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Alumni Spotlight: F. William (Bill) Thewalt

We recently caught up with F. William (Bill) Thewalt, '58 for an alumni spotlight he reflected on his time at Delta Chi.  Here's what he had to say:

I grew up on the east side of Detroit. I graduated from Denby High School in Detroit in 1953. I began at the University of Michigan in September, 1953. My first roommate was Larry Smart ’55 from the Soo. Larry pledged Delta Chi that fall. I waited until the spring semester to rush. Nearing the end of rush I was undecided to pledge Delta Chi or another fraternity. Larry used the opportunity of being a roommate to extol the advantages of Delta Chi and so I ended up pledging  the last day of the rush period.

During the summer of 1954 Don Skinner ‘56, Bob Stakanas ’55 and I traveled to Biloxi, Mississippi for the Delta Chi International Convention. This was a car trip and before many miles of Interstate had been completed. It was the first time these northern boys experienced the Jim Crow South.  We were amazed at the segregation we encountered along our route.

 

 I moved into the “old” house in September, 1954. Larry and I continued as roommates. We really had four roommates as it was necessary for Tom Michalski ’56 and Don Skinner ’56 to go through our room to get to their “architects room” that adjoined ours. Our room had a window seat that overlooked the side lawn. From there we could watch the brothers that were inclined to jock it up, play games of catch and what not on the side lawn.

 

At that time, more or less formal meals were served in the dining room. We had a full-time cook, managed by our steward, Tom Michalski. The waiters were mostly men from other nearby fraternities. One of those waiters, George Trubow, became integrated into the life of Delta Chi even though he remained a member of, and lived at another fraternity.

 

There was a small card room off the living room at the old house. Some of us would finish the evening meal in a hurried fashion in order to get one of the four seats at the Bridge table. It didn’t really matter if you were among the first group of players because the late comers always got a chance to kibbutz and then take a place at the table after the first rubber. Frequently, Mike McGuire (Magoo) ’58 would use his place as a kibitzer to stack the cards so the next hand to be dealt took some amazing turns.

 

Another memory that stands out from that first year of living at Delta Chi was the voice of Bruce Bjorseth  ’54 who came down the main staircase nearly every morning singing,  “Good morning, Good morning, How’d you like to bite my ass? Good Morning to you.”

 

As the unofficial historian of Michigan Delta Chi, I'd like to pass on this tidbit for what it's worth:  the story in the early 50s (when I arrived) was that the carpet for the living room was donated by an alum who was a carpet buyer for GM's Cadillac division. The tan carpet that covered the living room was not permanent and could easily be rolled up. (The floor beneath was high quality hardwood.)  This was necessary because in that day the fraternity frequently held dances on weekends.  At various times the house would be decorated in keeping with the theme for that weekend's party.

 

I recall one party when Marv Teutsch ('56) designed and built a winding stream across the bare "dance floor" that went from the fireplace to a pool in the sunken card room. The whole thing was powered by a pump in the card room that carried water through a hose outside that was threaded down the chimney to feed the winding stream. My recollection is that it was a real hit and produced only minor leakage.

Cleanup after such affairs was a chapter function with many brothers pitching in to replace furniture and carpet and providing needed cleaning to the public areas of the house. 

Normal house cleaning duties also became somewhat of a project. We scheduled regular house cleanings at which the brothers were expected to donate their time. Work groups were "organized" by function. Only those classified as an "electrician" could plug in and use a vacuum cleaner. One needed the proper "classification" to move furniture. We had special classifications for most the jobs involved in house cleaning. It made the work one big game

Dick Bogg ’56 (who later became my brother-in-law) was our very capable treasurer. Dick managed the fiscal affairs of Delta Chi so that he ended up putting on a new roof without a significant increase in dues. His pecuniary instincts were at odds with some of us who favored a more flamboyant style.

 

As a junior, I was elected Chapter “B” and became “A” my senior year. I still remember Tom Michalski admonishing me, “Thewalt, you don’t command respect; you earn it.” This a lesson that has served me through my life.

 

I changed majors several times while at Michigan. When I finally settled on Bus Ad, it was necessary to do a summer session and take one more semester in order to graduate. So, instead of graduating with my class in June 1957, I graduated in January, 1958.

 

My first job was with Dun & Bradstreet, in Detroit, writing credit reports. While I was in school my Dad started his own business. After two years with D&B, I joined with my father in the family business, Fraher Sausage Co. That business survived the riots of 1967. Joyce Bogg and I were married in July, 1968 and we sold the business in 1969. Joyce quit her teaching job and we used her teacher’s retirement money to take a trip to Europe and European delivery of a VW bug. Thanks to Jerry McDonald ‘60, we were able to finance the car through Manufacturer’s Bank.

 

Several months after returning, I finally got a job with General Motors in Flint, Michigan. And so, we have lived in and raised our family in Grand Blanc, Michigan since 1970. In 1987 GM began its first major downsizing and our department was the first to go. Since our work was training of dealer organizations, I started my own consulting business, Ferax & Associates and ran that for a dozen years, developing training programs and consulting dealers.  Both my job with GM and my consulting business provided opportunities to travel throughout the world.

 

Joyce and I have two daughters, both living in Houston, Texas. We both have been and continue to enjoy a variety of volunteer activities. Considering our age, our health is good. One friend was fond of recalling all my medical procedures by saying I am a monument to modern medicine.

 

I am pleased to say that I still value my years as an active Delta Chi. It gave me life-long friendships and many lessons that have been useful through my work and personal life.

 

I can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

February 18, 2019

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