After an absence of almost half a century, the undergraduate chapter of the pharmaceutical fraternity Rho Pi Phi has been re-established at the University of Toronto.
Rho Pi Phi International Pharmaceutical Fraternity is made up of professionals in the pharmaceutical field. Toronto’s chapter, called Rokeah, was established in 1926, and an undergraduate chapter, known as Nu chapter, was established a few decades later, but it eventually petered out. Until last fall.
In 2009, Joshua Lieblein, a fourth-year undergraduate pharmacy student at U of T was approached by some of Rho Pi Phi’s professional members about possibly re-starting the chapter on campus.
“I’d been aware of Rho Pi Phi through my parents and grandparents, and through other friends I had in the community who would talk about the influence of Rho Pi Phi in decades gone by,” Lieblein said. “I didn’t think I’d ever have the chance to bring it back.”
After meeting with pharmacists who are members of Rho Pi Phi’s Toronto chapter, Lieblein started recruiting students from September to December 2009.
While the organization itself is non-sectarian, meaning any gender or ethnicity can join, most of the Toronto members are Jewish, as are the seven new undergraduate members.
“Older members asked me if I was interested. I took the initiative,” Lieblein said.
On April 11, the new members were officially inducted into the fraternity.
Lieblein sees the fraternity as an opportunity for students to form bonds early in their careers.
“I thought it would be appropriate, given that there were not very many Jewish students [in the program], to have a nucleus of students that stick together and help each other out,” he said.
“Pharmacy has become a very challenging program. It’s nice for people to have your back. The relationships you form are very important. Business and social relationships were very instrumental in helping [the older members] achieve success.”
Like Rokeah, the new undergraduate chapter will have a social role and will help members build contacts.
“It’s a lot of work, pharmacy. We have seven courses a term. We want to offer some social events, some [that may be] Jewishly based,” Lieblein said. “It will give students a chance to relax and have some happy memories.”
Fred Stoll, the chancellor of Rokeah, hopes to see the undergraduate chapter grow and expand to different campuses.
“We hope eventually that it will grow… [and] help Rho Pi Phi to continue as a fraternity. As we grow older, more people are passing away,” he said.
Right now, Rho Pi Phi members are exploring the possibility of starting an undergraduate chapter at the University of Waterloo’s school of pharmacy.
Stoll said older members of the fraternity can help newer members.
“[Fraternity members] have quite a strong bond. These people have been together for 40, 50 years. We would serve as their mentors,” he said.
Reina Bendayan, a professor in the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at U of T and the undergraduate chapter’s faculty adviser, was impressed with the diverse group of professionals that showed up to the induction ceremony.