Gary Sachs ’76

Success and Brotherhood through the Principles of Pi Kappa Alpha

From a positive impression of Pi Kappa Alpha, Beta Pi Chapter, Gary Sachs '76 went on to form friendships and values that would help to guide a highly successful life – both professionally and personally.

"During our first week at the U of Penn, there was a terrific outreach of people who came and joined in with us and brought us up to the house," Gary said. "They came to the dorm and we played touch football. You don't think of it as a big thing at the time, but the people I met in the very beginning I remain close with to this day."

The brothers Gary met during his initial contact with Kappa included Harvey Mackler '74, Bruce Wilson '73, Jerry Herman '74, and Dave Edmund '75.

Gary soon learned that this outstanding group of Kappa brothers were in sharp distinction with the image he had of a fraternity based on the "Animal House" stereotype.

"They had serious ideas about what fraternities could do and what brotherhood was about. They held to the principles of service and scholarship; It wasn't just something they said for Rush," Gary said. "They took their principles seriously, and made it easy for the new brothers to join in and take it just as seriously."

Leadership by Example

One of the most striking elements of the Kappa brother's formula for success, according to Gary, was leadership by example.

"When I first moved into the house, I saw Jerry (Herman), who was president at the time, scrubbing bathrooms just like everyone else. It made quite an impression on me," Gary said. "We were all very proud of the house and we all worked together to maintain it."

Enduring Relationships

Gary may not have realized it at the time, but he says that the enduring nature of the friendship and brotherhood he discovered in Beta Pi Chapter was foreseen by a prominent guest speaker.

"A very well known sociologist came as a guest speaker for Founders' Night. He talked to us about what organizations like ours would come to represent in our lives," Gary said. "He talked about the kind of bonds that would form between us, saying in the future you will be drawn back together by the warmth of seeing people and communicating, having long-term interactions well beyond just attending Homecoming."

"The proof was our chapter winning national and local awards, a tradition where you see your peers as role models working hard toward their objectives. He was predicting that we would become part of the national elite, people that would later on play prominent roles in their businesses and communities."

A Fortunate Career

Gary modestly describes his own career path as "very fortunate." After attaining his Bachelor of Science at U of Penn, he went on to Cambridge on a Fellowship for experimental psychiatric medicine. Since then, he has had a long-standing career in Psychiatric Medicine at Massachusetts General and as faculty member of Harvard.

He believes that the principles reinforced in his time with the fraternity have helped to guide and shape his future success.

"The idea of leadership by example stands out. The concept that if you take yourself seriously you can accomplish a lot," Gary explained. "It was that belief that lead me to become President of the Intrafraternity Council. You can live up to a lot of goals if you are prepared to do the work."

Gary also believes in the strength of the support coming from the brothers themselves.

"It's great to have the support of a group that you know well and can turn to. I believe having a team of comrades and confidants behind you can increase the overall likelihood of success," Gary said.

Supporting Future Success

Gary returns to U of Penn several times each year to visit with brothers from his era and meet the upcoming generations of Beta Pis.

"I believe the fraternity goes through cycles, and it's always changing. There is no right way, but I encourage the active brothers to remember the values of Pi Kappa Alpha," Gary said. "Do it your own way – but as you do it, realize that you are influencing the level of friendships, defining your integrity. Your attitude and actions have an effect on you and the group as a whole. Through self-awareness, by remaining purposeful and thoughtful, you can have a good time and really build something worthwhile within the group."

Gary actively supports Beta Pi, attending chapter meetings and donating to support the chapter.

"My motivations for supporting the group is simple," Gary said. "It was there for us and I want to help sustain it for future generations."

Gary currently lives outside of Boston and said he is lucky to be associated with first-rate people and institutions, but also to have "one of the most supportive and understanding wives on the planet and three great kids."

Harvey Mackler ’72

Pike Brother Helps Raise Awareness and Promote Research for ALS

Like many brothers, Harvey Mackler '72 looks fondly on his time as an active part of the Beta Pi Chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha. However, his connection to Pike is stronger than ever in his dedication to working with the fraternity alumni association and benefitting Pikes and sufferers of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, a progressive, neurodegenerative disease.

Harvey pledged Pike in 1972, when he was a sophomore earning his Bachelor of Science in Economics from the Wharton School of Business at U Penn. His motivations were social but also practical in nature.

Read more: Harvey Mackler ’72

PiKA Yields "Deep and Abiding Friendships"

Thank you to Richard Myers '72 for participating in the Q&A.

