Purdue Sigs $7.4 Million House Renovation

In 2007 the Delta Delta Chapter of Sigma Chi at Purdue University completed a remarkable $7.4 million dollar renovation of their House. It is a grand achievement especially given the sad landscape of “frats” around the country. There are several lessons to be drawn from it to include the fact that the long-time Oregon Sigma Chi Chapter Advisor, Clarke McAlister, is a Purdue graduate.

Lesson Number One is nicely stated on Delta Delta’s web site:


“We should use this effort as a platform to build tomorrow’s leaders just as George Ade, et al., did 100 years ago” remarked Bruce Herreld ‘72, Campaign Co-Chairman, as Delta Delta launched the most ambitious fraternity building campaign on record.”

Lesson Number Two: Isn’t it way past-time to replace what Bob Warr said of the “new” House:  “An Old Folks Home for the Dreadfully Poor.” That House, at 1440 E. 19th, is now 53 years old – almost ten years older than was the gem (@*808 E. 13th) we tore down in 1963.  How much has been saved during that 53 years for replacement purposes? And if that amount is tiny, or non-existent, shouldn’t there be some hard questions about just how “profitable” it has been during all these years?  If this “Old Folks Home” has not by now been “fully depreciated” and/or is not physically comparable, or better, than all the other Houses @Oregon, shouldn’t we be asking:  Why not?

Lesson Number Three, I say, is that the great bulk of the renovation (preferably of a House we can purchase) – (or, if necessary, building a new one from scratch) – either way these funds should not come from the Alumni. We live in the Age of the “sharing economy” and “crowd-funding” — both of which have opened brand-new opportunities that were barely on the Horizon when Delta Delta started its funding campaign. I touch on this in my post How To Monetize Everything!

What this requires is brand new thinking, brilliantly captured by Jeremy Rifkin in many of his 20 odd books, but particularly in his latest:  The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism.

This is an intensely complicated subject – in its own way not unlike “proprietary trading” by the Wall Street gurus. Getting into the weeds of it, here, is not helpful. {Easier reading is what the NY Times has to say. click here }

But if head-scratching on a serious subject is your weakness, the questions and comments that follow will be like red meat to a lion.

  • There are three very nice Oregon fraternity houses owned by investors that are rented to “frats” at barely marginal rates. The owners do this on the belief that one day the property will be worth more as a conventional apartment building than as a frat. (A sad reminder of this same thinking is the destruction of the Sigma Chi House in 1963.  Seen through the lens of U.S. Bank, that property was worth to the bank far more as  a conduit into lifetime relationships with up-and-coming collegians than it was to “us” 0 an old brick building in need of big repairs. {Ha!} Since then, even though banks are routinely located in supermarkets, as is Starbucks, what Fraternity has a Model that blends the residential, aspirational, intellectual and brotherhood needs of a Fraternity with the commercial/social needs of a profit-making enterprise? And/or a like-minded not-for-profit Foundation?
  • Keep in mind all these Houses were built to provide exceptional experiences of lifetime value for those who sleep inside. What  reason is there NOT  to optimize revenues for use by Youth Organizations — not just to sleep kids there in the summer – but for use all year-long for (national) recruiting, training and marketing purposes?  (Hint: Youth Build. Hint: Jordan Skill Camps.) {Hint: Naming rights on every sports stadium in the country.)
  • Intellectual stimulus is why kids come to college. What for-profit entities in the “intellectual” arena would have strategic interests similar to our own? Who needs a well-managed, favorably-viewed   entry vehicle to the 800 (plus) college campuses where more than 5,000 Houses operate at the margins. Houses with revenues that barely pay the rent? Where frat rat behavior is more toward beer bongs and frat parties. Can’t we do better than this?

Blazing new trails using new tools and new technology is always very, very hard: (sail to steam); (buggy to auto); (bi-plane to rocket ship). But if we want to be relevant to the needs of all who will sleep in our House(s) in the next 50 years is it not way past time “to rise with the occasion…we must think anew, act anew“.

Hard stuff. No doubt about that.


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 bfranklin.edu.

Posted on June 15, 2014, in Flipped Fraternities & Restoration. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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