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EQV Fraternity 1954 - 1968

 

Steve Buttner: Comments from friends

Hartford Courant

BUTTNER, Steven B.

Steven B. Buttner, of West Hartford, died peacefully on August 1, 2012 at Hartford Hospital. He was born in Plymouth, MA on December 7, 1939, son of the late George and Esther Buttner. He built a career as a management consultant, specializing in leadership assessment and coaching, and through his passion for this work became well respected in his field. He received his undergraduate degree from Wesleyan University in 1961, a Master's Degree in Russian Studies from University of Wisconsin, and was a PhD. Candidate at Columbia University in Eastern European and Russian Medieval History.

He will be remembered for his warmth, engaging personality, and sense of humor, as well as his love of nature, travel, literature, classical music and opera. He was committed to social justice and civil rights.

He was an active participant in his Wesleyan fraternity, EQV for all his years. He is survived by his wife Jeri; his children, Jessica Buttner of Medford, MA, and Judson Buttner of Brooklyn, NY, and their mother, Doreen Buttner of Middletown. He was predeceased by his parents and his sister Nancy. He is survived by his brother Richard of Rockledge, FL, and his children, Susan, Richard and Douglas and their families; as well as by numerous cousins and his family of friends.

A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held on August 11, 2012 at 3 p.m. at Patricelli '92 Theater at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to the EQV Internship Program: Ann Goodwin, Wesleyan University, 318 High Street, Middletown, CT, 06459. The check should note on the memo line: EQV Internships.

Published in The Hartford Courant on August 7, 2012

Bill Murphy

Before the 50th reunion is too far behind us and the joys of summer become  distracting, Iíd like to share some reflections on the 50th.

I think that the reunion can be considered a major success, from book, to program, to guests, to weather, to facilities, to food, to turn out, to funds raised, to .....  You, Dick, Dave, Gus, Chuck and Bob deserve a lot of heartfelt thanks - although I donít think that I can give you credit for the weather.  Iím always ambivalent about returning to reunions and always delighted at the outcome.  Of course I enjoy catching up with guys from the EQV house, Gus, Jay, Jack Fowler, and Steve Derbry.  I missed touching base with Gil Seeley.

But the thing that always amazes me is spending time with classmates who were not particularly close while in school, and how much I enjoy hearing their stories.  Steve Jones and his ups and downs in life; Fran Parker, a real railroad nut;  Paul Tractenberg and his experiences with education funding and school choice;  Ed Stein and sports in American society or the New York Times Crossword Puzzle; Dave Hale and Alan Shestack, freshman dorm room mates who have had successful careers;  the Hawk and his passage from ball field to West Wing;  and I was enthralled by that crazy Greek - I donít know how much to believe, but he was a delight to listen to.

In coming to the reunion this year, I came in a particularly reflective mood which I thought would be enhanced by the workshops.

But perhaps I came away with more questions than when I arrived.  I wanted to know whether we were somehow unique or at least very special.  Were we any different from other 50 year grads from small eastern elite schools?  We were bright, but I assume that they were too.  We had great teachers, but I assume that they think that they had great teachers too.  I wonder if there is any way to demonstrate that we were somehow different or that the faculty was better.

One of the telling comments from the first workshop was that we might make insightful comments, but there were many classmates who were not with us.  Why not?  Were they sick, other commitments, or was it just not a memorable experience for them at Wesleyan 50 years ago that would make them want to return?  I like the anecdotal comments, but I miss not having some statistical data from a larger proportion of the class.  Maybe at the 55th we could include a questionnaire that would get at the question of uniqueness of the class.  It would seem that Dave Potts would like that kind of information - or perhaps he already has it.  It seems that we also covered ground that had been discussed at previous reunions when we had some questions about the direction being taken by Wesleyan - see Barry Bloomís earlier observations.  If we continue to be concerned about that direction, perhaps we should take a more active role in discussing and studying it.  Talk is fun and talk is cheap, but if we care, we ought to do more than talk.

