Remembering longtime fraternity advocate Tom Deans ’55


Photo courtesy of Cindy Herman.

Bridgette Simpson, News Content Editor

There will be a memorial service at 11 a.m. on Oct. 1 in Rooke Chapel for Thomas R. Deans ’55, who passed away last year after 66 years of mentoring for the Phi Lambda Theta Chapter of the Chi Phi Fraternity. 

The Phi Lambda Theta Chapter House was renamed last year to the Thomas R. Deans House in commemoration of his years of mentorship, advocacy and service. He was drawn to the chapter for being one that welcomes individuals regardless of culture or race. 

His service began after his graduation from Bucknell University in 1955 when he volunteered with the fraternity alumni association, and went on to hold a variety of positions including secretary, president, vice president and alumni advisor. 

Deans was known by his colleagues for working towards fostering an inclusive environment, encouraging new foreign students to meet members of the fraternity and creating a space where everyone could feel comfortable joining. 

“Fraternities by their fraternal nature are trying to find people they’re comfortable with. We’re trying to find people we’re uncomfortable with,” Deans said in an interview prior to his passing. 

In July, Deans’ wife, Gail Deans, was awarded with a posthumous award dedicated to Deans and his service to the Chi Phi Fraternity at the annual National Fraternities Congress, which takes place in Philadelphia. A scholarship in his name has also been created; the Thomas R. Deans Award of Excellence will be awarded to a local fraternity who achieves the highest amounts of community service and average GPA among other criteria. 

In addition to the work he contributed to both the national fraternity and the Phi Lambda Theta Chapter of Chi Phi Fraternity, Deans was also a successful businessman and involved in the upkeep and revitalization of Milton. He not only founded Thomas R. Deans and Associates, a planning and preservation consultancy, but also the Pennsylvania Preservation Organization. 

His focus on downtown regeneration and maintenance allowed him and his wife, Gail, to restore several buildings as well as form the Milton Health Center. Additionally, he coached Little League for several years and was on the PA Humanities Council and Union County Historical Society. 

Deans is to thank for the fraternity’s coveted location on Bucknell’s campus, the House on the Hill. His weekly meetings with the Fraternity’s presidents allowed him to lead them in establishing a relationship with Chi Phi National. 

“The passing of Tom means we are passing into a new era,” Harley Bennett ’64, vice president of the board of directors of the Phi Lambda Theta Chapter of Chi Phi, said. “We are blessed to have an extremely strong chapter at this time … It is not an understatement to say that our Fraternity would not be here today were it not for Tom. We hope that Tom’s legacy will inspire today’s students to become tomorrow’s leaders.”

After Deans’ memorial service, members of the fraternity will convene at the chapter house for a lunch meeting, and a Homecoming banquet will be held for Deans at the Lewisburg Hotel at 5:30 p.m.

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