Inquiring Minds Want to Know: What’s an SFF?

Lambda Chi reunion 2013By Bill Henk – Two weeks ago I took a wonderful walk down School Memory Lane.

I’d like to think that I made something of a “triumphant” return to my college alma mater, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.  Fact is, I hadn’t been back in about 30 years, except for one quick trip where I somehow received an alumni award that, deserved or not, I will cherish until the day I die.

On that earlier visit, though, I didn’t see a single classmate.  Mostly I mingled with current Edinboro college administrators, faculty, and fundraising and alumni staff.

Even so, the experience whetted my appetite for nostalgia.  But as life goes, I couldn’t act on that impulse for something like a decade and a half.   The sentimentality of ‘what once was’ wouldn’t be fully realized until this recent journey to what used to be called, way back when I was a student, Edinboro State College.

My first order of business when I arrived was to drive and walk around the campus to see how it had changed.  Most, but not all, of the buildings that were there when I was a student remained.  But in many respects, the place almost qualified as unrecognizable, because so many new (at least to me) facilities had  risen from the ground up.  The expansive infrastructure truly impressed me.

The next step involved a mandatory trip to the bookstore to buy some Edinboro gear for the Henk family.  Just couldn’t leave there without some EUP/ESC mementos.

What brought me back to ‘The Boro’ was the chance to reconnect with my Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity brothers.  Some of them had been encouraging (more like bugging) me to come to the annual reunion/golf outing for a while now.  Most of the messages read something like, “Dear Dean Dr. Brother Billy, you need to get back to ‘Boro for the reunion this year (or else).”  I clearly needed some significant prodding, because time and distance represent real factors for me.   And am I ever glad I got it!

Hooking up again with those guys was absolutely terrific.

For the record, I wasn’t a hardcore frat guy.  I had friends from sports and other social networks, but there was always something special to me about brotherhood.  I shared plenty of, shall we say, “epic” experiences in the 1970’s with my brothers, and keep in mind here for the purposes of our education blog, that school is what brought us all together in the first place.

To give you perspective, Lambda Chi was not exactly Animal House (mostly because we didn’t have one), but it’s fair to say that our group was a Motley Crue long before Tommy Lee, Vince Neil and Nikki Sixx.

During the afternoon we gathered in an old watering hole before the annual softball game.  Afterwards we had dinner and just hung out in another old watering hole for much of the evening.  Truth be told, I knew some of the old brothers right away; others were harder to make out.   Time has that effect.

We were all grayer, gimpier, and heavier.  Many had gone on to outstanding careers (which was pretty amazing actually!) and quite a few were retired, and I heard interesting stories about adult kids and grandchildren, as well as accounts of by-pass surgeries and knee replacements.  Thankfully we did not share our abundant lists of medications!

But on a very serious note, I was saddened to learn how many of us old-timers, at least nine by our count, had departed this world.

What struck me most about the brothers who were present, however, centered on their personalities.  Almost NOTHING had changed. They were all exactly the same people I knew a very long time ago.  Everything from their mannerisms to their speech patterns seemed identical to me.  Can you say “time warp?”  But in the best possible way.

We spoke in an incredibly natural manner, as though it had been about a week since the last time, not 30 years.  No pretense.  No airs.  No chest thumping.  No bragging.

And the next morning, I reconnected with three of my dearest Edinboro friends from another social network.  It was the same thing.  It was if we hadn’t missed a beat. They were the same marvelous people I knew when I left in 1979.  And again, what put us all together in that place was that we had all gone to school there.

So you know, at one point the experience became very emotional for me.  Don’t ask me why, but I’m glad it happened when I was alone.  All at once it swept over me.  I realized why I loved these friends decades ago, and why I still love them to this day.  And that’s what inspired this post and the term SFF in the title.

Move over OMG, LOL, TMI, LMAO, and especially BFF.  As far as this old guy is concerned, we can add School Friends Forever (SFF) to the list of most fitting text message abbreviations.

lambda chi alpha roster

8 Responses to “Inquiring Minds Want to Know: What’s an SFF?”

  1. 1 Scott August 16, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Hi Dean Henk,

    Thanks for sharing your story. As an Edinboro alumnus and current campus Greek advisor I loved hearing your story about reconnecting with your old fraternity brothers – especially because that’s my dad in the composite top row, second from the left (Dave Irlbacher). Hopefully one day you can make it back for Homecoming.

    Go Boro!

    Scott Irlbacher ’04, M’06


    • 2 billhenk August 17, 2013 at 8:03 am

      REALLY nice of you to comment, Scott. Glad you liked the post. I knew both your mom and dad at Edinboro, and remember trying to buy his fraternity jacket after he had graduated, but it meant too much to him! That says a lot about what the fraternity meant to him. Maybe one of these days I’ll make it back for Homecoming, especially if brothers I know will be there.


      • 3 scottirlbacher August 18, 2013 at 5:55 pm

        That jacket is now on display in the Alumni House at Edinboro! Although I did once wear it as a Halloween costume in high school. I actually grew up with my family being close to the family of many other Edinboro LXA brothers. Unfortunately the chapter had declined considerably by the time I made it back on campus. Glad to see an Edinboro fraternity alumnus successful.


      • 4 billhenk August 18, 2013 at 11:55 pm

        Thanks for the update on the jacket, Scott. From your message I take it that you pledged another fraternity. We won’t hold that against you…


  2. 5 Frank pizza Purrachio August 17, 2013 at 7:30 am

    It was a honor and a pleasure to meet you Dr. Henk at that gathering. I hope it won’t be another 15 to 30 years before you visit again . We always say Lambda Chi Alpha …. “Not for 4 years but for life “.


    • 6 billhenk August 17, 2013 at 7:48 am

      Thanks for making all of the reunion events possible, Frank. Without your leadership, there’s a good chance they wouldn’t have happened in the past, in the present, and looking to the future. No one should EVER think of meeting me as an honor, but I’m always happy to hear they regard it as a pleasure. So you know, on that count, the feeling was entirely mutual. I do have one request, though. In the name of all that is holy, please call me by my first name… Seriously, I’m already looking forward to my next visit.


  3. 7 Joe Wray August 20, 2013 at 1:17 pm


    I took great interest in reading your comments on your return visit, I’m so happy you had the thoughts you did. Being from Edinboro and now living close enough to go visit I have gone as much as possible & still get the same feeling you had; no airs, bragging, nothing, just the same old guys we remember from “back when”! When you pause, and reflect, you once again realize how tight the bonds of real Brotherhood can be, spanning time like it doesn’t even exist. Your words helped me recognize that once again, so I say to you “THANKS” for coming back, it was GREAT to see you again and catch up a little. Hope you make it back again soon.

    ZAX – “Slo” Joe #161


    • 8 billhenk August 20, 2013 at 4:01 pm

      Thanks for commenting, Slo. Really glad you liked my blog post. It came straight from the heart. Terrific to see you and so many of the old characters again. Brotherhood really does withstand the test of time. I had a great visit, and will definitely be back.


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