Kappa Beta Fraternity, 1937 – 1974
We are greatly indebted to Arnold Newman, ’56 and his work, B’nai Chaim – Brothers for Life, A Personal, Anecdotal History of Kappa Beta Fraternity 1937-1974 for much of the following history. Newman’s B’nai Chaim, which includes much greater and interesting detail, is accessible via the menu. – Mike Hoff ’71
The founders of Kappa Beta were 15 serious, first-generation college students from Jewish families in New York struggling through the economic hardship of the depression during the 1936 – 1937 academic year. They had registered at The New York State College For Teachers because it offered a tuition free first class education, and wanted to rent a house where they could eat kosher food, maintain their Jewish identity and live without the restrictions prevalent in residence halls at the college. Since there were no Jewish social clubs or fraternities at the college, they decided to start their own, and in 1937 they organized Kappa Beta Club. They chose the name Kappa Beta, the inverted Greek letterform of B’nai Chaim, which means Brothers for Life in Hebrew.
In June 1937, a committee formed under the chairmanship of Edgar Perretz ’38 found an unfurnished house at 264 Western Avenue. Perretz signed a one-year lease and turned the keys over to the newly elected President, David Smith ’38. Smith, Vice President Nahum Lewis ’38, Secretary Paul Sapolski ’40, and Treasurer Albert Achitzel ’39 began going door-to-door collecting used furniture to furnish the house. When they solicited a donation at the home of the college’s Dean Moreland, the Dean informed them that their door-to-door solicitation would have to stop or the graduation of certain members of the Class of ’38 might be delayed. At the Dean’s suggestion, they went to see Rabbi Bernard Bamberger of Temple Beth Emeth and asked for help. The Rabbi enlisted the support of four women from the congregation, Mrs. Frederick (Nan) DeBeer, Mrs. Louis (Kate) Mayersohn, Mrs. Avrom (Rhea) Jacobson, and Mrs. Emmanuel Baere. The women each loaned Kappa Beta Club $100 interest free. Then they persuaded Ruben Wallenstein, owner of the Fern Furniture Company on South Pearl Street to sell Kappa Beta $400 worth of new beds and chests at cost. The new and scavenged furniture was sufficient to furnish 264 Western Avenue, which Kappa Beta Club rented to summer school students for $3.00 a week. The total revenue covered the rent that summer and in September, Kappa Beta Club had its first fraternity house. Ida Cohen of Albany, an aunt of fraternity member and future president Abba “Speed” Koblenz ’44 was hired to run the kosher kitchen in the house, where members lived and ate kosher meals for $7.25 a week.
The first formal meeting of Kappa Beta Club was held on September 22, 1937 at the Jewish Community Center in Albany. There were 28 original members. On November 15, 1937, Kappa Beta Club officially changed its name to Kappa Beta Fraternity and became the first fraternity at the college open to Jewish students. In the spring of 1938, Kappa Beta was admitted to participate on the Inter-Fraternity Council of the college, the fraternity seal was adopted, and Royal Blue and Gold were selected as the fraternity colors. The yellow rose was adopted as the official fraternity flower on November 8, 1938. That fall, an increase in the membership necessitated a move to larger quarters at 285-287 Quail Street. Kappa Beta soon repaid the $400 loan from the generous ladies of Temple Beth Emeth. During those last difficult years of the Depression, the founders of Kappa Beta all worked their way through college, and few expected to secure jobs as teachers because of antisemitism, especially in upstate New York. The brotherhood of Kappa Beta and life in the fraternity house provided them with a source of economic, emotional, and religious support.
At the outset of World War II, many Kappa Beta men enlisted. Some were called to active duty while others served in the Enlisted Reserve Corps, predecessor to the Army Reserve. The fraternity was forced to give up its house and move into Sayles Hall. According to Paul Wagner ’48, “the fraternity effectively disappeared in June of 1942. We all got involved in the war, many of us with the feeling that we would never return – those were dark days.” Wagner served with the US Army Air Corps as a combat bomber pilot in Europe. Haskell Rosenberg ’40 participated in the liberation of Western Europe with I company, 411th Infantry, 103rd Division. Several other brothers also saw action in combat.
Wagner was honorably discharged in September 1945 and was the first KB brother to return to the college. In January 1946 about 50 brothers returned to school under the GI Bill. They immediately reactivated the fraternity and Wagner was elected President. Feeling that anti-Semitism had greatly diminished after the war and that keeping kosher was less important, the fraternity By-laws were amended to make Kappa Beta non-sectarian, laying the foundation for a more diverse fraternity. In so doing, KB joined Potter Club and Sigma Lamda Sigma as the only fraternities on campus that did not have any discriminatory restrictions. Alpha Phi Alpha would follow suit in 1952. Wagner graduated in 1948 with a major in Chemistry, went on to earn a doctorate at the University of Rochester, and served as a scientist and administrator at Los Alamos, New Mexico.
