[Jim Munger Banhart ’69 reflects on his fifty years since graduation. this is a slightly longer version than included in the printed newsletter and includes more pictures. – Editor]
It is hard for me to believe that June 13th of this years marked 50 years since I graduated from RPI. As I look back on my college years there were a few professors and few hockey games I remember, but most of my memories are of the brothers of Sigma Chi. From the fraternity experience I remember some older brothers who mentored me, some younger ones that I tried to coach along and mostly my own pledge class of just 9, who I spent the most time with.
(Pictures: Jim and Jack, Jim, Jim & Anne with grand children and Derby Day 1968)
As my life played out, circumstances made Sigma Chi particularly influential for me. At that time, we pledged in the spring of freshman year and there was not much time after initiation before finals. Then we all went home for the summer. My father died unexpectedly that summer so when I returned to school in the fall, my fraternity brothers were my real family and support group and would be through graduation 3-years later.
Those circumstances led me to grow up quicker than most, likely the reason I was elected to be the Pro-Council my junior year and Council my senior year. Obviously, that further made my undergraduate life more involved in the fraternity. While President, I was very focused on not having any bad performance issues happen that would discredit the chapter and reflect unfavorably on the fraternity. The safeguards we see today were not present in the 1960’s and it was a period of unrest in the country. The unpopular Vietnam War was ramping up, racial unrest was in high gear, drug use was a problem and protests were common. Protesting got to the point where the National Guard shot and killed protesting students at Kent State the following year which led to the premature closing of school in 1970 while I was a graduate student. This focus on avoiding conflict situations has influenced me throughout my adult life and is a large part of who I am today.
During the winter break of my junior year I went up to NH for skiing with Jack Belletete, one of my two little brothers. Because he brought his hometown girlfriend with him, he invited his little sister to ski along with me. Though that may not sound like an ideal arrangement, we hit it off well and we eventually got pinned and later married and now live about a mile from Jack. We both live on a lake and frequently travel between our houses by boat. There aren’t many brothers who end up married to their little brother’s little sister, but I am one.
Professionally I spent 38 years in various position doing Electronic Countermeasures systems. I was hired into that company by a brother two years ahead of me in school and worked for a while and shared an office with another brother a year behind me. A few years later I hired another brother, from our fraternity.
Then my son became a Sigma Chi at Colgate and I was able to participate in his initiation. That makes my son one of my brothers in the lifelong association of Sigs. He is a Life Loyal Sig today.
One of the brothers from the class two-years behind me was very active in keeping our lifetime affiliation with Sigma Chi a focus for us all and he earned the Order of Constantine award for his efforts. As a result, our chapter has maintained a close association through our lives. We go as far as having our college reunions on the 5-year anniversaries of our chapter’s founding, not so much because that is an important date to us all but it allows us to see all of the brothers we were with as undergraduates, not just the ones from our class. We also have many 3-4 day outings around the country which get as many as 20 Sigs, mostly from around the time I was in school but all are welcome and come..
So, Sigma Chi has touched virtually all aspects of my life and every time it has it has been a positive outcome and influence for me. I am obviously proud to be a Sig.