The Strength of Betas Tested and Proven

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Bruce MacNab, ’52, found fellowship and brotherhood at Beta Theta Pi

The Beta connection among those who hail from Shaker Heights, Ohio, was strong when Bruce MacNab, ’52 and AH 708, entered college in 1948. “Denison and Beta, had a long history among Shaker Heights residents,” Bruce recalls. “My high school friends that were a class ahead of me became Betas and encouraged me to join.” But tradition and familiarity of faces wasn’t the only draw for Bruce. “Beta Theta Pi had a good reputation on campus and the brothers had a maturity for which Beta has been traditionally known,” he explains.

From the start, Bruce was deeply moved by the sense of closeness he felt with his Beta brothers. Living in the house, he found out just how deep the connection can run. “The house was an incredible bonding experience and a tested and proven true brotherhood,” he says. “There was tons of fun, support, philosophical growth and maturation.”

Beta Theta Pi also gave Bruce an opportunity to grow and share his musical talent and love of singing. “We had a really, really good singing chapter and I loved to sing in mostly male groups. We were the best singing chapter on campus!” he proudly states.

In fact, one of Bruce’s most special memories is that of the Chapter Sweetheart Serenade, where he had a chance to impress his future wife, Teeta Henderson. “It was a classic! Misty moonlight and a crowd of people behind us at Shaw Hall,” he remembers. “Teeta and her Theta sisters were illuminated by candles in the second-floor window of Shaw Hall. We sang awesomely, as did the girls.”

In addition to singing, Bruce found enjoyment in simple things with his brothers, including varsity sports, chapter meetings, and special events such as the Military Parade, Bacon Bat, and Christmas Formal. In fact, playing varsity sports with some of his brothers made that experience even better. “There was always that extra feeling of support during games from my Beta teammates. That was so special.”

The support the brothers demonstrated was critical in helping them through a tragic time in 1951, when a member of the fraternity passed away. “My most painful memory is of my boyhood friend and Beta brother, Jack Sload. He died during a football practice before the season opened in 1951,” he sadly shares. “Our Chapter all came together to support his family, as did friends throughout campus.”

Through both good times and bad, Beta Theta Pi was a strong influence on Bruce, helping him to become the man he is today. When he became President of the Chapter, Bruce took on his first leadership role and developed critical skills that influenced his career. “As President, I learned my first lessons in leadership, administration, and where to find fir trees to decorate the House for the Christmas Ball,” he laughs. “Not without risk, but high reward!”

Looking back, in all seriousness, Bruce is thankful to Beta Theta Pi for instilling in him core values and critical lifelong skills. “All organizations depend on trusted relationships with colleagues. Beta Theta Pi, from the very first days, stressed the fundamental trust, honesty, and teamwork which are necessary to the survival and growth of an organization,” he states.

Taking those lessons to heart, Bruce has since led a full and interesting life, both military and civilian, that has deep influences from his years as a Beta. “The academic and life lessons taught at Denison and in the Beta House have served me extraordinarily well throughout the years,” he explains. During his years of active duty, Bruce served in the Navy as Ships Navigator in the Arctic, followed by Operations Control Officer in the Nuclear Bomb Test series at Eniwetok and Bikini, Marshall Islands. Once he moved to inactive duty, his civilian career found him teaching at The Ohio State University before becoming a University Professor in the California State University System, and Executive Director of Institute of Research and Business Development. There, he was Director of a team that created an award-winning International MBA program, winning the National Leavey Award for Excellence. Later, he created the MBA program still running at the Academy of the National Economy in Moscow, Russia. “What a challenge of concept and language!” he exclaims. “To help people strange to such concepts as cost and profit, those just emerging from the cold war years.”

For Bruce, longevity and career didn’t slow down his thirst for adventure and competition. “My other interests have been mostly in skiing, up here in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, and aviation, where I have flown competitively in ‘dog fight’ competitions, winning my share of the contests. Some boys never grow up!”

While the number of Bruce’s brothers may have dwindled, he still finds some of the bonds as strong as ever, staying in contact with Jay Sload, Little Brother Dick Lugar, and Howard Shaw, mostly. In 1988, Bruce enjoyed reuniting with many brothers at an evening of fellowship and song at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, organized by Howard Shaw (AH611). “It was probably the largest ever assemblage of Denison Betas west of the Mississippi!” he exclaims.

Events like that remain special to Bruce, as he resides in California.  His wife, Teeta passed away in 2013. Their four children live and prosper in various parts of the country. He has not been able to return to campus as often as he would have liked, but when he has gone back, he makes sure to visit the House that holds so many special memories for Bruce. “There have been many changes, but the great memories remain strong.”

For the current brothers, Bruce offers important advice, shared through experience and genuine care for the fraternity. “Careful review of the Pledge Program and activities leading up to initiation require demonstrated maturity. Look seriously at yourself and your Brother Betas now, examine your own core principles and live by the Light of the Diamond as best as you can.”