Published: April 22, 2024

Theta Chi Fraternity proudly recognizes the first anniversary of the reinstallation of Gamma Sigma Chapter in Durham, NC, on April 22, 2023, after a 19-year absence. The chapter was reinstalled with 68 Rechartering Members.

The Rechartering Members included the following men who are students attending Duke University: Pranav Bajpai (2023), Chase Barclay (2024), J.D. Blitch (2025), Carson Carranza (2025), Kyle Coaker (2025), Michael Cui (2025), Jack Davis (2025), Brendan Elliott (2025), Rex Evans (2025), Graham Fay (2024), Aidan Fetterly (2023), Davis Finfrock (2023), James Gao (2024), Eli Gertler (2023), Jacob Green (2023), Sawyer Grovogel (2024), Brayden Hand (2025), Pierce Hemphill (2026), Ayush Jain (2025), Sami Jinich (2025), Evan Katz (2025), Evan Kiffel (2026), Miles King (2024), Jonathan Levitan (2024), Ryan Lou (2024), Afraaz Malick (2026), Justin Mandel (2025), Justin Mashaal (2025), Aidan McCurry (2023), Connor McDermott (2024), Luke McSween (2024), David Mellgard (2023), Jacob Miller (2024), Will Neuner (2025), Matt Nuzzulo (2025), Sebastian Ochoa (2023), JJ Peters (2023), Nikhil Peterson (2023), Jackson Peurach (2024), Ben Platz (2025), Raffay Rana (2023), Forest Rudd (2026), Vihaan Saharia (2026), Aditya Sardesai (2024), Misha Schiever (2025), Benji Schussheim (2024), Philippe Schwob (2023), Jake Spruance (2023), Mick Tobin (2025), Jeremy Yarden (2024), and Jeffrey Zhang (2023).

Additional Rechartering Members were unable to be present for the Reinstallation Ceremony. Daniel Billings (2023), Garret Goodman (2023), George Grune (2024), Graham Gumbert (2025), David Gust (2024), Ethan Ho (2023), Jacob Hochstein (2024), Chase Johnson (2024), Christopher Kang (2026), Alex Katopodisn (2025), Matthew Lee (2024), Tomas Leonardo (2023), Justin Lorenz (2023), George Nathaniel (2025), Affan Naushahi (2025), Brooks Robinson (2024), and Tejas Srinivasan (2023) were initiated by Gamma Sigma Chapter at a later date.

The colony/chapter advisory board consisted of Al Calarco (Eta Pi/Stroudsburg 1978), John Adams (Epsilon/WPI 1992), and Sam Prestipino (Iota Alpha/UNC-Wilmington 2002)

The Gamma Sigma Colony’s efforts to revive the inactive chapter began well before Theta Chi Headquarters staff arrived on campus and, in some ways, is a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. After the pandemic disrupted student organizations and different facets of Greek life, a group of sophomore men studying at Duke University returned to campus in fall 2020 and wanted to not only renew their pre-COVID bonds but establish an entirely new brotherhood. Jacob Hochstein (2024) took the first step in reaching out to Theta Chi and beginning initial discussions about the possibility of affiliation.

Meanwhile, major changes for Greek life at Duke University were announced in November 2020 as part of the university’s ‘Next Generation Living Learning 2.0’ initiative. Duke stipulated that recruitment for freshman (who were ineligible to join fraternities until their spring semester) would be delayed to their sophomore year and that only juniors and seniors would be able to live in Duke’s selective living sections beginning in fall 2021. Fraternities believed the changes would cause quite a few challenges. Delaying an individual’s ability to join a fraternity until their sophomore year, especially when no similar restriction is in place for any other university organization or athletic team, is particularly troubling and a violation of the freedom of association. As a result, nine of Duke’s men’s inter/national fraternities disaffiliated with the university and formed the Durham Interfraternity Council. The men were soon joined by another group of students when all of Duke’s National Panhellenic Conference sororities disaffiliated and formed the Durham Panhellenic Council. 

During the spring semester of 2022, Chief Operating Officer Ray Vanlanot and then-Sr. Director of Growth Zack Brown came for a campus tour and to meet with some of the interested members to determine their intent and viability to become a colony. Later that day, Zack Brown and Past International Vice President Al Calarco spoke with the interest group for the first time. The meeting was productive, and the interest group left with a good understanding of what Theta Chi is about, including Theta Chi’s rich history in Durham, NC. Many members of the group discovered the parents of their friends are Theta Chi brothers from Gamma Sigma Chapter. Amusingly, some members of the group misunderstood the purpose of the meeting, thinking that they were automatically becoming Theta Chi members during the meeting, which led to some confusion and fun conversations with Theta Chi leadership down the line. Thanks to Jacob Hochstein and the effort he put into contacting Theta Chi International Headquarters, the interest group's newly elected officers met with Growth Specialists Sam Terry and Justin Guseman over Zoom several times during summer 2022. Hitting the ground running in the fall of 2022, the group was ready for recruitment after Sam and Justin met with everyone from the interest group. Through September 2022, the men signed bids and put in their petition to become a colony of Theta Chi Fraternity.

After a few weeks of waiting (and thinking they may have done something wrong), the interest group was approved by the Grand Chapter to recolonize as the Gamma Sigma Colony of Theta Chi on October 22, 2022. The ceremony was held at the Masonic Lodge in Chapel Hill, NC. Alumni from all over the area came to visit and meet the colony, including International Secretary Al Copeland, then-Senior Director of Growth Zack Brown, and Growth Specialists Sam Terry and Justin Guseman. The Colony Advisory Board members Al Calarco, Corey Esquenazi, Sam Prestipino, and John Adams also attended. With Connor McDermott as President and Evan Katz as Vice President, things were looking good for Gamma Sigma Colony. Throughout the rest of the semester, the new colony continued to recruit, bringing in more men who weren't part of the original interest group. Based on feedback from Sam and Justin, the colony’s officers set forward with the goal of being one of the largest colonies ever to be installed.

