Willamette University

Campus Conversations

Paul Boaden isn’t a conventional Campus Conversations interviewee — he doesn’t work or teach on campus and isn’t enrolled — but he deserves to be included because he’s so connected here. He’s a former alumni board member, a donor, and for several years he’s taken a lead role in shaping Kappa Sigma’s renewed efforts on and off campus. We checked in with Paul about undergraduate Greek life in general at Willamette.

What did Greek life do for you when you were at Willamette?

First off, I got an outstanding education at Willamette. It was a great classroom experience. But I’d also say that a large part of my education came from the Kappa Sigma chapter itself. In the classroom you learn how to think critically, how to communicate, and so forth; in the house you run events, there’s a different responsibility, and you have to find a way to convince people to get things done.

Then, when you get out into the working world, you have practical experience managing people. And in that setting, you can see who’s had involvement of that type — they take on the leadership roles.

Also, with fraternity friends, when you mess up they’ll tell you about it, but in a nice way. You’re ready for when your boss does the same thing later on [laughs].

What has it been like reconnecting as an alumni leader?

It’s been a heck of a lot of fun. I initially came back to Willamette with the alumni board — being on campus 3–4 times per year was a good start. Russ Burns ’79, who’s now on the board, returned for his 30-year reunion and ended up sitting with a group of students on the Quad and reconnected that way.

Today’s kids are great, even though they wouldn’t want me to call them kids. Willamette brings in a good quality person. More than being good students, they’re good people.

What do you think Greek organizations do for a place like Willamette?

Well, there’s a lot to say about building community, but it’s beyond that. I remember that in the spring we used to hold a Kappa Sigma/Willamette joint speech tournament. We’d bring about 500–600 high school students on campus for the event over the weekend — and that was just the type of student WU wanted to attract, of course.

I mention that because it was a good example of how the benefits of Greek life can go both ways — it has to be a symbiotic relationship.

What’s something Willamette is good at when it comes to Greek life?

The university incorporates it into the education. It’s like a good liberal arts athletic department — sure, sports are fun, but you learn teambuilding and you’re out for a group goal rather than your individual goals. Again, when you get into the business world, rarely will you work on a project on your own. Strong Greek life pulls together studies, brings community and teaches leadership skills. In a lot of cases, Willamette students don’t realize how much they got from it until they graduate.

What’s something Willamette can do better when it comes to Greek life?

A couple times, Willamette has hired someone just to manage Greek life — that’s their only job. This is very beneficial, as opposed to an organizational structure where being the administrative liaison has to be a secondary role for someone. That’s tough.

Getting alumni involved to a higher degree would be a great assistance, too. I’ve seen that with our own group. You can’t always depend on 18–21 year-old guys in the middle of their studies to reach out to alumni and ask for guidance. Alumni are part of the equation. It’s about communication.

What’s your favorite memory from your fraternity days?

I had a blast when I was a student, but I was very fortunate to come back later as an advisor. At a time when I was laid off like a lot of other good airline employees, I came back and took classes at the Atkinson Graduate School of Management for a semester and lived on campus as head resident for Kappa Sigma. For a couple reasons it worked out that I knew basically every member for a 10–11 year stretch. Now, whenever there is a particular need with the house, I tend to know someone who can fill it.

Then, when the chapter started a scholarship fund, I helped because I knew the people so well. That experience connected me with others who actively support the university and the fraternity, like Don Brown ’68.

Any final thoughts?

People have a stereotype of what a fraternity is, but you can crack it. The neighbors right beside the new Kappa Sigma chapter house [off campus on 14th Street] were a little apprehensive last year when we moved in. Then the undergrads did a car-smash event in the back yard to raise money for the Oregon Lymphoma and Leukemia Society. Hearing the noise, people came outside, talked with us, participated and wrote checks.

Elsewhere, state workers eating at Kaneko saw the guys landscaping in front of the house. One woman stopped and said that her grandmother used to live a block away and that she was thankful for them doing what they were to clean up the neighborhood. When you work it right, fraternities and sororities bring out positive results, and not only for the houses at the university.

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Paul Boaden ‘77

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Roger Grannis ‘77 and Boaden have the 70s look. We thank Roger for the entertaining stash of pictures.