Fall 1979 – Spring 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 radical idea. Three different hurricanes passed by the Tampa Bay area our first month. Thus, the birth of the 1st Floor Howell Hall “Hurricanes,” which became the foundation of the brotherhood in the fraternity’s early years.
First-year freshman curriculums filled our academic schedule, and in our off time, we played as many intramural sports as we could! We were “already a fraternity” in many ways. We hit the books hard, and had all the fun the campus police would allow! As we rang in 1980, and our second semester, Pink Floyd was #1 on the charts with the album, “The Wall,” and the United States Hockey team beat the Soviets in the Olympics for what is now called “The Miracle on Ice.”
That’s when we met Marty Rifkin and the guys from Delo Hall. They brought up the idea of starting a fraternity, and were already in discussion with some national organizations. After consulting with UT Administration, we decided to go with the strongest Greek alumni base in the Tampa Bay area, and settled on Sigma Alpha Epsilon by adopting 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.
Fall 1980 – Spring 1981: There’s a new fraternity on the block!
Sigma Alpha Epsilon arrives on campus, as a colony, and we were the new fraternity on campus! Many of the brothers moved towards leadership positions on campus, and 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! No wonder we did so well during rush!
In our first semester as a colony, community service & the Special Olympics Track & Field competition at USF was our first of many community service projects in store for us. The next semester, we topped that with an all night danceathon fundraiser called Super Dance USA.
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 a live band, and introduced our first “Air Guitar” Competition, a party standard at UT for years to follow. Sigma Alpha Epsilon gave back to the community again with supporting the Special Olympics bowling competition, and comes in 2nd Place in the Fraternity of the Year competition!
Fall 1981 – Spring 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 refurbishing throughout the University of Tampa. We repainted the crew house, the ΣAE house, and worked with the DZ’s to paint the pool area. If we weren’t at the library, the parking lot of the ΣAE house, or the UT pool, we were washing cars! We even made it on national television that year when Monday Night Football came to town. We strolled around Tampa Stadium with our hand-painted bed sheet with a shout out to fellow fraternity brother, Frank Gifford!
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 1982-83. We kick off our “Jack Daniels Birthday,” campus-wide party later in the year. We really didn’t know when Jack’s birthday was, but we celebrated it anyway! The “Air Guitar” Competition gave way to an “Air Band” competition, and our campus-wide parties would never be the same!
Fall 1982 – Spring 1983: It was a Thriller!
Michael Jackson releases “Thriller,” performs his first “moonwalk” on Motown 25, and has the highest-selling album of all time. 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 was born.
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 and celebrated into the evening with a live band, Sanctuary, and the house was rocking. Special guests included many brothers from the Florida Delta chapter at the University of South Florida, all the Province Nu Epsilon officers from the state of Florida, and numerous University of Tampa educators & administrators. Additional dignitaries included the 1982 National Eminent Supreme Archon of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Kenneth Tracey, and the keynote speaker of the evening, former Florida Governor, LeRoy Collins.
Moments In Time.
Life was changing. Our first years at UT was filled with epic historical moments, and significant cultural events.
1979: ESPN air’s their first broadcast, the Three Mile Island nuclear explosion redefines U.S. energy policy, and 66 American hostages are taken at the U.S. Embassy in Iran. The U.S.S.R. invades Afghanistan, Black & Decker releases the Dustbuster, and the new Sony Walkman cassette radio is a holiday best seller. Saddam Hussein takes over Presidency in Iraq. In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, James Tiberius Kirk boldly goes to the big screen. In Alien, Ellen Ripley re-defines the role of women as protagonist in the cinema and Apocalypse Now gives us Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore’s iconic phrase, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”
1980: The USA Olympic hockey team beats Russia in the The Miracle on Ice, during the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, President Jimmy Carter leads U.S.A. into the boycott of the Moscow Summer Olympics, and the rock world loses John Lennon, John Bonham, & Bon Scott. The Rubik’s Cube was a best seller, The Empire Strikes Back was the biggest movie, & the greatest golf movie of all time, Caddyshack, debuts and is still one of the most quoted movies in history. The Blues Brothers get the band back together to save the orphanage & in The Shining, Jack ad-libs the line “Heeeere’s Johnny” to make movie history. On television, everyone was asking “Who killed J.R.?”
1981: Ronald Reagan takes the oath of office, the 52 remaining from the Iran Hostage crisis are released after 444 days in captivity and an assassination attempt is made on the President 69 days later. The Royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diane is a world wide event, MTV begins airing 24/7 with Video Killed the Radio Star, and Sandra Day O’Conner became the first female U.S. Supreme Court Justice. 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: Michael Jackson takes the music world by storm, with Thriller, 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. 7 people died from poisoned Tylenol, John Belushi passed away, and E.T. has to “phone home.” Actor Dustin Hoffman dresses in drag in the movie, Tootsie and 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 became a new trend in fitness.
1983: U.S. troops invade Grenada, suicide bombers kill 241 U.S. marines in Beirut. Nintendo Entertainment Systems were big, as was break dancing & swatch watches. Apple introduces their famous “1984” ad campaign for MacIntosh, Microsoft Word debuts, and the computer mouse was invented. 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 blockbuster movie, Scarface, Tony Montana says the “F” word a record 182 times. Return of the Jedi is the biggest box office movie of the year.
Past Florida Chi Eminent Archons at the University of Tampa.
These men carried the “torch” of leadership in their undergraduate years to guide and direct the Florida Chi Chapter throughout our history. Each brother, elected by the chapter, 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