At 6:30 pm on Saturday, October 11, a smiling Keith Downes ’91 completed the second of two cuts splitting a thick purple ribbon looped around two columns in front of the First Baptist Church on 3rd Street. The cut was accompanied by the applause of a crowd of around 100 Phi Gamma Delta fraternity brothers, graduate brothers, and friends celebrating a joint event commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Tau Nu Fiji chapter at RPI and the official opening of the renovated chapter house. For the first time in three decades, the Tau Nu Fijis will be living outside of the Rensselaer Apartment Housing Projects student housing.
The formal ribbon cutting and subsequent ceremony were the culmination of two years of effort by the chapter and Fiji’s governing House Corporation, though efforts to obtain a house for the chapter had been ongoing since the chapter was recognized in 1984. The church itself is approximately 24,000 square feet. A converted schoolhouse is attached, now 20 residential rooms, averaged at 100 square feet per occupant. Rooms such as the library, chapel, kitchens, and study lounges are ongoing projects for renovation, as is the outside of the church— particularly, the outside steeple and columns, which will require repainting to fix the noticeably patchy paint. Garrett Szafman ’15, the current undergraduate chapter president, stated,
“We’re very excited. We plan on trying to get involved as much as possible with the Troy community and hopefully be great neighbors. Our move to downtown Troy should help with bringing the RPI and Troy communities together. Right now, they exist as almost completely separate communities, but we’d like to get more involved with some of the businesses and events in the area.”
The ongoing renovations have benefited local businesses on 3rd Street, in particular Pfeil Hardware, which celebrated its fifth anniversary last month with a celebration partially attended by Fijis. The chapter has a history of community fundraising. Last year, it raised over $2,400 to the United Service Organizations. Last spring, Barker Park, the public park next to the church, was renovated by FIJI and troy citizen volunteers.
Initial meetings in 2013 drew largely positive feedback from the Troy community with a 5-0 vote of approval on February 2, 2013 by the Troy Zoning Board of Appeals. Construction started in spring of 2014, using designs by Troy Architectural Program and is still ongoing in some areas of the building. Recent purchases have been successful as well, with the RPI chapter of Phi Sigma Kappa living in the former St. Francis de Sales church on Congress Street since 2011.
Phi Gamma Delta was originally founded on April 22, 1848 at Jefferson College in Pennsylvania. The Tau Nu chapter was colonized on August 3, 1982 and was accepted by RPI and their national organization on November 4, 1984. The RPI colony was organized largely on the third floor of Cary Hall, where eight of the 12 founding members lived.