More than half of Kappa Beta brothers between 1937 and 1942 went on to earn doctorates, and many made their marks in other fields. As a freshman in September 1937, Hyman Meltz ’41 got a ride to college in the back of a chicken truck with $25 in his pocket. Meltz went on to serve as an English Teacher and Assistant Principal in the New York City school system. He believed that only the fellowship of Kappa Beta enabled him to stay and graduate in four years. Herman Kleine ‘41 went on to become a top-level U.S. State Department official. Bernard Arbit ’42 became a successful businessman and later 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.
In 1947 the brothers elected Abba “Speed” Koblenz fraternity President, got their furniture out of storage, and moved into a new house at 288 Quail Street. In the fall of 1949, sophomores Harvey Milk, Don Cohen, Howie Rosman, and Phil Malafsky who lived in the KB house became friendly with a freshman, Robert Barron ’52 who lived around the corner on South Lake Avenue. Barron, who was not Jewish, worked in a cafeteria with another KB brother, Sy Fersh ’50. During the Spring Rush of 1949, Fersh asked Barron if he would accept a bid to join KB. Barron didn’t know that KB had been non-sectarian since 1946. He believed that KB would not accept him because he wasn’t Jewish and rejected the bid. The following semester, after his first roommate, Bill Kirman, ’52 joined KB, Robert Barron accepted a bid and became the first non-Jewish member of the fraternity. Harvey Milk ’51 who helped introduce Robert Barron to KB, later became an icon in the LGBT community and was posthumously awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom. A short biography of Harvey Milk can be found under the About KB menu.
By the Spring Rush of 1951, word got out that KB was no longer exclusively Jewish. Arnie Smith ’54 later recalled that Robert Barron became a “recruiting machine” and deserved much of the credit for the large pledge class of 1950 – 1951, the majority of which was non-Jewish. One of the freshmen that Barron recruited was Arnold Newman ’56 who accepted a bid to join KB in the spring of 1953 and became the foremost historian of the fraternity. Newman recalled that as a freshman in the fall of 1952, he had a “negative preconception of college fraternities, thinking of them as havens for anti-intellectual, athletic, alcoholic, conformist students”. To his surprise, Kappa Beta, “with some members who were thoughtful, intellectually gifted students and not afraid to admit it, broke all of these stereotypes”. Newman was later pleased that the 1955 pledge class included an African American (Al Peachey) and a Latino (Gregorio Carrera), and that at a time when homophobia was rampant, Kappa Beta implicitly opened its doors to gay men.
In the autumn of 1951, Kappa Beta moved its house to the old Sayles Hall Annex at 203 Ontario Street which it rented from the college. Doug Nielsen ’53 recalled that KB was the first fraternity on campus to have a television set and that several brothers gathered each week to watch The Red Skelton Show. During Christmas break that year, fire in the coal stove went out and the pipes burst, damaging much of the house and making unlivable. The college relocated may brothers to cots installed on the first floor of Husted Hall until the damage to 203 Ontario Street was repaired. By the fall of 1953, the landlord at 203 Ontario Street had had enough, and Kappa Beta became a fraternity without a house. Newman and others who had pledged believing they would live in the Ontario Street house found themselves living in “the Barracks”, a bleak and dirty Quonset hut left over from World War II. The loss of the fraternity house had a devastating effect on recruitment. According to Newman, things became so dire in 1953 that a small group of newer members made a formal motion to disband the fraternity so they could seek a bid from one of the three other fraternities at the college. With strong, united opposition from the older members, the motion was defeated. Arnie Smith ’54, President during the difficult 1953-1954 academic year led the search for a new house, assisted by Ainard Gelbond ’42, the Financial Secretary of the college and KB alumnus. Finally in January 1954, a new house at 471 State Street was rented for $300 month and became key to the survival of the fraternity. Pledge classes of 15 in the spring of 1954, 17 in 1955 and 27 in 1956 put KB back on its feet.
In September 1956, the fraternity moved again to a house at 577 Washington Avenue where it remained for ten years. Under the direction of Richard Erbacher ’57, KB won the annual Christmas Sing in 1956 and 1957 and established a strong musical tradition that continued for years and helped recruit new members. Doug Nielson recalled that fraternities on campus had a tradition of serenading the sororities with Christmas carols. In 1956, KB was the only fraternity to hike up a hill to serenade its sister sorority, AEPhi. The sisters, dressed in their pajamas, showed their appreciation by inviting the KB carolers in for tea and cookies. In 1960, Dom DeCecco ’57 who was President of the Kappa Beta Alumni Association sent out a fundraising appeal to KB alumni informing them that, “The fraternity has progressed rapidly so that we now are the largest fraternity on campus as well as the best.” In the words of Arnold Newman, “Kappa Beta, near collapse in 1953, was poised to enter its period of greatest growth and to become a more traditional fraternity than it had been up to that point.”
