November 20, 2000

Cornellians Jazz Up, Celebrating a Night of Gambling

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Hundreds of Cornellians anted up Saturday night to take part in one of the oldest and most unique college parties anywhere in the country — the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity’s Victory Club ball.

The event was billed last week as a “night of dancing, gambling and partying,” and certainly featured plenty of all three. Throughout the evening, revelers were treated to champagne, various musical groups and a host of blackjack tables and roulette wheels.

It was the latter that captivated the attention — and money — of most guests at Saturday night’s bash at the Alpha Delt house. Indeed, more gamblers won than lost, yet the party still raised more than $1,300 for the Ithaca Fire Department, according to initial estimates.

“It went really really well,” Victory Club co-director August Roth ’01 said. “Victory Club hasn’t had as strong a showing recently as it had in previous years. But people were telling me all night that this was the best Victory Club that they had ever been to.”

Much of the mystique surrounding the charity ball, which was once rated the top party in the Ivy League by Playboy magazine, comes from its long and rich tradition. The party originated back in 1917, when Alpha Delt held a gambling event to raise money for World War I victory loans. It quickly went underground after the onset of the prohibition era in 1919. Since the end of that period, the biannual Victory Club has been held on and off.

This fall, it was on again during the semester, unlike last spring when the party did not occur until the week after classes had ended, much to the delight of the approximately 400 people that attended.

“I always have a good time here,” Jason Farrington ’01 said. “I love when everyone tries to act classy.”

As a member of Cayuga’s Waiters, one of the a cappella groups that performed Saturday night, Farrington provided guests with just one of the many entertainment options at the party, which also featured After Eight, Bernie Milton’s Motown Band and Johnny Russo’s instrumental group.

“There is a little bit of everything,” Jenna Lewis ’03 said. “It’s the best party I have been to all semester.”

Despite being “down about $20,” her date, Nick Matuszczak ’01, added, “This is one of the best nights there is to be had at Cornell.”

About his gambling loss, he noted, “It’s all for charity. Everyone here has that mentality.”

Unlike at some recent Victory Clubs, in which guests have complained of the champagne running out too early in the evening, the supply of bubbly was never in question this time.

“We went out and got 420 bottles, maybe a hundred more than in past years,” Roth said.

Along with Alpha Delt, On Site Volunteer Services, a student-run non-profit agency, helped staff the event, particularly by providing blackjack dealers.

Archived article by Aron Goetzl