We recently caught up with our very own Tom Robinson ’72 and had the chance to ask him about his SAE experience, and where life since Penn has taken him. Here's what he had to say: 

Where has life taken you since you graduated? Give us a brief recap up to this point including career and family highlights.

I was one of the few marketing majors at Wharton, and actually did end up spending my working life at advertising and public relations agencies in Philadelphia, Richmond, Boston, and Jacksonville as an account executive, brand planner, group head, SVP, EVP running the media department and several subsidiaries, and eventually CEO, partner and owner of a few. Thank God, it was before social media became the driver!!! I morphed into a business manager for a mental health program at a medical university in SC, and (since no good deed goes unpunished) after increasing the bed census at the hospital and expansion of the outpatient program, was invited to join the hospital system’s marketing department and then the entire academic enterprise as director of brand strategy and creative director.

I have also had two other career tracks. One moonlighting as editor-in-chief of a magazine for the business side of higher education. The other after “retirement,” as a substitute teacher and paraprofessional working with ESE kids (Down syndrome, behavioral, autistic, neglected, poverty-stricken, CP, blind, etc., etc.) Haven’t been back to those Title I schools since COVID, though.

Now, beside being depressed by the lack of action in the cloistered COVID environment, I continue to serve as a Guardian ad Litem, advocating for kids in the foster care system. I now have 15 cases with 20-some kids who are moving through the system, either heading back home to reunify with parents who hopefully have fixed their problems or finding a new, yet better family, of which to be a part.

On a personal level, I am married (not to my Penn girlfriend that my brothers might remember —  if not for any other reason that they are both named Cynthia) for 40+ years to an extraordinary woman, with our three grown children and five grandchildren. Interestingly different, and badly, more isolated from cousins during COVID as they might otherwise be. 

And for several years, I met with Penn applicants as an alumni interviewer.

What are the most important lessons you learned because of Sigma Alpha Epsilon?

The positive side of brotherhood, belonging, and identifying with a group that is not hell bent on tearing something else down. We were what you might cavalierly dismiss as “tolerant” or “diverse” in today’s vernacular. Though we might have been unlike each other, we were actually “inclusive” , . .without knowing that we embraced each other without prejudice.

When you look back on your time in Sigma Alpha Epsilon, what moments do you tend to remember most?

Good, silly, weird — but hardly ever bad. When I pledged, there was a senior who stole a steamroller and drove it down Walnut Street. Another had a settlement for a car crash injury and had the option to do what a lot of us could never afford: buy a lighthouse and read the great books. One brother of means had a stereo (remember Girard turntables???) to die for and we spent more than one evening listening to the new medium called album rock on WMMR- FM. That’s right FM!!!. The mother of one of my brothers was  the consul to Barbados — and, hence, our Mount Gay rum punch was better than all others on campus. By the time I graduated, we were all kind of boring getting serious about life and careers!

Anything else you'd like to add? 

Yes. I am not a real belonger-type personality. Our SAE chapter was an eclectic bunch of jocks, brainiacs, ethnically diverse, gay, geographically diverse . . .  and misfits who would not fit into or even like the other fraternities’ homogenous profiles. That apparently is not the case in other big houses. I didn’t care, still don’t.  

I hope that we as a fraternity, as a nation of good-hearted, civil and responsible gentlemen, set an example for maturing young men and bend the arc of justice toward righteousness. Respect for women and others not of our kind. A hand given to those less fortunate than we who attended Ivy League schools. Inclusion beyond the homogeneous East Hamptons or Cos Cob Connecticut enclaves in which many of us were nurtured.

Would you or a brother you know make a great alumni profile subject? Email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or CLICK HERE to let us know! 

 

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