creation of a Center for Jewish Studies to promote academic excellence in the field of Jewish Studies that is expected to establish Albany as the focal point of Jewish Studies for the State University of New York System and for public higher education in the Northeast. With an estimated 4,000 Jewish students enrolled at Albany, nearly one-quarter of the student body, there has been heightened interest in Jewish Studies at the University. In 2004, UAlbany boasted a strong Judaic Studies Department, including four permanent full-time faculty, a comprehensive Judaica and Hebrew language studies curriculum, several part-time instructors, and more than 500 students enrolled in classes each semester.
From its start, Jewish Studies at Albany received strong support individually from Kappa Beta alumni, especially those who were Jewish, but in 1987, when the Old Kappa Beta members celebrated the fraternity’s 50th reunion, they established the original Kappa Beta Memorial Fund which by 2001 had grown to $50,000. Money from this Fund sponsors the biennial Kappa Beta Lecture given by a scholar in Jewish Studies or a prominent Jewish leader. In alternate years, it provides scholarship funds for a UAlbany graduate student in some area of Judaic Studies or community service. Further evidence of support and commitment is evidenced by the appointment of three brothers from the Old Kappa Beta as Founding Members of the Jewish Studies Advisory Board: Bernard Arbit ’42, Nahum Lewis ’38, and Haskell Rosenberg ’40.
In recent years, four of the Old Kappa Beta members have been instrumental in establishing endowments that support the Jewish Studies program at the University.
The Fishman Fund Grant. Awarded to worthy Judaic Studies students in need of financial support, this fund was established by Irving Fishman ’40. Irving is founder and president of Maritime Power Corporation of Jersey City, New Jersey, the world’s largest supplier of marine and industrial equipment.
The Lillian L. Kensky and Dr. Harry C. Kensky Award. Established by Mrs. Kensky in memory of her husband, Harry C. Kensky ’43, this scholarship goes in alternate years to an outstanding senior who plans to pursue graduate studies in Jewish service or scholarship.
The Stephen Arnold Rosenberg Fund. Established by Haskell Rosenberg ’40 and his wife, Sunny, in memory of their son, this Endowment supports the activities of the Judaic Studies Department.
The Calvin and Patricia Zippin Scholarship Endowment. Calvin Zippin ’47 and his wife, Patricia, founded this endowment in memory of Cal’s parents, Samuel and Jennie Zippin, to help outstanding students in Judaic Studies pursue their education. Cal recently retired as a cancer epidemiologist at the University of California School of Medicine at San Francisco.
Remembering their difficulties in starting Kappa Beta as an all Jewish fraternity in 1937, to some degree in reaction to the alienation they felt and the discrimination they suffered at Albany State Teachers College, the older brothers must feel a sense of pride and satisfaction to see that about one-quarter of the student body at UAlbany in 2004 is Jewish and that a strong Jewish Studies program is thriving.
May it continue.
Most of the information in this section came from the article by Christine Hanson Mc.Knight in the January 2001 issue of UAlbany Magazine titled “The Boys of Kappa Beta” and from material sent to me by The Center for Jewish
Traditions and Songs
Every organization has formal or informal traditions that help members bond, and many organizations sing songs to enhance this bonding. Kappa Beta is no exception. Although I have not been able to locate any “official” source of records for Kappa Beta, I have found scattered sources of traditions and songs that are part of KB’s history.
The fraternity seal was adopted on May 4, 1938 and the fraternity colors of Royal Blue and Gold were selected on March 28, 1938. On November 8, 1938 the yellow rose was taken as the official flower of Kappa Beta.”
The program booklet for the October 2002 Kappa Beta Reunion sent to me by Paul Michel ’67, contains the following KB Pledge response, probably used in the 1960s and 1970s.
The Sound Off (for pledges)
I, (state your name), am a humble and lowly pledge of Kappa Beta Fraternity, in reality nothing more than a worm which crawls along the ground always under foot. I serve no other useful purpose than to fear my superior beings and to obey their every command. Sir!
In the copy of the Pledge Book sent to me by Paul Michel ’67, the following section which describes what pledges of Kappa Beta must do and what tasks they must complete during their pledge period is included.
The Pledge Period
During the next few days we want you to become acquainted with Kappa Beta. Thus, we have prepared several pledge duties with which you will be required to comply. The Pledge Committee is ready to help you in any reasonable way; please feel free to come to us with your problems.
Your Pledge duties:
To enable the Brothers to judge the depth and extent of your interest in Kappa Beta, these duties are set down for you to execute.
- Wear your pledge pin at all times (and don’t lose it!).
- You will carry this book with you at all times.
- On every day of the Pledge Period you will wear a sport coat or suit, tie, and neatly pressed No sneaks or dungarees.
- You will address all Brothers as “Mister.”
- You will obtain the signatures of all Brothers, their home towns, and in the case of faculty Brothers, you will get their major department instead of their Memorize each as you obtain it.
- You will make a fraternity paddle, according to specifications, by a date designated by the Pledge Committee.
- You will be required to know:
- the Sound Off on the first day of the Pledge period.
- the fraternity Hymn and Drinking Song by the time of the first
- the Greek Alphabet* by the time of the second
- the fraternity history by the time of the third
- You will do any service requested by a
- The Pledge Committee may issue other duties at its
- You will be required to carry out the provisions of your Hell
- You will learn the names of all officers and committee members of the fraternity by the time of the second
*Learn the Greek Alphabet forwards and backwards.
— The Pledge Committee
Kappa Beta Drinking Song and Fraternity Hymn
Kappa Beta Drinking Song
Raise high your steins, men, and drink a toast
then, To the colors of Blue and Gold.
And let your hearts sing, while foaming steins
bring Golden Memories of old.
And so be glad then, that you have drunk when,
Hearts were gay and handclasps free.
Be glad that you have drunk as one of the men of old KB.
Kappa Beta Fraternity Hymn
Kappa Beta be our guide, of Thy name we speak with pride.
Brothers all fraternally; one for God for State, for Thee.
Let our voices now resound,
For Thy glorious name renowned;
Keep us ever in Thy fold, Kappa Beta, Blue and Gold.
Click here to see the List of Kappa Beta Members.