73rd Annual Kovner Memorial Banquet celebrated by Temple
In September, Temple reconvened a long and proud history of remembrance and brotherhood at the 73rd Kovner Memorial Banquet. The banquet celebrates Alfred “Koko” Kovner’s legacy and gives alumni an opportunity to reconnect with classmates, swap stories, and get to know the undergrads.
Historically, Kovner has been a raucous affair, and the chapter has been politely asked not to return to several reputable venues. But these days, the buffoonery is largely limited to some good natured heckling, and the singing of a bawdier version of “Jolly Laddies.”
Paul Lucas ’93, who has never missed a banquet, summed up what it means to him.
“I’m here for a reason, same as you. In your heart, you care. We’ve got a great thing here and we’ve had it for the better part of a century. [EDITED: Some naughty college things.] The Kovner quote meant a lot to me and it still does. It’s a metaphor for life. If you put your blood, sweat and tears into something, you’re going to get something out of it. This evening, this crowd, and hearing these stories is what it’s all about.”
Old School Representin’
The banquet is always well represented by a selection of the youngest and most senior brothers. In 1997, the 50th anniversary of the banquet, five of Kovner’s classmates, who were in their 70s, came to share their memories of Koko as a brother and friend.
This year a few of the chapter’s most respected brothers attended, including Jerry Balka ’51, Stanley Field ’58, Irv Koffler ’62, and Jerry Zivan ’66 — brothers who have truly embraced “not four years, but a lifetime.”
Jerry Balka, chapter advisor emeritus and long-time consigliere, is 92 and joined when the chapter’s brotherhood was primarily Jewish. He shared how proud he was of the chapter’s diversity.
Newbies were indoctrinated
A whole generation of active brothers had never experienced the banquet due to Covid… except for one, Nick Palomba ’23, who said he was “pacing himself” when it comes to graduating. The active brothers enjoyed the event and actively sought out the alumni to find out, “what was it like when you were an undergrad?” Some were traumatized when they heard the stories. But that was another era.
The evening culminated with undergraduate awards for: athletic achievement, Pilam spirit, brotherhood responsibilities, and the Kovner Memorial award given to a brother who most exemplifies the ideals of Alfred Kovner — Will Tornambe, the marshal, was this year’s proud recipient.
Origins of the Kovner Banquet
Few Pilam traditions have endured the test of time like the Kovner Banquet. It demonstrates how Alfred Kovner left his indelible print on our entire brotherhood.
In 1946, the chapter rex, Reds Blumenthal, invited Koko’s parents to the fraternity for an unofficial dinner during which everyone spoke about what a great person Koko was.
Kovner’s parents were so moved that they suggested an annual banquet with a special award presentation to a brother who typified Koko’s attitude and feelings about the fraternity. The next year, the Kovner family donated $1,500 to the chapter to sponsor the dinner and award.
Every year the PA Alpha Delta chapter gathers to continue honoring this tradition. They celebrate Koko’s memory and the feelings of brotherhood that he shared in his letters home.
Article written by Shawn Mahoney (Temple University, ’92)