On campus beat: New Theta Chi chapter marks Greek revival at U
- Article by: Maura Lerner
- Star Tribune
- August 28, 2013 - 5:58 PM
In the late 1990s, a once-proud fraternity called Theta Chi fell on such hard times that it simply closed up shop at the University of Minnesota. Membership was drying up, and its 1920s frat house was in such bad shape the chapter couldn’t afford to fix it.
Flash forward a dozen years, and Theta Chi is staging a comeback at the university, in brand-new digs — just one sign, officials say, of a Greek revival on the Minneapolis campus.
“Over the last five six years, we’ve seen a steady growth in fraternity and sorority life,” said Matt Levine, the Greek life program director at the U. The surge in membership is consistent with national trends, he said, though “we’re not 100 percent sure what to attribute it to.”
Levine, a Theta Chi alum himself, says that fraternities and sororities fill a special niche at a huge campus like the U.
“It’s that home away from home,” he said, a place to find a close-knit group of peers.
Today, some 58 fraternities and sororities have chapters at the U, with about 2,200 members, Levine says.
And that doesn’t even count the phoenix-like Theta Chi, which is in the process of “recolonizing” after a 12-year absence.
The fraternity had a noble history at the U. Chartered in 1924, it grew out of a 19th-century Scandinavian social club, which claimed at least two future governors among its members (J.A.O. Preus and Theodore Christianson).
It flourished for three-quarters of a century until it went dark in 2000. Its house was converted into a coffee shop.
It has 25 active members and hopes to double in size this fall — recruiting members from its glitzy headquarters in the newly opened 17th Avenue Residence Hall, a block from its old home.
Why bring it back now?
“The biggest reason is, we have a number of alumni that really care for the organization,” said Steve Gehrke, who was president of the U’s chapter in the 1980s, and now heads its advisory board.
“We never wanted to see it go in the first place. Certainly we didn’t want to keep it away forever.”
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