Brother Waldo Burnside '49 Remembers Post-WWII Fraternity Life

Waldo Burnside ’49 studied at the University of Maryland as part of Sigma Chi at a unique time in history. Burnside began his studies in 1945 just following the conclusion of World War II. The university was flooded with men who had started their college careers then left for to serve in the war and were now returning to finish their education.

“The service men were coming back, the economy was picking up;, it was a very happy time at the university,” Burnside says. “Probably one of the most fun times.”

There was growth at the university, which meant that the fraternities had more members and there were plenty of activities to be involved in. Burnside remembers fondly the involvement of the fraternity in intramural sports like touch football, basketball and soccer.

“Sigma Chi did very well in intramural sports, and a number of people were on the basketball team,” Burnside remembers.

When Burnside joined Sigma Chi, the fraternity was still off campus renting a house while the Sigma Chi house was being used by the university as a women’s dormitory. After his first year, they had returned to their house on campus, though Burnside was a “day dodger.” Since Burnside grew up just a couple of miles from the university, he lived at home during his time at the University of Maryland. Like other day dodgers, he remained involved in the events of the fraternity and remembers the excitement of events like Homecoming and “just being around the house.”

The mix of students fresh out of high school and those returning from the service led to an educational atmosphere in and out of the classroom at that time. Burnside said it’s when he learned to really listen, because the veterans had been through and experienced things he and the others never would.

“It was very helpful in addition to being able to go to the university. The veterans were great mentors and we learned an awful lot,” Burnside says. “The university was a great launching pad for many of us. You get a better appreciation as the years go by and most of that is associated with the people that you met, and the fraternity was a great place for that.”

After graduating with a business degree is 1949, Burnside was hired by a department store in Washington, D.C., where he spent 31 years before moving to Los Angeles, California.  After spending 11 years working in California, he retired and stayed on the west coast. In 2018, Burnside and his wife of 68 years returned to the east coast and currently reside in Rockville, Maryland.

Throughout the years, even during his time in California, Burnside remained involved in the university and the fraternity. He served on various boards and committees, including serving as president of the house corporation when they added a wing to the house. He kept in touch with a group of Brothers and made regular trips back for various sporting events. Attending alumni events left him impressed with the current management of Sigma Chi, recognizing the recent awards both the national and local chapter have received.

“Mainly I admire what the new guys have been able to do,” Burnside says.


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