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University Advancement | November 2018  

 

Alumni association marks 60th anniversary

Rho Alpha Kappa

Rho Alpha Kappa, one of Ryerson’s original fraternities, celebrated 60 years recently with a reunion party. In this photo, we see some of the original members from 1966.

 

It was Canada’s only communications fraternity, and decades after it closed in 1972, the brothers of Rho Alpha Kappa still get together to reminisce and to pay it forward.

On October 20, the Rho Alpha Kappa Alumni Association (affectionately known as “Rho” to the brothers) hosted its 60th anniversary reunion at Ryerson’s Oakham House. It brought together alumni and friends from Radio and Television Arts (RTA), Journalism and Photographic Arts who attended Ryerson from 1958 to 1972. The original house at 88 Gould St. was their first frat house. It is now the site of the Rogers Communication Centre, where students from the same programs that Rho had recruited members from attend their classes today.

“I knew most of the members who attended the reunion,” says Joe Lewis, RTA ’63. “Some were from the founding group and others I met through working at different radio stations.”

Unlike some of the larger fraternities in Canada and the U.S., Rho didn’t own its own real estate, so the fraternity brothers lived in rented houses (seven in total), says brother Brian Bobbie, RTA ’71. Ten years after the fraternity disbanded the members formed an alumni association. Members would get together for the occasional party or golf game. “We had meetings, pub crawls, summer picnics on Centre Island,” says Bobbie. “But that sort of dwindled as we all launched our careers and had our families.” Then in the late 1990s, the group came back together for what they thought would be a final “hurrah.”

In 1998, a letter from the bank informed them that there was a balance of $150 still in the account. They decided to throw one last party. “About 50 people came out, and we all started to get nostalgic,” says Bobbie.

A desire to give something back and to commemorate the Rho Alpha Kappa name was born. The group decided to create a $500 student bursary.

“Raising money for an RTA student became the focus of us getting together,” says Lewis. “It’s the glue that keeps us going.”

For several years, the brothers hosted golf tournaments and curling bonspiels, and easily reached their $500 annual fundraising goal. With their membership aging, the idea of creating something more permanent became important. They approached Ryerson about creating an endowment. Through increased fundraising efforts, the group raised $50,000 (matched by a government grant of $50,000), and established an endowed fund administered by the university, which generates annual student awards in excess of $3,500.

The Rho Alpha Kappa Alumni Association Award is in its 19th year and is bestowed on second or third-year RTA School of Media students. To date, 31 students have received the award. Each have made a significant contribution to the RTA community at Ryerson.

And just as importantly, the members still value their connection to each other and to Ryerson. “There is still a core group of us here in the Toronto area,” says Bobbie. “My longest lasting friendships were made here at Ryerson. And we’re delighted to contribute not only dollars, but to the sense of community here through these student awards.”

For more information about giving to Ryerson, please visit the Ryerson Giving page.