- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A University of Maryland fraternity that had been disbanded because of persistent complaints about rowdiness and drunkenness among its members has reformed itself and has won a national award for community service.

The College Park campus’s Epsilon Gamma chapter of Alpha Tau Omega this month was awarded the 2005 North American Interfraternity Conference Award of Distinction, which recognizes academic excellence and outstanding contributions to the community.

“Our chapter is unique because, rather than reflect the typical fraternity image of affluent white males you see in the media, we reflect the diversity of the university as a whole,” said Stephen Chuk, the fraternity’s philanthropy chairman. “We have people from many different backgrounds and religions.”

The award marks a turnaround for the Epsilon Gamma chapter, which after more than 60 years at College Park was shut down in 1993 by the fraternity’s national leadership for rowdiness.

A cadre of alumni and undergraduates worked for five years to resurrect the chapter.

Joshua Jones — one of the “re-founding fathers” — recalled the difficulties he faced as a sophomore trying to salvage the fraternity.

“There was no manual or instruction booklet,” he said. “It was mostly just trial and error. We had to learn from mistakes. It was a challenge, but we did it.”

Among the biggest changes was that alcohol is no longer permitted in the fraternity house.

Mr. Jones said Epsilon Gamma was one of the first chapters in the Greek system to make such a change.

Its members also became involved in helping charities and performing community service.

“We logged more than 1,500 community-service hours in the past year — tutoring, working with the elderly and volunteering at the SHARE food warehouse in D.C.,” Mr. Chuk said.

Still, the brothers seem most proud of their annual Virgin Party Charity event, named for the alcohol-free, or “virgin,” daiquiris that are served.

“We want to promote that you can have a good time without alcohol,” Mr. Chuk said.

Chapter President Saam Parsa said last year’s event raised $9,000 for the HERO Campaign, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Best Buddies program.

Alpha Tau Omega was founded in 1865 by three Confederate cadets. Its mission was to peacefully unite men of Northern and Southern descent.

The fraternity, which started its chapter on the Maryland campus in 1930, has more than 160 chapters across the country and more than 225,000 members worldwide, according to its Web site.

“The [Maryland] chapter is now doing fantastic,” says Matt Supple, an assistant director of fraternity life at the university.

The chapter’s 75 members would agree. For the past three years, they have been the school’s Greek Week Champions and have won the President’s Cup — the highest award on campus for a fraternity. They also were the 2003-2004 Homecoming Champions.

The Epsilon Gamma chapter will celebrate its 75th anniversary at Maryland in October.

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