Between 1959 and 1962 the school went through a stunning transformation from a teacher’s college into a public research university. Even the name of the school was changed three times in quick succession, from the New York State College for Teachers, to State University of New York College of Education at Albany in 1959, to the State University College at Albany in 1961, and to The State University of New York at Albany in 1962. The new, monolithic, Edward Durell Stone designed Uptown Campus was constructed several miles from the traditional Downtown Campus. During this period of transition, Kappa Beta remained established at its house at 577 Western Avenue and had large pledge classes in 1960 and 1961. Donald Reinfurt ’60 recalled that KB maintained its musical identity and was not a huge partying fraternity or excessively devoted to sports. Ron Coslick ’62 who was President in his Senior year recalled that KB won the annual holiday sing again in 1959 and that several brothers were members of The Statesmen, the premier male singing group on campus. The pledge class of 1962 numbered more than 45, making KB the largest it had ever been. Coslick also recalled that in the early 60’s, KB guys began to congregate on weekends in the back room of a bar called The Ranch, where brothers and their dates danced and sang along to the music of an elderly, classically trained pianist who would play any request for a beer. Rush parties were also held there. With KB’s patronage, for a couple of years the previously quiet bar prospered so much that the owner decided to impose a cover charge on weekends. That was the end of The Ranch for KB. Weekend festivities moved to The Central Arms in downtown Albany.
Max Bassett ’62 recalled that KB guys of his era had a reputation as clean-cut, dependable academic achievers, not hell-raisers. Although Kappa Beta was not the Animal House on campus (an honor that Potter Club would claim), KB pledges were directed to engage in traditional fraternity stunts. Chuck Pegan ’62 remembered having to climb up on the horse in front of the New York State Capitol and shout, “Hi Ho Silver”. Basset vividly remembers “Hell Night” as a silly ritual and weird experience, but that after it was over, he and the other pledges felt that they had gone through a bonding experience. Bassett, who was a country boy from the Adirondacks, became friendly with a fellow pledge Tom Ellis, ’62 who was an African American. Paul Michel ’67 and others living in the KB house at 577 Washington Avenue were deeply distressed by the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Michel recalled that the camaraderie of his KB brothers eased his stress and helped him get through a difficult period. Michel enjoyed fraternity life and served as Brother In Charge of Hell Night, a distinction that seems somewhat dubious now but was a lot of fun then. During Michel’s active years in the fraternity, some brothers pursued degrees in Education, while an increasing number chose pre-med, pre-dental or pre-law programs. Several were elected to Myskania.
By the fall of 1965, the new uptown campus designed by noted architect Edward Durell Stone was nearing completion. Student housing and classes were located on both the old campus and the new uptown campus. Then in 1966, the University initiated an anti-Greek policy, abolishing the Inter-Fraternity Council and requiring all Greek organizations to give up their houses. After giving the house at 577 Washington Avenue a raucous send-off, KB relocated to the 18th and 19th floors of Stuyvesant Tower on the Dutch Quad. KB’s move gave Rich Jaffe ’69 who lived on the 17th floor, the opportunity to meet some of his future fraternity brothers. Rich liked the fact that KB could not be stereotyped as easily as other fraternities because it had greater ethnic and racial diversity and several older students, including some veterans. KB brothers also maintained close friendships with students who hadn’t formally joined the fraternity, typified by the unofficial induction of George Comptompasis (a veteran and Independent) and Mick Teeter (a member of Potter Club) as honorary members. During Jaffe’s years, most of the brothers were interested in succeeding in school while others were more inclined to party. The new Campus Center opened in February 1967 became a popular hangout. Beer parties at venues including Dave Denny’s Barn featured brothers doing “The Bug” on the dance floor, often to the music of The Candy-Coated Outhouse, a band featuring KB’s own Pete Jogo ’71, Terry Baxter ’69 and Marty McMahon ’70.
KB had always fielded competitive intra-mural athletic teams and the late ‘60s were no exception. AMIA Football victories over arch-rival Potter Club in ’68 and ’69 remain a frequent topic of conversation when KB alumni get together.
In those days, KB brothers enjoyed midnight snacks at Dewey’s Diner and Inga’s on Fuller Road and sometimes imbibed downtown at the Washington Tavern or O’Heany’s. But the bar at the Albany Municipal Golf Course, the beloved “Muni”, became KB’s off-campus home. Brothers started weekends at the Muni on Thursday afternoons under the tutelage of Dewey the bartender. There was always competition at the dart board, sorority girls joined the party, and pitchers of Budweiser were abundant. Hedrick’s, an awful beer, was also on tap for 5 cents a glass because the owner of the brewery, Dan O’Connell, was boss of the Democratic Party machine that controlled liquor licenses in Albany County. The old Muni is gone now, but many KB alumni still visit the site and regard it as a shrine. They will tell you about all the fun they had at the Muni but are often vague about how they got home.
