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From Gamma Xi to Epsilon Upsilon

Robert G. Ferguson

Chapter Adivsor Robert G. Ferguson '71, left, and Alice Virginia "Ginny" Ferguson, with House Corp. President Jon Hartshorn '89, holding a plaque from the Marietta Delt Alumni declaring Ferguson to be an alumnus of Epsilon Upsilon. The alumni also granted Mrs. Ferguson honorary membership in the House Corporation and the title of Epsilon Upsilon's Delta Queen.

Chapter Adivsor Robert G. Ferguson ’71, left, and Alice Virginia “Ginny” Ferguson, with House Corp. President Jon Hartshorn ’89, holding a plaque from the Marietta Delt Alumni declaring Ferguson to be an alumnus of Epsilon Upsilon. The alumni also granted Mrs. Ferguson honorary membership in the House Corporation and the title of Epsilon Upsilon’s Delta Queen.

Initiated into Delta Tau Delta, April 1967
Alumnus of Gamma Xi Chapter, since 1971
Chapter Advisor of Epsilon Upsilon, since May 1975
Treasurer, House Corporation, since 1975
Division Vice President for Epsilon Upsilon, Gamma Xi and Beta Chapters, since 1990
Distinguished Service Chapter, since 2000
Al Sheriff Award for Excellence in Chapter Advising, 2006
Alumnus of Epsilon Upsilon Chapter, since 2013

Alumni and Undergraduate Marietta Delts gathered on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, at the Marietta Shrine Club to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the installation of the Epsilon Upsilon Chapter of the Delta Tau Delta International Fraternity at Marietta College.

The celebration served a second purpose: To pay tribute to Robert G. Ferguson ’71, a Marietta native and Delt from the Gamma Xi Chapter at the University of Cincinnati, who has served as chapter advisor for nearly 40 years.

On had to pay tribute to Ferguson was Delta Tau Delta Northern Division President Thomas Calhoon and Delta Tau Delta International Fraternity Second Vice President James Garboden, who was representing International President Travis Rockey, who was recovering from an illness.

Garboden presented Ferguson with a plaque from the International Fraternity for his service as the Marietta Delt chapter advisor.

Former Northern Division President Bruce Peterson and Tom Humes ’71, a Delt from Ferguson’s undergraduate years at Gamma Xi, paid tribute by video.

Jon Hartshorn ’89, president of the Crescent Colony of Marietta, Ohio Inc., better known as the House Corporation, presented Ferguson and wife Ginny with a plaque of a proclamation adopted by the Marietta Delt Alumni earlier in the day declaring Ferguson to also be an alumnus of Epsilon Upsilon. The Marietta Delt Alumni also made Ginny Ferguson an honorary member of the House Corporation and granted her the title of Epsilon Upsilon’s Delta Queen, for her lifetime.

The evening ended with a roast of Ferguson by Shawn Selby ’92, Andy Byers ’06, Matt Dole ’01 and Dan Moorman ’92. Greg Manko ’92 served as master of ceremonies for the banquet.

To read transcripts of the roast speeches, click here.

What follows is an interview with Ferguson, conducted by David Broome ’88, which also appeared in the “Our Story: Epsilon Upsilon Chapter of Delta Tau Delta” booklet published for the 45th anniversary of the Chapter:

Did you know one of the Epsilon Upsilon founders from Marietta — Tom Robinson?

Ferguson: I certainly knew who he was. He graduated from Marietta High in 1965; I graduated in ’66. My connection to the college itself started well before that. As a kid, I caddied for the college president, Frank Duddy. My father played golf with him.

What was your Delt undergraduate experience like at Cincinnati?

Robert Ferguson as an undergraduate at the University of Cincinnati. Photo from Gamma Xi composite, circa 1970.

Robert Ferguson as an undergraduate at the University of Cincinnati. Photo from Gamma Xi composite, circa 1970.

Ferguson: With over 120 guys, we had formal meetings even during the summer. At Gamma Xi, we took the ritual seriously, if you couldn’t remember your lines, you were out of the ritual performance.  My actual brother, Bill Ferguson [Gamma Xi ’71] is older than I am. When he was named in the bid session, I said he could be a Delt only if I could be his big brother, and he was!

