alpha tau chapter of phi kappa tau at cornell ✩ alumnirecords@cornellpkt.org ✩ spring 2015

neWs from the knoll

From the President’s desk

Hello, alumni, family, and friends of Phi 

Kappa Tau. My name is Brian McGovern, and I 

am the chapter president for 2015. I am a junior 

from Eastchester, New York, majoring in policy 

analysis and management.

Having spent the past year as philanthropy 

chair for the house, I sought to immerse myself 

in a role where I could spread the principles a 

brother embodies while serving the community 

to all other areas of the house. As president, I 

will strive to ensure that the brothers of Phi 

Kappa Tau continue to act as leaders in the Cor-

nell community and to shine positive light on 

the Greek system in a time when many popular 

news stories focus on fraternity problems.

Interfraternity Council is continuing many 

initiatives this semester, both to boost public 

perception of the Greek system and to work with 

Cornell to extend the new-member education pe-

riod from its current length of four weeks. These 

committees are the Public Relations Committee, 

Greek Week Committee, and the New Member 

Education Committee. Greek Week is largely a 

recruitment event that celebrates Greek life while 

concurrently exposing freshmen to Greek mem-

bers in “dry” settings. The week aims to increase 

the knowledge freshmen have of the Greek sys-

tem in the fall semester, before the single, formal-

ized rush week in January. With many younger 

men applying to these com-

mittees, we hope to see 

a return in IFC involve-

ment for Phi Kappa Tau.

As for the Alpha Tau 

Chapter’s relations with 

National, I have attended 

two national programs: 

Presidents’ Academy in 

Houston in January, and 

the New England Region-

al Conference in Troy, 

New York, in February. 

We continue to value a strong relationship with Na-

tional and to remain a top-level chapter in their eyes.

In terms of more local logistical news, we have 

a new chapter advisor on board: Benjamin Tudor, 

a Phi Kappa Tau alumnus from Centre College 

(Delta Chapter). Ben is a graduate student in the 

College of Human Ecology’s Sloan Program in 

Phi Tau seniors, all 2012 initiates (l to r): Marcus Wetlaufer, Matt Coster, Ankith Harathi,  

Javi Ortiz, Nitin Rajinikanth, LT Nault,  

Lex Shivakumar.

AlPhA tAu ChAPter, in review

Hello, Alumni! 

First and foremost, thank you for reading 

this new edition of News from The Knoll. We are 

very excited to share our experiences from this 

past semester with you and have included a host 

of articles written by both undergraduates and 

alumni for your reading pleasure. 

My name is Alexander Gomez, and I am the 

Alpha Tau Chapter’s new vice president of alum-

ni relations. I am a current sophomore from 

Teaneck, New Jersey, and am studying policy 

analysis and management in the College of Hu-

man Ecology. I am very excited to get to know 

you all and to help you keep in touch with the 

chapter and its activities. 

This edition features messages from our 

chapter president, Brian McGovern ’13, and 

from Timon Amirani ’14 about the chapter’s 

continued philanthropy efforts, Daniel Masetti 

’14 about house improvement, Jack Schog ’14 

on our brotherhood activities, and Paul Orshan-

sky ’14 on the chapter’s January rush week. Our 

membership orientation officers, Tom Flagiellp 

’12 and Javi Ortiz ’12, will also introduce our 

new class of brothers. Finally, we have an alumni 

spotlight on Dr. Barry Diener ’01.

In terms of events, we held our annual New 

York City networking and social dinner at Scha-

piro’s NYC on the Lower East Side on March 

14. There was a great turnout, with 45 alumni 

gathering for a delicious meal with the current 

undergraduates and a night out in the big city. 

It was a great time, filled with reminiscing and 

reunions between brothers. If you were unable 

to make it, I highly recommend that you try to 

next year, because it is a lot of fun, and I know 

the undergraduates love meeting alumni and 

hearing about their escapades while at Cornell. 

We are now in the process of planning a 

summer reunion. More details on that to come, 

but it will take place on Saturday, June 6, so save 

the date! We are very excited to host you all at 

the house and look forward to seeing you. 

If you have any questions or concerns, please 

contact me by phone at 201-560-7555 or by 

email at vpar@cornellpkt.com. If you are not 

receiving updates from the chapter, please let 

me know so that I can update your informa-

tion accordingly. Additionally, if you have any 

comments or suggestions about past or future 

events, please let me know! We are in the pro-

cess of exploring new events and initiatives and 

would love any input that you may have. 