Despite the University’s anti-Greek policy and the loss of its fraternity house, Kappa Beta’s 1968 pledge class of 43 was its second largest. However, the war in Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement and the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy sparked a cultural revolution that began to marginalize fraternity life. Brothers and their priorities began to change with amazing speed. “Joe College” guys who left campus for the summer of 1968 returned in September with long hair, love beads, and bell-bottoms and lost interest in fraternity life. The counterculture gained momentum at Woodstock during the summer of 1969. For many, pot replaced beer as the favored intoxicant and as “free love” became more prevalent, fraternity membership became less helpful in meeting women. Pledging became less attractive and hazing in particular became the subject of criticism (most KB alumni today would probably agree). Many began to view fraternity life as less of a priority or not cool at all, and an unfortunate schism developed between traditional brothers and those who had become “hippies”. Demonstrations against the war in Viet Nam and the Selective Service Draft had an amplifying effect. Attendance at the Muni remained strong, but it became difficult to get a decent turnout for a beer party. Still, shared experiences like the draft lottery on December 1, 1969 reinforced the bond between brothers and many remained loyal and kept the fraternity going.
The effect of the counterculture and anti-war demonstrations on campus diminished the size of the pledge classes in 1969 (31) and 1970 (23). Then, on April 30, 1970 President Nixon announced that U.S. ground troops had invaded Cambodia, expanding the war. Days later, on Monday, May 4th, National Guard troops fired on demonstrators at Kent State, killing four students. As turmoil intensified around the country, 3000 Albany students staged a protest downtown, prompting University administrators to cancel finals and send everybody home. Turmoil in Albany continued the following year when the massacre that ended the Attica Prison rebellion prompted students to protest inside and outside the offices of the N.Y.S. Department of Corrections.
The national student strike in May 1970 marked the peak of the antiwar movement and the beginning of the end for Kappa Beta. KB managed to survive and even rebounded in 1971 with a pledge class of 36, but enthusiasm for fraternies was ebbing and the pledge class was smaller in 1972. That year, SUNY Dean Neil Brown summoned KB’s President, Ken Turow ’72 to his office where Turow was introduced to three “suits” from the school’s Division of Finance and Administration. Brown got right to the point and asked Turow what KB planned to do about re-paying the $3,000 the college had laid out to repair the damage done to the former KB house at 577 Washington Street during the raucous send-off in 1966. Turow recalled, “I was dumbfounded, not having any knowledge of that whole matter and blurted out, $3,000 !!, $3,000 ?? I can’t even get these guys to kick in $30 for a keg!” In 1973, the size of the pledge class fell precipitously. Unfortunately, with only a few pledges, Kappa Beta finally yielded to changing times and disbanded in 1974. Most if not all the other fraternities on campus folded around the same time.
Ironically, in 1976 the University began to encourage the revival of fraternities and sororities on campus. As this is written in 2022, the University’s Office of Student Involvement and its All Greek Council officially support 37 Greek letter organizations including 13 active undergraduate fraternities. None of them existed when KB disbanded.
Kappa Beta Alumni Reunions
Over the years, KB alumni have enjoyed frequent reunions, some of which are discussed below. Photographs taken during several reunions are located under the REUNIONS menu.
Kappa Beta alumni began a tradition of holding alumni reunions beginning in 1946 with a post-war reunion at Jack’s Restaurant in Albany. The Founders held a reunion picnic in Thatcher Park in 1947, and another picnic in 1949. That year KB alumni also had a formal Dinner Dance at Colonie Country Club. In 1950 they gathered again for a picnic at Phil Malafsky’s farm.
In the Spring of 1954, Ron Ferguson ’54 and Arnold Newman ’56 began to publish a KB newsletter and directory. In the early 1960’s the Old Kappa Beta Reunion News became more extensive. Under the leadership of Dom DeCecco ’57, the Incorporated Alumni of Kappa Beta was formed to improve communication between current members and alumni and do some modest fundraising.
In the early 1960’s, reunions were held at Jack’s Restaurant and Howard Johnson’s in Albany and also in the Catskills. The invitation to the 1964 “Kappa Beta Oldtimers Reunion” indicates that by that time, KB alumni had started to refer to themselves as “Oldtimers” and “old guard Kappa Beta Brothers.” The 1964 reunion was held at Swan Lake Hotel near Liberty, N.Y. and was attended by 30 adults and 21 children.
In October 1976, the “Oldtimers” celebrated the 40th anniversary of the fraternity at a reunion on the uptown campus that attracted 68 people. The anniversary was marked by the establishment of The Kappa Beta Memorial Fund in honor of Saul Ikler ’39, Gadlin Bodlin ’41, Paul Sapolsky ’40, Jack Shapiro ’41, Baird Poskanzer ’42, and Harold Feigenbaum ’43 who had passed away.
