Stories

A stroll down memory lane

This piece was collectively written by Bryan Faulkner, CJ’97, David Katz, LA’75, MEd’76, Thomas Kerr, E’69, MS’71 and Bill Nicholls, E’70.

GPK nears its 100th anniversary

On a bronze plaque in the lobby of Ell Hall, Gamma Phi Kappa’s name appears proudly alongside many student organizations that contributed to the erection of the building. Founded as a local fraternity at Northeastern University in 1925 by Professor Stanley G. Estes and a dozen undergraduates, GPK’s spirit was born and firmly embedded in Boston’s and Northeastern’s history, its earliest members having attended classes at the YMCA.

GPK was granted a charter by the university in 1932 and was part of the ‘Quint Frat,’ Northeastern’s founding five fraternities. For more than seventy-five years—before the revocation of its charter in 2003—GPK contributed to the school and, in many respects, personified Northeastern’s ‘up from the bootstraps’ culture.

GPK brothers were among those who escorted the first King Husky from North Station, and GPK alumni have included such NU notables as Professor Rudolph Oberg, Dean Alvah K. Borman, Professor Joe Golemme, Dean Paul Pratt, and Olympian Lawrence Gluckman.

GPK was the first fraternity to ban physical hazing of pledges and integrate its membership. GPK alumni and undergraduates generously endowed two scholarship funds at Northeastern, one of which is exclusively for the benefit of non-fraternity members. “My membership in GPK enhanced my undergraduate experience at Northeastern,” says David Katz, MEd’76, LA’75. “Regular interaction with GPK alumni mentors such as Tom Kerr, Ed Murphy, and Bill Nicholls helped me to mature and learn valuable life lessons that have stayed with me over the years.”

When its original Brookline fraternity house burned down in December of 1962, GPK rallied to acquire a new home on Vancouver Street—just a short walk from Northeastern’s main quad—which the alumni association continues to own today, now serving as an alumni center.

The support of an active alumni association was the vital element that enabled GPK to maintain its local identity. “If it had not been for the emotional support and companionship I received from the brotherhood, I most likely would not have become an NU alumnus,” says Thomas Kerr, MS’71, E’69. “The bonds established during those undergraduate years have been maintained and grown stronger as the years have passed even to this day.”

Although the fraternity’s charter was revoked by Northeastern in 2003, its alumni association has lived on, holding reunions each year at homecoming, monthly Zoom meetings, Red Sox outings, and BBQs at Vancouver Street. “I count the NU co-op system and fraternity experience as the two most important aspects of my growth into a successful professional adult,” says Bill Nicholls, E’70. “GPK took boys on the verge of manhood and ingrained friendship, loyalty, responsibility, and trust as basic principles that have lasted a lifetime.”

As GPK’s 100th anniversary approaches, the alumni association is anticipating a celebration for its more than 150 remaining alumni.

GPK old-timers spanning classes 1968-1978 from all over America—even Ireland—reunite every other year. The 2021 reunion captured above was held at Shore Acres in Falmouth, Massachusetts.