FaceBook  Twitter

Lambda Chi Paves the Way for Entrepreneurial Success
Joe Giansante '76 came to Lehigh University to learn Mechanical Engineering but learned a great deal more, about interacting with people and creating life-long friendships.

"I was almost a bit of a legacy pledge for Lamda Chi," Joe said. "I didn't have any actual relatives who had pledged, but I came from a small high school in Pottstown, Penna. and two of the brothers had been at the same school years ahead of me – Jerry Megasoa '73 and Bud Jenske '74. They were good guys and part of what initially attracted me."

There was lots of interest in the fraternity when Joe pledged because Lambda Chi was moving its house at the time, from off-campus on Delaware Ave. to an on-campus house.

"The new house definitely piqued people's interest, but to me it's all about the people. You'll be spending the greatest amount of time with your brothers, so it's important to choose well."

An Unexpected Kidnapping
Joe also liked Lambda Chi's attitude toward hazing, which was more focused on theatrics and fun, not on really dangerous situations.

"I remember one night when we were Freshman I was in my dorm room and we were all worried that we would get kidnapped; in other words, the brothers pick you up and drive you to some unknown location and leave you there to try and find your way home," Joe said. "Then I heard a whole bunch of guys yelling in the hallway, where's Gino? They called me Gino back then. So, I tried to hide."

"Turned out, it was my fellow pledges. The brothers had kidnapped one of the other pledges – we called him Beggar because of his beard – and they had left him in the woods near Kutztown. Turned out he had friends in the area and went to visit some girls he knew. The other pledges needed me to drive so we could all go to a party with Beggar and these girls. That night we felt pretty pleased with ourselves about pulling on over on the brothers."

Support in Brotherhood
Joe's pledge class was particularly strong because they had a core group of young men who were from not far away Catasauqua, Penna. and knew each other. They called themselves the "Catasauqua Five" and Joe spent many times during the summer playing basketball with them and hanging out in their home town haunts.

While an active brother, Joe served as High Sigma, the scholarship fund chairman for Lambda Chi.

"We provided all sorts of support for each other when we lived together in house," Joe said. "At that time, about 75% of Lehigh University consisted of Engineering Majors and since you shared a house with brothers that were older than you, there was always someone who had taken the class before and could help you figure it out."

Building an Outstanding Career
After graduation, Joe went to graduate school at MIT, and then on to work for the R&D division of GE. After four years in R&D, he decided to change coasts and went to UCLA to get his MBA, then worked in investment banking in the Bay Area.

Needing a new challenge, Joe went on to found a small software company, just him and two other guys, developing real estate software. His small company was bought out by Inuit, the makers of Quicken Financial Planning software, and he went to work with them for four years.

"It was in 1995, when I was working at Intuit that I saw my first web site. A buddy there was demoing this strange new thing called the Internet and he asked what site I'd like to see," Joe remembered. "Naturally, I said I'd like to see the Lehigh University web site, so that was truly the first web site I've ever seen."

Joe went on to become an Internet entrepreneur, developing an online financial planning service which he sold in 1999.

Looking Back
With his many professional successes, we asked if Joe attributed any of the needed skills in his time with Lambda Chi. He responded enthusiastically to the affirmative.

"We had a really good group of guys in the house," Joe said. "Going away to college is such a developmental experience for us all. You go away from what you know for the first time and learn how other people live and think. It wasn't as big a change as moving to California, but it was a great way to start to learn a balance between work and fun and how to get along with other people."

Today, Joe keeps in touch with a fair number of his Lambda Chi brothers.

"We all dropped off for about 20 years, which I think is natural as we all build our own lives. Then there's some inciting event that brings everyone back. For us, it was the 1000th initiate. I was the furthest away out of anyone that came to the ceremony," Joe said. "Since then, email has kept us all communicating and a couple of years later, we did a golf outing. We're due for another outing this year and I can't wait for it to happen."

When asked what advice he had for current brothers, Joe laughed a little and said, "Study hard. Make memories with your fraternity brothers that will last a lifetime. And stay connected. It's worth it. Being a Lambda Chi brother is one of the best decisions I've ever made."

Reconnect with Joe at joeg@isnetwork.com.