In 1981, the newsletter, by then entitled the Old Kappa Beta Reunion News, invited the “Oldtimers” to the 45th Anniversary Reunion to be held on October 24th in Albany, “where we spent undoubtedly some of the best years of our lives.” Thirty-two alumni accompanied by their wives attended from as far away as Venezuela. Five years later, in June 1986, the 49th Anniversary Reunion was celebrated at the Stevensville Country Club in Swan Lake.
In 1988, twenty-four KB alumni from the Classes of 1960-1972 held a reunion in Albany. More than fifty KB alumni from that group and their wives attended a big reunion in 1989.
In 1992, Haskell Rosenberg ’40 invited the “Oldtimers” to the 55th Anniversary Reunion, stating, “We once made a pledge to become B’nai Chaim – Brothers for life. Here’s our chance to demonstrate that we really meant it.” The reunion weekend featured a dinner at Jack’s and a picnic at Lake Luzerne.
On the weekend of June 6-8, 1997, the Oldtimers held a reunion to celebrate the fraternity’s 60th anniversary. To begin the festivities, KB alumni and their wives attended Temple Beth Emeth’s Friday evening services and publicly thanked the Beth Emeth members who had given them the interest-free loan of $400 in 1937 that got the fraternity started. The loan had long since been repaid, but as a special gesture, the Oldtimers raised $400 which was presented to Congregation Beth Emeth for its Youth Scholarship Fund.
A second reunion in 1997, attended by about twenty-five Albany area alumni from Classes 1959-1972, was held at the new and improved Albany Muni.
Albany area alumni got together for another reunion at the new Albany Muni in 2001.
In 2002, Kappa Beta celebrated its 65th anniversary with two reunions. During Alumni Weekend in June, more than 75 Oldtimers and Not-So-Oldtimers from the Classes of 1938-1959 held an informal reception on campus on Friday night and a Reunion Dinner on Saturday.
That October, 80 Kappa Beta alumni from Classes of 1959-1972 and their wives attended a reunion at the Marriott Hotel on Wolf Road. In preparation for the October, 2002 reunion, Igor Koroluk ’68 and others authored a database listing the contact information of KB alumni from Classes ‘59-‘72 to help them connect.
From 2002 through 2008, KB alumni the Classes of ’59 – ’65 attended six summer gatherings organized by Ron Coslick ’62, Don Fear ’63 and others. About a dozen alumni attended both the 2002 event at Coslick’s home in Clifton Park and event in 2003. Twenty-two alumni enjoyed a 2004 reunion at the home of Alden Pierce ‘64 in Rensselaerville. A smaller group got together at Saratoga Lake in 2005. Fourteen alumni attended the 2006 gathering at the home of Bill Robelee ’64 in Saugerties, and in 2008, sixteen KB alumni got together back at Alden Pierce’s home in Rensselaerville.
In 2010, a reunion of Albany area alumni preceded another extravagant reunion at the Marriot in October. The big 2010 Reunion weekend kicked off on Friday with drinks and dinner at the Barnsider, where ancient photographs of KB brothers on the restaurant’s original crew were much admired. On Saturday morning, a small group drove out to the Albany Municipal Golfcourse to locate the site of the old Muni and pay homage to their lost youth. The formal festivities began in the afternoon with a well-attended Touchdown Tailgate followed by the UAlbany football game. The main event of the Reunion on Saturday night drew 63 KB alumni from Classes of 1965-1973 and their wives and significant others. The Reunion Booklet included an updated KB Database, links the new KB website built by Jay Rosovsky ’69 and a video, Founders of Kappa Beta on YouTube, and announced the creation a Kappa Beta Group on Facebook.
Homecoming Weekend in October 2012 featured well attended KB reunions that included the usual dinner at the Barnsider, the obligatory pilgrimage to the shrine of the old Muni, a tailgate and a football game.
The 2015 Homecoming dinner at the Barnsider included a special tribute to Marv Pase ’65 who passed away in July that year.
The 2016 KB reunion was another big one held at the Albany Marriot with 67 KB alumni and their wives attending. The agenda was much like the 2002 and 2010 Reunions. Pete Dykeman, (who was President in ’57) and Dom DeCecco, (a leader in the Incorporated Alumni of Kappa Beta) represented the Class of ’57. Both were part of the “Silent Generation” born before 1945 that did not issue manifestoes, make speeches or carry posters. They were active in the fraternity during the Eisenhower Administration, when conformity and conservatism characterized the social norms of the time. Vince Perone and Brian Levin also attended, representing the Class of ’73. Perone and Levine were “Baby Boomers” who had not yet reached puberty when Dykeman and DeCecco graduated college. They had been active in the fraternity during the waning years of the Age of Aquarius, after the political and cultural events of the ’60s had changed everything. It’s not a stretch to assume that Kappa Beta was the only thing that Dykeman and DeCecco had in common with Perone and Levin, and vise versa. The fact that they all chose to attend the 2016 Reunion is validation of the common bond shared by KB alumni and the fraternity motto, Brothers for Life.
