Before its demolition in the early 1960s, the Phi Sigma Delta fraternity house stood on the corner of University Parkway and Canterbury Road. The music of Little Richard could often be heard blaring from a record player—even from a few blocks away. Two dogs, Lance and Caesar, lived with the 14 residents, while a monkey wreaked havoc in an upstairs bathroom decorated with tree-patterned wallpaper. Parties were taken very seriously. For a funeral-themed Halloween party, someone secured an actual coffin for frat brothers to hide in and pop out of to alarm unsuspecting guests.
When Animal House premiered, Phi Sig president Billy Cooper, A&S '59, joked to his friends, "Who told them about us?"
Though the Phi Sig house has since been replaced with the Colonnade, the fraternity's reputation for throwing the best parties hasn't been diminished by time. Frat member Jerry Reichmister, A&S '60, along with two of his frat brothers' wives Cathy Seiler and Barbara Smiley, has been planning yearly get-togethers since the group entered retirement. Usually, they convene in South Florida, where some of them live, but their most recent reunion took place back where it all began: the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus.
Jerry and Susie Reichmister, Joyce Baker, and Marny Needle planned the reunion. Of the nearly 30 people who attended, most graduated in the late '50s and early '60s; the oldest attendee was 87. People flew in from as far away as California and Florida. They gathered on campus for a golf cart tour, where they saw just how much the school has grown in the last half-century. Cooper recalled a campus with only two quadrangles, while Reichmister remembered the San Martin Drive area as an undeveloped forest.
Despite their penchant for partying, Reichmister's crew found time for more serious endeavors during their undergraduate careers. The frat was involved in civil rights activism, including picketing a "whites only" restaurant near campus. They also managed to squeeze in some studying to prepare for their future careers. Cooper has practiced law for over 50 years; Reichmister spent 44 years performing orthopedic surgery and, after retiring 10 years ago, became medical director for the Workers' Compensation Commission of the state of Maryland.
Of the gathering, Reichmister says, "We were all glad to see each other in person. Not virtually, but in person. It makes a difference when you can give everybody a hug and catch up on everybody's careers and kids and grandkids." For Cooper, the best part of the weekend was simply sharing stories about those distant college days: "They were the most fun four years I've had in my life."