Why I give….
Dave “Mound” Brownell ’88
Over the past several years, as our 3 children began to head off to college, I had an opportunity to reflect on my time at WPI and most importantly as a brother of Sigma Pi, Gamma Iota chapter. I came to WPI in 1984 from a small town in Illinois, excited about being independent, thinking I would become a Chemical Engineer and a bit unsure about people from New England. Worcester was a big place with a lot of new and different things for a kid from a town of 2,000 people.
While I did enjoy getting to know a bunch of guys on my dorm floor (Morgan 4th) and we became good friends, it was all still a bit “superficial”. So, Freshman year I decided to rush. At that time rush was a very liquid and social activity. This decision, done together with 2 of my closest friends (Tom Bogaczyk and Todd Delisle) who also became brothers, is what led me to join Sigma Pi. At the time I didn’t fully appreciate how that decision would pay off for me.
So, what did I really get from Sigma Pi? I would say it provided me the opportunity to test extremes of my WPI experience. I really enjoyed living in the house, some years (like when I snow flaked “A” term sophomore year and ended pursuit of a Chem Eng degree). I clearly enjoyed it too much. In the “fog of the fun” I perhaps didn’t fully realize the impact of my choices.
However, thanks to the quarter system, it didn’t take much more than 7 weeks for me to reach some painful conclusions. There were a lot of brothers there to help me come to more practical expectations and study habits each day. This enabled me to make it through Sophomore year, summer school to make up for A term and further.
Turning this corner allowed me still to have fun, but to do so after taking on other responsibilities like leadership roles in the house and two part-time jobs. Getting a sense of who I wanted to be Sophomore year led to some great IQP and MQP project teams and an eventual co-op job with Pratt & Whitney. This series of opportunities further validated the results I was capable of if I really challenged myself. It also gave me a level of confidence before leaving WPI and entering the working world with Exxon.
So why do I choose to give back?
First, it’s a chance for me to say, “Thank you” to the organization and for the leadership opportunities provided a young and foolish kid. Over my time in the House I grew and learned about personal responsibility and consequences for my actions or lack of them. I can’t tell you there was a specific “aha moment” however, hanging out with many different brothers, in different rooms (City 22, City 24, City 32, Tech 31, the Pub) gave me role models and the chance to see my future through their growth and successes.
Second, it’s an acknowledgement after a few decades of life experience, just what a difference my years in Gamma Iota and learning experiences made in my life. Life was busy for the first twenty years or so after WPI and I didn’t really get a chance to put my experience in the proper perspective and realize the benefits of this. Much of my success has come from the experiences and relationships I have shared with others, not just my own work/views. My contributions to Gamma Iota are one small way for me to acknowledge this in a personally meaningful way.
Finally, it’s about sharing some of the success that I have been blessed with back to Gamma Iota, so that another generation of brothers can have the chance like I did at Sigma Pi for camaraderie, brotherhood and to “find themselves.”
I hope in some small way these experiences and reflections resonate with you and provide a similar motivation for you to think back on your experiences and how they shaped your life after WPI.