DX Memories, Staying in Touch, and Enjoying Family Life
By Joseph Burak ‘98
I would not be where I am without Delta Chi. I currently live in Arlington, Virginia with my wife Elisabeth (MSW, MPP ’00), daughter Maddie (6) and son Cole (1) and work for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) as VP of Federation Services. My first job out of college in 1998 was serving as a Leadership Consultant for Delta Chi IHQ in Iowa City. In that role I traveled throughout the country assisting groups with recruitment, training, planning, you name it. After a year and a half, I became Delta Chi’s Director of Expansion, responsible for starting new colonies of the fraternity. When I left staff in 2003, I logged visits to over 100 chapters and started over 20 new groups including Cal Berkeley (Abracadabra), Colorado, Denison, Georgia Southern, and Michigan.
I moved on to NAHB but only after an exhaustive job search. The US was just coming out of the dot.com recession and I had sent out dozens of resumes to little avail. I finally decided to use my networks that included Delta Chi alumni. My first two calls resulted in interviews; one in DC and the other in Kansas City. I credit Mike Geary, a Florida alumnus and former Delta Chi field rep with landing me a position as a management consultant with NAHB, a role I served in for three years. Afterward, I met Elisabeth, moved to Arkansas to run a nonprofit then back again to DC only to return to NAHB once again.
So when I say that I would not be where I am without Delta Chi, that’s absolutely true. More than just a career builder, Delta Chi afforded me the opportunity to immerse myself in the college experience, make lifelong friends, and teach me the soft skills I needed to be successful.
I have so many fond memories of my time at Michigan that I could go on (and have!) for hours with stories. One in particular was going on Spring Break with Denny Powell ’98 , Craig Nastanski ’97 and Ted Brindle ’98 to Panama City. While we were all decent friends at the time, we all hung around with different crews in the house. But it’s hard not to get to know each other packed into a car for a 15 hour road trip to Florida. As soon as we crossed the Georgia/Florida line, we grabbed gas and bought some cases of beer. We no sooner left the store when Florida state troopers pulled us over. Instead of finding us drinking beers in the car like they had suspected, we all had pop and they begrudgingly let us go. But only after making us place all the cases of beer in the trunk and suitcase on our laps for the rest of the way! Highlights also included hanging out with the UVA football team, doing shots with Brian Griese, and Ted saving Craig from nearly drowning in the hot tub.
I also enjoyed the sorority carry-ins. Our “A” at the time, Joe Magro ‘96, had arranged one with Alpha Xi Delta, a sorority we hadn’t connected with until then. AXiD showed with about 100 girls and we had maybe 45 actives with 10 pledges. I think some of our guys were shell shocked. I grabbed about a dozen of them including Dan Chrzczonowski ’01 and Aaron Travis ’99 and made sure we worked the room like it was no one’s business. Safe to say that that AXiD became our unofficial sister sorority and were fixtures at all of our events from then on.
One of the benefits I learned about being both a Michigan and Delta Chi alum is that I had friends all over the country after graduation. For instance, when I passed through the Bay Area, I would inevitably stay with Craig Nastanski ’97 and Jauder Ho ‘96. I happened to be there over one football Saturday and we hopped a street car downtown to grab breakfast! I think it was like 6 in the morning. Then we headed to a bar that was completely packed -at 7 am- and I remember thinking there’s no way we’ll ever get a seat. I soon realized everyone was there for a televised Rugby tournament. Twenty minutes later, the place cleared out and we were the only ones left for kick off!
Whenever I found myself in Boston, I would crash over at Denny Powell’s ‘98 place. We’d tour the city, hit some neighborhood pubs and reminisce about AXiD barn dances. And just to the south in NYC, I’d take the Chinatown bus from DC to visit Aaron Travis ‘99; we were not only pledge brothers but also served as best men in each other’s wedding. On one NYC trip, we ended up at some new pub in the East Village. Each table had a video camera, tv monitor, and phone. So you could look to see who was sitting at any table throughout the bar. All of a sudden the camera at our table turns on and scans all of us (definitely weird, and definitely pre-Match.com). But then our phone rings with a group of girls inviting us to join them across the room. We took a chance and learned throughout the night a few of them graduated from Michigan…and one of them had dated another fraternity brother, Lyman Ng ‘98, back in school! Small world indeed.
Today, without Facebook, I’m not sure how’d I’d manage to stay in touch with old friends. And with everyone still on the move, it’s so much easier to track major life events like new jobs, promotions, births, you name it. But there’s no good substitute for a good night out to reminisce about Beach Bash, fighting crime, getting skunked in pool, beers in the gang shower, big poppa at FIGI, snowball fights on Hill and Oxford, painting the rock, stealing composites (or returning them in colorful ways), pig roasts, hitting flaming golf balls at Sigma Nu, afternoon drinks on the Cornerstone, or any other shenanigans that happened.
Today, I’m enjoying family life in Arlington, VA. I manage a staff of seventeen split among three different departments in NAHB with the focus of building stronger component chapters. I finished an MBA from George Washington University in 2015 and also earned a Certificate of Business Analytics, as well. I enjoy nerding out with data and recently finished building out a CRM to track interactions with out component groups. Oddly, I was set on going to law school while at Michigan but after a few years in the work force I realized that I really enjoyed business and strategy. I’m so thankful for those years after college and the experiences I had to help direct me.
Before I wrap up, I’d be remiss not to mention the amazing time I had at the reunion and house dedication this fall. Hats off Howard Gandelot ’64, Frank Morrey ’64, David Falconer ’62, Keith Hellems ’62 and John Levinson ’73 who made it all possible. I’m glad the architecture remained true to the old Tudor style but also brought the living facilities into the 21st Century with living suites, beautiful library and lots of common area.
If anyone finds themselves in DC, please give me about. Until then, take care. And as always, Go Blue!
In the Bond,