An Opportunity to Serve with Friends

So Others Might Eat
Food and nutrition services have always been a volunteer match for Mu Alpha Hoyas. Image credit: Mu Alpha website
By Timothy Rosenberger (C'16)

When Paul Albergo (C'82) thinks about his four years at Georgetown, one of his fondest memories is being a regular volunteer at So Others Might Eat (SOME), a community organization providing food, clothing, and health care services to help meet the daily needs of D.C.'s poor and homeless populations.

Albergo volunteered at SOME and similar organizations with fellow members of Mu Alpha, the Georgetown chapter of the national service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega (APO), which has been a part of the Hoya community for 60 years. While APO is still called a fraternity, its membership has long been open to both women and men.

Several times a semester, Albergo and other Mu Alpha volunteers prepared and served a hot dinner at SOME’s residence. “We were responsible for everything,” he says. “We purchased, prepared, and served the food, and afterwards we cleaned up. It was a leap of faith that enough people were going to step up to make this monthly meal happen.”

Year after year, Mu Alpha continues to step up. Its activities not only provide invaluable campus and community services, but also build a strong sense of camaraderie among the members.

Finding a Campus Home
Early in his undergraduate days, Adam Doverspike (F’03) contemplated transferring from Georgetown. In fact, he applied to another university. But then he found Mu Alpha, and it kept him on the Hilltop.

“In finding a diverse group of students committed to volunteerism, I found my home at Georgetown,” says Doverspike. “We had a volunteer project almost every day of the semester. From running the van escort program to working with retirement centers, building transitional housing, and serving overnight at women’s shelters, Mu Alpha provided an opportunity to serve with close friends.”

Current students still perform a service activity almost every day.

Mu Alpha celebrated its 60th anniversary on the Hilltop with a March celebration that drew more than 230 students and alumni from all six decades  and from all over the United States.

“In finding a diverse group of students committed to volunteerism, I found my home at Georgetown.”

Gathering generations of Mu Alpha members lends itself not only to stories and mementos, but new friendships built through shared experiences. “The reunion connected me to my contemporaries, but it also allowed me to interact with alumni 10, 20, and 40 years older than myself,” says Doverspike, who made the trip from his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “We could hear firsthand how the integration of women into our fraternity occurred, and how our role grew from a fraternity serving the Georgetown community to one serving all of D.C.”

Speaking of history, the Georgetown Mu Alpha chapter boasts a particularly well-known and historic member, President Bill Clinton (F’68).

Mu Alpha alumni and students frequently talk about how the organization helped them find a “home” at Georgetown—a sense of purpose and belonging. Another common theme is that the chapter helped them understand, magnify, and live out Georgetown’s Jesuit mission of social justice and service to others.

“Seeing an unending stream of alumni serving in Teach for America, Jesuit Volunteer Corps, the Peace Corps, and elsewhere is a humbling reminder that a focus on service in school should not end at graduation,” Doverspike says.

“Some members have lifted up undergraduates and provided opportunities they would not otherwise have seen,” he adds. For example, in 2006 Scott Beale (C’98) founded Atlas Corps, a global nonprofit that places highly skilled nonprofit leaders as fellows in overseas organizations. Atlas Corps has recruited many Georgetown undergraduates and recent alumni.

When Crisis Calls
Mu Alpha counts many alumni spouses and partners. Jennifer Doverspike (F’03, MSFS’04), who is married to Adam Doverspike, says she is especially impressed by how APO springs into action after tragedies. The January 1982 Air Florida Flight 90 crash onto the 14th Street Bridge and the fatal Metro crash right on its heels were local transportation and human disasters. A severe shortage of donated blood in the city compounded the crisis.

The semester had just started, and students were still in the process of moving into their dorms, “but when the Mu Alpha office got called to help, they were able to lead a campus-wide blood drive effort,” she says of the important moment in Mu Alpha’s history. “One of the fatalities of the plane crash was a Mu Alpha alumnus and his family. We tell our incoming members, it is important to help all and to serve blindly. We never know when we might be saving one of our own.”

Both Doverspikes were undergraduates during the events of September 11, 2001, and participated as Mu Alpha began to immediately coordinate a blood drive. “It’s frustrating how useless you can feel in the face of immense tragedy. But that impetus to serve, to do something when you see a need, that’s what Mu Alpha alumni try to inculcate in current students,” added Jennifer Doverspike.

Blurring Generational Lines
The connection between students and alumni is strong—a common refrain is that Mu Alpha binds people by shared passion and experience. Maurice McCaulley (F’16) was one of two seniors honored with a Distinguished Service Key at the March reunion. “It was such a special moment to walk into a building and feel as if you’ve known everyone forever,” he says.

Former Mu Alpha treasurer David Lizza (C’15) helped organize this year’s anniversary celebration. He says that many alumni told him that they don’t always come back for Georgetown class reunions or Homecoming, but they wouldn’t miss the big APO anniversaries. “Among all the student groups at Georgetown, this is pretty unique,” Lizza says. “Our members love Georgetown, but they really love the way they were able to live out the promise of Georgetown through service with APO.”

Jennifer Doverspike adds “That’s what these 60 years have been all about.”