The Founder I Relate to Most – James Holman

For this year’s Founders’ Day blog series, we asked each member of the staff to go back to their days as a pledge class remember and learn about Chi Psi’s founders to tell us which one they most relate to. The results are sometimes funny, sometimes inspiring and always educational (about the founders and the staff). Next up, is James Holman:

I have had the pleasure of meeting many founding (and refounding) fathers of several Alphas. From my own Alpha I am fortunate to have spent time with fourteen of the twenty-two men that earned our charter in 2005. Almost ten years later, many of them still remain incredibly active on the local or national level. Either by way of national convention or through my work in the Central Office I have been able to meet some incredible brothers that have brought Chi Psi back to Yale, Ole Miss, UGA, Texas Tech, and Colorado respectively. There is certainly something special about men with that entrepreneurial spirit that want to blaze their own trail as undergraduates, instead of joining an established organization. One of the most influential Chi Psis of the 20th century, Oliver Rowe, was a refounder of Alpha Sigma in 1928. Their experience is one wrought by trial and error. At its core are the values that brought them together to fulfill a need that their Greek Communities could not provide.

Rho Delta Contingent At the 173rd Convention

Rho Delta Contingent At the 173rd Convention

Chi Psi was founded on May 20, 1841. Just 560 days later, Phillip Spencer died aboard the USS Somers at the age of 19. Given the resilience of founders, it is of little surprise then that his death saw the response that it did. By 1846, Chi Psi had expanded to eight schools stretching from Maine to Michigan. By the turn of the 19th century, Chi Psi had Alphas at 29 institutions of higher learning. This type of steady, controlled growth is a story that takes on many faces to every single Chi Psi when he thinks of his own Alpha. And there lies the answer to the Brother that I relate to the most. Instead of identifying just one man from Alpha Pi’s original ten, I relate most to the nine men who had to figure out what to do in the wake of Phillip Spencer’s untimely demise. 


Robert Heyward McFaddin, Jacob Henry Farrell, John Brush Jr., Samuel Titus Taber, James Lafayette Witherspoon, William Force Terhune, Alexander Peter Berthoud, James Chatham Duane, and Patrick Upshaw Major.Without their devotion to fraternal love and the ideals of retirement to its proper use, many of us would be enjoying a very fundamentally different life experience. Undoubtedly, some of us would be in other fraternities. Others perhaps would not have joined a fraternity at all. One of the things I have noticed on the road is that Chi Psi is a particularly unique national fraternity. I can think of no other fraternity that has been able to have a national footprint, while still maintaining strict standards of academic prowess in its host institutions. We can also boast having a relatively small amount of Alphas go dormant across our history. This type of experience has been the product of nearly 175 years of work and effort from thousands of individuals. But it all as its origins in Schenectady, New York with nine men who had to make a decision of what to do with an infantile organization after the loss of a friend and Brother. Because of the perseverance of those men to continue with shaping Chi Psi, we are all better off. And for that—I am eternally grateful. 


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