The University of Rhode Island’s Sigma Chi Fraternity is proving to everyone that it’s never too late to rush. Â
Earlier this year, the brothers of Sigma Chi extended a bid and opened their doors to a pledge, Ed Johnson, 58. Johnson made his original pledge to Sigma Chi in 1975, before he decided to transfer to Providence College to finish his degree. Â
The unique opportunity to finish his pledge presented itself by chance when Johnson ran into a URI Sigma Chi alumnus many years later. He expressed his regret of not being able to finish his pledge to the said alumnus, who then went on to inform Johnson of a nontraditional program for non-student initiate pledges. Â
“It wasn’t something I necessarily thought much of after, but it just sounded like the right thing to do,” Johnson said. “It was something that was unfinished.”
Although Johnson expressed his excitement of being able to complete his pledge, not all of the brothers were excited to have him initially. Â Some brothers voted against Johnson’s return when first presented with the proposal from alumni, according to Sigma Chi President Tom Kroon. Â
Kroon said that the brothers who voted against Johnson returning had thought the situation to be strange, but they’ve since had a change of heart. Â
“He’s had a big impact on the current pledge class because he’s an older figurehead,” Kroon said. Â “He has a lot of life lessons that he can teach the younger guys, and a lot of guys look up to him too.”
Mike Hillier, Sigma Chi magister and pledge educator, said that teaching Johnson the history and core values of the fraternity is a unique opportunity for him. Â Hillier described Johnson’s story as being inspirational to many in the Greek community.
“His different perspective adds a unique dynamic to [the] pledge class,” Hillier said.
In retrospection, Johnson said that many of the fraternity’s values and lessons taught within the pledge class are ones that have carried him through his own life. He added that he views Sigma Chi not as a group of self-serving individuals, but as a group dedicated to philanthropic causes. The experience has been an interesting one for Johnson so far. Â
“The gentlemen I’m pledging with are the same age or younger than my sons, so it’s a very interesting perspective,” Johnson said.
As a pledge, Johnson has been invited to Sigma Chi parties, but his busy schedule hasn’t allowed him to attend. Â It is, however, something he looks forward to hopefully taking advantage of in the future.
“For me, the important thing is not so much about me coming back to this, but the fact that they accepted me,” Johnson said. “They’ve been wonderful. I don’t feel like I’m treated any differently, even though I’m probably older than their parents.”