Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Animal House Prototype

Abe Lincoln e-mailed me last night. He told me that an old friend of ours died a few weeks ago. Abe had been doing a Google search looking for former classmates and happened upon the obituary.

Joseph "Bo" Scott, III

Joseph "Bo" Scott, III, 53 of Beaumont died Wednesday, February 28, 2007 at St. Elizabeth Hospital. Funeral service will be at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, March 10, 2007 at Mercy Funeral Home Chapel with burial at Greenlawn Cemetery under the direction of Mercy Funeral Home. Visitation will be from 9:00 a.m. until time of the service at the funeral home. He was a native and lifelong resident of Beaumont. He graduated from Charlton - Pollard High School in 1971, and retired from E. I. Dupont in 2006 with 30 years of service. He is survived by his wife of 17 years, Gloria Staves Scott...
What's missing is the fact that in 1972 Bo Scott plugged into a cosmic Doane College fraternity called Alpha Pi Epsilon or APEs. It was a shared journey that I can offer my own subjective view of.

The historical relic called "The Sixties" is loosely a period of time between 1964, the arrival of the Beatles and 1974 or so, the end of the Vietnam War. In those days, students were encouraged by federal and corporate policy to attend college out-of-state. It was inexpensive and it broadened the student.

For me and many others it was also an opportunity to leave home where family relations strained because of lifestyle and the war. When I evaluated colleges, I remember walking up to a map of the United States and pointing my finger to a fairly exact middle of the country, eastern Nebraska. I found Doane College and in 1970 arrived on campus along with lots of other east coast students as well as healthy contingents from Texas and California.

To our horror, one had to wear a sports jacket and tie to be served Sunday meals and no matter what social revolution might be happening in New York, Boston, and Berkeley, we were warned the police in the nearest city, Lincoln, would issue you a jay-walking ticket if you failed to cross at a cross-walk! No foolin'

I studied Education because I hated the way schools were run. I had been regimented into a college track since seventh grade, was forced to take certain courses and couldn't take courses I really wanted to, and so on. And I said so. And then I ran into Dr. Dudley, one of the heads of the Education Department who asked a simple question, "Who's stopping you from changing it?"

And I sputtered back, "Well, THEY are!"

"Who is they?"

Eventually, he won the argument. I never forgot it. It was electric in the breeze.

And so at Doane, Sunday meals soon became informal and lots of things changed because of the mix of students. One of the last bastions of stoic resistance remained the fraternity system, then almost exclusively a sports-centric enterprise.

In my freshman year, an unusual offer was being presented to a small social group that I belonged to at the time, "Will you guys join a dying fraternity that is largely a laughingstock of the campus?" Alan Fineburg was asking us to do something very scary at the time, sacrifice our self-esteem if we joined and failed to transform the fortunes of his -cough- fraternity.

We eventually said yes and within a meeting or two proposed changes so unpalatable to some of the existing members that they quit. The fraternity that was the laughingstock of the campus was now all ours! The word 'nerd' had not yet entered the vernacular of the American public but there we were.

We changed the name of the fraternity to Alpha Pi Epsilon to capitalize on the APE acronym and worked hard to turn this enterprise around (I'm glossing the details, but... hey). This is where Bo Scott enters the picture.

The next year we solicited new pledges and to our knowledge a black had never pledged to a Doane fraternity. There were a number of issues involved but aside from the obvious, many of the blacks on campus despite being social, largely organized themselves into a loose special interest group. Couple that with an offer to join the APEs (we were still NOBODY-I-KNOW) and Bo's choice must have been very difficult. I can well imagine him thinking, "Christ, I'm black which is no picnic to begin with and these idiots want me to become an APE!"

When I write here about transforming education, changing the world, or making some noise I speak with the memory that nobody stops us from making this world a better place. Nobody. Today Alpha Pi Epsilon is the most respected and popular fraternity on campus thanks to the generations who followed and continue to transform that piece of America.

Bo did join us and eventually served as our fraternity president (another first, maybe even nationwide). It took real courage on a number of levels as many of you know. He was one of the first to hear the call to do something new and different and bold.

Bo Scott in my mind occupied an archetype for the Mr. Bo Jangles musical character. Physically his arms and legs just naturally seemed to swing out in a devil-may-care gait that radiated internal peace and joy. And he was a party favorite - funny and a pleasure to share company with and a great friend.

When my days end I'll join Bo on the other side to party one more time. Today, I miss Bo Scott.

6 comments:

Abe said...

You definite remember things a little differently than I do from those days, Frank. :D We'll have to talk those over in detail on your next visit to Nebraska.

For the uninitiated, I'll note that Frank and I were in the same class, but I joined the Apes a year later. I was barely aware of the frats and sororities at all in my freshman year.

I didn't remember a "color line" in the "Greek" system per se. Looking now at the 1971 Tiger (our freshman year) I do see a few black faces in the pictures. The Dekes had one (Harold Clark). The Tau Sigs had one (Mel Adams), and the Siggies had one (Alfredo Mayers). The AO's had none (what a bunch of jerks), and phi delta/ape had none. The three sororities had one black woman among them.

So while that's not quite zero, I have to agree that you're not too far off.

Frank Krasicki said...

Abe,

Your research is better than my memory and it could be that I was simply unaware who pledged with who during our first year there but you don't need two hands to take a count.

Funny how timeless the concept of jerks is though ;-D

Abe said...

You really need to sign up for the frat email listservs: All the APE news you need, when you need it.

Doug H. said...

Frank -

Thanks for taking the time to remember your friend and also to write down some of the details of the beginning of Alpha Pi Epsilon. Having pledged in 1982 myself, the time that you write about already was more myth/legend than hard facts. I'm proud to be an APE and proud how the fraternity continues to evolve through out the years. The Actives throughout the years have done a great job in perserving the "unity through diversity" idea and being leaders, not followers on Doane's campus.

I look foward to getting to know more about you in the future and hope that you will consider joining the ATTE listserv's (there are 3 of them).

Doug Heller

PS - I did have the opportunity to met Abe during 30 Hours (ok, 22 Hours) a couple of weeks ago. I also look forward to expanding on that new friendship as well.

Zach said...

Frank,

It was amazing to read some insight into the early. My name is Zach Anderson, and I currently serve as President of the APEs. Abe pointed me to this blog, and I had to check it out. We are still working to increase diversity in our group as well as the entire Greek system. If you are ever in the area, the group would love to meet with you. Hope all is well.

Blessings,
Zach Anderson

Owner said...

Doug & Zach,

Thanks. Sign me up on listserv - you've got the email.

Abe and I are glossing a bit because this is a public forum but its an even more interesting time in retrospect.

First, frats and sororities were on the wane - it was the middle of the freakin' sixties so many close friends just said, "No thanks".

So, starting a new fraternity was just very unusual to begin with. BTW, Doane was not allowing any new fraternities which is largely why we had to use the cocoon of a pre-existing one to get started - there was no rule to change names and changing names infuriated the old guard which is why they quit - tada! -leaving a new fraternity in their wake.

But as Abe and I ponder this race question, it seems to me that asking some of those initial black pledges to tell their stories of those days might be a best-seller.

Abe, has Boo Baker been contacted - (I'm guessing you don't know but he was pretty close to Bo as I remember)?

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