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The Man of Many Hats
Touched Many Hearts

Alzie Jackson was the first person that many Tau Epsilon Phi alumni looked up when they returned to Penn for Homecoming -- and he never forgot a name. He cared for hundreds of fraternity brothers and his own family while making time for volunteer service and an award-winning hat-making career. And although he never went to college, he championed the importance of education, living to see a grandson admitted to Penn.
   So when Jackson -- house father, chef, and friend to TEP fraternity brothers for nearly 40 years -- died from a heart attack last February, they wanted to create a lasting tribute to him. A memorial committee hopes to raise at least $100,000 by June 31 to endow the Alzie Jackson Tau Epsilon Phi Scholarship, which would be awarded each year to a student with financial need who exemplifies Jackson's community service, diversity of interests, and perseverance. As of late April, TEP had raised a little more than $70,000, according to Steven Lerman, C'69, a Washington, D.C., attorney and chairman of the memorial committee.
   "He had many skills and many successes in other areas of his life, yet his loyalty to the TEP house kept him coming back year after year," Lerman says of Jackson. "He was a very caring man." In fact, Jackson actually saved Lerman's life when he contracted mononucleosis one year and developed an over 104-degree fever. "He literally carried me to the hospital," Lerman says, still choked up when he recalls the experience.
   Jackson, who was formally inducted into the fraternity in 1992, spent each summer volunteering as a chef and mentor at a camp for underprivileged children. He was probably better known, however, for making and selling hats. He taught a millinery course at Moore College of Art and Design, and his creations were included in a special exhibit on Hats of the 20th Century at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1993. "He was a master craftsman," Lerman says. "He was the kind of guy who would never tout it or anything, and all of a sudden there would be an article [about him] in USA Today."
   Attesting to Jackson's influence at TEP, the memorial committee consists of 20 fraternity brothers from the classes of 1968 to 1999. "After you went through your four years at Penn, you went out into the world, but Alzie wasn't really done with you," Lerman says. "You could get a phone call at any time or he was the magnet that brought you back for Homecoming. The enduring relationship between alumni fraternity brothers and Penn, more than anything else, was this guy."

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Copyright 1998 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 5/25/98