Penn pinning ceremony

Recolonizing U Penn – Pioneer Ivy League chapter

Recolonization is underway at the University of Pennsylvania, literally one of our “old school” chapters. U Penn was among the original chapters founded in 1896 during the formative years of the fraternity.

Chapter History

1965 composite

One of the earliest Pilam chapters that were short-lived in the 1890s, U Penn reemerged during the revitalization period. In 1912 they re-established as the PA Zeta chapter. After mergers the chapter was designated PA Epsilon Zeta.

The chapter produced many famous and influential alumni, including: 

• Ray Evans ’37 – Academy Award winning song writer
• Elliot Lawrence ’43 – Tony Award winning composer
• Arlen Specter ’66 – US Senator
• Ed Rendell ’62 – Governor of PA, Mayor of Philadelphia
• Mark Aronchick ’69 – Lawyer and Professor
• Nihal Mehta ’96 – Entrepreneur, CEO and co-founder of online city guide buzzd

In spite of its Ivy league pedigree, Gov. Ed Rendell, described the chapter in the 1960s as a group of “free spirits.” And that spirit carried into more recent history, where the brothers strived to be very inclusive, and were known as a venue for alternative music. 

The U Penn chapter became a fixture on the Philly music scene in the early 1980s, known for its “Human BBQ” event, hosting bands including the Dead Milkmen, Hüsker Dü, Nada Surf, and Yo La Tengo.

Our goal is to integrate the best traditions of the chapter to help new students connect with alumni. If you’re a PA Epsilon Zeta alumnus, we could use your help. Share your U Penn fraternity traditions.

Recolonizing with Boots on the Ground

The history of the chapter and support of alumni made it a very favorable candidate for recolonization after it unfortunately folded in 2018. 

To get Pilam back on U Penn’s campus, the IHQ dedicated two staff members, Jon Cockerham and Brian Moore, to lead recruitment, New Member Education, and Operational Training.

Jon and Brian have been tabling, talking with students, meeting with those interested, and creating relationships with key stakeholders at the university.

They also called on the Philly Pilam community, getting support from Temple and Drexel. PA Alpha Delta undergrad brothers Dylan Washington, Clay Mohler, Sam Atterbury, and PA Delta Iota brothers Joseph Galante and Kyle Nguyen all volunteered to help recruit.

Their efforts have generated interest and enticed recruits. Undergraduates prospects include a Canadian Olympian, a crypto-currency expert, and a defender of wildlife.

Recruiting will continue through October and then New Member (Pledge) Education will begin. A new class will be initiated before the end of the fall semester.

Recent chapter expansions

The IHQ is focusing on expansion and building our footprint as a key to maintaining the fraternity. 

• WVU – 2021
• University of Cincinnati – 2020
• Grand Valley State – 2020
• Florida State – 2019
• Penn State – 2019
• Ohio State – 2018
• East Carolina – 2018

The Chapter House

U Penn House

The historic chapter house at 3914 Spruce Street was built in 1890. When the chapter folded, the IHQ worked with a group of alumni investors and the Drexel chapter on a plan to renovate it and keep the house in Pilam hands. Pilam Drexel is currently leasing the house, possibly until 2024 when the U Penn chapter can reoccupy it. Read more in the FAQ.

How can Pilam alumni help?

Recommend a student. If you know a student at Penn who might be interested, please recommend him.

Recommend a student. 

Volunteer or Donate. The chapter will need coaches, a house corporation, and alumni association participants. We will also be launching a fundraising campaign to provide support and resources for the chapter. 

Read the U Penn alumni FAQ.


Article written by Shawn Mahoney (Temple University, ’92)