Fall 1967, and fraternity rush is on for Dartmouth sophomores.  As I walked quickly to the first fraternity I wanted to visit, I was excited.  I was going to be a frat man!!  My plan was to visit several houses I felt would be good fits (not party houses, football player houses, or far from campus).  I visited 7 houses that night, trying to talk to members and to get my name known, although this wasn’t and isn’t a skill of mine.  I looked forward to being invited back the next night for a second visit, and ultimately “sinking,” later in the week, becoming a pledge.  This was a big deal to me, and I think that I wanted to have bragging rights with my friends.  

The next afternoon, I stayed in my dorm room as required; after an hour, I heard a knock. I opened the door, and two men came in from Psi U.  “We enjoyed having you last night, and thank you for considering us, but we don’t think you would fit in.  But any time you want, stop in on a weekend and have a beer.”  They shook my hand.

I thanked them, and as they left, I didn’t feel too badly.  Psi U wasn’t my first choice.  I waited for the next knock.

It never came.

I often wondered that year whether I was the guy referred to at Phi Tau about whom, when discussed at the member meeting, nobody said anything.  Then upstairs, a toilet flushed, everybody laughed, and moved on to the next guy.

I became a GDI.  A Goddam Independent.  I was crushed.  I had been turned down for dates by girls before, but this was real rejection with a capital “R”.  I was a decent guy, a good student, and felt I would have been an asset to a fraternity.  So I thought.  I thought wrong.  My parents sent me a Peanuts cartoon, showing a character saying, after being rejected, “It’s their loss, not mine.”

I got turned down at a second fall rush, too, one more chance, and I never tried again. Being rejected became one of the best things that happened to me. I visited two fraternity houses on a weekend the remainder of my three years at Dartmouth.  I wasn’t upset with them; I had moved in other directions.  I have no ill feelings.  I do think drunken and sexual misconduct that occurs in some is a problem.  I question their relevance today, but I’m not in college, and I simply don’t know.

I had a successful, good career at Dartmouth.  I got a few citations for excellent course work, graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa as a junior, and had highest distinction in Chemistry, publishing my first article ever in the Journal of Organic Chemistry.  I took three graduate level courses in the subject.  My senior year, I met the woman who would become my wife. That winter, I skied 3 afternoons a week for free, because I was doing a lot of independent work and could schedule my time.  I took 18 lab courses at a school where many took none in the 36 courses they had.  Dartmouth counted courses, not credit hours.  Dartmouth taught me to write and how to research a paper, which in my medical training was incredibly valuable.  More importantly, Dartmouth taught me how to think.

I give to the alumni fund every year but am not a die-hard alumnus who follows sporting events.  I’m proud I went there, I think it is the best school in the country, and I came back in 1995 for my 25th reunion, enjoying the stay, but not needing to return.

Forty years after graduation, looking at Eugene as a place to live, I remembered my chemistry advisor got his Ph.D. there, so I e-mailed him, which I had never done before.  He immediately wrote me back, still believing I had the potential to get a Ph.D. in organic chemistry.  That’s Dartmouth.  My advisor had helped me with my senior thesis; when I defended it, one of the attendees said the questions I was asked were more difficult than several Ph.D. defenses he had seen.  I almost decided to get a Ph.D. in organic in Eugene, but there is too much else I want to do.

I don’t plan on going back to Dartmouth again; I might, but it isn’t important.  Many things important when you are young are no longer so important as you get older.  Dartmouth is for the new generation, not me.  I hope all get as much out of the College as I did.  For those who get turned down at all fraternities, I’m here to say it really doesn’t matter.  It won’t matter that year, the rest of your college career, or for the rest of your life, if you choose to move on.

Perhaps it was their loss, not mine.



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