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Beta Pi Served as a Stepping Stone for his Business Career

Alumni Spotlight: Richard Schorr ’72

In the midst of an era when the media has been riddled with negative headlines about fraternity life, Beta Pi Chapter is proud to remain one of the premier fraternities available to Penn students. We stand strong as a chapter that not only acts according to our core values, but that serves as a stepping stone for our members.

Richard Schorr ’72, successful Chief Financial Officer, shares these sentiments, and they are the very reason he’s given back to the chapter over the years.

In fact, Beta Pi Chapter received a Robert Adger Smythe Award during Richard’s sophomore and junior years. The award is given annually to the top two or three chapters out of 180 chapters for excellence in a number of categories from community service to recruitment to rituals, and it serves as a testament to the quality experience Beta Pi Chapter offers to its members.

Below, Richard gives us some insight into his Pi Kappa Alpha experience.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your career path and how Beta Pi Chapter helped prepare you for it.

A: “I graduated from the Wharton school in 1975, went to work in the corporate world, and worked my way up through financial planning and analysis. I’ve served as the CFO for different size companies, from small startups to divisions of multi-billion dollar companies.

Right now, in the twilight of my career, I decided to be a CFO for a nonprofit organization that experienced some difficulties. The organization is called Experience Works, and the mission is to educate and re-educate senior citizens so they can remain in the workforce or re-enter the workforce to generate additional income beyond what they may have in social security. I was brought in to help turn the organization around in terms of financial control and raising money.

Beta Pi certainly helped prepare me for my career because of the experience I had in terms of helping to manage the fraternity as an organization—almost as a business. You have a certain amount of revenue and you have to live within that, including paying mortgage on your house and all the expenses of keeping the house up, as well as learning how to organize events that are both appealing to the undergrads and recruits. In business, you’re doing something very similar. You’re managing your budget, learning how to live within your means, and learning how to generate new revenue. You’re really learning how to manage the natural life cycle of an organization. All the concepts one needs to execute as a person in management go on in a fraternity, so you learn all those skills if you become active.”

Q: What are the top skills/benefits you have gained from your membership?

A: “I think it’s about running an organization, being fiscally prudent, and learning how to work with people. In an organization, you don’t have pure authority over other people. You can’t order people to do things. You have to persuade people to do things; you have to lead by example and establish a sense of responsibility and accountability. That’s tough because not all brothers join for same the reasons, but the leadership has to make sure everyone pulls weight.

You also learn who you can rely on to help you. You learn who you can count on and how you can count on them. You can’t abuse that relationship, but it’s very important to know.”

Q: What is one memory with your brothers that stands out to you?

A: “I went to one of the first summer leadership academies, and it was a good experience because I hadn’t traveled a lot at that point. I was just 20 years old, and I went to Memphis, our headquarters. They hosted it at Memphis State University. Just meeting the senior leadership of the administration of the university and brothers from all over country was fascinating.

There was one take-away from that—one phrase—that has served me well throughout career.

I can’t remember who said it, but one of the speakers said, ‘Remember this when you’re dealing with difficulties or in challenging situations: All of us are different. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Accentuate the positives, and mitigate the negatives.’ By that he meant that your strengths as an individual will help you work through your weaknesses and lack of experiences.”

Q: How do you benefit from your membership as an alumnus?

A: “It’s a lot of intangible. It’s more pride in being associated with the Chapter. It’s seeing the continued success of the organization that you’re a part of. It’s belonging to a group of people who have a common bond. I believe if I was in need, I could call almost any one of the members, even people I haven’t met, and I feel they would respond, just like I would. That’s something you don’t see too often. I think it’s a support system I haven’t needed, but if I do someday, it’s there.”

Q: Over the years, you’ve given a significant amount of money back to the Chapter. Why do you give back?

A: “The management of the fraternity is generally paid by the fees the undergrads pay. The money you give as an alum really goes to programs for continuing education and leadership training for the undergraduates. I think those are fantastic because my experience with them has been extremely positive.

Pi Kappa Alpha was one of first fraternities to abandon hazing, and that was in the early ’70s, just prior to when I was initiated. Instead, they took a more educational approach and created a membership and recruitment program that focused on the experience and education that you would receive as an undergrad.

Then the other part is the leadership academy, which is a very worthwhile program. Undergrads get the opportunity to attend and really learn about how to run a fraternity, how to be an officer, how to manage budget, and how to manage all the different functions of supporting the house. With the membership of fraternities being well over 100 brothers at times, there’s a lot to do and it’s like managing a business. That’s why I give what I can.”

Q: How do you contribute to the fraternity aside from financial donations? Do you volunteer your time?

A: “Unfortunately I’ve always been at a far distance from the local chapter, so I have not been able to give much of my personal time. You know, occasionally I’ll get a call from a recent grad that is entering the job force or needs advice and so forth, and I gladly take those calls. Where I can do it remotely, I help out when called upon.”

Q: How would your life be different today if you hadn't been involved in Beta Pi Chapter?

A: “I’m not sure I would be quite as successful in the business world if I hadn’t had that experience. Also, you build lifelong relationships that are taken very seriously by most. The internet today certainly makes it easier to keep in touch. If you go back pre-internet, we did it the old-fashioned way, which was actually more fun. We had phone calls; we got together.”

Q: Tell us a little about your family.

A: “Well, obviously I’m an empty nester. I married my wife, Cheryl, in 1977. I have two adult daughters. One is 30 years old and the other is 34 and both are married. I have one grandson, from my oldest daughter.

Because my daughters knew how much I valued my fraternity experience, particularly my younger daughter, she pledged a sorority and became very active. She was president of her sorority and was actually invited to be chapter consultant when she graduated. That experience has helped her. She values it tremendously and has built a large network of friends as a result of her involvement with the sorority.”

If you have a story to share about the positive impact Beta Pi had on your life, whether through the development of critical life skills or friendships, submit an update or email us directly, and we will reach out to share your story.