Alumni Spotlights

Shaping a Beta Pi’s Career

How the Fraternity Influenced Ryan Demmer ’99

The ΒQP chapter at the University of Minnesota was intriguing to Ryan Demmer ’99, who found the active members to be welcoming and good-natured. His initial interest in the fraternity stemmed from its longstanding traditions and reputation for being academically rigorous. While pursuing his bachelor’s degree in public health with a business and life sciences emphasis, Ryan was initiated into the Beta Pi Chapter.

Ryan befriended his big brother, Ivan “Butch” Weiss ’97, and Scott Allen ’95 right away—members who ultimately proved very influential for him. “They both played a part in my decision to join the chapter and my engagement in chapter life,” he said. In fact, it was because of Scott’s convincing that Ryan took an elective public health course during his freshman year—a fateful choice that played a huge role in Ryan’s ultimate career path. “That course introduced me to epidemiologic research in understanding disease etiology,” he recalled. Soon after, he changed his major from engineering to public health.

During his active years, Ryan served on Beta Pi’s executive council as house manager, executive-at-large, and chapter president. “My time at Beta allowed me not only to make lifelong friends, but exposed me to an array of new ideas and opportunities in life,” he recalled. “My ability to serve in leadership roles within the chapter helped me grow and created opportunities that have served me well ever since.”

Getting to know a chapter’s active members should be something undergraduates do before making a decision to join a Greek organization, according to Ryan. “The individuals in the fraternity will shape your values, behaviors, and work ethic during an important time in your life.” He also encourage students to consider the strength of the national organization as a whole, paying special attention to potential leadership opportunities available to the members.

After graduating from UM, Ryan went on to earn a master’s of public health and a Ph.D. in epidemiology. Today, he is an associate professor of epidemiology at UM, interested in researching microbial etiologies of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. “I am particularly interested in the human microbiome and how bacteria in the mouth and gut can influence health,” he revealed. Ryan previously lived in New York for over 10 years, working in the department of epidemiology at Columbia University.

Though his days of being in the active chapter are behind him, Ryan keeps in touch with several of his Beta Pi brothers through alumni functions. “My family recently returned from a vacation in Florida, where we spent the week with Nick Lampi ’98 and his family,” he revealed. In his spare time, Ryan plays golf, pool, and softball and appreciates the occasional Netflix binge. He and his wife, CloEve, and their children, Ashton, Makenna, and Addison, also enjoy spending family time at the lake. You can connect with Ryan at demm0009@gmail.com.

 

Do What You Love
Stanley Thompson ’59 Offers Tips for a Prosperous Future

Beta Theta Pi entered the life of Stanley Thompson ’59 with impeccable timing. He was new to the University of Minnesota, and spent much of his time studying for his dual degree in biology and natural science. The brotherhood was robust with diverse membership and Stanley valued his exposure to people of varying backgrounds, beliefs, and ambitions.

Once he became an official member of Beta Pi chapter, Stanley realized just how significant the fraternity could be. He befriended John “Jay” Enghauser II ’59, William “Bill” Westerdahl ’59, and Jon Albrightson ’60—men who remain fixtures in his life today. “Beta provided me with the opportunity to make new friends at a turning point in my life,” Stanley shared. “Several Betas became my lifelong friends.”

After completing his undergraduate studies, Stanley worked for the Pillsbury Company as a process control chemist, and other training-related jobs, in Los Angeles, California, from 1960-63. For nearly the next three decades, he was a food broker, and served as Pillsbury’s president in his final 25 years with the company. After becoming “burnt out” and dissatisfied with his work, Stanley left the company in 1991, doing startup work for several years before fully retiring in 2002.

Stanley’s start up work was challenging and invigorating, with the highlight of his career being his trips to Moscow and Budapest, where he helped reestablish Rotary after it was banned for many years by the communist governments.

One of the best things you can do for your career and overall wellbeing, says Stanley, is to “do what you really love.” He emphasizes the importance of being productive and giving back to the brotherhood, the community, and to causes that matter. No matter where his career took him and what surprises life presented, Stanley says that his time with Beta Pi will forever be the “best four years of my life.” You can connect with Stanley at sat4880@gmail.com.

 

The Power of Building Relationships
Ricardo Cazarin ’86 Attributes Successful Career to Connections in Beta Pi

Like many college students, Ricardo Cazarin ’86 desired to form meaningful, lasting connections with like-minded individuals when he attended the University of Minnesota as a freshman. “I wanted to be involved at the University and once I saw the movie Animal House, I was inspired to join a fraternity,” Ricardo jokes. “However, what really made Beta Theta Pi stand out from the rest were the members themselves. These brothers made me feel at home and with them, I forged bonds that truly mattered. The University became smaller because I had my Beta brothers.”

A zealous member, Ricardo wasted no time pursuing leadership opportunities in Beta Pi and was elected as Sergeant-at-arms for the chapter. It wasn’t just the leadership, however, that helped pave the way for Ricardo in Beta Theta Pi. Ricardo’s big brother, Steve Kanner ’83, who he describes as “a great person and fun to be around,” made a significant impact on Ricardo’s Beta Theta Pi experience. Ricardo also cherishes the connection he formed with Tom, who served as the chapter’s cook for 16 years. “I loved going back to the house to talk with Tom,” he says. Being surrounded by brothers who provided unwavering support and encouragement also inspired Ricardo’s professional success. “In the fraternity, I built a set of friends who helped me network and when I started my own company in 1998, my first two or three customers were Beta brothers,” Ricardo says.

