Governor Rendell Shares his stories for the History of Pi Lambda Phi

Long before he served as District Attorney, the Mayor of Philadelphia, and Governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell enjoyed the early 1960s at the University of Penn with a group of Pilam “free spirits.” His journey from typical Penn student to governor was covered in The Daily Pennsylvanian in 2003.

Governor Rendell, U Penn ’65, recently found time to share his experiences as a Pilam brother, and its influence on his life for the Alumni History Collection Project.

Excerpts from the Governor’s Interview:

What interested you in Pilam?
“My fraternity mates were a class of free spirits. We didn’t have any ‘type.’ We were unstructured… we wanted to have the camaraderie of a fraternity without a lot of the rules, regulations, dress codes, and the like.”

What was it like to be in Pilam in a big city during the 1960s?
“We were right on the corner of 38th and Locust. You had the feeling you were in the heart of an urban center, and most kids that were there wanted that. We had toga parties, we had mixers. We had a good time. Going to college and being away from home… you need that feeling of belonging, and we had it spades. I would urge brothers to continue to do fun things.”

You’ve always embraced your affiliation with Pilam. Do you remember any special moments that stand out?
“When I ran for my first public office in 1977, Philadelphia District Attorney… I had a tough time raising money. I got my strongest level of support from my fraternity brothers. I got a wonderful, heartening response.”

“The fraternity engenders a great deal of positive feelings; a great deal of pride to be a Pilam. And we try to help our brothers when possible.”

Fast Facts

His first boss, Arlen Specter ’51, was also a Pilam U Penn brother.

The theme from the “Mr. Ed Show” was his walk-up music for events.

Who makes the “best cheesesteak” in Philly? Delessandro’s.

Rendell still endorses political campaigns, writes a column for The Hill twice a month, makes guest appearances on TV news channels, and co-chairs Building America’s Future, an infrastructure advocacy organization.


Article written by Shawn Mahoney (Temple University ’92)