Theta Chi Alumni – Just Do It!

NOTE: The Commentary below was submitted to the Alumni Board, Alpha Sigma Chapter, (Oregon) in early May 2013. In view of the deep resistance to putting “a lighthouse on the front lawn of the Theta Chi House at Oregon, my own thoughts have turned to the far greater potential of a Gerlinger Lighthouse “smack dab in the center of the campus of the University“. However, the linkage between that undertaking and means and methods to restore the intellectual, cultural and economic vitality to the Grand House at 1125 East 19th Avenue remains.  Here, below, is what was submitted to the Alumni Board for their May 20, 2013 meeting.

TO: Theta Chi Alumni, Alpha Sigma Chapter, University of Oregon, by John Hibbs



The entire Theta Chi Fraternity and the entire University of Oregon have been deeply shamed by the recent history of the Theta Chi Chapter in Eugene. The most sullied and suffering are the Theta Chi Alumni who recently put up a quarter-million dollars to renovate one of Oregon’s most beautiful structures. Twice in the last few years the undergraduates have been banished from their House.  Inside it now is a competitor frat. Just barely making the rent.

This is a House that deserves Historical Society Protection. This is a House originally designed for residents who were to be the best collegians in America. Nobody disagrees with any of this.

This month – on May 20 to be exact – the Chapter’s Alumni Board could make a dramatic change in a brand new direction. The marvelously good news is that the ingredients for returning the House to its former greatness are all at hand. Some of it by sheer good luck. Most of it by imagination, perspiration and synergy. All of it dictated by hard economic fact.

The sheer good luck is that the Chairman of the Alumni Board is Bill Swindells, grandson to Irene Gerlenger, the first female Regent of the University. Irene championed equal voting rights for women, equal rights to college admission, equal rights for women’s athletics. Her achievements are celebrated daily inside the two most beautiful buildings on campus. Gerlinger Hall and Gerlinger Annex.

Bill is perfectly positioned to push for monumental change. He’s a Wharton Business graduate where the world’s best teach the hard lessons of number-crunching blended with the conviction that large upsides come from the fine art of synergy. Turning losers into winners is what Wharton graduates do best. Seeing things as they could be. Not as they are.

Additionally, Bill and his wife Ann founded the Swindells Charitable Trust which is also a benefactor of the Oregon Historical Society.  Call it serendipity or call it synergy all of this is high-octane fuel for a vehicle with a bright, shiny future. Ignition, combustion and boosters come later. Pump–priming should begin on May 20.

Let’s wrap the splendid ideals of Irene Gerlinger with images from the Historical Society and the best of Theta Chi into a Living Museum that changes the perception from an ugly frat house into a truly extraordinary intellectual lighthouse. The pride of Oregon. The pride of Theta Chi.

How? By putting exceptional students upstairs (frat rats not admitted). By tapping the collective (adult) talent of those on the ground floor and in the (renovated) basement —to include rent-paying NFP advocacy groups with lofty goals and a good history of their own. Those working toward a safer, saner planet. Turn the Chapter Room into a powerful 21st Century fundraising enterprise. Operate the House 24/7/365.  Optimize the tons of opportunities certain to arise.

A House crammed with memorabilia, art, advocacy, passion, creativity, invention, scholarship, enterprise, laughter and, best of all, great fellowship. Supported by a strong balance sheet to boot.

Call it The Gerlinger Lighthouse. Start by a great big Lighthouse cemented on the front lawn. One with a high-powered, high-wattage message sent worldwide: Reserved for brainy, motivated individuals with lofty goals, real grit and exemplary character. Where the students who pass hard muster will earn the high privilege to live upstairs on the Gerlinger Loft. Make it a House where Irene proudly flirts between campus and residence. Over Pioneer Cemetery. What’s 500 yards for a ghost of Irene’s vigor?

At the May 20 Board Meeting my bet is that if Ghost Gerlinger  –and a real human being known affectionately around here as “Uncle Phil” – if both were in attendance their message to the Board would be loud, simple and direct. Just Do It!

About oregonhibbs

I'm passionate about improving access to education, worldwide, sailing, Duck football (I live in the shadow of the University of Oregon in Eugene) and connecting with people with ideas and work that "can change the world". With this in mind, I am the "Skipper" for Global Learn Day, which you can find out more about at OREGONHIBBS.COM ; Write to

Posted on June 26, 2013, in Lighthouse Project, MOOC's Global Ed Conference. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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