Joyful Journey on the Phi Psi Road
By Drake DelosSantos, Associate Director of Communications
“I pledge my life and sacred honor.” Thousands of members have recited that last stanza of the Creed. Haldon “Hal” Dick Bowling Green ’55 embodies it to noble perfection.
When Hal’s Phi Psi story began, he had no idea how far-reaching the impact would be – on him or the brotherhood. In his epic journey with Phi Psi, Hal imparts his wisdom and wit as a leader, a mentor, a friend.
Alex Vickery-Holland Oregon State ’12, who knows Hal as all of these things, stated, “Between his encyclopedic knowledge of the Fraternity’s history, unwavering devotion to our values (and trips to Shari’s Diner for pie on Wednesday evenings), I know that my life has been blessed by having Hal in it.”
While on campus, Hal’s dormmate, Richard Winder Bowling Green ’55, introduced him to Phi Kappa Psi. During a house visit, the gracious welcome from the brothers was a green flag for Hal, and when he looked at the composites on the wall, that sealed the deal. In those photos were faces of two men Hal had long respected and admired from his church in Fremont, Ohio. Men of character, integrity and faith. That spoke to him.
Hal immersed himself at Ohio Zeta holding positions ranging from secretary to president. “My very first chapter meeting I was elected AG (Corresponding Secretary) and that position required me to have contact with Headquarters,” Hal reflected. During his sophomore year, he needed financial assistance to continue his enrollment and obtained a $350 loan from the Endowment Fund. “It was small, but back when tuition was only $62 per term, it helped a great deal.” A first-generation college student, Hal was extremely grateful to the Foundation for that kind of support. Hal’s curiosity had been piqued. How did the Fraternity function on the broader scope? His undergraduate experiences were great preparation for the rest of his journey on the Phi Psi road.
Setting the Tone
After graduation, Hal began working for Headquarters as a Field Secretary. He traveled coast to coast visiting and working with chapters to recruit and retain their membership base. During his nine-year stint at HQ, Hal had a hand in the start of eight chapters. He found the expansion work especially rewarding. “Because there were no bad habits to overcome, it was a pleasure to work with these groups. Their enthusiasm for the concept of ‘fraternity’ is remarkable.”
Hal’s interpersonal skills were honed as he consulted with undergraduates. “I quickly learned to listen carefully to what is said and what isn’t. To be aware of timing and body language. And making notes was imperative.” After two years on the road, Hal was named Assistant Executive Secretary, and a year later, he concurrently became Editor of The Shield reporting on Fraternity business, events and member stories. His passion for communications had blossomed into a career path.
Writing the Next Chapter
Hal knew it was time to help reach a broader audience. He founded COMCOA, a company in Corvallis, Oregon, that specializes in fraternity and sorority communications. Just shy of 52 years later, he is still working to produce top-quality services for organizations and chapters, including Phi Psi. Brother Bill Good Iowa State ’69 has worked with Dick on their alumni newsletter for 40 years. “He is a real pro. Such wonderful attention to details but so much more. He is my go-to-guy in Phi Psi. When I need an idea about something Phi Psi related, or need to run my idea past someone, I call Hal.”
While Hal was getting his business off the ground, he also wanted to give back to Phi Psi. He didn’t have to look too far. Oregon Beta needed help, so Hal volunteered as their chapter advisor from 1977-99. Because of his devotion to the chapter, he was named an honorary member of Oregon Beta during their 1978 Founders Day celebration. When asked to speak for a similar celebration in 2018, Hal reflected, “I value the friendships I’ve made and maintain in a considerable number of chapters. Always.”
Many can attest to his enduring friendships, such as Brother Vickery-Holland, “There are few who are so universally admired as Hal. The first question I would get asked when working at Headquarters would always be ‘How is Hal doing?’”
Grand Body of Work
His storied career and Fraternity contributions notwithstanding, one of Hal’s major achievements is attending the most Grand Arch Councils (GAC) of any living member. To date, that’s 31! Through the years, he has been a part of important milestones during GAC. He was in Denver, Colorado when the Creed was adopted in 1964. (That also was the year brothers banded together to help get the Beatles to their hotel room.) He was honored to present Dud Daniel with an engraved bowl for his 20-year dedication to Phi Psi. And Hal became a member of the Order of the S.C. at the age of 34.
Every GAC has been memorable, but Hal holds one with great regard – 2012 in San Antonio, Texas. It was there SWGP Tryon Hubbard Alabama ’64 presented him with the Medal of Honor. “What transpired was serendipitous. Brother Hubbard made a couple of comments and then I realized he was referring to me; I couldn’t believe it!” Hal did not receive the award because of his devotion to Oregon Beta. Instead, it was his ability to effectively negotiate between chapters that brought him the accolades.
Brother Hubbard recounted this experience in San Antonio while presenting Dick with the Medal of Honor, “Representatives of the Pennsylvania Kappa chapter had been directed to vote ‘no’ on southern schools on the accredited list, including the University of Alabama. The vote would have closed the colony. Hal was instrumental in persuading Penn Kappa. Under his guidance, we were able to convince them to keep the Alabama Alpha colony.” The result is not only a chapter that continues to have a strong national presence but also has provided the Fraternity with three national presidents.
So, what’s next for Hal? You can expect to see him at the 80th GAC in Indianapolis, Indiana, this summer wearing his S.C. badge and stars, hoping another curious undergraduate will ask about them. “I have had many conversations with brothers about my badge and stars with each being different.” While he may not remember specific conversations, he does try to make this point known when speaking to an undergraduate. “I love Phi Kappa Psi and the Order of the S.C. It may be cliché, but our Fraternity is indeed greater than the sum of all its chapters.”
A staunch advocate for Fraternity and still active nearly 70 years after being initiated, Hal is a man who models integrity and encourages others to do likewise. “Fraternities ARE worth preserving. Broaden your knowledge of the organization you are a part of. My journey has been one of great joy. I will always be grateful for my Phi Psi experience.”