George P. Dulac
Omega Mu, 1970
1966-67 Pledge Class
When the Freshman Football Recruits arrived on campus in August of 1966, I think I was not alone in being unable to see beyond the three weeks of grueling preseason looming ahead. What we did not know at the time was that the seed of a new brotherhood had been sown and was being nurtured with every passing day.
University of Maine images, 1966-1967
Forty young men ranging in age from 18 to 25 years old descended on UMO’s campus that August determined to play Freshman Football for the University. We came from all over New England, New York, New Jersey and some most recently from Vietnam. This class was eerily similar to the UMO Freshman class of 1945-46. In each case 18 year old kids found themselves coming together with war veterans to form a freshman class.
Jimmy Fitzgerald, ex-paratrooper for the 82nd Airborne played on the defensive side of the ball that late summer. Famous for saying, “God, this is fun” in the midst of the rest of us throwing up after doing wind sprints. At the time none of us thought that maybe jumping into the jungle while being shot at by North Vietnamese Regulars might be a little more daunting than our rigorous practices.
Johnny Rhodes (71), Staff Sargent, USMC had returned from tours as a Jarhead leader in the jungles of Vietnam in 1967, only months before landing on the UMO campus. He wanted to play football for the Bears. The veterans of this era were all about 24 years old and had seen much more of life than the rest of us strapping on shoulder pads at the same time. I remember all of this like it was yesterday, but it was 56 years ago.
On a warm late August afternoon in 1966, the Freshman Football players gathered at the Student Union relaxing in shorts and flip flops. We were looking at the recent female arrivals on campus. It was nice to see the fairer sex after weeks of tackling guys in the dirt, but the conversation that afternoon centered not on girls but on fraternity rushing.
The fraternity brothers from various houses were already starting to recruit freshman football players. The “Jock Houses” on campus, at the time, were Phi Mu, Kappa Sig, Phi Eta and Sigma Chi. Phi Gamma Delta, as a recruiting house, was conspicuously absent. Many of us were not particularly interested in the houses most active in asking us to consider pledging. Almost simultaneously, a few of us asked each other this question, “Why don’t we pick a Fraternity and all pledge it so we can stay together over the next four years?” Many laughed at the notion, but some of us did not. We were seriously considering the idea that we could further our relationship with one another off the field as well as on it. Why not? Just because it hadn’t been done before.
FIJI was not in the running initially because Grant Watkins was the only FIGI brother playing football. Everyone liked Grant a lot but other houses had 12 to 15 football player brothers all of whom were working on us at once. The Freshman Football Team for the next month or two continued to discuss the notion as we visited all the “Greek Getaways”. We partied and attended the social events. The process of elimination was almost unconscious; certainly not deliberate, but eventually the idea crept to the surface: “Let’s give FIJI a try!”
At the end of the day, ‘wet behind the ears’ 18 year olds like me partnered up with other Freshman Football Players. We arrived at the “Castle” fully prepared to take it over, sort of? We engaged in many activities, many conducted by my future brother-in-law, Tyler Libby, (Uncle Ty Ty’s Tasty Treats) and in spite of all this brotherly love we continued to laugh our way through it. Johnnie Rhodes seemed to chuckle his way through spitting the fire out in 67.
I remember my 1966-67 UMO Freshman football team FIJI Pledge Class very well. We began as brothers on the gridiron and then continued as FIJI brothers. Today we sometimes see each other in April at Pig dinner and reminisce on these times, and they remain some of my fondest of memories. You may recognize some of these very grand brothers: the late Johnnie Rhodes (honorary 66 pledge class member), John Collins, Mike O’Leary, Tony Flaherty, Johnny Kimball, Paul Pooler, and myself.
Paul Dulac: FIJI Pledge Class of 66-67
Captain of the University of Maine football team, 1969
Mississippi State, 1975
Surprises and Lessons from Omega Mu
Never let them know they’ve surprised you.
This was an attitude I adopted early on as a field secretary for the Fraternity. I had heard that chapters sometimes liked to play tricks on the field secretary or do other things to put him off balance, and I was determined not to give anyone the satisfaction of knowing they had done that.
As I drove out of Lexington, Kentucky, in early September 1976, everything east of Ohio was a new adventure for this small-town kid from Mississippi who was still figuring out how to be a field secretary. After a visit with the Vermont Chapter, on Friday morning, September 10, I headed out of Burlington across New Hampshire and the backroads of Maine. As I made my way farther east and north, I had the sensation that I was nearing the edge of the earth.
My trip diary, which I still have, says that I arrived at Omega Mu at 5:00 p.m. As I pulled up, the brothers had just chosen sides for a touch football game. One of the teams graciously took me – a late arrival of unknown talent -- in the supplemental draft. It was a great way to work out the kinks from a day in the car and begin to build rapport with the brothers.
Here was my first surprise: These Yankees would have been pretty competitive on the intramural fields at Mississippi State.
The second surprise came that evening, when some brothers took me out for a few beers at a bar. On campus!! The county where Mississippi State is located was dry until midway through my junior year, and even after a majority of the voters decided that their fellow citizens could handle the temptations of demon rum, it was still illegal to have alcohol on campus. I was now in a whole new world.
The next surprise came later that night when I settled into my bed in the guest suite at the house. Who knew that a mattress could feel like sleeping in a canoe?
