West Virginia U, one of our original chapters, is Recolonized
Thanks to an innovative approach to promotion and recruitment, the WV Mu chapter of Pi Lambda Phi was recolonized in 2021 in the midst of a pandemic initiating 43 men this past Spring.
One of Pi Lambda Phi’s original chapters, the WV Mu chapter was founded in 1922, but the chapter closed in 1959 due to declining membership following the Korean War.
In 2018, university and fraternity relations at WVU were severely strained. The university banned several fraternities from campus due to multiple, repeated policy infractions and asked those who remained to “rebrand” fraternity life. Answering an invitation from the university, Pilam was invited to campus as one of the national fraternities to establish a chapter.
In the fall of 2020, the IHQ assembled their crack team of expansion experts and ventured to WVU to draft a winning team, then… a pandemic happened. Campus life, and life, in general, changed radically.
• Table recruiting? Nope.
• Meet and greet? Nuh-uh.
• Live events? Fuggetaboutit.
So, Jon Cockerham and Brian Moore, the IHQ’s Chapter Services & Expansion Coordinators drew up a new playbook. They went where the undergrads were — social media. Showing skills that will make them very marketable if they decide to go into digital advertising, they targeted prospective members.
They started by reaching out to those who showed interest in WVU student activities, government, and other leadership organizations. Apparently, this was “no biggie” to most students who think being contacted online is pretty much “the norm.”
Undergrad Jared Icenhower, a sophomore Finance Major who never thought he would join a fraternity, talked about what appealed to him. “It sounded like an opportunity to start new. The majority of fraternities have bad reputations. I feel like we can be something special by being active on campus and focusing on issues and doing some good. There can be a balance between fun and service, but living core values has to be first.”
The New Mu’s
The WV Mu chapter initiated 43 refounding brothers in Spring 2021. They are one of the most diverse on campus, involved in student government, ROTC, rugby, psychology club, the student fishery conservation group, swim club, and the math club. The chapter had the highest GPA of all fraternities in spring 2021 at 3.383.
Considering that much of their interaction was virtual and/or masked, we asked Icenhower what he thinks of his new brothers. “They’re great so far. I’m getting to know them better. We’re building trust.”
IHQ Rep Brian Moore observed, “People who join during a pandemic are usually more interested in brotherhood than ragers.”
But the brothers are also looking forward to normalcy. The president, Conner Looney, has a house where the brothers get together. They’re looking forward to kicking back and hanging out in the fall.
WVU Mu’s Legacy of Equality
Like many early Pilam chapters, WV Mu had primarily Jewish membership. They were one of only two Jewish organizations on campus. After the chapter closed in 1959, all remaining funds were put toward an endowment for a speaking series on antisemitism.
The educational series continues today:
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Are you interested in starting a Pilam chapter at a college you attended? Where your son is attending? A chapter that closed? We have the resources to set this in motion.
Article written by Shawn Mahoney (Temple University ’92)