1979 – 1980: The Year of the Hurricane.
We began our voyage in 1979 to becoming a fraternity as any other freshman class. We started on the first floor of the Howell Hall dormitory, back in the day when “co-ed by floor” was a radically new idea. Heavy rains & 2 hurricanes passed thru the Tampa Bay area our first month at UT. Thus, our intramural teams were called the “Hurricanes,” who were the foundation of the brotherhood in the fraternity’s early years.
First-year freshman curriculums filled our academic schedule with classwork, exams and library study sessions. In our off time, we played as many intramural sports as we could. As we rang in 1980, Pink Floyd was #1 on the charts with the album, “The Wall,” and the United States Hockey team beat the Soviets at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY for what is now called “The Miracle on Ice.”
We met Marty Rifkin and the guys from Delo Hall in the Spring of 1980. Marty brought up the idea of starting a fraternity, as Marty had already been in discussion with some national Greek organizations. After consulting with the UT administration, we decided to go with the strongest Greek alumni base in the Tampa Bay area by committing to Sigma Alpha Epsilon. We adopted the special interest letters of “Sigma Alpha Chi.” We were excited about being a special interest group, and couldn’t wait for the Fall Rush.
1980 – 1981: There’s a new fraternity at UT.
Sigma Alpha Epsilon arrives on campus, as a colony, and many of the brothers moved towards leadership positions on campus. Everyone was working to make sure we had the best pledge class. We met some fantastic ladies that wanted to be a part of our group, and our little sister program was born.
In our first semester as a colony, the Special Olympics Track & Field competition at USF was our first of many community service projects. The next semester, we topped that with an all-night danceathon fundraiser called Super Dance USA.
We even made it on national television that year when Monday Night Football came to town with a special “Thursday night edition.” We strolled around Tampa Stadium with our hand-painted bed sheet with a shout out to fellow fraternity brother, Fran Tarkenton (Georgia Beta ’61). You can see the sign prominently on the tv screen in the first two minutes of the game, as Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford, and brother Tarkenton did their pre-game analysis.
We return in the Spring to the University of Tampa by hosting the “Champagne Jam” campus wide party in the student union. This created quite the buzz on the campus with both a live band, and the introduction of our first “Air Guitar” Competition. Later that semester, Sigma Alpha Epsilon continued the tradition of public service with support of the Special Olympics bowling competition.
1981 – 1982: “I want my MTV.”
The term, “I want my MTV” could be heard everywhere, as 24 brothers were moving into a converted dorm/industrial arts building. This became the first Sigma Alpha Epsilon House on campus. The ΣAE house was in the center of campus, in between Howell & Delo Hall, and many a get-together were held in the ΣAE parking lot.
On-campus activity included quite a bit of fresh paint throughout the University of Tampa. We repainted the crew house, the ΣAE house, and worked with the DZ’s to paint the pool area. In between public service projects, in our off-time, we were at the UT pool, or washing cars at the local gas station on Kennedy Boulevard to raise money.
Once again, Fall Rush brings another strong pledge class, and the Sigma Alpha Epsilon national office tells us we are moving towards national chapter status in the fall of 1982. We kick off our “Jack Daniels Birthday,” campus-wide party later in the year, even though we didn’t know Jack’s birthdate. The “Air Guitar” gave way to an “Air Band” competition, and our campus-wide parties would never be the same.
To highlight the year, on November 28, 1981, the University of Tampa men’s soccer team beats Cal State – Los Angeles 1-0 in overtime to complete an undefeated (15-0-3) season to win the Spartan’s first ever NCAA Division II National Championship.
1982 – 1983: The year was a “Thriller.”
Michael Jackson debuts his first “moonwalk” on the Motown 25 awards banquet, and releases the album “Thriller,” which becomes the highest-selling album of all time. On television, M*A*S*H airs its last episode, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is dedicated in Washington D.C. On October 23, 1982, the Florida Chi Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Tampa became a nationally recognized chapter.
The National Officers of Sigma Alpha Epsilon conducted the installation service in the chapel located at Jesuit High School. The brothers from USF- Florida Delta Chapter provided the chorus for the entire service. The ceremony was flawless.
