Wagner: Fond recollections of college fraternity and courses

Mar 5, 2024

Some 60 years ago, while I was still attending college, the men in my fraternity house, Beta Theta Pi, would be planning their annual spring formal about this time. The formal was always a big affair, usually held somewhere far from Vermillion, home of the University of South Dakota.

One year it was in Omaha, NE, another at the Iowa Great Lakes and finally, my third year as an active, in Sioux Falls. As I remember, the lack of funds in the chapter activity account that year kept us close to our base.

The spring party was always a full weekend event. It began with some especial activity Saturday afternoon, continued with a banquet and dance Saturday night, and ended with a big, fancy breakfast for the men and their dates on Sunday morning.

I use the word “men” somewhat loosely when I write of those times. Now, in the final quarter of my life, I recognize that many of us were still teenagers burning our wild oats. A few of the brothers shared their rooms with their date that night. The majority booked four to six men to a room with two double beds and arranged for their dates to share a room with others they knew from campus or with sorority sisters. A few of the couples didn’t worry about a room but stayed up all night partying. It is not something I would look at with favor today, but it was, I guess, part of the growing up ritual of that time — and even more so, today.

But interestingly, it is not the annual social events I most remember about college. Instead, it is the many classes in which I had the most success as a student.

I originally attended USD to get a degree in broadcasting. The college had a great course of study for future radio and television announcers. I even had eventual highly successful NBC television anchor Tom Brokaw there the same years as I and look what he did with his education.