U fraternity brothers welcome New Orleans student transfers

The Tulane University students are part of Delta Kappa Epsilon, which has a local chapter.

Kevin McCahill

At dinnertime on a sunny Monday at the Delta Kappa Epsilon house, two students walked up the stairs at a relaxed pace.

Looking like any other two students, wearing Ray-Ban sunglasses and University T-shirts, their calm demeanor is offsetting, considering everything that has befallen these two this September.

The students, eager to eat dinner, are political economy sophomore Phil Sweeney and business management sophomore Steve Foley, of Tulane University in New Orleans.

At least they were – until Hurricane Katrina bulldozed through Louisiana and Mississippi, destroying levees, homes and lives in the process.

Now Sweeney and Foley, along with Robert Lewis, an undeclared sophomore, are living in Centennial Hall, far from their families and most comforts of home.

There is one thing at the University of Minnesota that is just like they remember back home: their brothers at Delta Kappa Epsilon.

The Tulane students are part of the fraternity, which has a chapter at the University of Minnesota.

According to chapter president Dave Jennings, a theater senior, when the fraternity heard there were brothers in need, there was no hesitation.

“Everybody said, What can we do (to help)?” he said.

Within days they made arrangements for the students to attend classes at the University, where their tuition has been waived. Though they had only what was on their backs, their needs have been provided for by the University and especially by the fraternity, known as Deke.

“There is the fraternal tie,” Jennings said. “No matter what, you can go to another Deke chapter and be accepted.”

The Tulane students are grateful for that.

“These guys are excellent to us,” Sweeney said. “And these are guys we just met.”

Because of their laid-back nature and same fraternal knowledge of generosity and friendliness, adding three new members to the house wasn’t difficult, fraternity member said.

“They fit in so well, even though they’re from 2,000 miles away,” said architecture junior Matt Mountain, also a Deke member.

The Tulane students have helped their brothers by working on preparations for homecoming. The amount of spectacle that goes into homecoming at the University amazed the new members.

“It’s more organized,” Foley said. “We don’t do (homecoming) this big.”

Sweeney, who joined the fraternity last spring, said he has learned a lot about its sense of community.

“This is my first experience in the Deke network,” he said. “And no matter what, a Deke will take care of a Deke.”

Of course the students are constantly thinking about their family back home. Both said their family and friends are safe, and their homes received minimal damage, but the first floors of all University buildings were flooded.

They also noted that weather reports say another storm is headed in the direction of the Gulf of Mexico.

Still they keep a positive outlook. Both students, who said they believe they will be back at Tulane this spring, are enjoying the time spent with their new friends, now truly their brothers.