That evening, we had a big party for all the local alumni at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Tampa. We sang fraternity songs into the evening, enjoyed our favorite local live band, Sanctuary, and celebrated with special guests. Notable attendees included the brothers from the Florida Delta chapter at the University of South Florida, the Florida Province Nu Epsilon officers, and numerous University of Tampa educators & administrators. Dignitaries included Kenneth Tracey, the 1982 National Eminent Supreme Archon of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and LeRoy Collins, the former Governor for the state of Florida.
Moments In Time.
Our first years at UT were filled with key historical events, & unique cultural moments.
1979: ESPN launches first 24-hour sports network, Wayne Gretzky begins rookie year in the NHL, the Three Mile Island nuclear accident changes U.S.energy policy, & 66 American hostages are taken at the U.S. Embassy in Iran. The U.S.S.R. invades Afghanistan, & Saddam Hussein solidifies Iraq Presidency by murdering hundreds. Space Invaders, the Dustbuster & the Sony Walkman cassette radio were best sellers. In the cinema, James Tiberius Kirk boldly goes to the big screen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Ellen Ripley re-defines the role of women as protagonist in Alien, & Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore gives us the iconic phrase, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” in Apocalypse Now.
1980: Mount St. Helens is worst volcanic eruption in U.S. history, and the Mariel boatlift brings over 150K Cubans & Hatians to U.S. shores. President Jimmy Carter orders both the failed U.S. hostage rescue mission and the U.S.A. boycott of the Moscow Summer Olympics. The music world loses John Lennon, John Bonham, & Bon Scott, 19-year-old comic Eddie Murphy debuts on Saturday Night Live and the Rubik’s Cube was a best seller. The Empire Strikes Back was the #1 box-office movie, and The Blues Brothers get the band back together to save the orphanage. Jack Nicholson ad-libs the line “Heeeere’s Johnny” in The Shining & on TV, everyone asked “Who killed J.R.?”
1981: Ronald Reagan takes the oath of office as 40th U.S. President, the 52 remaining from the Iran Hostage crisis are released after 444 days in captivity and an assassination attempt is made on President Reagan 2 months later. The Royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana is a world wide event, Luke & Laura get married on General Hospital, MTV begins airing 24/7 by broadcasting Video Killed the Radio Star, & Sandra Day O’Conner became the first female U.S. Supreme Court Justice. The first space shuttle, Columbia, is launched, video game mania is rampant, and in the #1 movie of the year, Raiders of Lost Ark, we find out that Indiana Jones hates snakes.
1982: “Late Night with David Letterman” debuts on NBC, two new computer companies, EA (Electronic Arts) & Adobe were founded, and the Commodore 64 becomes the best selling home computer in history. Prince William is born, Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland, is open to the public, & USA Today publishes their inaugural issue. Seven people died from poisoned Tylenol in Chicago, John Belushi passed away, and E.T. has to “phone home.” Harrison Ford learns to love a replicant in Blade Runner, everyone was playing Ms. Pacman, Asteroids, or Missle Command, and Jane Fonda’s exercise tape was a new trend in fitness.
1983: U.S. troops invade Grenada, & suicide bombers kill 241 U.S. marines in Beirut. Nintendo, break dancing & swatch watches were popular. Apple introduces their famous “1984” ad campaign for MacIntosh, Microsoft Word debuts, and the computer mouse was invented. The DeLorean Motor Company goes bankrupt after only 2 years, Sally Ride became the first woman in space, and Michael Jackson has three singles reach #1 on Billboard music charts. Tom Cruise hits the big time with an “Old Time Rock & Roll” lip synch rendition in Risky Business, and in the movie, Scarface, Tony Montana says the “F” word a cinematic record of 182 times.
Past Florida Chi Eminent Archons at the University of Tampa.
These men carried the “torch” of leadership to guide and direct the Florida Chi Chapter throughout our history. Each brother took time out of a busy academic schedule to take on the task of responsible leadership and chapter management. Phi Alpha to each of you!
- Marty Rifkin
- John Lowth
- John Dobbie
- Jack Nash
- Bill Fountain
- Al Dally
- Frank Silcox
- Rob Madden
- Phil Hilgert
- John Lowe
- Paul Dolan
- Mark Leone
- Ray Young
- Joe Miller