Reunions were held in Albany during Homecoming Weekends in 2017 and 2021. Both included the usual Barnsider dinner on Friday night, and a tailgate and football game on Saturday.
The 2017 Reunion included a special event, the celebration of the 80th anniversary of the fraternity. To mark occasion, Roy Cameron ’68 presented the UAlbany Alumni Association with a plaque in honor of Kappa Beta’s 80th anniversary and appreciation of the Alumni Association’s support of KB Alumni events. Bill Robelee ’64 presented The University at Albany Foundation with a $5000. gift from KB to The University at Albany Foundation to be divided equally between the Minerva Scholarship and the Alumni Association School Spirit Scholarship.
As this is written, Roy Cameron ’68 is leading the planning of Kappa Beta’s 85th anniversary reunion to be held in Albany on the weekend of October 15, 2022.
As Arnold Newman ’56 said so eloquently in B’nai Chaim, “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.”
Kappa Beta Who’s Who – A Partial List
Many of KB’s 530+ alumni enjoyed noteworthy careers, including those already mentioned. For the sake of brevity, here’s a partial list of other KB alumni who achieved extraordinary things.
Haskell Rosenberg ’40 returned from service in Europe during WWII and built the largest wholesale shoe business between Boston and Chicago. He was a proud KB alumnus and handed down much of what we know about the early history of the fraternity. But Rosenberg was most proud of his contribution to opera in Rochester. Rosenberg started giving opera lectures at The Atheneum at Rochester Institute of Technology to support the then-extant Rochester Opera Theater. In 1988 he started Opera Guild of Rochester which sponsored recitals and a winter series of opera on video called “Beat the Blahs.” After Rosenberg’s death in 2004, the Board of the Guild honored him by renaming its annual winter program the “Beat–the-Blahs” Haskell Rosenberg Memorial Series. He received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from UAlbany in 1998.
Herman Kleine ’41 was a 29 year old Assistant Professor of Economics in 1949 when he was recruited to help administer the Marshall Plan, beginning a career in international development that had not previously existed. His first assignment was as Assistant Finance Officer for the Marshall Plan Administration to the Netherlands. In 1953 he became the French Desk Officer in the European Region, the largest program of the Marshall Plan. As the Plan’s activity in Europe wound down, Africa programs were added to Klein’s portfolio and in 1957 he became Mission Director to Ethiopia. Subsequent USAID posts included service as Deputy Assistant Administrator for Africa in 1964, Deputy Mission Director in Brazil in 1967, Director of the Latin American Bureau from 1969-1976, and responsibility for drafting a framework for democracy in Latin America in 1987. Kleine received the Agency for International Development Distinguished Service award in 1973, the Administrators Distinguished Career Service award in 1976, and a Superior Honor Award from the State Department State in 1976. Kleine was awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Award from UAlbany in 1977.
Sol Greenberg ’43 had a legendary 25 year career as the District Attorney for Albany County. When he first ran in 1974 with the backing of Democratic Party boss Dan O’Connell, he won by a mere 487 votes. In 1997 he won his last race by a landslide with Democratic, Republican, Conservative and Independence party endorsements. At the height of his administration, Greenberg’s office had 32 full-time assistants. He was fiercely loyal to his assistants and inspired loyalty in return. When he retired, his office had handled 14,277 felony cases, including about 400 homicides, and 400 grand juries drawn. He was most proud that his office was the first in the United States to use DNA evidence in a murder case. Greenberg was awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Award from UAlbany in 1994.
Louis Rabineau ’45 became President of the College of the Atlantic in Maine. Rabineau was awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Award from UAlbany in 1969.
George Erbstein ’47 became President of Dutchess Community College. Erbstein was awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Award from UAlbany in 1969.
Calvin Zippin ’47 is a cancer epidemiologist, biostatistician, and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California School of Medicine in San Francisco. His doctoral thesis was the basis for the Zippin Estimator, a procedure for estimating wildlife populations. He was a principal investigator in the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) which assesses the nature and extent of cancer in the U.S. In 1961 he created training programs for cancer registry personnel in the U.S. and internationally. He also carried out research on the epidemiology and rules for staging various cancers. Zippin is a Fellow of the American Statistical Association, the American College of Epidemiology and the Royal Statistical Society of Great Britain. He received a Lifetime Achievement and Leadership Award from the NCI in 2003. Zippin was awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Award from UAlbany in 1969.
Harold Goldstein’47 became an actor known as Harold Gould. He appeared as Martin Morgenstern on the sitcom Rhoda (1974–78), as Miles Webber on the sitcom The Golden Girls (1989–92) and as Katherine Hepburn’s lover in the TV movie, Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry. He dueled with Woody Allen in Love and Death. A five-time Emmy Award nominee, Gould acted in film and television for nearly 50 years, appearing in more than 300 television shows, 20 major motion pictures, and over 100 stage plays. Gould was awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Award from UAlbany in 1969.
