Who We Are
As a fraternity, we take great pride in our diversity and membership. Brothers come from all over the globe, pursuing a wide range of academic studies. We place a large emphasis on the “Big Three” – Booth, Buggy and Greek Sing – with heavily active programs and brotherhood participation in each. In fact, in 2007, Phi Kappa Theta’s "The Wiz" won first place Doubles Division and overall in Greek Sing 2007, our “Cuckoo Clock” booth placed third at Spring Carnival, and our buggy finished in the top 10 in Sweepstakes.
In addition to our involvement with Booth, Buggy, and Greek Sing, we are committed to philanthropy. PhiKaps volunteer in a wide variety of campus and community activities, from collecting food for the hungry to restoring an old church for public use. In fact, our chapter performed more than one thousand hours of community service in the last school year alone! Our biggest effort is our annual barbecue: held in the middle of campus and spreading across “The Cut,” the barbecue offers music, games, and plenty of food. The best part of all is that our barbecue benefits the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Although we are an incredibly tight-knit brotherhood, our house also prides itself in the out-of-house, extracurricular involvement of its individuals. During the 2006-2007 academic year, PhiKaps were members, leaders, and even founders of a wide variety of organizations, including:
- American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
- American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
- Asian Student Association (ASA)
- Barkada (Filipino interest organization)
- CMU Turntable Crew
- Donner House Council
- Electrical and Computer Engineering Student Advisory Council (ECE SAC)
- Finance Committee
- Greek Council
- Hong Kong Student Association (HKSA)
- Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC)
- Joint Funding Committee
- Men’s Lacrosse
- Order of Omega
- Society for Hispanic Engineers (SHPE)
- Student Senate
- Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE)
- Taiwanese Student Association (TSA)
- Undergraduate Marketing Organization (UMO)
- Varsity Cross Country
- Varsity Diving
- Varsity Hockey
- Varsity Track
- Vietnamese Student Association (VSA)
Our chapter of Phi Kappa Theta traces its origins back to April of 1923, when Kappa Epsilon local fraternity was established. The new local grew rapidly, receiving a charter from Phi Kappa National Fraternity on December 30, 1924 to form Rho chapter. At the time, the local was living at 4723 Center Avenue. On February 11, 1925 we were initiated as Rho of Phi Kappa. The installation team consisted of the entire Pitt chapter and representatives of the Pitt and Penn State Alumni Associations.
From this time until World War II, we maintained a high degree of prestige among Greeks, with many brothers in the honoraries and varsity sports. Some Phi Kaps were officers in the I.F.C.
In 1937, our chapter moved into its new location at 5029 Morewood Place. During World War II, our house was taken over by the school, along with the other fraternity houses. 5029 was occupied by the Army in 1943, forcing our 11 actives to move in with the Kappa Sigmas. By June of 1944 the wartime need for soldiers reduced our chapter to 2 actives. In December of that year we pledged 8 men, quite a feat for a seemingly dead chapter. We moved back to 5029 in June of 1945 and completely remodeled the interior. We totaled only 21 actives and pledges in March of 1946, but by November our numbers had risen to 38 actives and 20 pledges. By 1947 Phi Kaps were again in the campus activities, honoraries, and varsity sports, with many brothers holding important offices.
Becoming Phi Kappa Theta
During the fifties we were one of the top three fraternities on campus. Phi Kaps were in all honoraries, all publications, all departmental organizations, and 15 of the remaining 23 organizations. First place trophies came in Greek Sing, Spring Carnival, and in many sports. In the late fifties, Phi Kappa National Fraternity began toying with the idea of a merger with Theta Kappa Phi National Fraternity. Finally on April 29, 1959 the merger was completed and we became Pennsylvania Rho of Phi Kappa Theta. Nick Fiore, the last president of Phi Kappa, swore in Paul Farrel, the first president of Phi Kappa Theta.
On October 22, 1961, Phi Kap moved into the present duplex at 1069 Morewood Avenue. The move put a tremendous financial strain on the chapter. Too much confidence during rush generated by the new house caused the brothers to believe that the house would do their rushing for them. As a result they received a pledge class of zero. Immediately the chapter went downhill, dropping into severe financial difficulty. It could not fill the house's rooms due to the lack of active brothers. The situation became critical until the spring of 1965 when about 20 men were pledged.
In the next three successive years the spring pledge classes numbered between twenty and thirty men. Rho chapter came out of its financial problems, reaching the high position it now holds. Probably one of the major reasons for the recovery was the striking of the "Catholic Clause," which required that any initiated brother of Phi Kappa Theta had to be a baptized Catholic. Rho chapter, along with several other chapters, led the convention argument to strike the clause. We had actually initiated several non-Catholic members before this clause was struck from the fraternity By-Laws. We were prepared to again become a local fraternity if National had decided to keep the clause. In the spring of 1969, new fraternity duplexes were planned, and new sites had to be cleared. One of the buildings razed was 5029 Morewood Place, our old chapter house.
Since 1961, Phi Kaps had not lived in the house. Although the building was condemned, the school continued to use it as studios for fine arts students until the spring of 1969. Before the demolition began many brothers explored the old house, collecting many souvenirs, including the cornerstone. The day that the house was to be razed was almost a social event, since nearly half the chapter watched the battle of the bulldozers. The day was a bad one for the bulldozers: the old house still stood after many assaults, much to the delight of the cheering spectators. Within a week, however, the building was a pile of debris. A new duplex, housing Theta Xi and Kappa Sigma, now stands where 5029 Morewood place once did.
In 1954, Elma Gholston became our cook and continued until illness prevented her from returning in the fall of 1973. Her service and devotion to the fraternity have become legend. In 1956, Viola Rodgers joined Elma in the kitchen where she continued through 1981 with Elma's sister Thelma. Viola and Thelma retired in 1981, but not after many years of memories and dedicated service. Jesse Magana Jr. succeeded them and continued until the fall of 1987. Dave Thrasher, an experienced Navy Cook, took over. Our current cook, Debbie Fajerski, joined us in 2002.
Joseph S. Pash
Of all Rho chapter's alumni, one man deserves special mention, even if it's only because his picture is hanging in the Brothers' Room. Brother Joe Pash, who graduated from C.I.T. in 1943 as a mechanical engineer, lost his life at sea aboard the USS Lagarto as it sailed toward Tokyo. Brothers of the chapter, upon hearing the news, established a trophy in his honor to be awarded to the most valuable player on the Tartan football team. The trophy was established to honor the "hardest hitting football player ever to wear the colors of C.I.T." Though the trophy has since been discontinued, our memory of a brave brother lives on.