Catching up with Steve Pendery, ‘76

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Steve Pendery, ’76, has led a busy and successful life since graduating from Denison. We caught up with him recently to find out what he’s been up to and how his membership to Beta Theta Pi has played a role in his life since his college days.

First, tell us a bit about what you’ve been up to since college! 
After graduating from Denison, I went to law school at The Ohio State University. I graduated, went into business with my grandfather, and got heavily involved in state and local politics in Kentucky.

Ohio State sports qualifies as one of my main hobbies, and ironically, I married an Alabama graduate. I think you could say I married for love! Our son serves in the Air Force flying AWACS planes out of Oklahoma City right now; and our daughter will soon graduate from UK, looking forward to medical school.

We all want our children to be smarter, better looking and more successful than we are, and thank God, mine are.

Reflecting on the time you spent at Denison, tell us what it was about Beta Theta Pi that drew you into the fraternity?               
There was a stereotype associated with each fraternity back in the day that conveyed at least a hint of the truth. At the Beta house, we sang. We had traditions and longstanding rituals that connected us to earlier generations of Alpha Etas, who often came back to the house to participate.

The house we lived in was unique and beautiful, and the guys were great guys. The Betas were accomplished academically, but we were also animals. Beta animals - that was the stereotype, and in some respects, we lived up to it.

As freshmen, there was a group of almost 30 of us that wanted to go to the same fraternity. Because of the attributes mentioned above, we targeted the Beta house as our first and best choice. We all got in.

What was it like living with your Brothers? How long did you live in the house?             
I lived in the Beta house all three years I was eligible to do so. While there obviously would be times when there were frictions or disappointments with so many guys living in close proximity, even those unhappy moments were instructive, and overall, living in the house and bonding with the other Brothers was the best part of my college life.

Despite some wild behavior, or perhaps because of it, I came away a more mature, more socially capable person, with friendships to last a lifetime. I would recommend living with your Brothers. Unfortunately, at Denison, living together in a fraternity house is still not possible. The University took away that privilege years ago, and sadly, it has not been restored.

Do you feel that Beta Theta Pi supported your academic efforts? Why or why not?        
At Denison, I was an Economics major, but I had enough hours in Religion for a major there as well. When I am asked about how the fraternity helped my education, I usually say the social education a person gets in college - learning to handle themselves in life - is at least as important as the purely academic side. Certainly, it is possible to gain that benefit outside fraternity life, but for me, the fraternity and my friends were very good teachers.

What are some lifelong, valuable skills that you learned through the fraternity?            
College life, ideally, should expose a student to a larger world, draw them out into it, and build in them the capability of handling themselves in that larger place, the real world. As I experienced it, fraternity life did the better part of this job.

What are some of your most special memories of your time in Beta Theta Pi?  
Over the years, I have had many occasions to compare notes with other frat men about their college and fraternity experiences. Hands down, the traditions we observed at the Beta house were more creatively outrageous and fun, while being legal at the time. I'm telling you, you cannot top this stuff, not least because much of it is not legal anymore! The Beta War, the pledge program, Beta Christmas parties with Santa, his elves and his poems, the Beta Ball, Deed's Dinner, Hell Week - I am not telling. You'll have to ask me off the record!

Do you ever return to campus?                
In the years after I graduated, huge numbers of Betas returned to Denison every year for Homecoming. Many of us were just back at Denison for our 40th reunion. All of us feel a special kinship with each other and the school itself, although there is still anger and frustration about the University taking the fraternity houses away from the fraternities. I think it would be in the best interest of the young people and the University to convert the houses back to their intended purpose.

If you had to share any wisdom with the current Brothers, what would you tell them? 

If I had one chance to offer advice to the current brothers of Alpha Eta, I would ask that they organize with the other fraternities and alums to take back the houses. Fraternity life is worth it. The University would do much better fundraising with a major constituency. 

Do you keep in touch with any of your Brothers today? Why is it important to remain connected?
I am extraordinarily busy. I have two jobs. An elected political position running my home county government in Kentucky is work enough, but I also have an interest in a family business that is demanding. The bottom line is, my life would probably be better (and last longer!) if I took more time with my friends, including my friends from my Denison days.

I am fortunate to have a collection of Denison Betas of my era close to home: Steve and Eric Steinman, Bert Bathiany, Donn Mettens, and my own brother, Rick Pendery. Ernie Mahler, Bob Meythaler, and John Cadwallader live further away, but have always been there for me.

I am sure others my age would agree when they think about it -- life has gone by in a blur. Even though I do not think of myself as old by any means, as the saying goes, "it's later than you think." Circling back to the people who helped shape who I turned out to be as an adult is comfortable, satisfying, and a blast, besides. I recommend it, and should follow my own advice! 


If you would like to reconnect with Steve, he can be emailed at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..