“When I joined Chi Psi in the spring of 2020, I had always heard of previous speaker series conducted at the Lodge,” says Alpha Rho Alumni Relations Chair Tom Cole, P ’22. “But when COVID hit, and it changed our approach in terms of what we could do for our alumni.”
Now, with what everyone hopes is the worst of COVID past, Cole says the Alpha jumped right back into the speaker series and he is excited to welcome more alumni back to the Lodge and improve the Alpha’s relations with them.
“Once we came back to campus, I wanted to shift us back into having these extended fireside chats with notable alumni of our Alpha,” he says. “The first person who popped into my head was Brother Sopranzetti.”
Ben Sopranzetti, P ’85, is a finance professor within Rutgers Business School (RBS) and an alumnus of the Alpha Rho Lodge himself. He told Cole that the fireside chat format was a perfect and comfortable way for him to hold his speaker series turn.
“Ben said he hadn’t spent much time in the Lodge for several years so I thought it would be a good way to ease him back in,” says Cole. “We gave him a tour when he arrived and showed him the old relics and photos on the wall from his time as an undergraduate.”
When he was ready to speak, Sopranzetti came down to the main room and set up right there. Cole says they picked the perfect alumnus with which to re-start the speaker series.
“Given his position at Rutgers and that so many of us are in the Business School where he teaches, it couldn’t have been better,” says Cole. “He’s regarded as one of the best professors by the student body at Rutgers, and for those of us who had not had him in class, we got to see why.”
Cole says Sopranzetti emphasized a lot of programs offered at Rutgers and the Business School, yet it was his insight and approach on life that grasped the attention of everyone in the room. They plan to continue to line up alumni speakers for this series about once a month, even if it’s not necessarily always an alumnus of Rutgers or a Brother of Alpha Rho.
“The whole Brotherhood here is really grateful for Brother Sopranzetti,” says Cole. “He came into the Lodge with such energy and ignited a spark amongst the Brothers, which has set the tone for speakers to come in the near future.”
According to Cole, the event was intended to go about two hours with Sopranzetti. But, many of the Brothers were so moved by his speech, that Sopranzetti ended up hanging around the Lodge for almost five hours to answer additional questions.
“Events like this can really have an impact on the Brotherhood, in terms of where we see ourselves in the future, and the professional roles we will have after school,” says Cole.
Cole says if he were to advise any other Chi Psi Alphas on how to start an alumni speaker series, the main takeaway he’s had so far is to definitely use the fireside chat format. He also thinks sending questions ahead of time can be helpful, depending on the speaker.