Alumni reconnect for humanitarian purpose

December 22, 2015

Like many fraternity brothers, Chris Caveness ’83 and Andy Jowdy ’82 stayed in touch after graduation. In 2014 the two fraternity brothers, with the re-establishment of Pi Lambda Phi Fraternity on campus, decided they wanted to create something exceptional for their fraternity and the student learning experience at Roanoke College.

“President Maxey approached me about establishing a scholarship,” Caveness recalls. “I’d contributed to Roanoke in the past and after talking with him about a scholarship and other interests I had for the Business Administration curriculum, I decided I wanted to do something more.”

 At the same time, Jowdy had an idea to support Roanoke students by creating an ethics-based speakers series. Caveness reached out to Jowdy to discuss creating something unique for Roanoke College. The Pi Lambda Phi Speaker Series and Scholarship Fund began to take shape.

“I don’t think young people have a lot of good, positive role models,” Jowdy says. “The goal was to create opportunities to expose kids to conversations about right and wrong in the context of real-life experiences.”

Back on campus, David Robertson ’89, director of the College’s Center for Leadership and Entrepreneurial Innovation, was focusing the center’s efforts on entrepreneurship so that business students could “learn from someone else’s journey.”

Caveness and Robertson were old friends and hadn’t seen each other since graduating from Roanoke. The two reconnected and, recognizing that the goals of CLEI were in sync with the objectives Caveness and Jowdy had for the new fraternity fund, entered into a partnership.

Working collectively, the three decided that Pi Lam Fund and CLEI would also be the best way to meet their individual goals for giving back to the school in monetary and academic-enhancing ways.

Pi Lam brothers Rob Lyon ’85, Brian McElwee ’84, Peter O’Neill ’85, Robin Peirce ’85 and Bobby Ziogas ’82 joined the cause, and the group created the Pi Lambda Phi Fund to award two scholarships and invite a speaker to campus every year.

“We brothers came together in a significant way so the fund can sustain itself for at least the next 10 years,” Caveness says. “It’s a way for all of us to give back to the College to celebrate the successes we’ve had. It also gives Pi Lambda Phi members a chance to play an active role in the creation of the annual speaking event, the scholarship process and general business management.”

Jowdy says having a fraternity involved in helping manage a fund is unique. “These young guys get to participate in the process,” he says. “Our mission is to provide an environment that fosters the kind of brotherhood that we had.”

If the Sept. 15 inaugural event was any indication, the brothers are on to something.

An estimated 250 people filled the Wortmann Ballroom at the Colket Center to hear Abby Reiner and Deven Schei share their experiences with the Wounded Warrior Project, a national military and veterans’ charity that was founded in Roanoke in 2003. Reiner is Wounded Warrior’s brand director. Schei, a combat veteran who was wounded while serving in Afghanistan, is now a Wounded Warrior spokesman. He is the younger brother of a veteran who was severely injured while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The crowd also celebrated the Pi Lambda Phi Fund’s first two scholarship awards, presented to Mikaela Cook ’17 and Preston Gould ­­’19.

“The involvement of the current Pi Lambda Phi students has been the happiest surprise,” Jowdy says. “They deserve the credit for the event. They put forth the effort and fulfilled the roles we asked them to play. It’s all about trying to help people.”


—Nan Johnson