Countdown to Recolonization

A Lifetime of Friendships and Memories Made at Littleton Street

Bob Sykes, Larry Veracco, Scott Kerestes and Bob Gustafson

Though Bob Sykes ’84 (BZ 1296), perhaps better known by his nickname 'Bugsy', didn’t ever envision himself joining a fraternity, it turned out to be a decision that still benefits him to this day. From lifelong friendships to prioritizing a busy schedule, Bob built a foundation for success and happiness—thanks to Beta Zeta.

“Sigma Nu was the only fraternity that I rushed,” Bob explains. “My two closest friends from Wiley Hall, Dave Paul (BZ 1303) and Dave Criger (BZ 1318), were rushing and asked me to go with them to an event at the house.”

And he quickly fell in love with the fraternity.

“I loved everything about Sigma Nu—the house, the members, and the feeling of brotherhood,” he recalls. “When I was offered a bid, I quickly accepted and became a part of the 29 member spring pledge class of 1981. Being a member of Sigma Nu made my college experience. My closest friends were in the house and the social life created a lifetime of memories.”

One of those memories involves a touch football game that other ’80s brothers will remember well.

“I was the athletic director and was in charge of submitting the team entry forms,” he explains. “Instead of referring to our teams as Sigma Nu 1 and Sigma Nu 2, I changed the name of my team to the Orphans and the other team to the Pocket Snakes. Since there was nothing to identify us as being from the same fraternity, we ended up in the same division and had to play each other. After a week of buildup, the game occurred with split loyalties within the house. Although the Orphans were a prohibitive favorite, the Pocket Snakes fought hard and had a chance to tie it up late in the game on a long pass to Matt West (BZ 1343) who had beaten cornerback Scott Kerestes (BZ 1342). Left with no choice, Kerestes grabbed West's jersey and clearly interfered with him preventing him from catching a sure touchdown. Inexplicably, the official failed to throw a flag and the Orphans went on to win 14-7. The Pocket Snakes were livid at the no call, and we laughed all the way back to Littleton Street and had a well-earned victory party.”

Being a member of Sigma Nu made my college experience. My closest friends were in the house and the social life created a lifetime of memories.

Today, Bob is amazed at how he and his brothers juggled classes, athletics, partying, girlfriends, and house responsibilities. But, it helped him develop the critical ability to prioritize.

Beta Zeta also gave him a sense of belonging—an important part of your college years.

“I cannot imagine what college would have been like if I had simply lived in an apartment for three years and did not experience life at Sigma Nu,” he says. “We were quite a collection of characters who may not have always agreed on things, but in the end, we were united by our Sigma Nu brotherhood. We genuinely cared for each other and almost always put the good of the house ahead of our own personal interests.”

The Sykes Family
Left to right: Sarah, Laurie, Bob, and Emily

Today, Bob does keep in touch with a handful of brothers, including Scott Kerestes and Larry Veracco (BZ 1330), and the three of them were able to reunite, along with Bob Gustafson (BZ 1341), for the 2017 Grand Prix.

Despite the many years that have passed since he’s spoken with the rest of his brothers, Bob trusts that his bonds with them are still strong.

“I know that in the future, when we reunite, we will be able to pick up where we left off and it will seem as if we never lost track of each other,” he says.

Bob is eager to see Sigma Nu return to Purdue and has even chipped in financially to support Beta Zeta’s future.

“I hope that Sigma Nu recolonizes and returns to campus stronger for having gone through this experience,” he says. “We, as alumni, have to become more involved and help the chapter regain the prominence that it had. We all took it for granted that Sigma Nu was always going to be at Purdue. Hopefully, we will all work to ensure that it stays a fixture on campus for decades to come.”

Bob is hopeful that a Beta Zeta reunion will be held during homecoming after the house re-opens and looks forward to renewing old friendships.

Today, he still resides in Ionia, Michigan with his wife of 27 years, Laurie. Together, they have two daughters.

“Emily just received her Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology and accepted a job at Henry Ford Health Care in Detroit,” Bob says. “Sarah will be a junior at the University of Michigan and is a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma.”

Bob has also built a very successful career in law. After graduating from the Valparaiso University School of Law in 1987, he began practicing law in a small firm in his hometown of Ionia, Michigan and continued to do so until being elected Probate Judge for Ionia County in 2004. Today, he is also the presiding judge of the Family Division of the Circuit Court. He hears a wide range of cases, including decedent estate administration, guardianships, conservatorships, adoption, mental health, divorce, juvenile delinquency, and child protection. However, the majority of Bob’s time is spent working with families and children involved in delinquency or child protection cases. In 2016, Bob was even recognized as the Jurist of the Year in Michigan by the Michigan Foster Care Review Board.

He truly loves his job and doesn’t plan to retire for another 10 years.

By that time, Beta Zeta will hopefully have re-established itself as a top fraternity at Purdue and Bob will have more time open for his brothers.

In the meantime, he leaves one question for his brothers: “I have often wondered if other brothers remember ‘the jingle’ that we were required to recite during the final week of pledgeship:  ‘From Boston, Maine to the coast of Spain, in Europe and in Asia.  From California to Oregon and down around Eustratia…’ I can recall it word for word all of these years later. Is it still used?”

Leave your comments below, and if you’d like to get in touch with Bob, don’t hesitate to reach out. He can be reached at bobsykes@chartermi.net.

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