Sig Ep Makes Profound Impact in Alum’s Life
Thank you to John DeSalva ’87 for participating in this Q&a
Why did you join Sig Ep as an undergraduate?
I originally rushed Sig Ep as an undergraduate because of a friend of mine. I was a freshman. He was a junior transfer from Radford in Virginia. He had pledged Sig Ep in Radford, and when he came to UNC, he went straight to the Sig Ep house. He was the one who made the recommendation to me that I should check out Sig Ep, and I am glad that I did.
What is the funniest memory from your Sig Ep days?
That’s a tough question to answer. There were a lot of them. The ones that most immediately come to mind are some of the trips I went on, in particular my pledge-class trip to Washington DC, a Chapter Leadership regional meeting I went to in Knoxville and bringing some of my brothers home to New York with me over breaks.
How do you stay connected with your brothers as an alumnus?
I have stayed connected with my brothers mainly through Facebook, e-mail and Christmas cards. After graduation, I moved to the NYC metro area, and have been here ever since. I now live in Connecticut with my wife (also a Carolina grad), and our kids. I don't get back to North Carolina often. One of the last times I did, I got to visit with Tony Baker ‘88, whom I had not seen in probably 20 years or more. That was really nice.
After 9/11, I received a phone call from Jeff Kennedy ‘87, who had been flying for the Air Force, and actually had flown patrols over NYC in the days after the attack. I hadn't talked to Jeff in years, but he found me. Jeff had come to NYC with me once during a break, and we reminisced some as we caught up a little bit. National tragedy brought that bond back and a few days later, Jeff sent me a copy of the photo of us Sig Eps taken during a visit to the observation deck of the World Trade Center. It sits on my desk at home to this day.
It would be great to reconnect with more brothers. Perhaps, now that my youngest child is about to go to college, I will have more time and freedom to travel back to Chapel Hill, and when I do, I will definitely look to reconnect with some brothers. There are a bunch that I don't have contact with these days, and wonder how they're doing, hoping they are well. They include Jim O'Brien ‘89, Greg Ellington ‘86, Bill Hayes ‘85, John Conway ‘85, John Dorminey ‘87, Brian Parada ‘86 and many, many others.
What is the single fondest memory you have shared/will share with your children and grandchildren?
I have many fond memories of my time with Sig Ep: taking a bunch of my brothers to NYC and having a photo of us taken on the observation deck of the World Trade Center, the card section that we used to run at Keenan Stadium, some of the parties we had, hanging out with my big brother, Mike Russell ’85, before he graduated, hanging out on the rooftop with Jeff Byrd ’85 (rest in peace, Jeff), the day my bid was extended to me by Chip Medlin ’84 (also rest in peace), being all together in the house when the space shuttle blew up in 1986 and my roommate, Brian Smith ‘87, staying up late to break the news to me that a friend of mine back home had died to name a few. They weren’t all laughs and fun, but burned into my soul nonetheless. And of course, I met my wife while at Sig Ep. We actually met at a Sig Ep house party in August of 1986. We recently celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary.
What about your membership in Sig Ep makes you the most proud?
When my wife and I got married, we had no money. Her folks weren't able to throw us a big wedding, so we had a pretty small affair in a small town outside of Charlotte. We got married the day after New Year's, and several brothers were in my wedding. Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, I could not invite all that I wanted to. What I will never forget is that when I walked into the church for the ceremony, there were a whole bunch of Sig Ep brothers there. They didn't stay for the reception, but they made the trip to share that moment with me. I will never forget that.
How would your life be different today if you had never joined Sig Ep?
Being there in good times and bad, having a bond that lasts for years, those are the things that endure from my Sig Ep experience. I wouldn't trade that experience for anything. I grew up as a person during my Sig Ep days. I learned how to deal with other people (sometimes the hard way). But it all contributed to the person I am today, and to my ability to lead my organization and my family.
Where has life taken you since graduation? What's new in your life today?
Today I run a pretty big financial services firm. I founded the firm and am very busy every day with that operation. We have 120 financial advisers in 14 states handling the investment, retirement planning, and protection needs for individuals and corporations around the country. Our firm has about $3 billion of assets under management. I also have three children, ages 22, 20 and 17.
Brothers can connect with John at email@example.com.