More than 30 years later, Ricardo still makes it a priority to stay connected to Beta Pi as an alumnus and served on the chapter’s advising board from 2000 to 2003. He has also maintained close bonds with brothers. “Rollin Thorton ’83 is in the process of refinancing my home, since he is a mortgage broker; Pete Thorsen ’87 provides employee benefits to my company; and William Madden ’86 and I see each other socially,” he says. “Learn to be a good friend and keep those relationships forever if you can. They will make your life easier and more colorful.” Ricardo also enjoys attending the University’s Homecoming game and celebration each year with his daughters.

Ricardo owns a marketing and advertising company, Cazarin Interactive, which he founded in the basement of his home in 1998. Today, the company is comprised of a team of 20 people developing cutting-edge website design solutions for companies of all sizes, with categories ranging from consumer goods to manufacturing. The company’s website can be found at www.cazarin.com. “I am the founder—president—janitor when needed,” he says. In his spare time, Ricardo plays racquetball, travels around the world for fun, and is part of Rotary International. “In 2007, I launched the campaign One Act of Kindness, www.oneactofkindness.org, which encourages simple acts of kindness between strangers, and have people sending me notes from around the world who have received acts of kindness. I also created Act of Peace, www.actofpeace.org, to help bring peace to Nigeria and to countries where there is war.”

When he is not hard at work, Ricardo enjoys spending time with his wife, Mary, and their three daughters: Meghan (19), Ashley (16), and Grace (11). You can contact Ricardo at ricardo@cazarin.com.

Tom Grewe ’56 Thankful for Beta Pi Experience
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Before Tom Grewe ’56 even attended the University of Minnesota, he was exposed to the values and traditions of Beta Theta Pi early on by his uncle, Herbert Grewe ’31, who is a Beta Pi alumnus. “Joining Beta Pi was an easy decision for me; I didn’t ever look at any other fraternities on campus. The house and the men in the chapter made a lasting impression on me and I knew I was destined to be part of the brotherhood,” he says.

Living in the chapter house, playing touch football in the fall with brothers, and being on the hockey team provided Tom with the ultimate fraternal experience and prepared him for life after college. He says, “Beta Pi truly brought out the best in me, and challenged me to excel not only in the fraternity but in all aspects of life. I learned how to maintain a healthy balance between personal obligations, school, and work, which benefitted me greatly in dental school and helped lead me to a successful career in dentistry.”

As an alumnus, Tom’s Beta Theta Pi roots remain intact and he enjoys keeping in touch with the chapter through The Beta Piper newsletters. “Reconnecting has been difficult, but whenever I have the opportunity to interact with brothers it is always a good time.” He has maintained a connection with Donald McGrath ’55 and values the friendship they’ve shared over the years. Tom attended the alumni Pig Roast event in October and was thrilled to rekindle old bonds from his undergraduate days in Beta Pi. “No matter where life takes you, your fraternity brothers remain a constant,” he says.

After attending the University of Minnesota for six years, Tom graduated with a DDS degree. He went into the U.S. Public Health Service for one year in San Francisco, California, where he served as an intern, then was assigned in the Public Health Service to an Indian reservation in Sisseton, South Dakota. Tom eventually returned to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to practice dentistry with his father and uncle, who were both dentists. When he turned 62, Tom sold his practice to a husband and wife in the area and has been retired since. He and his wife spend winters in The Villages in Florida and summers in Wisconsin. In his spare time, Tom takes pleasure in playing golf and exercising as he embraces living a healthy, active lifestyle, and traveling with his wife. They recently visited Lu Cerne, Switzerland, during their four-week trip to Europe.

Tom has three children: Brad, a surgeon at a male clinic in Eau Claire; Peter, who runs a business relative to computer software and hardware out of his home; and Ann, who was on the television series Anyplace Wild.  He enjoys spending time with his grandchildren. You can contact Tom at tom.grewe@gmail.com.

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Beta Theta Pi Leads to Career for Doug Zakaras ’03
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When Doug Zakaras ’03 decided to join Beta Theta Pi in 1999, it was the brotherhood, dedication to hard work, and the ability to have fun that appealed to him. Now more than 10 years later, Doug realizes that on top of all that, Beta gave him a chance to grow as a person and discover a career path.

“For the first time in my life, I began to feel connected to something much larger than myself,” Doug says. “I am proud of the history of Beta Pi, as well as Beta Theta Pi, and the contributions that its members have made to the University of Minnesota and their communities.”

During college, Doug was an involved member of Beta Pi, serving as treasurer. Some of his favorite memories come from his time living in the chapter house, and he will never forget the fun and support that the brotherhood brought him.

The summer of his junior year, Doug attended the Beta Wilderness Challenge outside of Park City, Utah, and permanently moved to Utah shortly after that. After nearly a decade of working in private education, he decided to pursue a career he was more passionate about—physical fitness.

Now, Doug trains group fitness classes at a local Park City gym, CrossFit Park City, and travels on most weekends to facilitate courses for CrossFit Inc. He also runs a business that provides strength and conditioning programming and training to youth athletes.

“If it weren’t for Beta Theta Pi, I would never have moved to Utah and found the career path I’m on today. If I had never attended the Beta Wilderness Challenge, I doubt I would be where I am today,” Doug says.

Although moving away from the Beta Pi Chapter has made staying involved difficult for Doug, his Beta brothers are still some of his best friends, and he makes an effort to stay in touch with them.

“The life experiences from Beta, both good and bad—brotherhood, support, fun, and friendship—are a huge part of who I am. Absolutely I would not be where I am today without Beta.”

Doug and his wife, Siri, live in Park City, Utah. In his spare time, Doug enjoys skiing, biking, and spending time outside. His e-mail is dzakaras@gmail.com.

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