In Phi, 

Alexander Gomez ’14

Vice President of Alumni Relations

New England Regional Conference in Troy, New York, on February 7.

From left: Treasurer Binian Gared ’13, 

Recruitment Chair Paul Orshansky ’14, 

Philanthropy Chair Timon Amirani ’14.

From left: President Brian McGov­

ern ’13, Risk Manager Alex Pom­

erenk ’14, VPAR Alex Gomez ’14.

(continued on next page)

2

(continued from previous page)

dinner & Brotherhood exPerienCe

The spring of 2015 has proved to be a chal-

lenging season for The Knoll. But despite the 

dense snowfall, intermittently functional boil-

ers, and subzero temperatures, our brotherhood 

remain as close-knit and warm as ever. On any 

given night, one will find a cluster of Phi Taus 

huddled around the dinner table, enjoying the 

latest culinary exploit of our chef, Matt Lea, and 

sharing stories of whimsy and revelry. The marks 

and divots in the tables speak of a home well-

worn with the friction of all-too irresponsible 

Tuesday nights, while ancient yearbooks, char-

ters from our fraternity’s birth, and last decade’s 

scrapbooks share the same stories of years past. 

Our cozy home on The Knoll has experi-

enced its fair share of fraternal escapades over 

the years, the results of which mean some of our 

chairs, mirrors, remote controls, chandeliers, 

and tables have ended up the worse for wear. 

Thankfully, the board of directors has purchased 

four new tables for the home, and a few handy 

members have contributed to repairing the fre-

quent minor breakages.

In addition, some real improvements have 

been made. The fledgling Omicron Class, for 

example, is leaving its mark by removing the de-

caying storage shed out back and constructing a 

new enclosure for the trash dumpster. Ladders 

have been created for custom bed lofts, and a 

few of our precious charters have been water-

proofed and reframed.

Now The Knoll continues, with new and re-

paired armor, to weather the storms of both Itha-

ca and rambunctious young adults, its scraped 

walls a documentary and its fresh new tables a 

canvas: a canvas on which we eat hot meals in 

subzero weather, a canvas around which we tell 

absurd stories against the backdrop of a reason-

able world, and a canvas in which we leave the 

memory-infused markings of a fraternal life, a 

life in which we take just pride.

Daniel Masetti ’14

House Manager

nYC triP & BroomBAll  

highlight Brother events

I joined the Alpha Tau Chapter of Phi Kappa 

Tau because I meshed so well with all brothers 

of the fraternity. As soon as I stepped foot in our 

house, I felt that Phi Kappa Tau would give me 

a place where I could feel at home in this large 

university setting. Now, as brotherhood chair, it 

is my duty to instill a sense of brotherhood by 

creating opportunities for brothers to grow even 

stronger bonds and lifetime friendships. 

The spring semester started off with a fun-

filled night before rush week, where the brother-

hood went to an ice hockey rink in downtown 

Ithaca to play an annual game of broomball. With 

only minor bumps and bruises, this event will be 

something everyone looks forward to next year.

Shortly after that, Phi Kappa Tau welcomed 

the addition of 15 new brothers of the Omicron 

Class, eager to partake in any opportunity to 

form strong ties to the older members. The as-

sociate class brotherhood chair, Logan Allen ’15, 

brought the brotherhood together for an after-

noon full of pizza and all sorts of outdoor snow 

activities, including snow football and a massive 

snowball fight. Our chapter has been looking 

forward to meeting alumni on our annual New 

York City trip and to many outdoor activities 

once the harsh Ithaca winter starts to disappear. 

This position has given me the opportu-

nity to help facilitate bonds, forming a stronger 

brotherhood, and has taught me the importance 

of brotherhood within the chapter. I am looking 

forward to planning events for brothers to en-

joy in their three and a half short years as active 

brothers of the Alpha Tau Chapter, even after my 

term as brotherhood chair comes to a close.

Jack Schnog ’14

Brotherhood Chair

FAll rush Brings 

two new men

Last October, the Alpha Tau Chapter initiat-

ed two new brothers as members of the Omicron 

Class: Michael Merrill and Michael Truhlar. 

Merrill, a sophomore from Buffalo, New 

York, is studying information science and cur-

rently plans to attend medical school after grad-

uating. Aside from serving as Phi Tau’s steward, 

he works in a computational population genetics 

lab and writes for the Cornell Daily Sun’s science 

section. As he watched his fellow Omicron Class 

from this spring discover the house, he further 

appreciated the brotherhood he has built here. 

