Chi Phi chapter house renamed after alumnus Tom Deans

Juliette Gaggini, News Co-Editor

At 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2 during the University’s Homecoming Weekend, the Chi Phi fraternity’s chapter house located on Fraternity Road was renamed after former member, current alumni and donor Thomas R. Deans during a private ceremony at the chapter house. Following the ceremony was a luncheon and a formal banquet in the evening. 

Many other alumni of the Phi Lambda Theta chapter of Chi Phi as well as members of the larger, national Chi Phi Fraternity came to the University to attend these events and honor Tom Deans. The luncheon included a performance by a band made up of current Chi Phi Brothers, including Sam White ’22, Sam Warren ’22 and Jesse Barbera ’22. The banquet was held at the Lewisburg Hotel, located downtown on Market Street, where current Chi Phi members and friends, alumni, members of the larger fraternity and Tom Deans and his wife were present. Many alumni shared personal stories about how Deans impacted their experience within the fraternity during their time at the University, followed by a speech from current Chi Phi president Ben Snook ’22 and Tom Deans himself. 

Tom Deans has been a beloved member of the University community and the Phi Lambda Theta chapter of Chi Phi since his time at the University. Deans graduated in 1955 as secretary of the fraternity. Not only did he make a significant impact on the brotherhood during his time in the fraternity, but he continued to do so for many years to come. Deans has now been involved for over six decades with terms as president, vice president, and alumni advisor for the last 40 years.

Along with his involvement in the fraternity, Deans has served as a very involved member of many communities. After graduating from his undergraduate years at the University, he went on to receive his master’s degree in American Studies and Black Studies at the University of Iowa. Deans taught English in Milton, Mifflinburg and Great Neck South, Long Island, N.Y. He also worked as a grant writer for Geisinger Medical Center with a goal of reaching out to serve rural areas. 

For many years Deans owned Thomas R. Deans & Associates, planning and preservation consultancy. He was an investor and organizer for downtown revitalization in Milton. Deans also started the statewide Pennsylvania Preservation Organization and created the Bloomsburg Revitalization strategy and manual for improvement. He was then president of North Central Pennsylvania Historical Association for ten years. He also coached Little League for six years.

Deans was also one of the founders of the Friends of Milton State Park and their president for 10 years. He put together a local investment group, Milton Downtown Investors, to help buy and restore older downtown historic buildings. In addition, Deans owned and managed Restoration Design, which specialized in the actual painting and restoration of regional buildings for almost 10 years. 

Founded in 1924, Phi Lambda Delta was a local fraternity. After WWII, Phi Lambda Delta was the first inter-racial non-sectarian fraternity at both the University and one of the first in the United States. Deans has been a leader in the field of diversity and inclusion. As reported in a press release from  a freelance writer, Cindy O. Herman, “In 1984, after an extensive search spearheaded by Deans to find a national fraternity that would agree to PLT’s ideals of inter-racialism, non-sectarianism, and a policy of no hazing, a very successful affiliation with the Chi Phi National was achieved. Deans has been active in leadership of National Chi Phi for 25 years, including two terms as vice president and 10 years as chairman of the Accreditation Committee.”

Herman’s press release continued with the following quote from Deans. “You have to understand that our fraternity is unique in that we aspire to be a melting pot,” Deans said, pointing out how, after WWII a small group, including Jewish, Black and white men, “decided they wanted to create a new fraternity based on equality for all men. And there would be no hazing. Those were big steps then.”

Members of the University community were delighted to welcome Deans back to campus for the Chapter House renaming ceremony after all his hard work and dedication to the Chi Phi organization and the overall community. 

Snook was happy with the turnout of the house renaming event. “This weekend was a truly special event for all members and friends of Phi Lambda Theta, past, present and future. We were humbled to honor our Alumni Advisor, Thomas R. Deans, for his 65 years of relentless service by renaming our chapter house after him. Tom has dedicated so much of his life to ensuring our success and will be forever grateful for it. The passion and excitement of our alumni was evident by the remarkable turnout,” Snook said.

Snook continued, “Former brothers from decades past came back, and gave the active chapter a whole new perspective on how impactful Phi Lambda Theta can be.”

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