My name is Kian Alden, and I am a brother of the Beta Omega chapter of the Kappa Sigma fraternity at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. I never thought that I would become part of greek life at any institution. When I thought about fraternities, the word brotherhood did not appear in my mind, instead evoked the stories I’d heard about intolerance, sexual misconduct, and hooliganism. I even went so far as to tell my parents “I don’t want to go to a school that even has a greek system!”. I am so glad that I was wrong about greek life.
When I arrived at Colorado College my roommates were randomly assigned and one of them, Michael Kuntzman, pledged Kappa Sigma in our first-year. I was shocked. I asked him why he pledged to a fraternity and he told me that that men who are a part of Beta Omega are wonderful, and that he wanted to be a part of their community. Through Mike, and later through my future roommate Samuel Tezak, who also became a brother of Beta Omega while we lived together, I became exposed to all of the brother who were a part of the house.
One brother in particular took me by surprise. This brother’s name was Todd Martz, and he was one of the most generous, compassionate, and genuine individuals I have ever encountered in my life. Todd was only ever at the house a few times a week, but whenever he was around all the brothers would be lit up like bonfires. He took everyone’s weight off their shoulders, and brought them all together as a house. Oh, and Todd had Down syndrome, which is why he could only be at the house a few times a week.
When I realized that Todd, a brother of Beta Omega starting the year I was born, was the force that had brought all of my friends to this house and bound them together I felt compelled to become a brother. The second semester of the sophomore year I pledged Kappa Sigma in a class of seven freshman, and throughout the pledge process I continually came up against things that showed me how wrong I had been about fraternities, and specifically this brotherhood. I met brothers who came from every type of background, were of every skin color, had different sexual preferences from my own, as well as brothers who favored all kinds of hobbies and pastimes. As a pledge I knew that I had discovered my tribe, the men who would accompany me throughout my life and stand by me through thick and thin, and no one fits that bill better than Brother Todd.
Part of our pledge process involved spending hours with the venerable brother, taking him from his day job at Wooglin’s Deli to our house on Yampa field and wiling away the afternoon with him. As we pledges talked to Todd on the porch brothers would come and go. Some of them coming when they could from the library for a study break with Todd and others spending hours there with us, it was obvious to me why the brotherhood was so strong.
As a newly initiated brother I continued to volunteer to spend afternoons with Todd and even if I hadn’t signed up that day would often see him on the porch of our house, rocking out with his brothers in the glorious Colorado sunshine. Brother Todd represented the true spirit of the fraternity. There was not a single person whom Todd would not greet with jovial abandon, shouting to his brothers “give him a hug!” or “give me a hug!” when he saw them approaching. He would even greet strangers with the same warmth, and that is what being a member of a fraternity should be about.
It isn’t about the partying, it isn’t about the privacy, it isn’t even about the house that we share, it is about coming together as a group of men and helping the world around us. Even if the help we provide is as small as brightening the day for as many people as we can it is our duty as Kappa Sigmas to enrich the community around us.
At the beginning of this school year, before all of our brothers had returned from vacation, Brother Todd passed away suddenly. His loss devastated not only our brotherhood, but also the community at large including the staff and patrons of Wooglin’s Deli and the congregation at his church in Denver. In the wake of his passing, I have found that it is important to keep his spirit close to our hearts and tirelessly cultivating the inclusiveness, warmth, and kindness that he shared with all of us. Todd changed my life, and the lives of many hundreds of other people by his shining example of what it means to be human.
Here’s to Brother Martz.
May he rest forever in peace and grace.