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Finding the Right BalanceThrough Sigma Nu, Bob Chaney, ’64, learned how to have fun and achieve academic success

A simple glance out his dorm window was lucky timing for Bob Chaney, ’64. Spotting something that piqued his interest, Bob found himself not only familiar with, but curious about, his neighbors, the brothers of Sigma Nu. “Living at Hamilton Hall my freshman year, my dorm window faced directly towards the Sigma Nu house. One afternoon after a football game I witnessed a muddy VW Beatle coming through Hort Woods, down the sidewalk by Rec Hall and up the walk to the front door,” he recalls. While that may seem innocuous enough to glimpse and look away, it was the next action that really caught his eye. “I then saw a bunch of brothers lift the car up and place it onto the porch!” he exclaims. As if that weren’t enough, Bob then got a closer look at one of the culprits, the driver in fact, and realized he was looking at a familiar face. “I said to myself, ‘I know that guy!’ and it happened to be Bob O’Connell, who was a high school alum of mine a few years ahead.”

While that may have been the incident to spike his interest in the fraternity, Bob focused on the deeper aspects of the brotherhood when decided on which fraternity to join. Introduced to Brother Jay May, Bob found a friendship that he felt was worth continuing within the fraternity. Once he delved deeper and met more Brothers, Bob grew to really appreciate the diversity and comradery he witnessed, which easily became the motivating factor he needed to commit to Sigma Nu.

Moving out of Hamilton Hall and into the Sigma Nu house his sophomore year, Bob came to truly understand the value that the fraternity has to offer each Brother. Through social interaction, personal development, and academic support, Bob found his total immersion into fraternity life to be one of the best choices he made in college. Finding today’s experience to be different, Bob is grateful to have been part of Greek Life when he was. “Back then, the fraternities were the social and leadership life at Penn State, much more than today,” he recalls. “We never had any hazing or anything like that. In fact, the most mind-altering devices were simply a keg of beer. Quite frankly, I can’t relate to the things that are jeopardizing Greek Life today.”

In fact, some of Bob’s best memories of his Sigma Nu years involve the gathering of not only his fellow Brothers, but all members of Greek Life, making Sigma Nu the epicenter to some pretty big annual events. “I definitely remember the formal White Star events, as well as our annual Big Dock Party,” he says. “That was a big one. We opened it up to all Greek Life and I still remember finding out that people from other colleges would even come up for the weekend to attend the party! It was a tradition that we carried on and it continued after I left.”

Reflecting on his years spent in Sigma Nu, Bob can now easily recognize the lifelong impacts that the fraternity has had on him. From academics to social, Bob’s experience has left a big impression on him today. “Being part of Sigma Nu gave me the opportunity to live with a great diversity of people. Learning how to get along and choosing within that group to be closest to those that you have most in common, whether socially or academically, it helped me later in life.”

On the academic end, Bob was an Electrical Engineering student. While he can’t say with specifics just how Sigma Nu truly influenced his grades, he can say that the fraternity taught him how to balance college life. “We had a lot of conflicting interests between academic and social, but we worked those out,” he remembers. “Overall, Sigma Nu helped give me a well-rounded education. Our house was very diverse, from athletes to PhD students, but we all took academics seriously.”

Taking that into his career, Bob attributes the fraternity to giving him the confidence to achieve great things. “The fraternity experience gave me the confidence to tackle difficult situations, including changing industries, competition within and outside of my work, and taking risks to be the best and be with the best!” he shares.

Using these lessons as the basis, Bob enjoyed a lengthy and successful career as the CEO of UGI Utilities. He retired from the workforce 13 years ago and enjoys his free time, spending as much as he can with his family. “Today, we split our time between our home in Naples, Florida, and in Reading, Pennsylvania,” he states. “My first wife, Jeanne, passed away in 2001 and I remarried my second wife, Anita, in 2014. Collectively, we have five children, four sons-in-law, and 10 grandchildren. They like visiting us in Naples more than Reading!” he laughs. Bob also enjoys hitting the links and exercise. “Since retirement, I’ve enjoyed golfing, skiing, and various forms of exercise including swimming, walking, biking, and going to the gym,” he comments. “My golf game may not change at this point, but I enjoy the journey every 18 holes!”

Though he remains active in retirement, Bob doesn’t forget his Sigma Nu Brothers, keeping in contact with a few today. “I remain close with Jay May. He is my best friend, and I must add, alive and well! We attend most of the PSU football games together. I also renewed my connection with Joe Boyd, ’64, and Dick Kramer, ’64, at our Penn State 50th Reunion.”

While he returns to Penn State often for the football games, it has been many years since Bob has visited the Sigma Nu house. He would like to go back, but it would be more motivating for him if he knew that he could see a familiar face. “I haven’t gone back in a while, but if I knew other Brothers from my class were going to be there, I definitely would,” he explains.

As for those Brothers currently inhabiting the house, Bob continues to support them and the fraternity through monetary donations. “I have contributed to the Capital Campaigns and most other years,” he says. “It is a matter giving back. They were a big part of my life and I want to support them.” And he hopes that his contributions today help pave the way for Sigma Nu Brothers to achieve success in their own lives. “I hope they enjoy every day of their collegiate experience and have a never-ending quest to achieve their dreams, whatever they may be.”

If you would like to reconnect with Bob, you can email him at [email protected].