His proudest accomplishment is winning a trip 

to Las Vegas to compete in an entrepreneurship 

competition with brother Dan Masetti.

Truhlar is a sophomore from Stony Brook, 

New York, studying operations research and in-

formation engineering with an interest in indus-

trial data analysis. As an associate, he held four 

leadership positions in his class and built a new 

table for the house. Besides his contributions to 

Phi Tau, Truhlar works with Cornell Informa-

tion Technologies as a service-desk consultant. 

Since joining Phi Tau, he has been present at our 

weekly Tau Tuesday events, claiming that our 

strong sense of brotherhood is what makes him 

most “proud to be.” One of his proudest accom-

plishments is running a mile in 4:47 during his 

senior year of high school.

Tom Flagiello ’12

Fall Membership Orientation Officer

From left: Eric Bellin ’11, Sam Nelson ’12, Charlie Schwartz ’11, Alex Pomerenk ’14, Mike Truhlar ’14.

Health Administration. Having served as treasur-

er of his chapter for two years as an undergradu-

ate, Ben has faced a multitude of challenging cir-

cumstances. Ben, a native Kentuckian, born and 

raised about an hour away from his alma mater

will be able to provide fresh insights on how to 

approach difficult chapter tasks and problems. 

Over the course of the semester, I hope to meet 

with Ben frequently and to make sure that his 

transition from involvement in Delta Chapter to 

our beloved Alpha Tau Chapter is seamless.

Ben replaces B.J. Siasoco ’03, who has advised 

us over the years and is a valuable alumnus.

Lastly, I am very thrilled with the current state 

of our executive board. With motivated brothers 

in positions that they enjoy and thrive in, I am 

certain that 2015 will have good things in store 

for the Alpha Tau Chapter of Phi Kappa Tau.

In phi, Brian McGovern ’13

President

From the President’s desk

3

reCruitment remAins strong

I’m proud to announce that 15 new and out-

standing gentlemen have been initiated into 

our Alpha Tau Chapter of Phi Kappa Tau. Fol-

lowing another successful rush week, our new 

Omicron Class has completed the association 

process diligently, and each man looks forward 

to assuming his role as an active member of our 

brotherhood. With the second year of the short-

ened four-week process in the books, I can con-

fidently say that Alpha Tau has skillfully adapted 

to Cornell’s new regulations governing Greeks 

during the rush process while also providing a 

fulfilling new-member process for our newly 

initiated members.

Phi Kappa Tau’s rush week traditions remained 

intact under the leadership of Alex Crooker, as 

the brotherhood still participated in events such 

as broomball, paintball, hibachi night, and the bid 

dinner. We’ve also made new traditions under the 

university’s new rush policies, like a day of winter 

sports prior to night smokers.

The pool of recruits this semester was as 

strong as ever, with the limited time not affect-

ing the amount of people interested in learning 

more about Phi Kappa Tau. A staggering number 

of potential recruits walked through our doors 

this rush week; just over 200 candidates had the 

opportunity to speak to some of our brothers. We 

gave out 23 bids, and the brothers remained en-

thusiastic throughout the period, growing more 

acclimated to the new regulation, which have 

now been in place for several semesters. Risk 

has been reduced significantly, and our chapter 

continues to infuse a lot of fun activities into the 

short amount of time given to us by Cornell.

This spring semester, recruitment barbecues 

will again soon become a regular activity as the 

weather gets warmer and our newly initiated 

members begin to assist with the beginning of 

next semester’s fall recruitment.

Phi Kappa Tau will continue its history of 

recruiting outstanding men through the broth-

ers’ numerous on-campus activities and con-

tinued emphasis on meeting new recruits. The 

energy and personality of our brotherhood will 

help us through any new restrictions placed on 

our recruitment of new members, and each of 

us looks forward to many more successful years 

and memories here at 106 The Knoll.

Alex Crooker ’13

Recruitment Chair

senior sPotlights

Tom Flagiello majors in human biology, 

health, and society, with a minor in health 

policy. He studied abroad in Florence, Italy, 

for a semester and is very involved in Phi Tau 

(MOO, risk manager, secretary). Tom is a 

biochemistry teaching assistant, has been an 

employee of Fine Arts Library for three years, 

and is involved with Cornell Catholic Com-

munity and Cornell Italian Society. His post-

grad plans: working as a research technician at 

Weill Cornell Medical College in NYC before 

continuing to medical school. He will be with a 

subset of the Department of Genetic Medicine 

that conducts research utilizing gene-transfer 

techniques for disease treatment.

