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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

SHS graduate breaks the mold of school's Greek life

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Brandon Eldridge
ST. LOUIS -- After spending a weekend with his friend's fraternity last year, St. Louis College of Pharmacy student Brandon Eldridge wanted to experience more brotherly bonding -- something he felt was missing from his own school.

"I saw how close the guys were and it just amazed me about the bonds they had formed and how good of friends they were and how much they benefited from the fraternity itself," said Eldridge, a 2003 graduate of Sikeston High School.

When Eldridge returned from his weekend at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield, he went straight to the Internet, searching for the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity Web site.

Within an hour of e-mailing the coordinator, Eldridge received a response and began his year-long process of establishing the first social fraternity at the college.

Word spread and soon he had 40 potential members interested in the fraternity.

St. Louis College of Pharmacy has different rules than other universities when it comes to fraternities, Eldridge noted. Only second-year students who have completed at least one full semester at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy are eligible to pledge one of the five professional fraternities.

Nearly 70 percent of the schools' population is female with a total of total student population of 1,000. There are five professional fraternities -- two all-female; one co-ed and now, thanks to Eldridge, there are three-all male fraternities.

"They all do the pledging system, and it's not exactly something people benefit from -- in my opinion," Eldridge said. "It's embarrassing to them."

So Eldridge did the unthinkable and began his endeavor to start a social fraternity -- the first in the school's history.

"This school is deep in tradition and I've pretty much learned that the only thing that stays the same is that everything changes," said the 19-year-old sophomore.

Eldridge said someone starting up a social fraternity at the school was bound to happen and it just happened to be by him.

"I wanted to start something different and make a positive impact rather than a detrimental impact on the community," Eldridge said.

When Eldridge approached the school's interfraternity council, it wasn't immediately sold on the idea of a social fraternity, he recalled.

"The interfraternity council pretty much shot the idea down and didn't want a social fraternity. They stated liability as a concern among other reasons," Eldridge said.

But the administration is supportive of the social fraternity, and it doesn't like the pledging system, Eldridge said.

Josh Lodola, educational leadership consultant for Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity in Indianapolis, Ind., noted the international fraternity was hesitant to start a new chapter at St. Louis College of Pharmacy because of the college's size. But once Eldridge created a following of nearly 25 impressive young men, Lambda Chi Alpha bought into the concept, and with the support of campus administration, the group is now an official colony of the fraternity, he noted.

Since Eldridge and the 11 other founding fathers were associated into the fraternity earlier this month, the colony has been conducting weekly meetings, doing philanthropic events such as participating in an Alzheimer's memory walk and helping the campus activity board hold movie night and raising money. The fraternity also plans to participate in an upcoming variety show and collegiate food drive.

"Just because we're labeled as social doesn't mean we can do philanthropic events," Eldridge said.

In order to get chartered, the fraternity must complete 14 requirements, and their goal to do that in 18 months. Although the other Greek organizations haven't been very receptive to the new one, Eldridge thinks eventually they will see the new fraternity is benefiting the entire Greek system.

With enrollment at the college increasing, Eldridge said the fraternity could be used as a recruitment tool in the future.

Even so, the work is far from over, Eldridge said.

"It's only begun. We're getting geared up for the future," said the president of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity at St. Louis College of Pharmacy.

Rush week is planned for mid-October and the fraternity is expecting 12 pledges compared to the other two all-male fraternities three and two pledges, respectively, Eldridge pointed out.

This fraternity is based on things every person should live by and expand on such as patriotism, learning, morality and friendship, Eldridge said.

"It's about belonging," Eldridge said. "You don't have to earn respect, we give it to you. But it's your choice if you lose it."