50 years of ZBT service and friendship

In an era where relationships change at the touch of a screen, the enduring friendship of three ZBT brothers who met more than 50 years ago when they started their careers as junior members of the Fraternity staff is a nostalgic testament to the enduring power of the bonds of brotherhood.

These brothers recently shared a video call to reminisce about the beginning, 1970, and to reflect on what it has taken to maintain a friendship for so many years. They fondly recall the memories that are all rooted in Zeta Beta Tau.

2011 ZBT past staff reunion

“I think we’ve done a very good job staying in touch. We never imagined we’d be able to see each other on a video like this, plus have cell phones and text messages” when we met in 1970, James P. (Jim) Summers, Gamma Epsilon (Marshall University) 1970, said. “The three of us came together from different backgrounds, different legacy fraternities and different collegiate environments and chapter experiences.  But over the years, we’ve made a point of staying in touch. When we’re in the same locale, we get together. We attend ZBT conventions. I care about these guys.”

Brother Summers was the first of this trio to be hired by the ZBT national office as a Field Secretary. It took some nudging from the part of senior staff like then-Executive Director Barry D. Siegel, Beta Eta (Bowling Green State University) 1952, and James E. Greer, Jr., Beta Pi (California State University – Long Beach) 1964, and soon after the team was joined by Bruce H. Weinstein, Psi (University of Alabama) 1970.

“For me, the relationship with Jim, Doug and Jim Greer is a special one. It was during the most formative and impressionable years of my life. It was my first job away from home, the first time I supported myself, and in a ‘foreign land’ (New York City),” small-town Alabama native Brother Weinstein said. “We were in a setting of turmoil in our society, in the fraternity world and especially in ZBT. We all supported each other and shared what was a special time in my life.”

The Field Secretaries served as the primary undergraduate liaisons, traveling around the U.S. to visit chapters, campuses and brothers and help with their success. Brothers Summers and Weinstein went on their first training session with Brother Greer to the Alpha Beta Chapter at Temple University, where they met a Chapter President named Douglas L. Maine. Brother Maine graduated in December 1970 and … you guessed it … joined the Field Secretary team in January 1971.

The trio was complete.

In 1969-1970, Phi Sigma Delta and Phi Epsilon Pi had merged into Zeta Beta Tau. At the chapter servicing level, this created a set of challenges unexpected and exclusive to the staff of this time.

“We had a situation that no other Field Secretaries had,” Brother Maine shared. “We had to go around and try to make peace. We had this constant juggling, trying to get the chapters to play nice in the sandbox and act as one fraternity.”

Certainly, the stress of the job at the time built a bond among the three junior staffers.

“We kept the lights on and the doors open. The financial situation of the Fraternity after the mergers was bad, but our job was to service the chapters,” Brother Summers said.

Brother Weinstein said, despite the challenges, when they were together, they had a great time. He appreciates the learning experiences he had in his time on staff.

“We had a great esprit de corps. When we were together, we had fun. We didn’t talk about all the gloom and doom,” Brother Weinstein said. “I find it very unusual that, after 50 years, you have three guys who have been giving back and are still giving back. You’re not still going to find that.”

All three moved on in their careers and lives in a variety of directions after those first few months, but they continued to share a love of Zeta Beta Tau, becoming dedicated and committed Fraternity volunteers.

Brother Summers said when he reflects about all the ZBT staff teams over the years, he likes to joke when comparing their Field Staff team to others: “I like to say we were the greatest staff of all time, and while I don’t know if that’s true or not, I can guarantee we’re the doggone closest staff.”

Looking back on half a century of friendship, the three brothers are grateful for the precious nature of ZBT’s enduring, lifelong Brotherhood.

“Fifty-some years later, spread to three of the four corners of the country, we are still close friends, and that is a Brotherhood for a Lifetime story in itself,” Brother Summers said.