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Sigma Chi had a very positive effect on me,” Al Shoemaker ’60 says. “I made some of the best friends of my life, and not including all of the social aspects of it, I learned some good values, and I learned about leadership. It carried me for the rest of my life.”

Al grew up in the small town of Somerset, Pennsylvania. He was invited to the Sigma Chi house by brother Jack Younkin '58, his hometown neighbor. Al liked the diversity of Sigma Chi; its members were involved in all types of activities on campus. He lived in the house for two years, and his roommate the first year, Leigh Faldi ’60, was the social chair. “He was kind of a wild one and always had something going,” Al says. “He ran through the budget before the football season was over. We had to have a special assessment because we ran out of money—we didn’t have any money for the Christmas formal!” The second year, Al ruled the roost as president.

In 1958 or 1959, the Phi Phi Chapter was notified that it ranked 128th out of the 128 national chapters. President Jon Huntsman ’59 decided to deactivate all the brothers with low grade point averages in order to boost Phi Phi’s standings. This allowed the deactivated brothers to still attend parties, but they were not allowed to vote. “The next year, National gave us an award for Most Improved,” Al laughs.

Campus Chest was a charitable fundraiser at Penn, and during his sophomore year Sigma Chi entered Al as its contestant for a pizza-eating contest. As the contest progressed, the only two left standing were Al and a brother from ATO named Horse. Horse drank water as he chowed down piece after piece, and he finally expelled his pizza. Al was heralded the champion. “Part of it was that I had such big cheeks,” he claims. “I still had two pieces in there that I never swallowed.” His picture appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer for winning the competition.

Al met his wife Sally through her older brother, who rowed on crew with him. They dated a few times, but it wasn’t until two years later that he met her on Frat Row and the sparks flew. She was attending Rosemont College, and he went to a dance with her and was instantly hooked. Sally was later crowned the Sweetheart of Sigma Chi. He and Sally have three sons and one daughter, all of which graduated from Penn. They will celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary this June.

Al retired as an investment banker on Wall Street, and then retired from his last job as Chairman of the Board of the First Boston Bank. He was Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Penn for eight years, during which time they raised $1.4 Billion. When asked why he decided to stay active with his alma mater, Al says that coming from a small town, being in Sigma Chi opened a lot of doors for him. “It really helped me enormously in my business life. I felt an obligation to help the university so that other little guys can have a chance. I feel that it’s my responsibility to give back.

Paul Kelly '62, Johnny Clark '63, Rob Gleason '61, Jon Huntsman and I are all trustees at Penn, which is probably a record to have five from the same fraternity,” Al says. “For a bunch of screw-ups, I think we’ve done pretty well.”

Al stays active participating on several boards and enjoys skiing, fly fishing and golfing. He and Sally spend most of the year at their ranch outside of Sun Valley, Idaho and spend winters in Indian Wells, California. “When you get to my point in life, you just want to have good health so you can enjoy your grandchildren,” he says. “I was able to go skiing with them in Sun Valley over Christmas. They’re always surprised that Pop can keep up with them.”

For the current actives, Al says to enjoy being a member of Sigma Chi, but within reasonable bounds. “I hope that they will always respect the history and tradition that has gone on there for some 120 years.”