Meet the Greeks

Four Brothers and Sisters — Three Alumni and One Student — On the Moments That Define Their Greek Experience

As told to Kenna Caprio
Photographs by Deborah Feingold

At FDU, scholarship, community, culture and service are ingrained in the fabric of the institution. Its Greek organizations, first officially sanctioned in 1969, have epitomized these values, too. Students join sororities and fraternities for all different reasons: seeking belonging, wanting responsibility and looking to give back, all while finding their identities, their places and their tribes. Beyond the fun, beyond the camaraderie, beyond the clichés — lifelong connections form. So we ask: “What does it mean to be Greek?”

The Traveler

David Plaskow, BS’90 and MBA’92 (Ruth)

By and large, we’re diehard New York Mets fans. About 20 years ago, some of my brothers and I, five guys total, did an overnight in Boston, Mass., to see the Mets play the Red Sox. We thought: “We’re on to something.” Twenty years later, we still do it.

Each year, we pick a different city and go see a Mets game, between late May and the middle of August. The group has varied in size over the years, sometimes as small as the original five, or up to 20 or so, including friends, cousins, brothers and brothers-in-law.

There are a few Yankees fans in our ranks, and we throw them a bone sometimes and go see them play instead.

We watch baseball, have a steak dinner and just catch up. We’ve run across players and coaches in elevators, restaurants and hotels. Everyone flies in and leaves at different times — many of my Sigma Pi brothers still live in the Northeast, but there are some who live at all points of the compass. These trips are a great way to see them and the country.

One year, we were in Denver, Colo., and we were walking through Red Rocks Park, doing a desert hike, and we turn a corner. Beyond us, a model is doing some kind of photo shoot for a fitness or exercise magazine. The photographer stops and invites us in, “Get in the shot.” Who are we to say no?

About four years ago, we picked San Francisco, Calif. Jim Zambrano, my Sigma Pi brother who lives in Atlanta, Ga., and I flew in early to Los Angeles and drove up the Pacific Coast Highway together to see the magnificent sights.

In a fraternity, you form these lifelong bonds in a relatively short time. I’ve been out of school since 1992. I’ve known these men out of school much longer than I knew them in school. And yet, whether it’s been a year or 10 years since I’ve seen them, we’re just picking up where we left off.

They say if you can fill up one hand with the people you consider to be close friends, then you’re lucky. I’m lucky. These are some of the deepest friendships I have. Two of my Sigma Pi brothers are godfathers to my children. It’s been great watching our lives progress: careers, wives, families and kids.

I treasure these relationships.

The Volunteer

Robin Solow, BA’94 (Metro)

Joining Alpha Epsilon Phi (AEPhi) literally changed the whole course of my life, because it changed the trajectory of my career. I thought I wanted to go to law school. But I got so involved on campus that I realized I wanted to get a degree in student affairs — I went to NYU for graduate school and on to work at the University of Maine, FDU and The Juilliard School.

Today, I’m senior director, global talent management at Ralph Lauren, doing university relations, onboarding, succession planning and internship management. I’m also active with AEPhi’s national council.

My leadership, time management and professional skills all stem from my involvement in the sorority.

Being in AEPhi was so beneficial to my personal growth. I was very shy before I joined my sorority. It gave me confidence. I learned about honoring commitments and planning events, successes, failures and everything in between.

Initially, I felt a strong sense of need and obligation to give back to the sorority, because I took so much from it when I was in college, including a scholarship I received my junior year. I really wanted an opportunity to help other women have a similar experience.

After graduation, I worked my way up — volunteering as a chapter adviser, recruiter and new member educator to serving my third term on the national council, now as vice president of alumnae. Almost all of my close friends come directly from my experience with AEPhi as a national volunteer. I continue to get a lot even as I give.

I work with volunteers across the country, placing them in positions and providing them with personal and professional development opportunities through our network. Every summer, collegiate women and volunteers attend a conference. We also host monthly webinars. I love interacting with people and helping them grow. What we stand for as a national organization speaks to who I am as a person.

