Alumni President's Report

"Socially distanced fraternity" may be the definition of an oxymoron, but we are trying to maintain continuity at the Alpha of California in the year 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I'm sending Brothers greetings from my CZU Complex Fire evacuation residence in Scotts Valley. (It's not an underground lair; sorry to disappoint on that front!) I am taking a brief break from checking satellite images to see if my house burned down (not so far, and it is, as of today, likely safe) to write to the alumni of the California Sigma Phi. I know I am not the only brother forced out of his home due to the recent fire. Most of us in the state are breathing the ashes and fumes of California's forests, houses, and tires. And it is still early in the fire season. We all struggle with the COVID-19 outbreak, which has changed everyone's lives. For college students today, these changes may be the most dramatic since WWII.

Cal may be the only one of Sigma Phi's chapters to open this fall semester entirely online. No students are required to live on or near campus. Each student and their families must decide where to live, and many remain home with their parents.

To ensure the safety of our students and alumni, we ask that all of you resist the temptation to visit the house. The actives have put in place commendable policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The interior is virtually off-limits to non-residents. As a result of the pandemic, Cal will likely postpone football season until spring. If it happens at all, presumably few fans will be allowed to attend. All other regular fall events will be cancelled or restricted to active members.

Despite all the obstacles, our actives love our Society and love living at the Thorsen House. As a result, we can maintain a skeleton crew at Sig Place. That our doors are still open, and we are actively recruiting new pledge classes, is a tribute to the dedication of the handful of brothers who choose to remain, and the spirit of our Society. But this has come at a financial cost, as actives are unable to pay the rent which pays our insurance, taxes, and random needed repairs.

Just because we are facing multiple crises today, the likelihood of still worse remains. Jerry Barclay (I'71) has put together a list of the highest priority work needed to protect the lives of our residents in case of an earthquake and keep the structure standing. Consider this note the start of an appeal to raise significant money to achieve this goal. Some of the more urgent projects, which are easy to visualize, need immediate action! 

High priority projects 

  1. Structural Collapse Prevention Retrofit – including amongst several items chimney cap replacement, living room south wall reinforcement, and steel moment frame at garage opening.

  2. Life Safety Seismic Retrofit – primarily chimney strengthening and additional anchor bolts to the foundation at perimeter walls.

  3. Drainage and below-grade waterproofing.

  4. Exterior repairs and renovation: replacement of shingle siding, reconditioning of exposed wood timbers, replacement of dryrot in multiple locations, sheet metal gutter and flashing repairs, repairs to Greenhouse doors.

  5. Roofing repairs (probably limited as a result of the type of roof material).

  6. Bath Room renovations.

  7. Site and landscaping repairs and improvements.

  8. Interior deferred maintenance.

Anyone who lived through the Loma Prieta earthquake can imagine our chimney caps crashing through the roof of our house. Other portions of the project are less apparent to those without architectural training but are just as important.

As I have said before, alumni donations have been sluggish over the last few years. Some brothers step up now and then, and a few give monthly or annually. And very rarely we get a check from outside sources. Sometimes they were visitors, sometimes random charities. In August, we received $1000 from none other than Barbra Streisand. Barbra's donation is tied for our largest of the year (with Tim Altman, I'95, thanks Tim). It turns out Barbra is not only a big Greene and Greene fan, but has duplicated many of the details of our Thorsen house in her Malibu home. 

Anyone want to match or exceed Barbra and Tim's donations, and help bail us out of what is going to be an ugly year financially? Just click on this link, you know you want to. Think of all that money you saved on gym memberships since covid started...

Or if you don't need the deduction, and want the money to get directly into Dan's hands, click here:

Donate Here

This brother is hopeful that by March 4th, we will be able to resume social activities at the Halls of the Alpha. I am confident that Sigma Phi will recover, more vital than ever. After all, it was during the dark days of WWII that we purchased the Thorsen House. The Vietnam era engendered difficult times on campus, but it was soon after that when The Alpha Of California mounted our last major restoration project.


Joel Shumaker, I'80

Never Forget

We are sorry to hear that Dave Nolan, I’58 passed away on September 7th.