“Let’s do lunch.” How one Pilam alumni group kept it up for 70 years.
The UCLA “Lunch Bunch”
It was a scene reminiscent of any chapter on any campus… a dreaded meeting, on Zoom no less. But this one was different. Because even after many years away from college, a group of brothers was meeting to keep a special tradition alive for over 25 years.
They were planning their monthly luncheon to stay connected, and regale in college revelry.
From the light-hearted tone, biting humor, and warm sentiment of the meeting you could tell that these brothers were friends, lifelong friends. And within minutes they were spinning yarns, poking fun at one another, and telling arguably bad jokes.
These are the brothers of the Upsilon chapter at UCLA, a group of Pilam alumni from the 1950s and 60s who are the embodiment of “Not Four Years, But A Lifetime.”
Many of these brothers, if not most, have gone on to achieve great success. Amongst their alumni are prominent businessmen, doctors, lawyers, an Olympic gold medalist (Rafer Johnson), a wildly successful sports agent (Leigh Steinberg), a NFL Hall of Famer (Jimmy Johnson), and upstanding members of the community. Still, you can tell that many of their best life experiences came during their years as a Pilam.
The Upsilon Chapter at UCLA
In the 1950s, UCLA was a flagship chapter of Pi Lambda Phi. They were a very active part of the fraternity scene. They had great parties, and were perennial favorites to win campus competitions like Spring Sing at the Hollywood Bowl. Their brothers were “big men” on campus, including accomplished athletes, and two University Presidents.
They had a house at 741 Gayley Street with 20 to 25 brothers living there. Those who lived the Pilam experience became friends for life.
The story behind the Lunch Bunch
In the 1990s, Jess Kopp ’53 the “hub of the wheel,” began contacting some classmates to try to organize monthly gatherings. Word spread quickly and brothers started calling the group organizers. The group grew initially through word of mouth, and continued to get progressively larger. Today there are over 200 names on the roster.
They decided to host a monthly luncheon, calling themselves, “The Lunch Bunch.”
Mitch Egers ’56, another one of the original organizers, said that most of the brothers settled in the Los Angeles area after graduation and were eager to get back together. The first meetings were held at restaurants or a Country Club. Regardless of hurdles, the lunches have persevered. These days, they’re doing Zoom calls.
At times the group will invite a speaker, brothers from other chapters, or promote a local charity to mix it up. But mostly they meet to cement the bonds of friendship and brotherhood from the Upsilon chapter. Said Mitch, “We got to know everybody. The greatest thing is that I got to know the guys who came in after I graduated.”
Fifty to sixty years after graduation, there is still something special about these brothers: a glimmer in the eye, a feeling of old friendship, and stories to tell. Great stories. According to Mitch, the unofficial motto of Cal Upsilon is, “Exaggeration is permitted. Gross exaggeration is preferred. And outright lies are the best of all.”
They say you can take the man out of the fraternity, but you can’t take the fraternity out of the man.
Does your chapter have a great tradition or a way to stay connected?
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Article written by Shawn Mahoney (Temple University, ’92)