Bob Frushour ’63
My ΣAE Experience
I am a third-generation Purdue and second generation ΣAE. My father, the original Bob Frushour ’34, was EA of the house circa 1933. An since most of my family went to Purdue, my choice was limited. On my first trip to Purdue in 1959 my dad pulled up the driveway to the house with a big smile on his face and said, “Here you are!” I remember him saying, “You have to give the right impression.” He drove a Pontiac Bonneville convertible and said, “Better than a Chevy but not as pretentious as a Cadillac.” We were met at the door by Bill Debo who had worked at the house when Dad was in school – 30 years before – and still called by dad by his first name! Bill used to get a silver dollar for every almnus he remembered. He remembered them all.
The house became a home away from home. Leaving the big scary campus after class and walking up the drive to the house was coming home. Instead of a sister I had 60 brothers. Some you love, some you hate, but we all ate meals and worked together. I never held an office but after giving a big presentation to get Ed Chouinard ’63 pulled from oblivion to become EA I felt I’d done my part. he did work I maybe should have done. The big thing I got from my experience at the house was learning to deal with many different personalities. The mistakes I made in interfacing and dealing with the brothers, which were many, were lessons learned and not repeated with others later in life. Kind of like what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
I received a B.S. ChE. and a M.S. Chem at Purdue then went to Penn State and got a Ph.D. in material science. The Ph.D. was in ultra-high pressure physics – you know, Dead Languages – so getting a job was tough. Luckily GE was in the business of making diamonds from graphite, which required ultra-high pressure. Wonder of wonders I got a job and the rest is history. I worked and learned under Jack Welch. We argued and disagreed mostly so I didn’t rocket to the the top like Norm Blake ’64 (you should get his story; it’s better than mine) but I did alright, eventually leaving GE and starting my own business. ultimately I built a number of diamond plants and sold technology around the world. It was great fun, especially in China in the late ’80s.
The ’60s were tumultuous times – racial tensions, Vietnam War, the Kennedy assassination, etc. It didn’t show on the surface but I think it had an impact on us all. Behavior changed. When I arrived, the house had a new wing, a housemother, Mrs. Hagstrum, a housemand, Bill Debo, and we had formal dinners and great parties. Then things began to change. The chapter lost respect for our housemother, the décor and just about everything. That was the start of a downhill slide, which gradually destroyed the appearance of the house and overall camaraderie. Like most fraternities though you still make close lifelong friends. I still stay in contact with a small number of brothers. Believe me, they are all different in their personalities and after college paths, but the ΣAE fraternity that brought us together over 50 years ago created a lifelong bond. You know – Photo notorus ex offociea – what!
I visited the chapter house last year and I see that it’ll never be as it was in 1959, but it has come a long way over the last few years, and the brothers I met were top notch!
The end of the story is I sold by business in 2004 back to GE, although I am still consulting for an oil company in Houston where Jed Heindel ’64 and I discuss all sorts of important stuff, and I also run a really small electronics company.
I’m lucky to have a great family – my wife, Cindy, since 1967 and two daughters. The oldest, Stephanie, is a fourth-generation Purdue and a Pi Phi. She has a son, Reece, who is 7 years old. My second daughter, Lauren, has a daughter, Madison (16), and a son, Colby (13). The grandchildren are fortunately smarter and better behaved than I was, or heck probably still am. My hobbies are mostly working outdoors, hunting and fishing, and generally playing mountain man in Montana. Phi Alpha, Bob Frushour ’63 (firstname.lastname@example.org).