One of the generalizations that I make is that prior to Wesleyan, society acted on me and laid out most of the conditions under which I operated.  At Wesleyan, we began to act on society.  Iím drawn to the fraternity experience when considering uniqueness.  Here were approximately 50 students from 18-22 who were responsible for managing a quarter to half a million dollar facility as well as providing food service for those students.  But I think that there were fraternities across the country who were doing the same thing, so that is not the unique character either.

It is when we get to issues of racial and religious discrimination that I begin to sense something special.  We  spent four years trying to convince the national fraternity that they should change their ritual to be non-discriminatory in line with their public pronouncements.  When that didnít happen, we had the responsiblity of establishing a local fraternity, a nondiscriminatory social organization.  We had to fight for ownership of our house, and we had to do this largely on our own without university support.   We lived together in harmony with people of different races and religions.

Brothers came from all over the country, and I canít remember any harrassment.  Are we beginning to sound special?

I wonder how the decline in fraternity membership after the class of 1960 was affected by 60.  Was this part of a conscious decision of the college to discourage fraternities?  Was it part of a national trend?

Or was it a factor of the troubles that we had with our nationals and the light we shed on their hypocrisy?  Probably a combination of all.

Ask anyone who went on the southern baseball trip of their most memorable experiences and they always start with Lennie Moore  (of EQV)and racial discrimination.  We went into the heart of segregation, did well in responding to discrimination and I hope Lennie feels that we supported him.  The trip was as much a learning experience as any time spent in the classroom.

Iím pleased that EQV has had two reunions.  Iím proud of our financial support for Wesleyan interns that allows them to work for non profits and still maintain their Wesleyan financial commitment.  At our last reunion earlier in May of this year, I had  another eye-opening experience.  We took time to reflect on brothers who had passed away and to tell stories about them.  I was unaware that Pat Smith was gay, and that he was open with the brothers about it (I guess that Iím even more naive than I think).  And yet he was an integral part of the fraternity.  If I remember correctly it was said that Stu Byron was asked to leave school  for a year and get his life together.  I canít remember the other name, but it was said that his parents took him out of school to try to de-program him.  I think that it was very special for a group of young men to welcome gays into their midst during the 50s and early 60s.  Now I am beginning to think that we were either unique or very special.

After graduation so many things began to happen in our country and I wonder if some how experiences like ours at Wesleyan played a causal role.  Certainly Rick Tuttle ended up with the Freedom Riders in the South and I was told  had to be secreted out of the South for fear of his life.  In my case I canít claim such an activist role.  But there was revolution in education, and certainly in the school where I taught.  If we were such traditional products of the 1950s, how come there were such revolutions in education, civil rights, womenís rights, etc.  Were we active leaders of change or were we simply enablers, or were we none of the above?  Which brings me back to my original question;  was the Wesleyan class of 1960 unique or at least very special?  Iíd like to think that we were, but I canít answer my question with any certitude.

Thank you for your tolerance in getting this far in my search.

Perhaps in 5 years we can continue the inquiry - or perhaps we can just enjoy each otherís company and the songs of old Wesleyana.

Bill Murphy

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item 2

Hi Steve,

At Dartmouth they refer to alumni boosters as ďBig GreenersĒ.  I donít know what we call Wesleyan Supporters, but I consider myself one of them.  Iím not one who donates a lot of money, and Iím not one who attends a lot of Wesleyan events, but I am one who will speak up for Wes Tech any time that I have the opportunity.  Iím happy to talk about the fraternity system as it existed from Ď 56-í60, particularly EQV, and the rush system.

To skip quickly to the bottom line and the fatal flaw of the fraternity system, some people didnít get invited to join.  That must have been tragic for those denied!  But the system could have been modified to correct the problem, i.e. everyone gets a place in a fraternity.  The students submit their prioritized list and a ďmatch committeeĒ makes assignments taking into account the Fraternityís prioritized list.  Students could still opt out, but everyone starts with a place.