On Saturday morning most of the brothers pitched in to clean up in and around the house. Then, after a quick lunch, we all headed to the football stadium to see the Black Bears take on St. Mary’s University of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Wait! I thought. After working all morning, aren’t you brothers going to shower? Don’t you wear a blazer and tie to the games? Don’t the coeds dress up like they’re going to a fashion show? That’s how we did it in Mississippi, late summer heat be damned. Surprise, Bill! It’s a football game, not a cocktail party. Mainers are not as status conscious as southerners. Never since have I worn a blazer or tie to a football game.
On Sunday afternoon, I joined the brothers at an intramural football game. I don’t recall which fraternity was the opponent, but I do recall being surprised at the amount of contact that was allowed along the line of scrimmage and that, whatever the rules about contact, Craig Shaknis pushed them to the limit.
Somewhere among all the amusements of the weekend, I conducted my formal field secretary duties, meeting with each of the chapter officers, a number of the committee chairmen, and Dean Dave Rand. I don’t recall any details from those meetings, but I do recall that Omega Mu was well lead and that the brothers cared about their chapter and made fraternity fun.
On Monday afternoon, September 13, I headed south to continue my swing through New England. I had many surprises during this visit to Omega Mu, all of them pleasant – except for the canoe bed. But here were the most meaningful surprises, and lessons: Fiji hospitality has no regional limits, and Fijis everywhere are a lot more alike than we are different.
I had a new perspective on Phi Gamma Delta and a much more positive expectation about my experience as a field secretary.
Mississippi State, 1975
Executive Director Emeritus
Eugene D. “Buddy” Cote III
His Impact on Phi Gamma Delta
Buddy Cote (Omega Mu 1981) is one of the most consequential leaders of Phi Gamma Delta of his era. I say this based not just on the scope and length of his service, but on the impact he has had on the strength of the International Fraternity and its standing in the interfraternity community.
Buddy’s Omega Mu brothers recognized his innate leadership abilities and elected him president of the Chapter. In this role, he caught the attention of the Fraternity’s headquarters staff, who targeted him as a prospect for the Field Secretary position. Phi Gamma Delta won a tug-of-war with Procter & Gamble for Buddy’s post-graduate services, and from 1981 to 1983 he served as a Field Secretary, traveling to chapters in the western and southern regions of the Fraternity.
As Buddy’s term as Field Secretary neared its end in spring 1983, Executive Director Bill Zerman (Michigan 1949) persuaded him to remain on the staff as Director of Chapter Services. He served in that position until the fall of 1985, when he accepted a job in the private sector with the Balfour Company, and he and his new bride, Lisa, returned to New England, settling in North Attleboro, Massachusetts.
Then began a lifetime of volunteer service to Phi Gamma Delta, in both formal and informal roles, that continues to this day. At the 2000 Ekklesia, Buddy was elected Archon Councilor, a position on the Fraternity’s board of directors, and in 2002 he was elected Archon Secretary, serving until 2004. He then served on the board of the Phi Gamma Delta Educational Foundation until 2006, when he was elected to a two-year term as Archon President, the top position in the Fraternity.
Through Buddy’s leadership and inspiration, in fall 2006 the Fraternity embarked on a growth initiative known as “170 X 170” and grew from 113 chapters and colonies to 165 in spring 2018. This effort greatly expanded the Fraternity’s footprint, influence and strength. Notably, the growth initiative brought the chartering of four new chapters in New England, at UConn, UMass, Quinnipiac and Northeastern.
In 2010 Buddy was elected to the board of the North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), the trade association of men’s social fraternities. He served as chairman of the NIC from 2014 to 2015. This was a time of tremendous change for the NIC, and Buddy managed the process with skill and diplomacy. Since 2016 he has served as Phi Gamma Delta’s representative on the NIC Governing Council.
Over a number of years, Buddy advocated with fraternity leaders to select Boston to host an Ekklesia. The last Ekklesia in New England had been in Swampscott, Massachusetts, in 1958. However, hotel rates in Boston in late summer, when the Ekklesia is held, were appreciably higher than the Fraternity found in other regions. But Buddy was patient and persistent, pressing the point that, while Boston might cost a little more, the brothers who attended would have such a great time that the cost would not be an issue. Eventually he made the sale, and he chaired the Host Committee of area brothers who would assure a memorable experience for the attendees. When the 168th Ekklesia was held at the Westin Boston Waterfront on August 10-14, 2016, over 900 brothers and guests attended, and there is no record that any of them complained about the cost. Only one other Ekklesia in fraternity history has had a higher attendance.
Even as Buddy has done so much for greater Phi Gamma Delta and the fraternity movement, he also has contributed at the local level. He has served as president of the Boston Graduate Chapter and chairman of the Board of Chapter Advisors at Northeastern and has been continuously engaged with Omega Mu and the other graduate brothers who support the Chapter.
Seeking neither recognition nor applause, Buddy has worked tirelessly for the glory of Phi Gamma Delta. His direct impact on the Fraternity and his devotion, character, temperament and personality mark him as one of our truly great leaders.
“What if the space be long and wide,
That parts us from our brother’s side
A soul-joined chain unites our band,
And memory links us hand in hand.”
(Phi Gamma Delta fraternity song)
Chip Chapman, 1982