I’m proud of the legacy my sisters and I left behind at FDU. It makes me happy that we left a chapter that’s still thriving, growing and doing well. If I’m in an airport or on a college campus or anywhere, and I meet an AEPhi woman, I get so excited and feel an instant connection to her, because we are living the same values.

It’s a forever sisterhood.

The Giver

Alexander McLucas, BA’93 (Metro)

When I arrived at FDU in 1988, through the Educational Opportunity Fund program [which offers academic and financial assistance to qualifying New Jersey students in need], it was one of my first times being away from my home in Newark, N.J. At that time, a small percentage of black men were graduating from college.

The first couple of weeks at school were really trying. But I met Gene Waddy, BS’92 (Metro), and Donald Francois, BS’90 (Ruth), president of Alpha Phi Alpha at the time. I realized, “These are men on campus being positive.”

Alpha Phi Alpha drew me in — they did this exhibition step show in the cafeteria in the Student Union Building. It was really exciting. Meeting the brothers and hanging out with them reinforced that they were men getting their education, going out into the community, feeding the homeless and doing voter-registration drives.

Being in a fraternity saved my life. I grew up in a single-parent home and never intended to go to college. But I did. My fraternity gave me the feeling of brotherhood and acceptance, which is very powerful. Taking on different roles in Alpha Phi Alpha made me a better person. Everything we did reflected upon the organization. It made me think: “How do I want to represent myself? How do I want to represent my fraternity?” We wanted people to look up to us, so we dedicated every Wednesday to “shirt-and-tie-day.”

My mother told me, “I see a difference in you. You’re more focused. When I look at you, I see a man.” I wanted her to be proud of me, and she saw that change in me, the responsibility to my fraternity and to myself.

Now, I’m president of the Alpha Phi Alpha’s Kappa Theta Lambda chapter in Bergen County. On a national level, as area director, I cover from here down to Atlantic City. Chapter members and younger members of Alpha Phi Alpha are always at my house. Every year, I throw a big barbecue to reconnect.

You have to take care of your community just like you do your home. The better your community, the better you are. Some people feel as though they don’t have to give back, but I do. We have to help those less fortunate than us — you never know when you might be the one who needs help.

The Survivor

Michele D’Aries, Senior, Communications Studies (Flor)

Growing up with a brother who is 10 years older than me, I always wanted an older sister and felt drawn to the idea of sisterhood. With Zeta Tau Alpha, I’ve gone from having no sisters, to hundreds a semester.

In a sorority, your big sister is a mentor and role model, someone whom you look up to and can go to with anything. Some are just mentors, others become best friends. My “big,” Alexus Daza, a senior accounting major, has been there for me without fail.

Last spring, in April 2016, my mom passed away. Alexus stayed with me. I’m a commuter student, and Alexus came to my house and stayed with me three nights a week until the end of June.

I was feeling very alone, even though many friends and family surrounded me. My mom was my best friend. She was so creative and helped me in every way possible — and she was like that with everyone. People were always so drawn to her positive energy. Her smile and laugh were contagious. I’m lucky to have had her as my mom.

Having Alexus sleep over helped me cope — knowing that I could wake her up at 2 a.m. to cry or talk about a dream. She would wake right up and listen attentively and give advice, as if she had been up for hours.

My sisters were constantly checking on me. If I missed class, they’d find my professors to get the work for me. They sent me cards and text messages. They were really wonderful. The chapter sent me plants, representing life, instead of flowers that would just die.

Everyone is so sensitive, and they still check on me. Even sisters I don’t know as well texted me on Mother’s Day and said, “Thinking of you.”

During our spring talent show, a philanthropy event called Pink Man on Campus, all the Zetas wore red and white ribbons for lung cancer and heart disease, in support of me and another sister, who had just lost her grandfather.

When I needed them, everyone was there in a heartbeat. In a sorority, you’re a part of something bigger. It’s not just you out there by yourself in college. You have this extended family, and you form connections that are so strong, so fast-growing, it’s like you’ve known everyone your entire life.

Ed. note: A version of this article first appeared in the Winter/Spring 2017 edition of FDU Magazine.