Ryan Kennedy, center, with alumni members of the Sigma Chi Gamma Chi Housing Corporation, cutting the ribbon for the Sigma Chi House Opening Ceremony of 14 Fraternity Row (November 2010)

Sigma Chi Traditions and Values Bring Legacy Family Closer Together

Being a Sigma Chi brother in the Gamma Chi Chapter at the University of Maryland has a special meaning to Ryan Kennedy (Gamma Chi ’12). Ryan’s father John (Gamma Chi ’82) passed away when he was just one year old. His father was in Sigma Chi in the 1980s and Ryan says going through the same rituals and traditions his father went through made him know him in ways he never could have otherwise.

“I didn’t get to know my Dad, but I was never closer to him than when I was an undergrad at Sigma Chi,” said Ryan. “The experiences I had, the Ritual I went through, were the exact same things that he did.”

Ryan’s father John was a graduate of Blair High School in Montgomery County, Maryland. Many local high school graduates attended the University of Maryland, so when it came time for John to go to college, he already had an existing network there. He joined Sigma Chi as a freshman.

His younger brothers Chris Kennedy (Gamma Chi ’85) and Brian Kennedy (Gamma Chi ’86) followed in his footsteps. Another younger Kennedy brother, Tom, was in school at the same time, but did not join Sigma Chi.

In 1990 when John passed away, his wife Ann Marie was suddenly a 30-year-old single mom to Ryan. John’s brothers Chris, Brian, and Tom, along with many Sigma Chi Brothers, helped to raise Ryan and have been a part of his life as long as he can remember. Alums like Scott Werber, Dennis O’Connell, Rick Wilson, Ramiro Blanco, Nick Abid, Mike Yeganeh, Rich Thometz, Brian Allen, Phil Robling, Todd Dundore, Bryan Tinsley, Tom Burton, Mike Carmody, Vic Bradford, Greg Toland, and Greg Schaub are just a handful of the dozens of 1980’s Gamma Chi Sigs influential in Ryan’s early-life.

Left to Right: Ann Marie Kennedy, John C. Kennedy Jr., Karen Foulkes, Chris Kennedy, Brian Kennedy, Leslie Fredericks
Left to Right: John C. Kennedy Sr., Brian Kennedy, Chris Kennedy (holding Ryan Kennedy), John C. Kennedy Jr., Tom Kennedy

“The list goes on to include a hundred guys who I could call any day, any time, who would be there for me without a second thought,” he said. “All because of their connection to my Dad and Sigma Chi.”

“My Mom has worked at the University for almost 20 years,” he explained. “Growing up my uncles and my Dad’s Sigma Chi Brothers stepped up in a big way and became my role models. I remember going to football tailgates and golf tournaments. My Uncle Chris’s wedding was like one big Sigma Chi reunion.”

Unfortunately, in 2001, after 60 years on campus, the Gamma Chi Chapter was dismissed from the University of Maryland. In 2007 a small group of students banded together to form a colony in an effort to bring Sigma Chi back to the campus – alums like Scott Werber, Tom Burton, and Dennis O’Connell were critical to the effort. When Ryan transferred into the University of Maryland in 2008, plans were already well underway, and he was recruited into the colony.

While he was surrounded by Sigma Chi’s growing up, Ryan says he didn’t fully understand what the fraternity was until he transferred to the University of Maryland in 2008 and became part of the recolonization effort that put the Chapter back on the path to success.

“I specifically remember an email my Uncle Chris sent me as I was transferring into UMD. He wrote about the long history of the Gamma Chi chapter dating back to the 1940s,” he recalled. “and he included pictures of my Dad, my uncles, and other Sigma Chi Brothers that I had grown up with. It was then I understood the fraternity was much more than just a club.”

Left to Right (front row): Joe Engbert, Mike Chu, Rob Pichard, Ryan Kennedy, Mike Hexter, James Haviland  Brian and John C. Kennedy Jr.

The upstart group completed their colonization on September 27, 2009 and became a fully recognized chapter, Gamma Chi, once again. In 2010, Ryan became Consul, leading the young Chapter into a new house on Fraternity Row and helping Gamma Chi regrow its status on campus.

Now on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the recolonization, the Chapter is thriving. They have over 100 members and have recently been named, for multiple years, as the Best Overall Chapter on campus, as voted by the InterFraternity Council.

“The idea of legacy families in Gamma Chi is especially meaningful to me,” said Ryan. “for a lot of fathers and sons, this is one of the biggest chances to establish and reinforce those relationships and bonds. They are vital to embracing and cultivating future generations of the fraternity.”

Today, Ryan works as a defense contractor in Ocean City, Maryland, and he was recently married. His uncle Chris Kennedy is a lawyer in Baltimore and has served the undergraduate Chapter as the Derby Days Alumni Advisor. His uncle Brian Kennedy is a Home Energy Technician in Frederick.

Brian, Ann Marie, and John C. Kennedy Jr. John C. Kennedy Jr. with son, Ryan Kennedy

Ryan’s Dad John would have been 60 years old this month, and Ryan has no doubt he would still be involved in the fraternity, just as his Mom Ann Marie, as well as his uncles have been over the years. 

“The guys that I remember most growing up were all in this journey together,” he said. “I have the chance to do the same and continue to live out the Sigma Chi Ritual and embody the values that helped guide me as a young man, because of my Sigma Chi role models.” 




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