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By: Courtney Kochuba (DC'07)
As dusk falls at the Chesterfield Hotel in Palm Beach, Fla., the fraternity brothers recall their jungle-themed college party that took place nearly five decades ago. To them, it seems like yesterday when they convinced a pet store owner to let them borrow a squirrel monkey. For the bash, the animal was situated in a deluxe cage and was a big hit. Then came morning and the need to return the four-legged guy.
Art Yaffe (E’62) reminds his old friends of his courage. “That monkey wasn’t eager to leave such a nice cage, so I reached in and grabbed him! He turned his head and nipped me between my thumb and forefinger. I had a clear impression of his teeth on my hand.”
Others at the table howl with laughter at the recollection.
Plenty more recollections are shared at the unofficial Beta Sigma Rho reunion. The Carnegie Mellon alums joyously share stories about their lives since graduation more than 40 years ago. And quite a few wear smiles when they compare themselves to their college yearbook photos, which each wears as a form of nametag.
Amid the reminiscing, Yaffe and Al Weingarten (E’62, P: DC’89) pause to take it all in. For the past six months, they tirelessly planned to make this October 23-25, 2009, weekend event possible. It was May 2009 when the two men lunched with another classmate, Alan Kornfeld (E’63). Monthly lunches with Beta Sigma Rho alums living in or visiting Florida had become a tradition, nine years running. Near the end of that afternoon, Kornfeld told the others that his doctor had placed him on the heart transplant list. But he had battled back from ill health before, and his friends convinced themselves that he would be fine this time, too.
Two days later, Kornfeld died. “I can’t describe the impact he had on my life,” Yaffe says softly. “It was so good to have a buddy close by.”
In mourning Kornfeld’s passing at his funeral, Yaffe and Weingarten started to mull over the decades that had passed since their graduation. When one name came up, that of Leslie Cohen (E’62, ’64, ’66), they recalled his suggestion of a Beta Sigma Rho reunion. Yaffe and Weingarten agreed that it was time. “We talked about how none of us were getting any younger. If we were going to do it, we needed to do it now,” Weingarten recalls. “And that’s what got us going.”
They immediately got to work—setting the date for the festivities to take place in just six months. Targeted classes would be 1959-1965. Weingarten assumed the role of hotel point person and financial organizer. Yaffe dug deep into fraternity records to locate alums’ contact information, then fired away with inquiry emails. When email addresses weren’t readily available, Cohen got on the phone to alums all over the world to get their email addresses.(Continued …)