Welcome To Alpha Zeta

-An Excerpt from the Initiate's Handbook

Alpha Zeta is generally described as Cook College’s honors/service fraternity, and this pair of adjectives is certainly at its core. “Honors” refers to the fact that students must be among the best in their class in order to be eligible for membership. Academic performance is really the sole tangible criterion used for this purpose, in keeping with Alpha Zeta’s history. Membership truly is an honor reflective of accomplishment. While there is far more to the Cook experience than getting good grades in the classroom, a standard or benchmark of achievement remains desirable and necessary.

"Service" is equally important. Service requires no special talent or unique ability beyond the willingness to contribute to the betterment of our community and environment. The centrality of service goes back to the designation of Rutgers as New Jersey's land grant school under the Morrill Act of the 1860s. George H. Cook was the person most responsible for wresting that designation away from Princeton - one of our relatively few triumphs over them. First as the "Ag School," later as the "College of Agriculture," the "College of Agriculture ans Environmental Science," then "Cook College" and now the "School of Environmental and Biological Sciences," service remains at the core of our mission. Similarly, Alpha Zeta has been service-oriented since its founding more than a century ago.

Beyond honors and service, Alpha Zeta embodies a number of other terms. It is a fraternity, not in the everyday meaning that perhaps conjures up images of drunken revelry (though AZ's brothers do know how to have a good time), but in its dedication to fellowship and brotherhood. The Cook Campus has always prided itself on being different from the other campuses in its strong sense of identity. Alpha Zeta both represents and contributes to this feeling of “we-ness.” In an increasingly impersonal age at a large university, this is no small consideration. Such terms as “character” and “leadership” are also at the heart of Alpha Zeta. I think it fair to say that our members both have demonstrated fine character and often have been "characters" as well.

The membership process includes learning something of the history of Alpha Zeta, so as to better appreciate the true meaning of membership. New members are encouraged to forge a bond with their “bigs” and thereby their "families" and with each other. The prospective membership project of each class promotes this bond, introduces the importance of service, and yields benefits to the Cook community. Obtaining signatures may seem somewhat trivial at first glance, but it acquaints brothers and pledges and so serves to encourage familiarity and cohesion. Membership culminates with writing a substantive paper and defending it before alumni and brothers. This reinforces the seriousness with which academics is taken and reflects the commitment required to become a member. Initiation night thus is both an end and a beginning.

Alpha Zeta has made and will continue to make significant contributions to the quality of life at Cook. Our chapter has given tours to prospective students, done outreach to New Jersey high schools for recruitment purposes, tutored peers, done plantings and clean ups, and many other activities. Students, alumni and visitors anticipate the AZ barbecue on Ag Field Day each year. AZ will continue to build on this rich tradition as each new member class brings with it renewed energy and imagination, thereby re-inventing old traditions of service and activities and creating new ones along the way.

On a personal note, I have been aware of AZ for as long as I can remember. My father’s Rutgers ring has “AZ” on the stone and it has been a source of lasting pride to him that he was asked to join when he was an undergraduate at the “Ag School” in the 1940s. My wife was a member of AZ when we were the “College of Agriculture and Environmental Science;” her class later became the first official “Cook College” graduating class. I was not an “aggie,” but came to Cook as a graduate student and later became a member of the faculty. I was greatly gratified to be named an honorary member of AZ and more so when asked to succeed Professor Bruce "Doc" Hamilton as AZ’s principal advisor. I am proud that the family tradition of connection to AZ continued with my daughter Elizabeth and my son Daniel. My association with AZ and the Cook Chapter's brothers has been very rewarding. May each group of new members join us in the AZ tradition of honor, service, fellowship, leadership, and character (as well as being charcters). Welcome!

George F. Clark, Ph.D.
Chair, Alpha Zeta Faculty Advisory Committee