I liked the system because it gave every student a ďfamilyĒ place in the university.  I canít image any other group of freshmen at other schools being better treated than Wes frosh.  You arrive at school and all of the upper classmen are trying to make a good impression on you.

 You are wined and dined with some of the best food you will encounter.  Any time your soft drink glass is empty, someone sweeps in to ask if youíd like another.  The fraternityís marching orders to its members is to never have a freshman alone and uninvolved.  At Wesleyan we took over a summer camp for fun and games (or at least that is what I think happened since I fell, cut my hand, and spent the afternoon riding around to try to find a doctor to stitch it up)  At another fraternity we went to the beach for fun in the sun and the third fraternity took over an amusement center.

From the perspective of the fraternity, it was a long grueling process.  But the fraternity got spiffed up each year before the start of classes.  Everyone got to know each of the freshmen, although it might have been in a very cursory manner.  We all shared an exhausting process that I think brought us closer together in the end.

As a pledge, I gained a big brother.  I gained people with whom I could talk about professors and classes.  I had the opportunity of borrowing or buying text books.  I had 20 and one half meals a week, which I will write more about in another communication.  I had a group with which I could share feelings about school.  I enjoyed the interfraternity athletics.  It was a place for a formal social life on party week ends and an informal social life continually.  It seems to me that we had the ideal group that the university has been trying to recapture ever since, whether through focus dorms, social groups and clubs, dining clubs, etc.

When I say that I was a frat man, my students have trouble believing that.  But I (we) was not the stereotypical brother.  Because we rushed before school started and there wasnít enough time to really know the fraternities, all of the fraternities contained a mix of students, some maybe more than others.  There was much less of typed houses than one would find elsewhere.

And I never considered myself hazed - that I had to endure something that put me in physical or mental jeopardy.  Running for the telephone before it rang three times was no big deal.  Getting the mail was no problem, since you just had to go across the street.  The sophomores were dreaming when they thought that we would line up under the porch roof, so that they could soak us with buckets from above.  The Sunday evening line ups were not a problem and it was good to learn the names of the brothers, school songs, etc.  The work week end was also not a hassle because you were helping to make the house a better place.  The pledge walk was no big deal. Sometimes the rivalries with other houses got a little out of hand, but I donít remember being involved.   At no time can I remember being pressured to drink alcohol or to do other activities with which I did not morally agree.  Iím not sure that I can say the same for other houses, but Iím proud to talk about becoming a brother of Alpha Chi Rho.  Of course changing the ritual certainly helped but that is a subject for another time.

Peace and prayers,

Bill

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Item 3

I wrote a card which I hope arrived at your house eventually, but I think that I used the original address.  Those thoughts were about the value of the Wesleyan experience, but I thought that I would take a few moments tonight with some of the lighter moments, especially "Oh Hell!".  There were delightful times in the living room waiting for dinner, when someone would shout out "a third or fourth for bridge" or, for the less cerebral, "who wants to play Oh Hell".  It takes a special group of friends to play since there is a lot of cut throat maneuvering in order to make a bid.  "So what if it happens to cost your buddy his bid, when you take his ace with a low trump."  I'll always remember one game in which one of the brothers  bid some preposterous amount which scared others off.  He didn't come close to making his bid, but because he was so sure he was going to do well, everyone else bid low and they lost as well.  I believe that it was Freddy Stone who went racing out into the front yard of the house after seeing the dramatic misplay.  Everyone thought Fred was crazy and went out to see what he was up to.  "Fred, what are  you doing?"  And Fred responded, "after seeing him try to make that crazy bid, I had to go outside because there must be a miracle of biblical proportions, or a second coming.'\

