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Vincent Palusci ’80 Reminisces about his Phi Phi Days

There are so many other people I would love to hear from if we could only keep in touch.

When Vincent Palusci ’80 joined Alpha Chi Rho in the spring of 1978, he found a place where his many interests would be nourished. The fraternity offered a unique experience that could not be found elsewhere. Below, he reflects on those glory days and how numerous brothers, including Greer Cheeseman '77, Brian Mudge '79, Dave Beik '81, and more, have impacted his life.

Q: Why did you choose Alpha Chi Rho over other fraternities? 
A: Alpha Chi Rho had a small group of young men who were interested in science and engineering, as well as the performing arts, such as the Penn Quaker Marching Band. I knew some of the brothers from band and the parties the band had at the house in those days.

Speaking of the house, it was centrally located on campus near the library and science buildings and always had rooms for all the house members. Despite the problems with old houses, I loved the design of the now 100-year-old house and the cozy feeling of home it could give.

The brothers were interested in house activities, but there was also life outside the house. It also offered a meal plan, had a chapter dog (Mr. E), a telephone, a rec room with pinball, and affordable soda and beer!

Q: What was your experience like living in the house?
A: Living in the house was a major draw for joining the chapter. There was a living room, which we tried to keep relatively clean. One of our pledge activities was to clean and oil the wood paneled walls. We were very protective of our stuffed moose, the chapter awards and plaques, and yearbooks. There were frequent basketball games in the backyard and in the foyer, and the kitchen was usually open for us to make late night snacks. Our cook, Mr. Shelton, was an ex-Navy chef, and he knew how to take care of a bunch of adolescent growing boys.

Today, the house is actually much better maintained now and an even nicer place to live in when I was in school. My son went to Penn and lived in the house one summer, but I could not convince him to pledge. My then-girlfriend, (now wife) stayed in the house once summer and has fond memories of the cockroaches and smell of stale beer!

Q: What are some of your most special memories of your time as an active chapter member?
A:
Some parties are at the top of my list, along with my initiation in the council room. Water fights on the roof and pinball in the basement all are happy memories. Even falling asleep in the living room (when the noise was bearable) while reading a good book. The summers spent at the house were also good; quiet, relaxing, and usually having more time to enjoy life in the chapter house. I was summer house manager and have fond memories of meeting brothers from other chapters who stayed for the summer and having the run of the house (with the responsibility for not breaking the bank). I also remember writing up "The Portcullis Club House Rules" for the basement and the good times (and beer) we had there. 

Q: What did you study in school and how did AXP support your education?       
A: I was a premed chemistry major, one of the hardest course loads on campus. While there weren’t other chemistry majors, there were engineers and others in the house also taking hard courses. When I decided to take some liberal arts and business courses, there were budding artists and entrepreneurs to help. It was a supportive atmosphere for me.

The fraternity helped prepare me for after college, too. I went to medical school and then residency in New York City. I had been an only child, and my first roommates were in college. Having people around who didn’t enter medicine gave me more of an understanding of my future patients and their families.

Q: Tell us about your personal life and career today.     
A: I am a pediatrician specializing in child abuse pediatrics. After being in private practice, I returned to academics and am now a professor of pediatrics at NYU School of Medicine in NYC. I teach, see patients, and do research at NYU and Bellevue Hospital. I still play music and show up to play with the band on campus and away games. I have a wife, two married children, and a new grandchild. These all keep me pretty busy in addition to my publishing articles and books.            

Q: Do you keep in touch with any brothers today?          
A: Yes! Dave Beik ’81, my little brother and senior roommate is still a close friend these many years later. Greer Cheeseman ’77 is Director of the Penn Band and a good friend and musical mentor. I attended weddings for Artie Feldman ’80 and Don English ’78 and see them in New York or on campus when I can. Dave Mudge ’73 taught me about archeology and all things obscure, and Leon Czikowsky ’77 taught me about politics. I still see them whenever I can visit campus. I hear from Brian Mudge ’79, Tom McCarthy ’78, Steve Dreskin ’81, and my big brother Bob Messerschmidt ’80 occasionally. I even heard from​​ Jamie Dinan ’81, hedge fund oligarch, and try to keep in touch when possible with brothers from my era. We didn't have official little sisters that I know of, but the girlfriends of the brothers, like Paula Lazrus, Patti Lerardi, and Cindy Mudge are still friends. There are so many other people I would love to hear from if we could only keep in touch.

Q: What motivates you to give back financially to Alpha Chi Rho?           
A: I have donated periodically to the chapter and the national fraternity, but wish I could do more. I am motivated by my fond memories and the opportunities the chapter gave me when I was there. When I graduated, I received the Curly Walden scholarship and a loan from the educational foundation. These allowed me to get started in medical school.

Q: If you could share any wisdom with undergrad brothers, what would you tell them?              
A: Do what you can to be inclusive and try to have as many brothers as possible live in the house. The day-to-day experiences will help mold you into a more cohesive bunch (and you never know when you might need to contact your own hedge fund oligarch!). Take the living in stride; don’t drink too much, and certainly no hazing. Pay your bills and learn how to give freely in service to the fraternity and community. Think of your brothers as true brothers, and help them along their own path of development. Of course, you will have some who you are closer with, but always remember your bonds with everyone in the fraternity and Phi Phi.