Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Fraternity brothers unite to build homes — their own

A rectangular sign on a fenced construction zone on Evans Avenue just south of the Ricketson Law Building doesn’t say much, but its presence says a lot.

The sign tells passersby that the site is the future home of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. What it doesn’t point out is that without cash and pledges of $1.38 million from fraternity donors and $2.76 million from the University, the building project might never have gotten off the ground. 

Nor does it mention DU’s evolving partnership with fraternities that the commitment to a new house is part of.

“In the big picture, well-advised fraternities contribute very well to the campus community,” says Drew Hunter, chapter adviser. “That’s why they’ve been around for about as long as DU.”

University officials agree.

Lambda Chi Alpha is one of the premier historical Greek organizations and is integral to the DU community,” says Neil Krauss, assistant vice chancellor for business and financial affairs. “They have been one of the cornerstones of the student community on campus.

The Lambda house is the second major campus fraternity project to break ground in the last two years and is a visible symbol of a maturing relationship between Greek organizations and the University that began about four or five years ago, Krauss says. That continuing relationship places greater emphasis on maintaining University assets and holding students accountable.

Kappa Sigma was the first to conform to the concept when donors raised more than a third of the $3.6 million construction costs for a new house on Old Row, and in the fall of 2005 members moved in.

Now it’s Lambda Chi Alpha’s turn. To earn the keys to the front door, the fraternity will need to pony up its remaining share of the project cost and abide by a new arrangement with the University.

“We’re all but there,” Hunter says. “We knew (the house) needed to be fixed up if it was going to be here another 50 years or more. This new structure is designed to be here 200 or 300 years.”

The new land lease, however, is for less — 50 years with five additional 10-year extensions. DU will own and maintain the house and set rules and criteria for its use. The fraternity will be obligated to upkeep and care.    

The site is the same Evans Avenue location Lambda Chi Alpha has occupied at DU since the late 1920s when it moved in after forming a chapter in 1917. When completed in mid-September, the 14,000-square-foot residence will have beds for 32 students and amenities that include high speed Internet, cable TV and dining for up to 100.  

The old house was torn down last summer, leaving chapter members with no place of their own. Even so, Lambda Chi Alpha managed to recruit 31 new members and will have 92 when juniors return from abroad in January. Those numbers make them among the largest frats on campus, a fact not lost on University officials.

“They’re well-recognized,” says David Ford, DU’s director of fraternity and sorority campaigns. “Their chapter has a lot of people who are visible in other parts of campus.”

They also have a committed brotherhood.

“We’ve raised about $1.2 million from about 160 different alumni,” Hunter says, with the largest being a $150,000 gift from a former member living in California. “I’m expecting we’ll probably have over 200 donors when we’re done, which will get us to our numbers.”

That’s music to DU’s ears, Ford says. The presence of a bright, new house in a highly visible part of campus adds to the DU ambience and underscores the University’s connection with Greek organizations, one of which — Beta Theta Pi — was founded in 1879.

“The Greek community plays a real important role in a young person’s growth and maturity and experience,” Krauss says. “We want strong fraternities on campus.”

According to Hunter, fraternity members donate more to the University, are more involved in campus life while they’re undergraduates and are more likely to remain in school.

“The downside is that they get saddled with a partying reputation because they’re social and easy targets,” he says.

Nate Taylor, Lambda Chi Alpha chapter president, has a simpler reason for being involved: “They have a lot of fun. They’re laid back, and they’re not stuck up.

“I have friendships through the fraternity that I never would have had otherwise.”

Taylor also lauds the chapter’s diversity and philanthropic ventures — a food drive this fall; funds for disabled athletes this spring.

“People join fraternities because of the people and the value of the organization,” Ford says. “Not the house.”

This article originally appeared in The Source, January 2007.

University of Denver fraternities

Fraternity: Kappa Sigma 
Location: Old Row: 2201 Evans Ave. 
Status: second year in rebuilt house; construction fund-raising substantially complete

Fraternity: Lambda Chi Alpha
Location: Old Row; 2217 Evans Ave.
Status: ground broken for rebuilding; occupancy targeted for fall 2007; fund-raising campaign nearly complete

Fraternity: Beta Theta Pi 
Location: Old Row; 2060 S. Gaylord  
Status: oldest fraternity at DU, founded in 1889; fund-raising campaign to rebuild on existing location under way

Fraternity: Sigma Alpha Epsilon
Location: Old Row; 2050 S. Gaylord
Status: fund-raising campaign for existing location being developed.

Fraternity: Theta Chi
Location: New Row; 1959 S. Columbine
Status: house built in 1958; vacated in fall 2006

Fraternity: Sigma Chi
Location: New Row; 1959 S. Columbine
Status: left house in 2005 over safety concerns; currently occupying former Theta Chi house; talks under way for new house

Fraternity: Chi Phi
Location: New Row; 2455 E. Asbury
Status: newest fraternity, started in 1987; no building campaign yet under way

Fraternity: Phi Kappa Sigma 
Location: New Row; 2440 E. Asbury
Status: property being pursued by developer of adjacent land; negotiations under way

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