House directors vital to greek home life

The directors assume many landlord duties, but also act as parents away from home.

Joy Petersen

As a father of five, grandfather of 12 and a former lumberjack, Marv Skogen, 67, is one tough cookie – but not like the ones he bakes for the men who live in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house on campus.

Skogen has been the house director there since 1999 and is the only greek house director on campus who still cooks for the house’s members.

“First, as far as maintenance that’s needed, I do an awful lot of it myself.” Skogen said. “Then, it’s to be here for the guys as, I suppose, a role model.”

House directors run the administrative end of every greek house on campus, much like a landlord. Twelve house directors, however, are live-ins – many during every day of the week, while others go away for the weekends.

The directors, who often stick with the job for years, sign on for various reasons – for example, it worked with their lifestyle while going to school or they like working with young adults.

The job includes house maintenance, hiring and firing house and kitchen staff and supervising events, said Karen Johnson, the house director at Alpha Omicron Pi sorority.

Johnson has lived in the Alpha Omicron Pi house for three years, after previously working at a hospital and having a family.

Johnson said she’s around for the members if they need her, but isn’t there to judge them.

“I’m not their mother, but I am here with a ready ear to listen,” Johnson said.

Stressing that the members of the sorority are “young women,” Johnson said she knows the opportunity for them to be leaders is important to their futures.

Johnson said the house has been quieter this year.

The members have seemed more studious than in the past, she said.

Marilyn Bumsted, the 63-year-old house director of Delta Gamma sorority, has been at the house for seven years.

Also the volunteer director at the Presbyterian Homes elderly care organization, Bumsted said the sorority has used her workplace for its philanthropy projects.

“I feel like I have it all,” Bumsted said. “I can learn a lot through the elderly and that’s what I always tell the young people, that they have so much to teach us. We need to take advantage of that because it’s going to be lost when they’re gone.”

Eleven of the live-in house directors are women – nine live in sororities and two live in fraternities – while Skogen is the only man currently taking on the job.

Skogen said the fraternity members often call him “dad” or “grandpa.”

“I even have guys that, when they introduce me to their parents, they say something like, ‘No offense, Dad, this is my dad away from home.’ And that’s kind of neat,” he said.

Mike Kenefick, president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, said “Marv” is more than an employee to the fraternity. The members even initiated him as an honorary member of the chapter.

“He really is our father figure,” Kenefick said. “His door is always open if we want to go sit down with him and talk Ö he’s pretty much willing to do anything for us, and asking very little in return.”

Skogen’s wife, Judy Skogen, is the former house director for Gamma Phi Beta sorority. They spent several years living in two different houses for most of the week.

Though their jobs required them to be apart, the Skogens still maintained a healthy relationship, Marv Skogen said.

“I’d like to think sometimes that Judy and I probably have better quality time together than a lot of people that live together 100 percent of the time, because we appreciate the time that we have together,” Marv Skogen said.

While the directors agreed they enjoy the job, Judy Skogen said occasionally she had to work through behavioral issues with some of the sorority members.

“Every so often when you’re dealing with human beings and so many different personalities and the way people have been brought up, there’s a lot of differences in that way,” she said. “But problems usually get ironed out, and I think it’s a good experience for them.”