Ankith Harathi graduated from Cornell 

summa cum laude in December, majoring in 

mechanical engineering with a minor in ap-

plied economics and management. He held the 

roles of the cooling-team leader and flow-team 

engineer on the Formula Racing (FSAE) Proj-

ect Team, participated in Cornell Running Club 

and Model United Nations, and served as schol-

arship chair in Phi Kappa Tau. Post-grad plans: 

he will be working at Stroud International Con-

sulting, a firm specializing in engineering opera-

tions and capital projects management.

serviCe remAins CruCiAl to Phi tAu

Philanthropy and service are a key part of being 

a Phi Tau, especially here at Cornell. This past year, 

brothers spent countless hours both on and off 

Cornell’s campus to improve the local community. 

During the fall semester, we held our annual 

tug-of-war competition, Phi Tug, raising funds 

and awareness for SeriousFun Network, Phi 

Tau’s national philanthropy, founded by the late 

Paul Newman. This semester, we are partnering 

with other organizations on campus to do joint 

philanthropy events to help SeriousFun. We 

have an event scheduled with the Phi Sigma Sig-

ma sorority, with the help of Loco Cantina and 

Connections Pizza, as well as our annual seesaw 

marathon with Kappa Delta. 

In addition, our newest brothers participated 

in fundraising efforts to aid SeriousFun by sell-

ing baked goods and cider in Collegetown.

During the first weekend of our spring break 

(March 27–29), more than ten brothers planned 

to go to Camp Boggy Creek, a SeriousFun camp 

in Eustis, Florida. We are also planning trips to 

local charitable organizations, such as the near-

by Loaves & Fishes, to support its efforts in feed-

ing the community.

We hope to be even more involved in the lo-

cal community in future semesters. 

Timon Amirani ’14

Philanthropy Chair

sPring ClAss shows its strength

For the four weeks of February, I had the 

pleasure of guiding 15 fine men through 

their associate 

membership process. Even with 

the process only lasting four weeks, the Omi-

cron Class proved its drive and character. Led 

by their class president and vice president, Joe 

Antonakakis ’15 and Brendan Coyle ’15, the new 

members completed the association process 

through hard work. In keeping with the duties 

of associates of Phi Kappa Tau they made sure 

none of them fell behind in the process. I can 

proudly say that each and every one of them has 

earned his place in this brotherhood.

As always, each associate class must complete 

a house improvement and philanthropy project. 

Given the brevity of the process and the impor-

tance we place on academics, they are still work-

ing on both of them as I write this. They have 

raised about half their philanthropy goal solely 

by selling hot cider in Collegetown. This year’s 

house-improvement project is the construction 

of a wood enclosure for our trash dumpster, as 

well as tearing down the deteriorating shed in 

the backyard. The project will reach completion 

once the ground thaws out and they can sink the 

posts of the enclosure.

Perhaps the best thing about this new class is 

its variety. Each member brings a completely dif-

ferent and great perspective. Some are engineers 

on project teams, one makes his own music, one 

is involved in an improv comedy group, another is 

treasurer for one of the larger organizations on our 

campus that supports the LGBT community. No 

matter what they do as individuals, what resonates 

among everyone is that they are passionate about 

what they do. That passion is what brings them 

together. A group that might not seem to mesh 

together is actually a perfect fit for each of them. 

They all bring something unique to the table, and 

they’ve formed strong brotherhood bonds.

In Phi, Javier Ortiz ’12

Spring Member Orientation Officer

alpha tau chapter of phi kappa tau at cornell 

 spring 2015

o

i kt alumni neWs

“Retired and enjoying life,” exclaims John Bab-

bitt ’66! Get in touch with him to find out what 

he’s up to: johnbabbitt_2000@yahoo.com; 908 

Collier Ct., #501, Marco Island, FL 34145.

“Thanks for all the great alumni communica-

tions,” says Joel Zackin ’80. “It is really great 

how you all seem to have your act together! 

Keep the newsletters rolling. Good luck with 

school, and have fun with the house.” Joel signs 

his note, giving himself the title “House a--hole 

numerous times in the early ’80s.” He then goes 

on to explain: “Not sure if you have continued 

this house leadership position. In the ’80s, elec-

tions for this post of honor would be held at din-

ner whenever a nomination was brought up and 

seconded. Of course, bringing a nomination to 

the membership could cause the nominator to 

be immediately nominated. The merits of the 

candidates were discussed, and an election was 

held. The new officer was presented with a tube 

of Preparation H by the previous a--hole. Some-

times, words or actions called for multiple elec-

tions in a single night, although many folks held 

the office for months. It required special skills to 

hold the office for months.” Get back in touch 

with Joel at joel_zackin@cyclone.com or at 103 

Everit St., New Haven, CT 06511.

