August 27, 2007

Acacia Celebrates 100 Years at C.U.

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This weekend, the Cornell chapter of Acacia celebrated its 100th anniversary on campus, commemorating the occasion with a series of events designed to bring together alumni and current students.
The centennial celebration began Friday evening with a reception at Duffield Hall. The highlight of the evening was the presentation of brother Thomas J. Balcerski’s ’05 book, “Acacia Fraternity at Cornell: The First Century.” Balcerski said writing the book gave him the chance to meet older alumni whom he called “men of the highest character.”
James Showacre ’50, who until last year remained a treasurer of Acacia, called the book a “tremendous undertaking.” He also said he was “amazed at the turnout” of the event, which drew over 150 Acacia alumni.
On Saturday morning, buses picked up the Acacia alumni and their guests in front of the Statler Hotel for a tour of campus and lunch at the Big Red Barn. Elie Bilmes ’10 said the tour was “great because so much has changed in the last 20 years; even in the last two years.”
The weekend’s main event was a reception and banquet on Saturday night at the Statler Ballroom. After the cocktail hour, Acacia members had a brothers-only meeting entitled “The Next Hundred Years” where the brothers discussed the current chapter as well as plans for the future.
A key topic at the meeting was the fraternity’s centennial capital campaign, which the brothers are running to raise $345,000 over the next five years. The amount derives from the fraternity’s symbol, the 3-4-5 sided triangle, a tribute to the mathematician Pythagoras. According to Brian Clapp ’09, the money will be put toward renovating study rooms and installing a sprinkler system in the house to protect against fire. Noting that the chapter house on Highland Road will also be turning 100 this year, Clapp said, “We want to ensure that our house will be around for the next hundred years.”
The night also featured a performance by a capella group the Touchtones, a showing of Paul Molnar’s ’98 documentary on the chapter’s history and an awards ceremony. Awards were given out by the national branch of Acacia in honor of the centennial, as well as to alumni whom current fraternity president Kyle Small-Davis ’09 called “distinguishable for their contributions to the house.”
Susan Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services, gave the keynote speech at the banquet, in which she discussed the struggle fraternities face in maintaining a good reputation on campus. She said that it was a truly special accomplishment for Acacia to have remained on campus for 100 years without succumbing to disciplinary, monetary or membership problems.
For Small-Davis, a highlight of the weekend was swapping stories with his alumni brothers. One brother recounted his experience as a student in the 1960s, when all the boys lived in the chapter house’s unheated attic. During formal weekends, all of the brothers’ dates slept upstairs, while the boys stayed in the basement. One winter weekend, the dates pulled a prank and painted clear nail polish over the sockets of the brothers’ electric blankets so they wouldn’t work the following night.
Current fraternity Vice President Eric Fish ’09 agreed with Small-Davis, saying that he was lucky to “meet the people who built this house.”
One such alumnus is Preston Shimer ’61, who as a student used the skills he had mastered in his Food Facilities Engineering class to build a new kitchen when the house underwent renovations.
Preston said that the fraternity had changed since he was an active brother to become “all-inclusive. I see brothers of every color; every religion.” Citing the more active role brothers take in running the house lately, he also said that he was “impressed at the quality of the members. They are bright, mature, multi-skilled young men.”