Founders’ Day Reflections – Brad Beskin

It’s Founders Day season, and Alphas across the country are celebrating the anniversary of our organization.  This August, we will gather to celebrate 170 years of fraternity at the Annual Convention in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Attendees will get to visit the site of the original Lodge and enjoy the hospitality of one of Chi Psi’s oldest institutions, Alpha Epsilon. 

So, naturally, around Founders Day I think about….well, the founders.  And since I’ve been nose-deep in Convention planning (yes, online registration will be available very soon), I’ve been thinking about other iconic places for Chi Psi like the first Lodge in Ann Arbor.  There’s one out there that many Chi Psis probably haven’t considered visiting that’s interesting, since we all know the story of Philip Spencer and the “Somers Affair.” 

Following the Somers’ return to New York and Mackenzie’s court-martial, the brig enforced the blockade of Vera Cruz during the Mexican-American War.   On December 8, 1846…just over four years after Spencer’s execution…the Somers was sunk by a storm in roughly 100 feet of water off Vera Cruz.  The incident claimed the lives of 32 sailors. 

Those of you that know me well are familiar with my affinity for diving.  While the CO is landlocked in Tennessee and I’ve been in the water far less than I would have preferred in the last 6 years, it is still a favorite pastime.  I’ve always had in the back of my mind the idea that some of us should go back to the Somers.   It was discovered in 1986, and a 1990 survey revealed “intact ordinance, hull structure, and rigging.”   

How intriguing would it be to stand…well, swim…where it all happened?  I say yes, but not because it’s where Spencer was executed.  That’s only part of it.  The power of this story comes from the fact that, on the deck of the Somers, the “idea” of Chi Psi had to stand on its own for the very first time.  Spencer’s ideas had to survive.  His values had to endure without him.  His 9 peers took what he created…the things in which they also believed…and propagated them into an organization that celebrates 170 years of success.  

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to get my passport stamped, strap on a few tanks, and see where that happened.  Who’s coming with me?


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