Mark Berger ’50 became a Fulbright Scholar, an internationally known authority on ethical and political theory in education, and an advisor to the Ministries of Education in Cyprus and Somalia. He returned to SUNY Albany in 1990 as a Collins Fellow. He received the Outstanding Professor Award from the Graduate Student Organization in 1994 and the Distinguished Teaching Award from the University in 1996.
Harvey Milk ’51 became a member of Kappa Beta in 1949 and played a role in the evolution of the fraternity from all-Jewish to non-sectarian by encouraging Robert Baron to accept a bid to join KB. Following graduation, he joined the U.S. Navy and served as a diving officer. In 1955, Milk, by then a lieutenant (junior grade), was forced to accept an “other than honorable” discharge from the Navy rather than face court martial for his homosexuality.
Milk moved to San Francisco in 1972 and became an icon in the gay community, encouraging LGBT citizens to live openly and achieve social equality. He was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, becoming the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in the United States. Milk served less than a year when he and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were tragically assassinated by Dan White, a homophobic former City Supervisor. Milk’s courage, passion and sense of justice symbolized the freedom to live life with authenticity to LGBT men and women around the world, and his life remains an inspiration to all people committed to civil rights, equal opportunity, and an end to bigotry.
Milk’s life and legacy have been widely praised and documented. A 1984 documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. In 1999, Time Magazine included Milk on its list of the most influential people in the 20th century. In the fall of 2004, the New York City School System honored him when it opened the Harvey Milk High School, an alternative school for gay and transgender students. In 2008, a biographical film, Milk, earned numerous accolades including an Oscar for Best Actor awarded to Sean Penn for his title role. In 2009, President Obama posthumously awarded Milk The Presidential Medal of Freedom. On November 6, 2021, the US Navy launched its first ship named for an openly gay person, the USNS Harvey Milk (T-AO-206).
Dom DeCecco ’57 was as a leader in education and the community. Dom was a Social Studies teacher and Supervisor of Social Studies at Bethlehem Central Schools, a tutor for Empire State College, and a rater, writer and reviewer of Social Studies textbooks for the N.Y.S. Department of Education. He was recognized as an Outstanding Social Studies Supervisor by the N.Y.S. Social Studies Supervisory Association, and received the Robert Neiderberger Award from the Capital District Council for Social Studies, and The Project on Social History Award. He was also awarded a GE Economics Fellowship, a N.Y.S. Master Teacher Grant, and an Advanced Placement Scholarship to Columbia University. As a community leader, Dom served on the Bethlehem Zoning Board of Appeals, the Bethlehem Planning Board and other local committees. He was a President of the Kiwanis Club of Delmar, a Lieutenant Governor for the Capital Division of Kiwanis, and developed the Kiwanis Bells of Life Fund Drive which has donated over $500,000 to the Pediatric Unit at the Children’s Hospital at Albany Medical Center. Dom was also elected to the Albany County Legislature, representing the 38th and 33rd Districts of Bethlehem and New Scotland. On top of it all, Dom attended KB reunions well into his 80s.
Robert Peterkin ’66 has enjoyed a long career in educational leadership. Bob began as a Special Ed teacher at Albany Home For Teachers and as Principal at Street Academy of Albany. Next, Bob served as Headmaster (Principal) at Boston English High School during implementation of a controversial desegregation plan ordered by the Federal Court. He then became a Deputy Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools, followed by superintendencies in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Bob is currently Professor of Practice, Emeritus at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. His work focuses on the restructuring of urban public schools for educational equity and higher student achievement, most recently as a court-appointed monitor in a federal case settlement agreement involving an urban school district and plaintiffs of color. He’s also involved in the expansion of school leadership to include women and people of color, and coaching school leaders on teaching and learning. He’s written and lectured on equitable school choice, school governance, school desegregation, women and people of color in leadership, the achievement gap, and the impact of school reform on the achievement of African American children. Bob received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University in 1991. Aside from his stellar career, Bob is recognized here because he is this writer’s fraternity grandfather.
Frank Petrone ’67 was elected and re-elected Huntington (N.Y.) Town Supervisor for 24 years from 1994 to 2018. Under Frank’s stewardship, Huntington obtained and maintained the highest bond rating of any municipality on Long Island, became a leader in open space preservation, conservation and improving the environment, and provided unsurpassed services for its residents while maintaining low taxes. Frank spearheaded major capital projects including the revitalization of Huntington Station, improvements to Huntington’s infrastructure, and development of affordable housing. He made Huntington waters safer for boaters, and forged partnerships to promote the arts. Frank is also a former Chair of the Huntington Town Democratic Committee.
