A group of alumni affiliated with the University of Virginia’s chapter of the Zeta Psi fraternity has launched a faculty endowment fund to honor the memory of prominent “Zete” graduates from the 1970s who died in recent years.
The new Zeta Psi Memorial Endowment Fund for Faculty Excellence – an effort spearheaded by alumni David Frisbie and Hampton Morris, 1973 graduates of the College of Arts & Sciences, and Zach Young, a 1972 graduate of the College – received financial commitments totaling more than $220,000 heading into the recently concluded Reunions Weekend.
Income from the endowment fund will support the College’s Campaign for Faculty Excellence, a major University initiative aiming to hire approximately 250 faculty members over the next decade. As a generation of older faculty members approaches retirement age, the University seeks to accommodate anticipated enrollment growth with a projected increase of approximately 60 faculty members.
Organizers of the Zeta Psi fund said they approached Meredith Jung-En Woo, dean of the College, with their interest in supporting the effort.
“We have this fabulous institution, and in order to have it be a fabulous institution for our kids and our grandkids, we need to do something now, because this professorial staff will dictate what this University is for the next four decades,” said Frisbie, a Palm Beach, Fla., real-estate investor and developer.
The new fund marks Zeta Psi as the first Greek organization to contribute to the College’s Campaign for Faculty Excellence, College development officer Liz Blaine said, U.Va.’s Zeta Psi chapter resumed operations in March following a hiatus of nearly two years stemming from misconduct surrounding a fraternity pledging event. Zeta Psi alumni and the fraternity’s national office cooperated fully with the University during that process. The endowment fund, Morris said, represents a continuation of the fraternity’s legacy as an organization that fosters student leaders on Grounds, in University athletics and in professional fields.
“We’ve always viewed the fraternity as an organization to provide leadership,” said Morris, an Atlanta lawyer. “It did in our time, and this endowment fund is consistent with our fraternity’s contributions historically.”
Frisbie and Morris both serve on the board of the University’s College Foundation, which promotes the aspirations of the College by advising and supporting the dean and attracting private investment in the University’s core undergraduate programs.
Both already had plans to return to Charlottesville last weekend for the 40th reunion of the University’s Class of 1973 when the news of the unexpected deaths of two of their Zete brothers, within days of each other, galvanized the effort to honor their memories via the endowment fund.
Abby Sallenger, a 1971 College graduate and former offensive lineman for the U.Va. football team who went on to a prominent career as an oceanographer and chief scientist for the U.S. Geological Survey’s St. Petersburg (Fla.) Coastal and Marine Science Center, died on Feb. 5 at the age of 63.
Gib Walton, another 1972 Zete alum and former president of the State Bar of Texas, died unexpectedly, also of natural causes, two days later.
Both had been planning to attend the University’s Reunions Weekend, and their deaths spurred the memorial endowment initiative. With the reopening of the Zeta Psi house, a plaque is scheduled to be installed in the future honoring the memories of Walton and Sallenger, as well as other Zete alumni from the 1970s who have passed away.
The list of deceased alumni memorialized on the plaque includes 1972 College alumnus Frank Thomasson, a co-founder of public relations and publishing firms who published more than 150 illustrated books, including the popular “Mr. Jefferson’s Upland Virginia”; 1971 College alumnus Dave Bowman, a former captain of the Virginia men’s soccer team and member of the Seven Society who went on to a distinguished teaching career as a history professor; 1976 College alumnus Harry Poole; 1974 alumnus Sam Jesse; and 1973 College alumnus and Virginia lacrosse player Bill Kearney.
Young, the headmaster of a Christian school in Atlanta, said the fraternity decided to use the recently concluded Reunions Weekend events scheduled for the Class of 1973 as an effort to bring back to Charlottesville a broader group of Zeta Psi alumni who graduated in that decade.
News of Sallenger and Walton’s deaths spread quickly, he said, “and the poignancy of their unexpected deaths, and of our other brothers who died prematurely, made us think we should do something to recognize their lives and the fact that they died before their times.”
About 50 Zeta Psi brothers who graduated in the 1970s made it back to Charlottesville over the weekend, said Frisbie and Morris, who were among those in town for Reunions Weekend.
Pledge forms for the endowment fund continued to be distributed during Reunions Weekend, and University development officials anticipated a continued influx of pledges.
“We don’t necessarily see this fund as something we do right now and that’s it,” Frisbie said. “We hope it’s open-ended.”