Since 1967, brothers in SigEp’s Oregon State chapter have bonded while eating together in the dining room of their chapter home at nine hand-crafted tables made especially for them. They were created as a father’s expression of love for his son. Now, more than 50 years later, Oregon Alpha has received another extraordinary gift, this time from the son in honor of his father’s memory.
It started back when Craig Lehmann, Oregon State ’69, was an undergrad. He recalls telling his father, Richard, that the dining room tables at the chapter house were in pretty shabby shape. It was a fairly casual conversation, as he remembers it — just a brief mention before heading off to class.
Nevertheless, the discussion must have made quite an impression on the elder Lehmann. His son remembers being in class one day when a brother told him a set of brand-new dining tables had just been delivered to the chapter house, courtesy of his father. Thanks to his years of experience in the timber industry, his father was able to commission the tables from the plant where he worked as a production manager, and Lehmann believes he undoubtedly helped make them as well.
In the decades since, thousands of Oregon Alpha brothers have shared good times and good food at those tables. All the while, Lehmann kept a watchful eye on their condition. When he paid a visit to the chapter house in the fall of 2019, he saw they were clearly past their prime. It was then that he decided to make new ones to replace them.
“I saw the tables, and they were in really bad shape,” he recalled. “One had collapsed, and some of the others had cracks. I figured, why not honor my dad’s legacy and take care of the young brothers?” He took some measurements and reached out to Don Statsny ’65, an architect and member of the alumni and volunteer corporation, to discuss how many tables were needed.
With his father being in the timber industry, Lehmann became interested in woodworking at a young age. Although he humbly calls woodworking his “hobby,” in reality, he’s a skilled craftsman who could have created his own line of furniture if he hadn’t decided to become a pharmacist. The now-retired pharmaceutical development consult said the original tables were made of fir. However, he decided to build the new ones using white oak. “I wanted to brighten up the dining room. The old tables were a dark brown and kind of diminished the brightness of the room,” Lehmann explained.
Each of his 8-foot-by-3-foot tables is sturdy, with the legs measuring nearly 4 inches around. Lehmann also designed steel support corners, which some friends of his constructed. In all, he built nine tables at his home woodworking shop in Austin, Texas, and arranged to have each of the 200+-pound tables shipped the 2,100 miles to the chapter house in Corvallis. A SigEp emblem in semi-gloss black enamel adorns the skirt of each table.
The first couple of tables took about six weeks each to build, as crafting something of this quality required a well-thought-out process. There was also quite a bit of legwork involved — hauling the lumber to Lehmann’s house and creating templates — before construction could even begin. Once he’d completed a couple, Lehmann was able to get the construction time down to around three weeks for the remaining tables, with the overall time frame for the project lasting from November 2019 to August 2020.
Ever modest, Lehmann is quick to point out that chapter brothers from his undergraduate days were instrumental in helping to fundraise for this project and that he couldn’t have done it without them.
“I’ve been interacting with my classmates, and they’ve helped with the cost of it. It’s brought us all together, and that’s been fun,” Lehmann stated. Through Zoom calls and emails, he kept in touch with the brothers on a weekly basis to update them on the status of the project.
He was probably on table three or four when he started to wonder about the state of the dining room chairs. Turned out, they had seen better days as well. Brothers from the class of ’69 formed a fundraising committee to have new chairs made and in just a few months, raised enough to have 80 chairs fabricated.
The new chairs are now in the dining room of the chapter house with the tables. Each of them has a small brass plaque affixed to the back bearing the name and graduation year of a brother who contributed at least $250 to the effort.
Oregon Alpha alumnus and former SigEp National Housing Director Ken Maddox, ’75, summed up how much this gift means to the chapter. “Brother Lehmann, in his fashioning of those tables, extends the legacy of his father. How many thousands of meals have been shared over those tables? How many thousands will be shared in the future? His gift will ensure there is a proper setting for our fraternalism to thrive.”