In 1966, the men of Verdandi Fraternity, a local fraternity at the University of South Florida, began searching for national affiliation. With counsel from SigEp alumni George Kaludis, Maryland-College Park ’60, and Ray King, Drake ’56, they successfully petitioned Sigma Phi Epsilon for membership. Florida Iota was chartered on May 25, 1968, with 33 brothers. Following their initiation, the charter members were installed by Grand Chapter President J. Edward Zollinger, William & Mary ’27, and the university’s first president, John S. Allen.
On April 5-8, 2018, 12 of the 29 surviving founders joined brothers from across the country at the chapter’s 50th anniversary celebration in Tampa, Florida.
The weekend began with a reception for the founders and their wives at the home of Stan Blank, South Florida ’68, and his wife, Ann, and another for the “younger generation” at Skipper’s Smokehouse, owned by Tom White, Florida State ’68.
Saturday morning, alumni gathered to initiate one of their own. Jim Coppens, South Florida ’67, was vice president of the SigEp colony, but graduated and had to report for active duty in the United States Air Force before Florida Iota was chartered. Coincidentally, the initiation occurred on Coppens’ 75th birthday.
That evening, more than 100 brothers and guests attended a banquet at the Gibbons Alumni Center. Retired United States Air Force colonel Dr. Frank L. Goldstein, ’68, served as master of ceremonies. King, founding chapter counselor and retired associate vice president of student affairs, was the evening’s featured speaker. Other brothers spoke about the past, present and future of Florida Iota, and SigEp Headquarters staffer Kevin Knudson, Nebraska ’15, presented a proclamation on behalf of the Grand Chapter.
University President Judy Genshaft couldn’t attend, but sent a congratulatory message praising the chapter’s outstanding leadership in student government, the alumni association, the USF Foundation and the community.
On Sunday morning, SigEp of Tampa Bay, a group of area alumni and volunteers, hosted the seventh annual Balanced Man Scholarship Golf Tournament. Since starting the event, the group has raised more than $30,000.
Since its chartering, Florida Iota has won four Buchanan Cups, two Grand Chapter Scholarship Cups, four Excelsior Awards and two Chapter Home of the Year Awards. South Florida alumni have risen to the top of their chosen professions and gone on to serve the university, their communities and the nation with distinction.