How did you feel upon learning that a new Delt chapter was colonized in Marietta — your home town?

Ferguson: I was excited about it. Wayne Sinclair, who became president of Delta Tau Delta [International Fraternity] from 1986-88 was then a Delt undergrad and [Interfraternity Council] president at [West Virginia University]. He came to Marietta to help out with rush. [University of Cincinnati] Delts performed the installation ritual, and I [had a key role] in the ritual ceremony. Delts from Case Western did the Rite of Iris. Delts from [Ohio University] and WVU also performed elements at the installation.  Interesting bit of trivia: The undergraduate vice president from Gamma Xi, who would normally have had a significant role in the ritual, was unable to come to Marietta because he was busy with intramurals at UC. The “vice president” who performed his role at the Epsilon Upsilon installation was someone else — another UC Delt who performed the role in his place.

You’re closing in on 40 years as Chapter Advisor for Epsilon Upsilon. Did you think you’d be doing it this long?

Ferguson: This started out as a “side career.” It all started in 1975. I got a call from then-Chapter Advisor Bruce Miller ’70, who was moving back to Connecticut. I had gotten married the year before, so Bruce felt that since I was going to be around for a while, maybe I could be Epsilon Upsilon’s chapter advisor for “a couple of years.” Well, a “couple years” has turned into nearly 39. I had no manual, no formal initiation for chapter advisors like there is now. You could say I became the common-law chapter advisor for Epsilon Upsilon. But, coming from UC, I had a feel for how a chapter should operate. One of the very first times I put my foot down was in response to Epsilon Upsilon’s “brownie mix ritual,” where pledges would have brownie mix, eggs, sugar and water dumped on them by the actives. Not only was it messy, it was hazing. Another “no-no” was the “Bag Baker Walk,” which was a scavenger hunt/big brother hunt.

You have always kept your role as chapter sdvisor distinctly separate from any socializing with the undergraduates. Is that your rule, or a Delt rule?

Ferguson: It was always my rule, but it has since become standard for chapter advisors. You simply cannot be the undergrads’ “drinking buddy.” I only made one exception to this — when Epsilon Upsilon was about to win its first Hugh Shields Award [in 1990].  I knew they were going to win it, but the undergrads didn’t. I told them at the conference that if Epsilon Upsilon won the Hugh Shields Award, I’d buy them all a round of drinks (they were all 21). That offer convinced them that they weren’t getting the Hugh Shields Award. Well, they did win it, and I made good on my promise.

Your own family is part of the greater Delta Tau Delta family, aren’t they?

Ferguson: Everyone in my family is a “Karnea Hound.” Anyone who attends five Karneas gets a sticker with a dachshund on it that says “Karnea Hound.” We’ve had great fun with the Delts. My son Russell was a big kid — he would chase Chapter President Doug Gernert ’91 around the house. Son Daniel remembers sledding with the other kids on the campus hill and being invited into the shelter for hot chocolate. One time, daughter Alice was with me at the shelter — she was about six then— and we ran into a young lady coming out of the shower wearing only a towel. Alice asked, “What’s she doing in a boys’ house?” I got her away from there in a hurry. My son Cole even pledged Delt at Boston University. He surprised them by showing up at their shelter wearing a Karnea ’96 T-shirt. He transferred to Ohio State University before [initiating].

Is a chapter advisor’s role to tell undergrads how to run a chapter?

Ferguson: The undergrads have the complete authority and  responsibility to run their chapter. I could run them like little tin soldiers, but they would not learn a thing. I’m here to draw a line in the sand when necessary, to be in the background — but I won’t let them “fall off a cliff.” This has to be a good experience for the guys, but this should be a learning experience as well.

Your “unbiased” review of Epsilon Upsilon chapter would be … ?

Ferguson: The community of Marietta is a better place since there’s been a Delt chapter here. The guys hopefully learn to be involved in their own communities, wherever they end up.  My father-in-law, Dan Cole, past international president of the Lions Club, put it this way: “Everyone owes a bit of civic rent.” Be a part of your community.

Your advice for any future chapter advisors?

Ferguson: Get a feel for the “temperature” of the chapter, and know that the guys won’t learn anything if they are told what to do. They have to learn as they go. Be an adviser, not simply an instructor.