“Today, with the construction of this new house, we pass the torch to the next generation of Chi Phi,” said URI 1977 alumnus Douglas Bennet, president of the Rho Iota Kappa Alumni Association of the Chi Phi fraternity and treasurer of its holding company. Bennet was the driving force behind the new chapter building. “It went from a passion to a compulsion,” he says with a laugh.
Speaking to URI officials, Chi Phi alumni from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, and campus community members assembled at the groundbreaking, Bennet added: “When we return in 2008, we will celebrate our 100th anniversary. For the next 100 years, it is my hope that Chi Phi brothers and alumni will come to know this house as their home. We’re building a nice house, but more importantly we are building on our legacy.”
New England Construction Co. of Rumford, R.I. will build the new 13,000-square foot house, located behind Weldin Hall, which will contain 20 bedrooms, a commercial kitchen, social area, and meeting space. It will be fully air-conditioned with internet access. Completion of the building is slated for August 2007.
The University shut down Chi Phi in 2005, primarily for violations of the University’s substance-free housing agreement. Since the fraternity is currently inactive, the house will be rented to transfer students and others seeking housing during the 2007-2008 academic year.
“When the fraternity returns, it will be with a clean slate and with members focused on its founding values. I look forward to working with Chi Phi,” said Steve Simo, director of Greek Affairs.
Chi Phi plans to return to campus in the fall of 2008 through a recolonization effort, the first step in rebuilding and reactivating a chapter. The house will eventually accommodate 40 to 42 brothers.
“Chi Phi’s groundbreaking is another example of the resurgence of the Greek system at URI,” said Thomas Dougan, vice president of Student Affairs. “We look forward to the eventual re-establishment of the fraternity, which was founded on the basis of truth, honor, and personal integrity.”
This will be the second fraternity house to be built on campus in two years. The Zeta Beta Tau fraternity broke ground for its new chapter house in March, 2005. When it opened the following fall, it was the first such new structure in 30 years.
“There are a lot of lessons to be learned living, working, and sharing space with other brothers. It’s a real benefit of college life, one that creates lifelong friendships. You learn to develop leadership skills and find out how to live on your own. We want to give that opportunity to future Chi Phi students.
“I hope that the groundbreaking will serve as a catalyst for renewed interest in Chi Phi,” says Bennet. “I think Greek alumni tend to come back more often and feel more a part of the University after they graduate. We’re really excited about having alumni visit the new house at Homecoming in the fall.”
The fraternity, founded in 1908, moved several times before building a home at 61 Upper College Road in 1928. In 1962, the fraternity became affiliated with Chi Phi, the nation’s oldest men’s fraternity and was officially chartered as the Rho Iota Kappa Chapter of the Chi Phi Fraternity.
Chi Phi has agreed to renovate and sell its existing house on Upper College Road to facilitate the expansion of URI’s popular International Engineering Program.
URI Chi Phi alumni celebrate the groundbreaking with a cake decorated with the fraternity’s crest. From left are John Waddington’68; Don Peck’79; Don Hood ’68; Bill Bromberg ’67; Frank Kovacs of the Chi Phi National Office, Doug Bennet ’77, Tom Paquette ’82; Bob Briggs ’66; and Jeff Richards ’80. Seated Paul DePace ’66. URI News Bureau photo by Michael Salerno