Not Slytherin, Eh?

In which it’s all here in my head; there’s no doubt about that.


To my dear reader,

One of my earliest memories is not of a sight, but of a sound; namely, the sound of Jim Dale’s voice reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. My cassette tapes of the Harry Potter audiobooks were precious treasures to me, and listening to them brought me endless pleasure. The lilt of Jim Dale’s voice, the character he drew from the dialogue, and variety of voices he was capable of fascinated me, inspiring my love for stories and the human voice.

The Harry Potter series has deeply shaped my generation, and like so many of my peers, I asked myself which Hogwarts house I would be sorted into – brave Gryffindor, loyal Hufflepuff, wise Ravenclaw or ambitious Slytherin. Like so many of my peers, I assumed myself to be a Gryffindor. This was, in retrospect, a foolish assumption.

Let us not be too harsh on young Daniel; in those first books of the series, the world seemed so black and white. Gryffindors were the protagonists and heroes – who wouldn’t want to be among them? Gryffindors were courageous and noble – who wouldn’t want to have those qualities?

But as I grew older, I realized how goal-oriented I was. I loved completing tasks, making plans and being in charge. Being in Gryffindor was the stuff of chivalrous heroes, and I had proved myself much too irascible and irreverent to be chivalrous or a hero. Well, I thought, Slytherin seems to fit me like a glove.

It was not until an activity in my current Education 419 class, American Schools Inside and Out, that I questioned this assumption. This was because of a short quiz the class took provided by the company ViaStrengths, which analyzed fairly typical questions about daily organizational habits and work-related practices to give a list of ranked personal strengths. As the list, now posted to my bedroom wall, dictates, my number one was “Love of Learning.”

This quality as my greatest strength explains a great deal. It explains why I identified with the character of Hermione Granger, why I enjoy libraries so, and why I rarely enjoy anything that doesn’t intellectually stimulate me. Lucky me, the professor of this class – Dr. John Woodward – informed us that this trait is considered highly desirable by employers. But this is not why seeing this result pleased me so.

It pleased me because it made me realize that I have always been a Ravenclaw. Trivial or foolish as this realization may seem, it has been of great benefit as I begin the search for that elusive adventure, Adult Life. I can see now that, whatever I do with myself, I can only be happy if I am always learning. As Jim Dale once told me in an audiobook, “Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest pleasure…”


With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

Darling, We’re a Nightmare Dressed Like a Daydream

In which the Tay, in her ever-present wisdom, reveals the truth of Daniel’s relationship with his fraternity by means of chart-topping pop music.

To my dear reader,

Every year, for several sessions of four days scattered throughout the summer and winter, over one hundred members and friends of the fraternity of Beta Theta Pi from across North America gather at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. There among the endless stretch of fields, they participate in a leadership program entitled The Wooden Institute, named after the famous basketball coach and member of Beta John Wooden. The alumni of the fraternity and friends of Beta lead the undergraduate members in a series of programs, lectures and presentations on different leadership styles, tactics and applications.

On the campus of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

On the campus of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Looking back on my time at this short program and the four days in January I spent there, what I remember most clearly is not the leadership lectures or the plans for personal development I wrote. It is the music – namely, Taylor Swift and film scores.

For those of you so foolish as to not have been following my blog posts before this one, it is imperative that you know this: two of the things that I hold most dear are the music of Tay Swizz (praise be unto Her) and movie soundtracks. They make me feel empowered and elegant in equal shares – two things that I am unlikely to feel strongly in my everyday life. That being said, I came to this fraternity leadership program with no anticipation of them being relevant, and although Greek Life at the University of Puget Sound has been a relatively positive experience for me, I was tentative to place trust in a gathering of college men to whom I would be a stranger.

Upon arriving, the eighty undergraduates of Beta from across the nation were gathered into six “chapters” of twelve members that did not know one another whatsoever. This was, needless to say, a somewhat stilted and awkward interaction, filled with the necessary combination of dead silence and short burst of nervous laughter. But when we arrived at the room where we were to debrief on our new chapter’s get-to-know you activities, we were greeted by “Harry In Winter” – one of the best tracks from the score to “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”

“All right,” I thought tentatively. “Perhaps I may enjoy myself.”

Three days later, after learning of John Wooden’s life and the history of fraternal life and the many ways to trick people into working together, I sat in a chapter brother’s car as he drove us through the snow on the streets of Oxford on our way to one of the program’s last events. As his phone began to play a new song through his car’s stereo, he grinned and said “Oh man, let’s turn this up!” I had a moment of confusion as he turned up the volume of the speakers before I realized that the song was none other than Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space”. He rolled down the windows and we sang to the night – poorly, loudly and out of tune, but together.

Me and the other members of Chapter Five pose seductively before the fraternity's Hall of Chapters.

Me and the other members of Chapter Five pose seductively before the fraternity’s Hall of Chapters.

Friendship is a curious thing, and like many other curious things, such as meatballs and childbirth, may be best left uninvestigated. But despite my trepidation and inhibition, four days of unravelling our lives and finding new ways to change the world around us brought me and my little band of brothers closer than I thought possible. The words of Tswag’s “Blank Space” ring true: “Hey, let’s be friends; I’m dying to see how this one ends; grab your passport and my hand…” And, as the Wooden Institute Demonstrated, I can, in fact, make the bad guys good for a weekend.

With the recent induction of our newest members, the Delta Epsilon colony of Beta Theta Pi at the University of Puget Sound gave to me a sophomore named Zachary Miller as a “Little Brother” – a new member to whom I am to be a “Big Brother” and provide mentorship and guidance. Needless to say, this is a recipe for hilarity and disaster, because Lord knows that any advice from me would likely end in chaos and general discomfort for everyone involved. But a great deal of time has passed since last I felt this excited about anything, and as disastrously as it may end, I am thrilled to share what wisdom I gleaned from my time at Oxford University. Zachary Miller and all the other new members of Beta Theta Pi had best prepare themselves, because after seeing these boys…

Zachary Miller (left) and myself (right): a very big little and a very little big.

Zachary Miller (right) and myself (left): a very big little and a very little big.

…all I can think is “Oh my God, look at that face; you look like my next mistake.”

Love’s a game. Wanna play?

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert