John F. Levy
November 10, 2013
All of us who were fortunate to be brothers of Theta Chapter of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity at the University of Pennsylvania know that the time we spent at the house and with our brothers was in many ways the best part of, what for many of us, were some of the best years of our lives. The friendships forged and the memories made have stayed with us for our lifetimes.
For generations, and I mean literally generations. Today we have many alumni brother whose sons are current brothers. David and Joe Slosburg, Allan and Brandon Bell, Michael and Brandon and Jordan Karsch, Steve and Jacob Gilson, Ivan and Ethan Ross and even three generations Leon Rittenberg, Jr. Class of ’56, Leon III Class of 89, and current sophomore, Lee.
As with all families, we can trace the continued growth of our Theta brotherhood to one exceptional man. Generations of brothers owe our great times, friendships and memories to Leonard Malmud.
Lenny Malmud entered Penn as freshman in the Fall of 1941 fully expecting to graduate with his class in 1945. Lenny remembers sitting in his dorm room on the morning of December 7, 1941, not only because it was the day Pearl Harbor was bombed, but also because December 7, 1941, was the day he visited Theta for the first time as part of a rush function. When the United States entered World War II, Lenny (not for the last time) was there to help. Lenny served as a fighter pilot in the Mighty Eighth Army Air Force, flying missions from England over Europe, flying as part of an Air Sea Rescue Unit and winning for his efforts the Distinguished Service Cross.
Lenny returned to Penn and Theta in the Fall of 1945 graduating in 1947. Lenny began working in business after graduation marrying the love of his life, Betty Lou, and beginning to raise a family. At the time, Lenny believed, like many of us, that our days with the fraternity end when we graduated. However, Dr. Victor Frank, the great longtime trustee of the House kept in touch with Lenny.
On one such call, in 1956, Dr. Frank told Lenny that the roof of the House had sprung a leak. Dr, Frank could not get to the House and asked Lenny to try to help. Lenny says he grabbed a tarp, got into one of his company’s trucks, and headed to the House. For the next, almost 50 years, any time the House needed help, Lenny was there.
All of us who have raised sons know that in their college years they have a tendency to drink an extra highball at nightfall without regard to any sorrow it may cause tomorrow. They make what; can most charitably be described as, ill-considered judgments. Those of us, who as parents have dealt with the ramifications of some of these decisions, are comforted by knowing that this time will pass and they will grow to be responsible adults.
Imagine dealing with these decisions for almost fifty years and knowing that this year’s boneheaded choices will be inevitably followed by next year’s and the following years’. Lenny dealt with our bad judgments year after year after year. It is amazing that the idea we have can seem so good to slightly addled minds at 3:00 in the morning and be so stupid in the cold morning light. And yet Lenny was always there in that cold morning light, dealing with all of those decisions and always with grace, humor, patience, compassion and wisdom.
Lenny did more than just get us out of jams. Lenny developed what he called the Theta Plan for managing a fraternity chapter. Nationally, ZBT recognized how effective the Theta Plan was and encouraged chapters throughout the country and their trustees to adopt the Plan.
The Theta Plan is really quite simple. The budget for the upcoming year is set by the trustee. The amount to be charged for room, food and social dues is set by the trustee. The billing is done each semester by the trustee. The collections are received, recorded and deposited by the trustee. If any brother or his family has financial difficulties, they are resolved by the trustee. Each month the Steward and the House Manager receive funds to pay bills by the trustee. The House is given money for parties, rush and other events by the trustee. All employees of the House are paid by the trustee. If the House needed improvements or repairs estimates were gotten by the trustee, work overseen by the trustee and repairs paid for by the trustee. This is a plan that makes life easy everyone—except the trustee!
Indeed, when chapters around the country failed to embrace the Theta Plan, the answer by trustees was invariably the same: “This is way too much work. Where would you ever find a trustee willing to put in so much time and effort?” Well Theta was very lucky to have found perhaps the only one in the entire Fraternity system—our one and only Lenny. Lenny managed all of the finances of the House making sure we had the best food on campus and money for the best social functions. He made sure the House was always well maintained. He did this while charging fair prices for room and board and, at the same time, having the foresight to squirrel away a tidy sum for emergencies.
Not only has Lenny been there for Theta. He has also been there for ZBT National. During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, all fraternities were suffering. Members of the anti-war and counter culture movements were not joining establishment organizations like fraternities. ZBT entered into a series of financially disastrous mergers with many other traditionally Jewish fraternities, putting all of ZBT at risk. Lenny, along with other brothers such as Arthur Horwitz, Theta ’48, worked to save the fraternity. For his efforts, at the 2007 ZBT National Convention, held here in Philadelphia, National honored Lenny for his selfless and tireless devotion and work for the Fraternity.
The University of Pennsylvania administration and the Greek system at Penn have had throughout the years what could best be described as a complicated relationship. At times, Penn recognizes and values fraternities and sororities for their positive impact on campus and then there are periods when the troubles of Greek life seem to the Administration to outweigh the benefits. However, through all of these times, good and bad, and especially the times during which, as Lenny generously says, “the brothers were cutting up a little bit,” Lenny was always our advocate and our peacemaker.
He is the principal reason our House is still on campus, that it is succeeding, as so eloquently described earlier by Brother Brandon, and why we can truly say that the relationship between Theta and Penn has never been stronger or better than it is today.
We now stand together at this Homecoming, brothers old and new to begin a glorious new chapter in the glorious history of our Chapter. We are here at Homecoming at our House, which was our home for our years at Penn and continues to be our Home whenever we return. We are here to break ground on a great renovation and expansion of our Chapter House as so well described by Brother Allan and to affirm together our goal of making the terrific plans made by our brother David Brauer a reality.
Most importantly, we come together today—all of us—to dedicate this House as a measure of our love, affection, and especially our gratitude to the one man who has, throughout his entire adult life, embodied the true spirit of Theta. Without Lenny, none of this would be possible and, through his selfless devotion, he has made all of our lives infinitely richer.
The dedication plaque says it best: “To Leonard Malmud we hereby dedicate on this day the Theta Chapter House, now and forever, as Malmud House as a small token of our thanks to you Lenny, our advisor, friend, mentor and brother.”