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How a simple ride turned into something so much more for Tom Wood, ‘78

Taking rides from strangers was nothing new in the 1970s, when Tom Wood, ’78, attended Penn State University. In fact, ride boards were commonplace and often used to get from one place to another. When Tom needed a ride to visit some friends at Oswego State in upstate New York, he found another gentleman making the same trip. Offering to pay for the gas, Tom found his ride – and so much more.

Mark Sixour '77 posted on a ride board and I called him up and agreed to pay for the gas in return for the ride,” he remembers. “It was a long ride and a cold, snowy trip!” While strangers at the time, Happy Valley felt very small when later, the two bumped into each other again. “I didn’t know Mark at the time, but later, when visiting Sigma Chi for a rush party, I ran into him again and he remembered me from that long ride,” Tom shares. “It turned out that Mark was leading the next class of pledges and encouraged me to join.”

Although he already had a connection with at least one of the Brothers, Tom recalls that the transition into the fraternity house was not seamless, but well worth it. “I lived in the house from the fall of 1976 through 1978. Initially, it was hard. I didn’t know many of the older Brothers very well, but over time it became much better,” he states. “I think it would be hard to connect if you didn’t live with the majority of the Brothers.”

Sharing classes was one way that Tom forged the bonds with his Brothers. “I received a B.S. in Geology and an M.S. in Mineral Processing. Several brothers were in the same classes and we studied together,” says Tom. “But it was a long walk to the Mineral Sciences building!” Those cold, long walks certainly brought out the strong bonds of brotherhood, some of which remain today. “I occasionally hear from Mark, he is still and active alumni. I also keep in touch with Bill Wells '79, Bruce Hartshorn '79, Steve Levis '79, and Rich Hantke '78. It is important to retain that sense of belonging.”

Perhaps his most special relationship that developed from Sigma Chi is the strongest of them all, the one with his wife. “I met my wife of 38 years at a fraternity/sorority party!” he exclaims. Today, after a successful career working for large engineering and construction firms around the country in technical, sales, management, and executive roles, Tom and his wife, along with their three children and two grandchildren have settled in Colorado. Together, they enjoy travelling, outdoor life in the mountains, family events, as well as serving on local Boards

Looking back, Tom recognizes the significant impact that Sigma Chi has had on his life. Not only social and his marriage, but lifelong skills that he carries with him to this day. “I learned good leadership skills,” he says. “The ability to work with some folks that were not easy to work with and resolving conflict.”

Knowing that the benefits of Sigma Chi may not show up right away, Tom hopes his fellow Brothers take advantage of all that is offered. “The skills learned are not immediately apparent while in school. They often emerge later in life and manifest in different ways. I would encourage all brothers to try and enjoy their college years and be involved as possible in Sigma Chi life while you can,” he advises. “The principals and lessons learned will stick with you as long as the memories exist.”

And he plans to continue making memories himself, making connections wherever he goes and staying active as an alum. “Everywhere I’ve been, a Sigma Chi will emerge in an unexpected place or time and you’ll always find the brotherhood alive when you do!”