More than 150 members of Knox’s Phi Gamma Delta chapter and their guests gathered in Galesburg April 7 and 8 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the fraternity’s founding at the college. The Gamma Deuteron chapter of Phi Gamma Delta was first established at Knox on April 5, 1867, and since then nearly 1,700 Knox men have been initiated into the chapter.
A total of 112 Gamma Deuteron chapter alumni from 24 states and the District of Columbia made the trek to Galesburg for a full weekend of friendship, food and fun. Another 28 undergraduate members and a pledge class of 12 added up to 152 Fijis and Fijis-to-be attending all or some of the weekend’s events.
Thirty-four golfers and four members of the “rules committee” participated in a round of golf at Soangetaha Country Club on Friday afternoon. On Friday night, the Fijis took over Budde’s Pizza on E. Main Street for a party sponsored by Galesburg mayor John Pritchard '78, where members and their wives and guests enjoyed gourmet pizza and live music by Bits & Pieces, a six-piece blues/rock band featuring Les Hunter '77 on keyboards and vocals.
Dozens of Phi Gams participated in two community service projects on Saturday morning, a cleanup at Hope Cemetery near the Knox campus and assisting the City of Galesburg with cleanup and preparation for a Sunday Easter egg hunt at Lake Storey on the north side of town.
The Knox library staff assembled a small exhibit of Fiji items from the college archives in Seymour Library and the Knox Alumni Office erected a tent on the lawn next to the Fiji house at 218 S. Cedar St. – the oldest fraternity house in the state of Illinois – where a reception and picnic began at noon on Saturday. The undergraduates grilled 120 pounds of the famed “Chicken Toriumi” for nearly 200 in attendance, including Knox faculty, staff and invited students.
Members left their mark on the chapter by carving their names in the 150th Anniversary table, continuing a Knox Fiji tradition that began a century ago. The new 30-by-60-inch table, constructed of 150-year-old reclaimed local barn wood by a Galesburg furniture maker, joins two other, similarly-sized tables that are covered with the carvings of the names of hundreds of Gamma Deuteron members, a few dating to the 19th century. By the end of the picnic, the new table had very little uncarved space remaining.
A members- and pledges-only “Pig Dinner” banquet in Soangetaha’s grand ballroom completed a memorable weekend on Saturday evening, culminating in a keynote address by William A. “Bill” Martin, longtime executive director of Phi Gamma Delta. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner sent a congratulatory letter and Mayor Pritchard read a proclamation designating April 8 as “Gamma Deuteron of Phi Gamma Delta Day” in the city. Knox President Teresa Amott also recorded a congratulatory video that was well-appreciated by banquet attendees.
Master of Ceremonies and 150th Anniversary committee chairman David Brackman '81 surprised the gathering by unveiling the refurbished, one-of-a-kind “illuminated badge,” a handmade, 150-times-larger-than-normal-size, lighted wood and leather replica of a Fiji pin that dates back 60 or 70 years and which was once used at chapter meetings, but was discovered buried (with the lights not working) in the chapter archives before it was rescued and restored. Its restoration was financed solely by graduate members who were unable to attend the reunion weekend.
Another surprise highlight of the banquet was the presentation to the chapter of an antique Phi Gam pin that originally belonged to Wilberforce H. Young 1894. The unique Young pin, which is elaborately encrusted in diamonds and pearls and includes a bejeweled stickpin attached by a thin gold chain, was a gift to the chapter from the family of Paul Brauer '78, a member of the 150th Anniversary committee who died in 2015. The Young pin replaces a similar pin donated to the chapter in 1897 by the mother of George P. Brown 1888, after his death. The chapter owned the Brown pin for about a century before it was lost or stolen in the mid-1990s.
The largest Knox Fiji reunion in history concluded with a medley of Fiji songs, including “I Would Rather Be a Fiji” and the rousing chapter favorite, “By the Augustana Sea,” requested by the oldest graduate in attendance, Ron Pearson '54.