Alumnus: How Greek Life Changed My Life

During Alumni Weekend 2013, GW hosted a popular Greek Life Alumni Reunion for all alumni who were part of a fraternity or sorority as GW students.  This community can strongly influence the GW student experience—so we recently caught up with a double alumnus to find out exactly how influential Greek Life can be:

Mike Grabow, CCAS BA ’68, LAW JD ’71, arrived at GW in 1964 and left seven years later, with two degrees under his belt.  But what he took away from his time at GW can’t be measured in accolades or accomplishments.

Grabow, a New Jersey native, came to Washington, DC at the age of 17, ready for new experiences but unsure of what to expect.  With little knowledge of DC or GW, Grabow found himself drawn to Greek life—he rushed in the fall of ’64, his freshman year.

At the time, there were 12 fraternities on campus, and applicants were required to visit all of them during the rush process.  “For me,” says Grabow, “it was hard to differentiate between the houses…[but] one was different.”

Tau Epsilon Phi (TEP), as Grabow explains, “had both white and black faces.”

“Coming from a very mixed neighborhood and school system, this fraternity seemed more like home to me,” says Grabow.  He soon became a TEP pledge and, later, a fraternity brother.

That very first day of rush, Grabow met TEP’s then-president—an African American student named Vince Gray, CCAS BA ’64.

Gray was president during Grabow’s freshman and sophomore years, and became an important role model—so much so that Grabow served as TEP president when he was a senior.

Though Gray inspired Grabow as a brother and a leader, Grabow didn’t realize the impact Gray had on GW’s Greek life.  “Years later, I found out that Vince was the first African American in the entire Greek community at GW,” Grabow explains.

As many Colonials know, Gray continued to influence others through a career in politics—he currently serves as Mayor of Washington, DC.

“I know that TEP had an important role in Vince’s life at GW,” says Grabow.  “But looking back, I realize it had a major impact on all of us.  It was the prime reason I decided to stay at GW for graduate school.”

Grabow credits Greek life for instilling a true sense of community, from athletics to social gatherings to fostering lifelong friendships.

But he also credits it for helping him to grow and change as a person.

“It’s very hard, in just these few words, to explain how important it was to me,” he says.  “The entire experience helped shape my life in so many positive ways.”

Want to know more about the Greek Life alumni community?  Visit the Greek Alumni page on our site and follow GW Greek Alumni on Facebook.

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