The "Oh Hell" continues to be a very important part of the traditions of my wife's family.  We always get together on the Saturday of Thanksgiving and once the dirty dishes are put away, the table cloth is taken up and the cards are dealt.  I think that I'm responsible for corrupting Kay's family, although I have it heard that some will say, "Drat" or "Oh my goodness gracious" when an easy bid is stolen from them, rather than the EQV expletive,"Oh Hell".  Sometimes the crowd grows and we have to use two decks of cards.  The person with the ace of trump is very unhappy when the second ace of trump tops his.  My mother in law got the group to only give me five points if I made a bid of taking zero tricks rather than the ten I was claiming.  I usually did well by laying low and letting the others fight it out, but she caught me, so now I have to bid up like the others.  We always have a blast and people don't seem to really care whether they win or lose;  they just enjoy the interplay around the table.  Good people having a lot of fun, just like on the living room floor at EQV

EQV and FOOD

Iíve taught school at Hanover High School for many years, and over those years Iíve had many student teachers from Dartmouth.  One of those students forget necessary material for his Monday class, so I offered to drive him to his fraternity to pick up the missing lesson.

It was the day after a party weekend at Dartmouth, and I have never seen such devastated fraternity;  it reminded me of pictures of bombed out Europe following World War II.  Did Alpha Chi Rho/EQV ever look like that?  I assume that there were Saturday nights when we may have been in the running for a battle zone, but by Sunday noon the mess was cleaned, the rugs were back, and the furniture in its place.  The girls  who stayed in the house would be impressed with our return to normality and ready for an excellent Sunday dinner.  I think that the difference between Dartmouth and EQV was that we had all of our meals at the house and not at a central dining hall.

        Although I am very proud of Hanover High School, I have serious reservations about the lack of a lunch period.  The cafe is open through most of the day, but students are expected to find their own time to eat, often during class.  We have a seven period day and students average over six classes, so that means that some students do not have any unscheduled time during the day.  Thus they donít eat, or they bring a brown bag from home, or they grab something from the cafe during passing period and eat in class.  (in fairness, we now have an activity period from 10:45 to 11:15, four days a week, so students could use this time to get food and eat).  I once complained to the NH State Department of Education and they were astounded that we did not allow time for a lunch period;  they had unending rules and regulations for food and food service, but nothing that said that a school actually had to allow time for students to eat.  I was discussing this situation at a conference and the priest with whom I spoke, like many others, could not imagine denying this civilizing activity.  A group breaking bread together was the epitome of a civilized society.  Thus I think that the meals at EQV were a very important part of my life.

                  I canít remember any one meal or any one specialty that stands out in Mrs. McNallyís offerings, but I do know that I put on ten pounds from her cooking.  Many people may have chosen to sleep late, but I enjoyed the breakfasts with many choices.  I recommended Mrs. McNallyís blueberry pancakes, if you were having trouble with regularity.  Lunch was basic.  My mother catered to my finicky tastes, but not Mrs. McNally, so I learned to like all things.  Dinners were dress up affairs with coat and tie;  the clothing styles may have clashed, but there was always a coat and tie to grab in the cloak room.  Both the lunch and dinner meals were served by brothers in their white waiterís jackets.

        My recollection was that there was never something discriminatory or demeaning about waiting on tables.  It was an opportunity for some students with limited means to earn their board.  Set up the tables, wait, wash dishes, wash pots and pans, and clean up the dining room. Once a week you washed and waxed the floors. Washing the dishes could be fun with the sprayer and automatic dishwasher.  Donít mess with a dish washer with sprayer in hand.  The pots and pans were perhaps the least fun, because of the nature of the work      and that you were under the critical scrutiny of Mrs. McNally. Because I sometimes came in late from athletic practice and got along with Mrs. Mac, I could end up in the kitchen where she would refer to me as that little Irish boy as I scrubbed the pans.  Waiting table was better.

        The evening meals were often followed by announcements and song, particularly if a professor and spouse had been invited for dinner or there were dates in the house.  Students today consider me a little weird when I tell of singing around the dinner tables, but I certainly enjoyed it at the time.  And I continue to enjoy singing those songs today, although it is not usually in coat and tie after a family meal.

