This is a very sad story with an inspiring ending. I cannot call it a happy ending because the fact remains that a young man never had the chance to become an old man, but his spirit was resurrected in a way which, as a person of faith, I hope is a metaphor for us all.
Pi Lambda Phi is one of the many fraternities which make up Greek life at the University of Virginia. In the mid-1940s, it disbanded when so many of its members answered the call to war that it could not sustain itself. In the mid-1960s, a young man from Agudas Achim Congregation, Alan Silverman (son of Anita Wiesman and brother of Barbara Rollins), organized a rechartering of the fraternity. He did so after recognizing the sharp divisions along racial and religious lines among University students – all men at the time. The re-founded Pi Lambda Phi became the first purposely integrated fraternity at U.VA. Alan formed a lasting bond with his brothers, famous for his loyalty and laughter, his sense of fairness and his skill at rugby.
In 1972, Alan and some friends were driving near Charlottesville when another car hit them. They all died in the resultant explosion. The loss was inestimable to his family, and had a profound impact on the Pi Lams.
The story might have ended with tears and regret had it not been for the place Alan held in the hearts of his brothers as they enjoyed the lives stolen from their friend. In 1999, they formed the VA Omega Alpha Alan J. Silverman Educational Fund to remember their brother and provide scholarships for current fraternity members “whose leadership character and promise best exemplify the core values of our fraternity: equality, nondiscrimination, leadership, scholarship, teamwork and devotion...” They are the values Alan’s friends associate with his too-short life.
Alan was also a self-effacing young man. His mother never knew what he had accomplished through his hard work and deeply-held convictions; he was too modest to tell her. Anita also did not know about the memorial fund until an old friend of Alan tracked her down.
The fund is being supported by alumni of Pi Lambda Phi, but they are, of course, grateful for donations from anyone. Some of you knew Alan, others know Anita and still others might want to participate in this act of keeping faith with the dead. You can send tax-deductible donations to Pi Lambda Phi Educational Foundation, 98 Mill Plain Road, Suite 3C, Danbury, CT 06811-5148, designated “Alan J. Silverman Educational Fund.”
A man barely in his twenties, Alan Silverman left behind a legacy which spanned a generation and inspired others to act in his name for the benefit of those who never knew him. When you think of your own life, could you ask for more?