Theta Nu Sigma was the first social fraternity founded at the College, so it seems fitting that the group’s tailgate party was one of Homecoming’s more spirited mini-events.
The architect of the boisterous affair, Ron Thomson ’72, explained that during the fraternity’s heyday it sponsored a host of social events on campus, and for years boasted a chorus and band known throughout the region. But by the 1970s, Theta Nu had become “sort of the antithesis of what every dean or administrator wanted on campus.” Partly because of this, and partly because of a changing social scene, Theta Nu “faded into the sunset” as an official college fraternity in 1980. “But we never lost our charter,” Thomson made certain to point out.
The brothers also never lost touch, and have been getting together ever since. Thomson said the fraternity has close to 200 “active” alumni, although attendance that day looked in the neighborhood of 80 to 100 brothers. Asked how that compared to previous Homecomings, Thomson said it was higher than usual and credited Mike Grecco ’64 for bringing many 1960s-era “old-timers” back.
“I called everyone I could get in touch with, and told them to call everyone they knew,” Grecco explained. “There are guys here who haven’t seen each other in decades, but within minutes of us talking it’s like we’re all 20 years old again.”
Sitting nearby was one of those 1960s-era alums, Skip Norcross ’63, who said he had driven up from his home in Clarksville, VA, the day before to see the 1963 football team be inducted into TCNJ’s Athletic Hall of Fame. That comment caught the ear of passerby Bill Bange ’63.
“I was on the 1959 football team, you know,” Bange interjected. Asked by this reporter what position he played, Bange replied, “guard,” then quickly added, “it’s an offensive position.”
“He was a very offensive person back then,” Norcross quipped.
“I was,” Bange laughingly agreed, then sat down beside his old friend. As it turned out the two hadn’t seen each other in years, but lending credence to what Grecco said about time slipping away when Theta Nu brothers are reunited, they were soon reminiscing about a July 1969 road-trip to Ocean City, MD—a trip that didn’t go quite as planned. “The astronauts made it back from the moon a lot faster than we made it home from Ocean City,” Norcross laughed, referring to the Apollo mission that coincided with his and Bange’s excursion.
Elsewhere in the crowd, Bill Lewis ’76 was reliving the “glory days” of Theta Nu’s flag football team. “We were the best! Other teams simply stopped showing up to play us,” Lewis proclaimed. Asked to share a favorite memory or two from his college years, Lewis recalled how the brothers used to decorate Allen Circle each Christmas—with decorations “acquired” from around town. (Despite such hijinks, the brothers all went on to enjoy successful careers Lewis was quick to point out.)
About then a photographer stopped by and attempted to assemble everyone for a group picture—a task akin to herding cats, someone suggested. Luckily Dick Fowler ’68 was there to offer assistance. “If you have hair, take your hat off! If you don’t, leave your hat on,” Fowler shouted to no one in particular. “If you still have two good knees, kneel down in front!”
When as many brothers as could be corralled had been, and the photographer started snapping away, someone launched into the fraternity’s song; within seconds nearly everyone was singing along. Truth be told: it wasn’t a performance likely to rival those given by the Theta Nu choirs of the 1930s through 1950s, but the incident helped illustrate something Thomson had said earlier in the day.
“Our organization might not have been around on campus for 30 years, but the brotherhood we share is permanent,” Thomson had explained. “You’ve heard of the ‘brotherhood of man?’ Well, there’s that and then there’s this: the brotherhood of Theta Nu.”