Why did you join PiKa as an undergraduate? I joined PiKA because out of the other fraternities I rushed, it was the most diverse by late 1960s standards, meaning mixed religions, ethnicities, politics and socioeconomic classes. I thought that the actives were a pretty fun bunch, as well.

What is the funniest memory from your PiKa days? I cannot report on the three funniest incidents (even though the statutes of limitations have passed), so I will have to report on the 4th funniest incident I can remember. One of our brothers who worked on the college newspaper had gone out on a date with a new girl and he was hopeful that he could bring her back to the house. With the help of his roommate, we filled his room completely with crumpled newspapers from floor to ceiling, and we put a sign on the door, "The Newsroom." Although I wasn't there when he and his date arrived, I am told that the surprised look was . . . amusing.

What is the single fondest memory you have shared/will share with your children and grandchildren? My children well know the bonds of fraternity. My fraternity roommate, Bob Labonde '72, and I were both from the West Coast and we both settled in the Philadelphia suburbs. Our wives met each other when we were both in college, as well. My first son, Pat, and his second son, Chris, were born seven months apart. We have been each other's "functional family" for holidays and events. So our families are often reminded of the deep and abiding friendships that the fraternity engendered.

How do you stay connected with your brothers as an alumnus? We email and we get together at Homecoming and Founders Day. In addition, some of the local alumni and I are active advising the undergrads in various issues, such as housing, and we have met with the University's Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs (OFSA) on numerous occasions over the past 7-8 years, as our older alumni did with us when we were undergraduates. In addition, once a year, the "Old Guard" (started with alums that were initiated in the era 1948-1960) has a luncheon which I have attended by invitation. It is a chance for me to thank many of them for their involvement in the fraternity when I was an undergraduate, and some of my more contemporary alumni brothers are just following their examples.

Have you visited Penn since graduation? Yes. I still feel a connection to the university, but I mostly go back to visit the fraternity.

What about your membership in PiKa makes you the most proud? I am most proud of the deep commitment of my contemporaries to maintaining friendships, becoming involved in charitable works and professional development. I know that I speak for many others of my brothers in being particularly proud of Bruce Wolfson '74, who has been a National VP and in charge of the Foundation.

How would your life be different today if you had never joined PiKa? I am not sure that I could speculate. I think that I probably would have joined another fraternity, but the quality of the brotherhood would probably have been markedly different.

If you could go back and relive one moment from your PiKa years, what would it be and why? When I first read the question, I tried to think about whether there was anything that I would have changed, and I couldn't think of anything. For me, my most eye-opening experience was attending the National Convention in Biloxi, Mississippi in 1970 or 1971. It was really a time of positive change for PiKA, and it really ushered in a time of greater awareness of the issues of the world around us. It was a great time to have been there and I really learned a lot.

Where has life taken you since graduation? What's new in your life today? I have had a wonderful career as a Philadelphia lawyer. In 2011, the US Supreme Court accepted certiorari in a case on which I was the attorney of record for the cert. petition. Though I did not argue the case before the Supreme Court, it was exciting to be there. I also am privileged to be a decent enough mandolin player that I can play in bluegrass sessions hosted by one of my "guitar heroes," David Bromberg, who lives in Wilmington, DE.

Who do you stay connected with in your alumni years? Are there any brothers you've lost touch with whom you'd like to reconnect? I am connected with almost everyone in my pledge class, I think, because most of us are pretty good about attending PiKA events. There are a couple of older alums, Ron King '70 and Steve Dreskin, with whom I have lost touch and would like to see again. Mostly, though, those of us who were in the fraternity from 1967-1975 or so have stayed in pretty close contact.

Why would you encourage other brothers to engage with PiKa in their alumni years? I think I told this story to a couple of actives at the "Old Guard" luncheon. I think that Johnny Hippel '22, who was a National President of PiKA from our chapter, was one of the first adults whom I ever addressed by his first name. When I met him, he was in his 60s, I think. He was a tremendously well-known Philadelphia attorney, but he was just "Johnny" to us. He was committed to seeing the ideals of the fraternity brought forward, and he communicated this to us by his actions. Engaging with the fraternity helps one realize that the bonds of brotherhood extend across generations and geography. It really is a very simple equation: If you got something out of the fraternity--and I really did--then there comes a time for you to return that to our younger brothers so that they can carry forward the positives that we received.

What is the best thing about your alumni experience? It's not over yet. I am sure that there are better things to come. Seriously, I think that, assuming that you pay attention to your life as you live it, you gain a certain amount of wisdom and perspective that allows you to see how valuable the fraternity experience was, and to help the newer brothers in some small way based on that perspective.

Reconnect with Richard at myersrpm@gmail.com.