Bud Gates ’68 obtained his MBA from the Harvard Business School and embarked on a successful business career. As Senior Vice President of Marketing for Pizza Hut, he headed up the team that developed the pan pizza. He later served as CEO of Rent-A-Center, taking it to $1 billion in sales. When Rent-A-Center was acquired by THORN Group, a worldwide organization of rental companies employing 20,000 people, Gates became THORN’s Deputy CEO and a member of its Executive Committee. Subsequently, he formed Gates Enterprises, Inc., owner of Rent-A-Center, ColorTyme and Pizza Hut franchises as well as Heroes Sports Bar and Grill in Wichita, Kansas. In 2007, Gates formed Easygates, LLC to develop and franchise EasyHome stores. By 2016, Easygates, LLC had 44 franchised EasyHome stores in 17 states.
Jack Kenny ’67 leveraged his considerable talent, intellect and (in)famous sense of humor into a successful business career that culminated as President and CFO of Joie de Vivre Hospitality. By 2007, when Jack retired to spend more time with his dog, he had helped build Joie de Vivre into one of California’s largest independent hotel operators with 39 businesses throughout the state, including 25 boutique hotels.
Alan J. Zaremba ’71 has been teaching in the Department of Communication Studies at Northeastern University since 1981. Dr. Zaremba, or Zeke as he’s better known, served as the Associate Dean for Curriculum in the university’s College of Arts, Media and Design for seven years. He’s been nominated for Northeastern’s Excellence in Teaching Award five times and won twice. Prior to his tenure at Northeastern, he taught at SUNY Fredonia in the ’70s and was awarded the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Zeke’s 2009 book, Madness of March: Bonding and Betting with the Boys in Las Vegas has been described as “an essential read for anyone who wants to get a better window on one of the more interesting gambling and sports subcultures.” Another book, Crisis Communication: Theory and Practice has been described as “an invaluable text.” Zeke also authored six other books including Organizational Communication, now in its fourth edition, and Speaking Professionally: Influence, Power, and Responsibility at the Podium, now in its second edition. In August 2008, Zeke was the keynote speaker at the Eighth Annual International Conference on Knowledge, Culture, and Change in Organisations held at Cambridge University in the UK. He received the Distinguished Alumni Award for Excellence in Education from the University in 2001.
Carl Florio ’71 was president and CEO of Hudson River Bank & Trust Co. from 1995 until the bank was acquired by First Niagara Financial Group in 2005. He then joined First Niagara as a regional bank president and became a member of its board. Carl also served on the board of the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York and as Chairman of its Audit Committee. He is currently Vice Chairman of a hedge fund, Paradigm Capital Management, and a member of the board of Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation. Carl was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award for Excellence in Business from the University in 2007.
Alan Weinstock ’72 retired as CEO of WellLife Network in September, 2017, capping a career spanning 40 years in the mental health field. In his 11 years at the helm of WellLife Network, he spearheaded its growth from a small residential services agency to regional leader in the health and human services field with a budget exceeding $112 million. Prior to his work at WellLife Network, Alan served as Executive Deputy Commissioner for the New York State Office of Mental Health. He also served as Executive Director at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, Kings Park Psychiatric Center, Central Islip Psychiatric Center and Pilgrim Psychiatric Center and has been widely credited with turning around and improving the performance of each of those institutions. Upon Alan’s retirement from WellLife Network, he received The (N.Y.) Coalition for Behavioral Health’s “Legacy Leadership Award”, a framed caricature of Alan as the Superman of Behavior Health. Well deserved.
Ed Arcuri ’72 went into biotech and enjoyed a career evenly split between management and vaccine development/manufacturing. He was deeply involved in the development and commercial manufacture of HepA, HepB, Hib, MMR, Pneumovax23, Varivax, DTaP, Flumist, Inactivated Flu, and Anthrax vaccines with large Pharma (Merck & Co., SmithKline Beecham and Novartis) and smaller companies (North American Vaccine, Aviron/MedImmune, Emergent BioSolutions, Vaxinnate, and Auxilium).
Other Kappa Beta alumni who have received UAlbany’s Distinguished Alumni Award:
Erwin R.Steinberg ’41, served as Professor of English and Interdisciplinary Studies and Dean at Carnegie Mellon University where he taught for sixty years.
Harry Passow ’42, was a distinguished Professor of Education at Columbia University and one of the first educators to study the needs of intellectually gifted children and the problems of children living in urban poverty.
Bernard D. Arbit ’42, was a successful businessman who established the Bernard Arbit Fund, an endowment administered through the University’s Charitable Gift Annuity Program.
Harry C. Kensky ’43, was a distinguished Professor of Education at Columbia University.
Seymour H. Fersh ’49, was a Professor focusing on American humanities and Asian Studies at New Jersey State College, Montclair, Rutgers, and Fairleigh Dickenson.