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Oct. 25, 2012
By Philip Gruenwald, media relations assistant
Looking at the numbers, the men of the Delta Chi fraternity at Northwest Missouri State University had a daunting task in front of them the weekend of Oct. 20: To rejuvenate one of the oldest houses in Maryville, their 122-year-old Victorian mansion that has housed 1,200 college males in the past 40 years.
The endeavor took 80 alumni, 32 undergraduate members, at least 20 trips to a local lumberyard and financial contributions from Delta Chi alumni that nearly doubled expectations. When the dust settled at the property on 219 W. Second St., everyone involved looked proudly at their freshly designed house, ready to welcome more members.
However, Mark E. Leggett, a 1983 Northwest graduate and Delta Chi alumnus, and others said the weekend was about more than fixing up an old house.
“The main intention was to come back and support the undergrads,” Leggett said. “We wanted to let them know that Delta Chi is not just a house that you go through in college – that they have the support of the alumni.”
Leggett and Jay Meacham, Delta Chi Alumni Board of Trustees president, were part of early discussions with the Delta Chi housing corporation, an alumni organization that meets monthly in Maryville. The venerable house is the only home the fraternity has known since colonizing in 1972. It needed work, which Meacham said was an understatement.
“Nothing has been done in terms of capital improvement to the house in 25 years, except Christmas break 10 or 12 years ago when it got so cold in Maryville that a pipe inside the house froze and burst, and we had to take out another mortgage to fix it,” Leggett said.
At a recent Delta Chi alumni reunion, the need for a home makeover was discussed. A few emails later, the reconstruction plans materialized. A donor support network was established through listserves and Facebook, and Oct. 19-21 was chosen as the work weekend.
Tile and other supplies started to show up at the Delta Chi house Oct. 16. Undergraduates living in the house began working on the exterior the following day, but most of the work happened Friday and Saturday. Undergraduates and alumni worked in groups assigned to projects that included wiring, plumbing, painting, trimming, spackling, landscaping, staining and more. Northwest President Dr. John Jasinski visited the property Friday afternoon to see the progress for himself.
“I admire the president because he wanted to see every room, so I took him from the basement to the racks and I explained to him how it was back in the day,” Leggett said. “I think it shocked a lot of the actives to have the president of the University walking through your fraternity house on a Friday afternoon.”
Jasinski saw teams of alumni integrated with undergraduates to demonstrate the collaboration emphasis of the weekend. As expected, stories were exchanged, which kept the feeling light during the inevitable surprises of renovating a house built in 1890.
“The same brotherhood I have with my pledge class is the same brotherhood an alumnus had with his pledge class back in ’75 or whatever the case may be,” Delta Chi President Caleb Watson said. “We’ve all been through the same exact stuff and we know the same exact things. So really it’s not meeting somebody new – it’s finding a long-lost brother.”
Saturday night, the crew relaxed at Bearcat Lanes for bowling while watching a slideshow projection of the weekend’s work. In a short time, they pulled together the second-largest reunion the fraternity has had, and gathered more than $40,000 in alumni donations to fund the successful renovation. Because every active member is required to stay in the house for at least one year during their undergraduate education, the images sparked memories and feelings of loyalty to the fraternity.
“It exceeded my wildest dreams,” Leggett said. “It was emotional for all the older guys to see the progress. That house has a lot of nostalgia, and a lot of guys are tied to it. One of the underlying themes we were trying to demonstrate to these guys is that the house is just a place to meet, and the Delta Chi legacy will live on even if the house doesn’t.”
Watson and the other 38 active members will use this fresh update as a starting point for an organizational revision. The house also will be smoke-free.
“I was definitely renewed in youth leadership,” Leggett said. “It was a great opportunity for exposure for the undergrads, because we could inspire them and keep them going but obviously the youth have a lot more energy and flexibility than us old guys.”
Mark Hornickel, Media Relations Specialist
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468