The Last Word
Blue + Gold = Forever Green
This is a story of bad behavior, rebirth and redemption, Oswego style. It features improbable alumni: the Beta brothers, who in the 1960s were known mostly for outrageous behavior—a likely prospect when a brother was within sight of a beer keg, which was often. Their redemption is the first Greek-sponsored scholarship at Oswego: The Beta Tau Epsilon Scholarship, now endowed at $145,000, growing fast, and annually awarding up to $4,000 to an especially deserving Greek student.
The prelude to this remarkable contribution is littered with trouble. The mid-century brothers had fun, fun, fun, alternating between anxiety over landing on social probation (again), and the very behavior that caused concern. One year it was a party gone too far; the next, a repeat. Among the brothers were athletes, campus leaders and scholars; there was more there than toga parties, but that was definitely the image.
While skating this thin edge, an event in October 1966—a frat house fire—led to the end of Beta…everyone thought. Flames and smoke took almost everything (those precious class notes!). The brothers held a “Fire Sale!” party, helpful coeds laundered what could be saved, brothers living in apartments opened their doors, the Inter-Greek Council helped and fraternity events convened in local halls. By 1968 a new house was built; it needed 40 residents to cover the mortgage. They didn’t make it, the house was lost and the fraternity faded away. Beta was dead.
Meanwhile, brothers graduated and mostly became teachers, many for long careers. Others moved into law, public service, business and entrepreneurship—all the varied paths Oswego grads discover. They struggled, grew, prospered. Friends stayed in touch, got together, wondered how others were doing and bemoaned Beta’s demise.
Bemoaning isn’t the style of Jerry Esposito ’70. Reflecting on the influence of Oswego State and Beta in his life led him to the 2006 Reunion, where a large group of brothers gathered for a dinner organized by George Anderson ’65. The evening’s renewed sense of brotherhood inspired Espo and, with the help of Ken Klein ’67, Ken Garno ’67 and Les Flinn ’67, he found and linked 300 brothers. The now-reborn fraternity is active, regularly exchanging updates on reunions, other events, news and photos of brothers in BTE garb around the world.
Today, instead of a house, Beta has a scholarship. Sprung from a Mike Andolina ’67 idea, it became a mission to which Esposito has given his all since 2016. As he crafted and championed it, the scholarship seeks to ensure Beta Tau Epsilon lives on through its contribution to the college.
The $145,000 Beta endowment is one of the largest and fastest growing, and has served as a model for others. The Bad Boys of Beta are back, are giving back and are up for whatever party you might suggest.
—John Savage ’66
John Savage ’66, Ph.D., was an English major, a Buckland’s bartender and, amazingly, an Oswego Alumni Association Distinguished Alumnus in 1981. He lives in Bethesda, Md., with his wife, Shannon Rafferty Savage ’67.
Read a longer version of this column, L’Affaire Cookware.
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