        Iíve tried to imagine what kind of a life it must have been for Mrs. McNally to prepare twenty meals a week.  She had her little apartment off the dining hall, but I never saw its interior.  I donít know what she did between meals or what she did on Sunday afternoon and evening.  I do know that she liked to play bridge and one evening when we were missing a fourth, I went to her apartment and invited her to join us. One hand she already had a gazillion points, and just to push her a little, I entered a false bid.  But instead of continuing in her strong suit, she doubled me and embarrassed  me when I tried to make contract;  I never knew one could lose so many points in one hand.  I believe it was Fred Stone who warned me to be careful of dealing with little old ladies with blue hair. Mrs. McNally had her oddities, but I think that we were very fortunate to have her services at EQV.

        I remember a time on homecoming weekend when one of the brothers was taken aback when an alum tickled his palm when they first shook hands, only to realize later that that was the secret fraternity handshake. And then to hear the reminiscences of the older alums of singing hymns around the fireplace on Sunday evenings led us to think they were rather strange.  Now I am in that position of the elder alum, thinking back to those sit down meals, with coat and tie, waiters, and songs to follow.  It is clearly out of place today, but I can still remember those meals with nostalgia and a special place in my heart.

Addendum

 In the Murphy archives I found old bills from Phi Gamma Chapter of Alpha Chi Rho, Black Walnut Club, and EQV.  The first bill that I found was dated October 11, 1957 and I was charged $55.60 for Board, Dues of $10, $10 for a social tax and $4. for a furniture tax which equaled a monthly bill of $79.60.  The last bill I have was for May,

1960 and my board was $46.35, the dues were still $10, a party favor cost me $1.95, a library tax of $3, $1 for Mrs. McNally, and $3. for a lawn tax (and still we were never able to grow lawn in the front yard).  My bills ranged from a low of $11.00 to a high of $96.50.  I received free board while I was treasurer and other times the bill was reduced by waiting on tables.  Some other charges were for a sinking fund, a composite, rent tax, beer for $2,95 which is a little unusual since I didnít drink, Campus Chest, pictures, telephone, and $1. for having a date in the house.  It seems that times and prices have changed.

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Addendum 2

While I was in my archives, I also found my letter of acceptance with a break down of projected expenses.  It is interesting that it was sent to me air mail, special delivery.

ANNUAL EXPENSES AT Wesleyan  -- LOW --AVERAGE

Tuition                                                                                  $650                       $650
College Body Activities                                                  $17                         $17
Student Health                                                                 $20                         $20
Room                                                                                    $250                       $250
Board                                                                                    $425                       $500
Books and Supplies                                                         $75                         $100
Miscellaneous                                                                   $125                       $300
Total                                                                                                      $1562    $1837

A fraternity member usually will have expenses of about $100 in addition to those of the non-fraternity student.

David Skaggs

Dear Steve,

Along with all your friends and EQV Brothers, I wanted to send along my affectionate good wishes as you and your family deal with this difficult time. For all of its awfulness, cancer at least allows an opportunity for us to let people we love and respect know how we feel about them. So, I am both sad and glad to have this chance to speak to you.

Youíll recall the vivid picture of you from sometime in the fall 1960 that I recounted at our last EQV reunion. It was, I think, at announcement time after lunch, and you emerged from the kitchen with your dishwasher apron on, smiling broadly. We knew we were in trouble. It was time to educate the eating club (yet again) about the protocol to be followed in rinsing breakfast dishes so that at lunchtime you didnít encounter cereal (and other) residues that had permanently bonded to bowls and dishes. You told me at the reunion that you didnít recall that lecture. Obviously, for me it remains most memorable.

We did not know each other all that well, I realize. But at the time you were a key star in the constellation of upperclassmen Ė always congenial and obliging Ė who made the fraternity so attractive to this then freshman.  Your many contributions to the EQV and Wesleyan legacy since Ė especially the internship program Ė are more evidence of the humane approach to lifeís challenges I first experienced in your comments about dish rinsing. Less whimsically, my sense is that you have indeed lived the motto from which the house took its initials: To Be, Rather Than To Seem.

Thank you very much for the good fortune to be your friend and brother.

Godspeed.