Alumni Spotlight: Gene Kolber
Brother Gene Kolber was inducted into the PA Omega Gamma chapter at Pennsylvania State University in 1950. Since graduating in ‘52, he’s led various careers, including hosting his own radio show and 2 different TV shows, opening his own advertising agency, and representing celebrities like Evel Knievel, Tom Jones, and Engelbert Humperdinck. IHQ Staffer, Jon Cockerham, had the opportunity to sit down with Brother Kolber to learn from a marketing wiz, such as Kolber, on how to market your chapter to the next generation of potential Pilam men.
JC: How did you initially find out about Pi Lambda Phi Fraternity?
GK: I went to Penn State my sophomore year because of the athletic department. I wanted to attend a university that had a swimming team I could compete on, so I transferred my sophomore year for these reasons. I was initially attracted to the fraternity because of the house; it was a big beautiful piece of property. Each of the guys I had met in the brotherhood at the time seemed to be mainly guys, like me, who were from Philadelphia.
JC: How did you get involved with Pi Lambda Phi Fraternity?
GK: It was, at first, because of a brother named Mitch Epstein – a brother who would later have a vast career in advertising and marketing – his ability to speak words of wisdom, at such a young age, was impeccable. Mitch had asked me to come over to his fraternity house one day, and I had agreed; I was looking for a mentorship opportunity by him, as we were both interested in radio and he had been a varsity athlete.
JC: What from that interaction that night made you want to join Pilam?
GK: Well, it was that night that I learned how extensive the networking opportunities were with our brotherhood. That is what I saw, especially as someone who took such a profound interest in networking early as an undergraduate, this was a professional opportunity. No other fraternity, to my knowledge, supplied each member with a list of alumni that had graduated in order to boost our professional network.
JC: How have Pilams impacted your professional career as an alumnus brother?
GK: It was that very same brother that was the reason I joined. Mitch Epstein helped me immensely after I realized that radio was no longer for me. This was years after being the top 40 disc jockey for WAEB-AM, I had wanted to change paths to do more advertising and marketing. Mitch helped get my foot in the door for the industry. Mitch was the Vice-President of advertising for Revlon beauty products where he won three national awards. He then opened his own New York agency and he gave me part of the Revlon account to work on – my first national assignment – see the value of a fraternity brother? Mitch’s guidance is what led me to create my own marketing firm, Kolber Advertising.
JC: As a marketing wiz, what is something that chapters should try to market right now to potential new members?
GK: If there is anything that the fraternity life can do for people coming out of high school, it is to show those potential new members how this is going to help their careers, how they will become a better student, and it should create a type of impression for people who are coming in. It’s also important to note that not all members should be coming from the same city; a fraternity should be a diverse coalition with various backgrounds, this is the real purpose of fraternity life.
JC: What advice would you give to current undergraduate brothers?
GK: Show that the camaraderie continues after your college career is over. Highlight those connections in newsletters. Students need to realize the alumni of their chapter and Pilam chapters everywhere are here to help, that we want to get involved, and are waiting for you to reach out to us. Especially right now with the pandemic, we’re craving the opportunity to help empower and mentor you into your professional career!