“Not much new here,” writes Christopher 

Mager ’84. “Still working at BNY Mellon, 

where I currently serve as managing director, 

head of market segments for the treasury ser-

vices business. Most of my non-working hours 

are spent at soccer, basketball, cross-country, 

and now track events for my sons (14 and 11), 

some of which I coach. I run when I can, but 

nothing like Phil Scinto ’84 and Brenda Scinto 

(Phi Tau little sister)! I see them a few times a 

year; they sometimes come to see my boys run 

or play, or we visit them in Cleveland. My wife, 

Jennifer, is doing fine too. We just had a great 

ski/board trip to Gore Mountain in the Adiron-

dacks a few weeks ago.” Reconnect with Chris 

at magercj@gmail.com or at 214 Lakevue Dr., 

Cranberry Township, PA 16066.

Derek Paxton ’11 is in Boston, working on his 

master’s degree in aerospace engineering at MIT. 

Write him a note to find out how he’s doing: 50 

Plymouth St., #2, Cambridge, MA 02141.

is published by the Alpha Tau Chapter of Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity at Cor­

nell for its members & friends. News should be sent to Alumni Records Of­

fice, Alpha Tau of Phi Kappa Tau, P.O. Box 876, Ithaca, NY 14851­0876.

neWs from

the knoll

  

We regret to announce the deaths  

of the following alumni:

ChAPter eternAl

John Everett Dodge ’48 

January 31, 2015

John C. Britting ’48 

September 8, 2014

John H. Schuerger Jr. ’54 

February 17, 2015

Gilbert I. Smith ’41 

November 5, 2014

diener ’01 hAPPY with mediCAl CAreer

Barry Diener ’01 stood before the chapter 

one day in the spring of 2002, giving an election 

speech, and said he planned to become a pe-

diatrician. The brothers might not realize it, he 

said, but during the summer, 

he handled medical aid for a 

town camp on Long Island.

All these years later, Barry 

is, in fact, a pediatrician, along 

with having served on the 

chapter’s board of governors 

since he graduated from Cor-

nell in 2004. Now, he is a fam-

ily man as well.

Barry has a practice in pe-

diatric pulmonology at Stony 

Brook Children’s Hospital, 

focusing on children with 

acute and chronic respiratory 

illnesses. He also is an assistant clinical profes-

sor at Stony Brook University, where he teaches 

medical students who are on their pediatrics ro-

tation, as well as residents and fellows.

“I’m happy with my decision in my career 

and the effect I have on the people I work 

with,” he said. Pediatric pulmonology is based 

on building relationships, he said, because he 

works with children with 

complex medical problems 

and chronic care. Lately, he 

has branched out into study-

ing how health care is man-

aged in a changing society 

through quality improve-

ment, looking for more ef-

ficiency and the need to re-

interpret how things are done 

in our changing landscape of 

medicine.

That follows a theme from 

his days in Phi Tau as the 

chapter re-founded and set 

about establishing its recruitment, new mem-

ber, alumni, and social programs. He served as 

alumni relations chair (VPAR) and membership 

orientation officer (MOO).

“It was a community, a place you could go, 

but a place where we were really pushing each 

other to see what this thing was and if it would 

last,” Barry said. “We didn’t think it would last.”

Barry graduated from Cornell with a bach-

elor’s in biology, with a molecular and cellular 

concentration. He studied medicine at New 

York Medical College in Westchester County 

and did his residency there. He next worked 

through a fellowship at Children’s Hospital of 

Philadelphia.

“I wanted a very hands-on education and was 

lucky enough to have a small hospital in a metro 

area,” Barry said. “I got a really good picture of 

what I could do in my practice.” This experience 

allowed Barry to obtain a fellowship to study pe-

diatric pulmonology at one of the top children’s 

hospitals in the world.

He married Ilana Sarfati, who was from his 

hometown of Plainview, New York, in 2011. In 

January, they welcomed Addison Grace. They 

live in Commack, New York, near Stony Brook.

Barry likes being on the board of governors be-

cause it brings his fraternity experience full circle.

“It’s a way to reflect on what we did and to see 

how this thing has grown, how the chapter has 

taken off,” he said. 

Scott Conroe ’01

Barry with his wife, Ilana, and 

daughter Addison Grace.