The Sigma Pi-Theta Sigma fraternity chapter of Ursinus College will be recognized for its community service and volunteer work by The Speaker’s House, a nonprofit historical organization dedicated to preserving the Trappe home of Frederick Muhlenberg, first Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The fraternity was named the recipient of the 2012 “Volunteer of the Year” award at the organization’s annual meeting on Dec. 9 at Augustus Lutheran Church located at 717 West Main Street in Trappe. This event also marked the opening of a special traveling exhibition from Germany about the Muhlenberg family, on view at the church through Jan. 6.
Speaker’s House president Lisa Minardi initiated the relationship with Sigma Pi soon after she graduated from Ursinus in 2004, calling on the fraternity to help clean up the property and historic house. Over the years, Sigma Pi members have helped with everything from planting daffodils to removing modern cabinets and bathroom appliances from the house. Among the most memorable projects the fraternity participated in was the demolition of a non-historic addition on the house, which had to be carefully deconstructed by hand as it contained recycled historic woodwork that needed to be salvaged to aid in future restoration.
The fraternity’s dedication to the house has benefitted the chapter, said president Jonathan Birabaharan 2014, a biochemistry and molecular biology major. “Giving back to the community is a value we all want all of our brothers to have; we want to graduate and become leaders in tomorrow’s world. Working at The Speaker’s House has been a very satisfying experience, it allowed us to appreciate the great Collegeville community and its history. As being part of Sigma Pi, we strive to be role model students and extraordinary gentlemen.”
Ursinus and The Speaker’s House have a long history of cooperation. Many Ursinus students have participated in the organization’s annual archaeology field school or internship program to gain experience in public history and historic preservation. Last fall, the Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus hosted the exhibition Pastors & Patriots: The Muhlenberg Family of Pennsylvania, guest curated by Lisa Minardi. From 1924 to 1944, the Speaker’s House was an Ursinus dormitory known as Highland Hall. Documents and photographs found in the college’s archives have yielded important information that is helping shape plans for the restoration.
The Speaker’s House is located at 151 W. Main Street in Trappe and is open for tours by appointment. Regular programs include an annual archaeology field school during the summer and an ongoing lecture series to share the Muhlenberg family’s extraordinary history with regional organizations. For more information, visit www.speakershouse.org.