6 min read

This Colony Was On Its Last Leg Until a Football Team Swooped In and Saved It

Photos courtesy of Chris Renda
Nick Lavery was one of the first men to sign on to the colony at McDaniel College.

The numbers were low and the possibility of chartering seemed to be going out the window. That was a year ago, and that was the reality at McDaniel College in Maryland. Just eight guys had joined the colony in Spring 2017.

Nick Lavery was one of the first to sign on. The elementary education major never saw himself going Greek, he said. But then he learned more about Lambda Chi Alpha and how different it is compared to other international fraternities.

“I was very conflicted because I never, at the time, saw myself going Greek,” Lavery said. “But one day, my friend Kyle who is now our educator said, ‘Hey, I’m going to hang with these guys. Do you want to come?’ So I went along and I met a group of guys who I (would eventually) call my brothers. Immediately, I felt a bond being formed and I could see the bonds that had already been formed. So long story short, half a semester later I was initiated and I never looked back.”

For awhile though, it was an uphill battle for Lavery and the handful of guys alongside him.

What they didn’t know at the time was that eventually — and literally overnight — the number of guys in the colony would jump to 40 thanks to McDaniel’s football team.

Chris Renda, one of the football players, had this idea of bringing a new fraternity to campus, and several of his teammates were on board. That was until Greek Life Coordinator Paige Cook told them it wasn’t likely. But, she said last fall, there is a two-year-old Lambda Chi Alpha colony on campus with just 12 members. Before long, they saw it as an opportunity to be Founding Fathers of an already prestigious organization.

“I couldn’t contain my excitement at the thought of changing the trajectory of this colony and leading it to new heights with a real chance of impacting our college community in a positive way,” the sophomore English and special education major said. “So I talked individually with each man in my group of fraternity-starting hopefuls and explained to them the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity this presented for us. With the blessings of the existing members, and helpful insight from a surprised (Recruitment Specialist) Brett Turner, who was just making a semesterly visit, I brought in all of my men and added 26 members to a colony of 12.

Doubling the size of the colony was not and is not something I take lightly,” Renda continued. “I give all the credit to God for aligning everything in the right place at the right time.”

Their drive to be different is what helps them stand out, he said. They had no desire to be a part of a “partying frat,” as Renda called it. They desperately wanted to contribute something worthwhile to their campus and community, and they found an opportunity to do that in Lambda Chi.

“We started this movement to change the culture of Greek Life here at McDaniel,” he said. “Bringing other fraternities and sororities closer, and creating an exciting and spontaneous atmosphere that incoming freshmen can feel when they walk around campus.”

High Alpha Chris Renda

Renda wasn’t involved in anything in high school. But when he got to college, he wanted to change that. So he sought a way to make a difference.

“Lambda Chi Alpha has given me this amazing opportunity to be the leader of some of the most high-quality men I know in my life, and has provided a means to put all of us in the best place for success in and out of college,” he said. “I could not have accomplished anything without these guys following me and trusting in what we were going to create together.”

Renda, who is now the High Alpha, says the men will work tirelessly over the summer to establish a firm foundation on which to grow. In the coming year, they are looking forward to getting fully chartered as a Lambda Chi Alpha chapter, holding their first annual Watermelon Bust, and developing numerous fundraisers and events to not only celebrate their newfound brotherhood, but also do their part to provide food for Feeding America, the fraternity’s national philanthropy, and assistance to other charitable organizations within their community.

“From here, we all want to believe the sky is the limit. We have an all-around ‘Why not us?’ mentality at our McDaniel colony, and (we are) blessed to have the ambition to go along with the aspirations we have,” Renda said. “A machine is only worth the sum of its parts, and I firmly believe we have some very good parts here at McDaniel.”

Turner couldn’t agree more.

“It was clear to me that these men were passionate about making a difference on campus, and had aspirations to become the strongest fraternity at McDaniel,” he said. “Since my last visit, I have been able to remain in touch with the men, and am proud of what they have accomplished so far.”

The colony was struggling. Recruitment had been a challenge for them, and they were not seeing much growth, Turner said. Lambda Chi Alpha allows colonies two years to meet their chartering requirements and send in a petition to the Grand High Zeta. The colony was on their last semester and still had a lot of work to do if they were going to be approved to charter. When the interest group led by Renda came on board, it boosted the morale of the entire colony and pushed them closer to reaching that goal.

“The colony’s first priority should be completing all of their chartering standards and submitting a petition to the Grand High Zeta,” Turner said. “With the increase in membership and boost in morale, the colony should expect to see success in meeting their standards. The colony has high hopes for the impact that they can have on their campus, and I have no doubt they will meet their goals and become the top performing fraternity at McDaniel.”

The guys are already aware of the power fraternity, and specifically Lambda Chi Alpha, can have on their lives. It has already changed Tyler Payton’s.

Tyler Payton (left) is one of 26 guys on McDaniel’s football team who recently joined Lambda Chi Alpha, pushing the colony one step closer to chartering.

“I was planning on transferring, completely uprooting myself, and drastically changing my life,” Payton said. “Then I was approached to join Lambda Chi, (and) I thoroughly enjoyed everything it had to offer, so I ended up staying here at McDaniel and I believe it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Through Lambda Chi, I have realized that I have the potential to help so many people and to do so many great things for the community.”

As High Theta, Payton is responsible for organizing service activities and opportunities beyond McDaniel’s small Westminster campus.

“This is just the beginning. We may have spiked in numbers, but this is not an anomaly. We are going to continue finding articulate, courteous, and genuine guys who are going to help this fraternity,” the freshman chemistry and kinesiology double major said.

Mere months after joining, the brotherhood already means so much to him.

“It’s comforting knowing that I am a member of a strong and thriving brotherhood throughout not only my campus, but the world,” he said.

The term itself — “brotherhood” — means a lot to him.

“We just had nearly 30 new guys join relatively overnight, so you’d expect some turbulence. But there has been nothing but love and respect so far,” Payton said. “The original members of Lambda Chi took us in and accepted us, and we immediately gravitated toward them and developed strong bonds with them. All of us truly wanted to approach the ideals of perfect brotherly love and now we are all working hard together to accomplish one goal despite only being together for a short time, and I feel as though that’s very telling of this fraternity.”

For Lavery, who will enter his junior year this fall, it’s been a long time coming.

“I have been waiting almost two years and we finally have enough members to charter,” he said. “It would be amazing to see a plaque on the wall with all of our names on it. It would be an amazing feeling to be able to do our own initiations and have our own rituals and events that make us even more unique.”

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