The men kept up with their best efforts to make their new presence known to fellow Duke students, even when the university made those efforts particularly challenging. For the next month, they continued to host Thursday Night Football watch parties, tailgates on Saturdays, their big philanthropy event for the USO, and kept in touch with their Colony Advisory Board for advice. Throughout the semester, and especially prior to finals and winter break, the scholastically talented and incredibly academically oriented members of Gamma Sigma Colony found time to study and work together on their various classroom projects.

Over winter break the Recruitment Committee put together a great plan for Durham IFC’s rush and it was something everyone was looking forward to at the start of the new semester. Before the semester started, for the first time ever, Gamma Sigma Colony sent four of their eager new officers to Theta Chi’s officer training conferences in January 2023 in Indianapolis. It was truly an eye-opening event for all involved. Connor McDermott (2024) spoke with other Presidents and learned how to properly run meetings and be in charge, JD Blitch (2025) learned more about the Sacred Purpose initiative and how to lead in an engaging and safe manner, Jeremy Yarden (2024) heard from other Recruitment Chairmen about tips and best ways to recruit, and Brayden Hand (2024) learned how to bring new pledges into a safe, welcoming environment with zero tolerance for hazing and properly instill the ideals of Theta Chi. 

Following the January Conferences, the officers returned to campus with renewed focus and vision. At the beginning of the spring semester, they had nine members who returned from study abroad, participated in Durham IFC rush, and pledged eight new members during formal rush, and another 3 men in the weeks that followed. Despite the precedent set on campus to only recruit during the formal rush period in the spring, Gamma Sigma Colony committed to change and open recruitment throughout the entire school year and held their own independent formal rush during both semesters.

Gamma Sigma Colony demonstrated in a very short time that they not only were deserving of recolonization by merit, but also by their commitment to excellence and by the hard work of its members. A petition for reinstallation was prepared and approved by the Grand Chapter. 

Gamma Sigma Chapter was reinstalled on an overcast and rainy Saturday, on April 22, 2023, at 5 p.m. EDT at University Masonic Lodge #408 in Chapel Hill, NC. During the ceremony, many brothers of diverse nationalities were initiated into the Fraternity. Men stated their hometowns and many locales named were not based in the United States, displaying the international nature of the new Gamma Sigma Chapter.

Notable attendees included International President Creig Andreasen, International Secretary Alan Copeland, International Counselor Rich Santoriello, Past International Vice President Al Calarco (Eta Pi/East Stroudsburg 1978), Chief Communications Officer Ben Hill (Eta Kappa/James Madison 2002), Former LEC and Current Director of Health & Safety Corey Esquenazi (Iota Theta/Central Florida 2011), then-Sr. Director of Growth Zack Brown (Eta Beta/Eastern Kentucky 2004), then-Growth Specialist Sam Terry (Kappa Gamma/North Florida 2023), then-Growth Specialist Justin Guseman (Beta Alpha/UCLA 2022), and former Growth Specialist Dylan Inman (Delta Rho/NC State 2022).

Additional attendees included Delta Rho/NC State alumni: Ken Updegrave (1990), Irving "Smokey" Hay (1979), Salim Koroma (2023), and then-collegian Eric Rys (2023), who is currently serving Theta Chi International Headquarters as a Growth Specialist.

Following the ceremony, general remarks were made by International President Creig Andreasen, International Secretary Al Copeland, International Counselor Rich Santoriello, and then-Sr. Director of Growth Zack Brown.

Chapter President Connor McDermott (2024) spoke about Gamma Sigma's tenacity and hard work as a colony and their goals and ambitions moving forward into the coming year.

Chief Communications Officer and Rattle Editor Ben Hill spoke about former Executive Director, Rattle Editor, and Gamma Sigma alumnus, the late Dale Slivinske (1968) and about his experiences with Gamma Sigma Chapter during his travels on the road for the Fraternity. In a surprising turn of events that highlights the cyclical nature of our human experience, in 2004 when Gamma Sigma originally closed, the then-Chapter President carried the charter to Ben Hill’s car while he was serving as a Leadership and Education Consultant; in 2023, when the chapter was reborn, Ben readily placed the charter in the Chapter President’s car.

“When I stepped into the role of Colony President, I was honestly unsure what I was getting myself into. I had an immense love for our interest group, colony, and now chapter. I wanted us to thrive but never had any real experience leading something besides a sports club in high school. I think the last thing ‘freshman-year-me’ would expect of ‘junior-year-me’ was to be leading a group of 67 men that were still growing. Regardless of what I expected for myself, being President for the Gamma Sigma Colony/Chapter of Theta Chi had an immense impact on my life and my ability to lead a group. I now know what it means to be the face of an organization and what it means to lead.” – Rechartering President Connor McDermott (2024)

“I was really impressed by this group’s entrepreneurial mindset when it came to starting a chapter on their campus. They truly did their research to find a fraternity like Theta Chi that resonated with them that I thought was admirable. We have a ton of history with Gamma Sigma and their campus, and these guys being able to bring back that chapter is a great stride for the Fraternity, and we’ll have a lot of successful and loyal alumni from this group for many years to come.” – Former Sr. Director of Growth Zack Brown

You can follow Gamma Sigma Chapter’s current exploits here.