2021 Alumni President’s March 4th Report

An overdue update on the Alpha of California!

March 4th is the date we celebrate the first initiation into Sigma Phi at Union College in 1827. In normal times, we would have a dinner and other festivities.  But 2021 is not normal. It has been a year since 2020’s March 4th, and most of us have not had much of a social life since. In fact, March 4th 2020 was the last weekend before the COVID-19 shutdown in the state of California! Pandemic permitting, we hope to host a “March 4th” (along with our annual board elections) sometime this fall.

To those of you who have always expected a winter season of news from the Teakwood Towers, my apologies for the long silence. Few alumni have been inside in the last year, but our board members have been lucky enough to glimpse our home over Zoom webcams during our regular meetings. Rest assured, the California chapter of Sigma Phi is alive and well!

As many of you know, UC Berkeley ceased in-person classes for the last year due to COVID-19.  The impact for the student body has been huge. Some Sigs, and most Cal students, have avoided Berkeley for the year, taking classes remotely. Fortunately, a core group of upperclassmen has remained at the Thorsen House. As a result, we have been able to welcome new pledge classes, and new brothers, for the last year. And this semester the house is nearly full again, with ten brothers and six pledges. Traditions, as they are currently practiced, continue.  Workdays are still done every Saturday. 

Acting responsibly, the actives have virtually banned all guests in the house. That includes other students, alumni, and tour groups. Social events, including rush, cannot be held at the house.  

The disruption to student life on campus has likely been the greatest of any period since WWII. A period where alumni, forced to move from the previous Sig residence, worked proactively to purchase and modify the Thorsen House to accomodate the influx of new students returning from military service. 

Today, we are making big plans for the future again.

Jerry Barclay (I’71) has been detailing the structural modifications needed to prevent the collapse of the Thorsen House in a likely future earthquake. Those efforts will require a new surge of fundraising. To help guide our long term vision through these changing times, we have formed a new steering committee co-chaired by John Adams (I’67) and Jerry Barclay (I’71). Committee members will represent every decade since the 50’s (more details to come in our next newsletter).

We have struggled financially, but thanks to Dan McNear’s (I’78) capable management of our treasury, we have managed to pay our bills. And assuming classes resume in the fall, we expect to remain cash flow positive, just barely. For anyone interested in helping financially, click the button below to donate directly to our chapter or donate through the national website here.

Donate Here

On behalf of the board, I’d like to wish everyone a happy March 4th. Take some time to reflect on the ways our Society gifted you friendships and experiences that made our college days (and beyond) something truly worth treasuring.

May Sigma Phi continue to be the mother of happy memories that warm all your hearts.” - Elihu Root

Joel Shumaker, I’80
California Sigma Phi Alumni President


Some quick notes about communications: Our Signet has gone offline temporarily, sorry if some of you are wondering why you are not seeing replies. If anyone wants to get in touch with anyone, reply to this email for contact information and I’ll reach out to you. Also, the national Sigma Phi website is also going through a renovation and gradually coming online. I encourage everyone to verify or update the contact information they have for you:  https://www.sigmaphi.org/?page=About