Thomas Grooms’ 66 Recalls the Best Nicknames and Events of His Fiji Days

Thanks Thomas for answering our survey! We asked him about the best nicknames, the last time he saw a FIJI grad, and the top social events. Here’s what he had to say:

What were some of the best nicknames you called your brothers, and how did those nicknames come about?

One of the most apt and printable nicknames in my class of ‘66 belonged to Terry Etter ’66. Terry was called “Angel.” I suppose the name came about initially because of his rosy cheeks and endearing smile, but one soon learned he was the most kind, giving, and empathetic brothers one could ever have. He was admired by everyone.

When’s the last time you saw a Lambda FIJI brother in person? Who were you with, where were you, and what was the occasion? Do you have a photo from that day you can attach?

The last brother I saw in person was Doug Mitchell ‘70, our House Corporation president. We had breakfast together on March 10, 2020, at Eat’n Park in South Hills Village, Pittsburgh. I come to Pittsburgh five or six times a year to see my children and grandchildren. Doug lives nearby so we always arrange to have breakfast together at Eat’n Park and catch up. Little did I know that COVID-19 would sweep the country, and this would be the last time in 2020 I would eat inside a restaurant and see a Fiji brother in person. The last time I saw any of the brothers in my class was on May 21, 2020. With the help of brother Joe Johnson, I arranged a Zoom session. Nine of the 13 brothers from the class of ’66 still in contact with Lambda participated. I had not seen several of them since our 50th reunion in 2016. I am looking forward to seeing the brothers and those in the class of ’65 at our joint 55th year reunion at DePauw in October 2021.

What do you remember about the top social event the year you graduated? Do you remember your date? Did you happen to marry them?

The top social event was Fiji Isle. All activities stopped—and many were classes cut—preparing for this annual event. Back then the old house still existed so not only did we build bridges, huts, and ponds, but we turned the inside into a verdant jungle. Of course, I remember my date–my former spouse, Sally Smerz, a Tri Delta. We met in October of our freshman year. I spent four years trekking to the corner of Anderson and Bloomington streets as the Tri Delta house was the farthest sorority from the Fiji house. I never regretted it, although some of my brothers might have when it came time to go there to serenade! Yes, we had serenades by then!

What was FIJI known for during your time at DePauw?

Fiji was known for being well-rounded in terms of academics, sports, and campus leadership. And, Fiji Isle was known to everyone on campus. It was a coveted invitation.

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