Greek society honors late members

Campus chapters have their own way of honoring past members.

by Samantha Alisankus

Last spring, members of the University of Minnesota’s Delta Chi chapter named Christopher Lifgren “Brother of the Month,” an honor reserved for a current member who has gone above and beyond.

Lifgren, then 37, received this from fraternity representatives at Regions Hospital in the midst of a six-month battle with leukemia. 

The Delta Chi alumnus died shortly after, but on Sunday, members carried his spirit into their third-annual five-kilometer fundraiser for the V Foundation for Cancer Research. This year, the event was held in his honor.

Like Delta Chi, many chapters on campus have unique ways of honoring their late members.

The University’s chapter of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, for example, has two memorials on campus.

One of them is the chapter’s four-foot, brick entryway sign, which was donated by alumni in memory of two former members who died in car accidents. A plaque is affixed to the sign with the names of the deceased members, Christopher Shimota and Thomas Knudson.

The second memorial, which is only ever seen by Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity members, can be found in the chapter house’s formal meeting room.

According to Royce Durhman,  Alpha Gamma Rho’s chapter president, the “sacred” room features a portrait honoring Douglas Siem, who was an active member when he died in the early 2000s. Along with his portrait hangs an intramural baseball jersey with the number 17, a number the chapter has since retired.

“No one in the house uses that jersey anymore … in honor of him,” said Durhman.

Sigma Chi recently dedicated one of its two houses in honor of former member Bronko Nagurski, who died in 1990, according to Matt Levine, program director for the Office for Fraternity and Sorority Life. Nagurski played football for the University from 1927-29.

Some Greek organizations don’t have memorial sites on chapter property but recognize their deceased members in other ways.

For instance, Taylor Eastman, chapter president of Kappa Kappa Gamma, said a formal service is administered at national headquarter meetings once every two years.

Mikey Spencer, vice president of Delta Chi, said that the memorials, “more than anything,” build awareness. “It gets people asking.”

He said this extends the brotherhood and sisterhood of greek organizations far beyond the years spent in college.

Although Lifgren passed away well after he was at the University, Peggy Bell, a 5K participant and the mother of a current Delta Chi member, said she wasn’t surprised that the organization reached out to honor him.

“That’s what’s unique about being in a fraternity,” she said. “You make these connections that last alifetime.”