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Paul Zaentz ’69 has traveled around the world, producing films that tell incredible stories. “I’ve been fortunate to work all over the world—the Amazon rainforest, the Sahara Desert...,” he said. Despite his travels and demanding career, Paul hasn’t forgotten his time at Beta Pi. In fact, his Beta Pi roots run deep.

Though 43 years have passed, Paul remembers his time at the Chapter like it was yesterday, and to this day, he treasures his time spent there. “Beta Pi has given me a lot over the years—great friends and a great place to live for 3 years,” Paul said. “Back then we lived in the house for 3 years, so I became very close with many of the brothers.”

“Fortunately, I’m now in the position to give back,” he said. “I think it’s very important that [the fraternity values] be stressed to young men. I don’t know where I’d be today if it wasn’t for the friendships and encouragement from my fraternity brothers.”

Paul is one of the loyal alumni who travels every year to make it to Founders’ Day. “At least 30 alumni show up and 15 of them are the same core group that shows up every year,” Paul said. “And I’m talking about people coming from Switzerland, California, Florida, Canada, and the state of Washington.”

It’s those 15 brothers that Paul is closest with. “I’m in touch with them all the time,” he said. “I feel that if the Beta Pi house ceased to exist on Penn’s campus, the brothers from the late 60s and mid-70s would still go back every year to have a reunion. It’s about the friendships that you made when you were at the chapter.”

Paul Zaentz’s Enduring Commitment to Beta PiPaul Zaentz’s Enduring Commitment to Beta Pi

While Beta Pi continues to recruit good young men, Paul noted that the fraternity experience has changed quite a bit over the years.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think that undergrads today can get the same experience I had because of the way Penn’s campus has changed over the past 45 years,” Paul said. “I think back then our group had an opportunity to be much closer just because of the nature of what was going on at Penn and in the world. We had extremely limited choices to eat on campus and around campus, so we had our lunches and dinners together 5 days a week.”

The use of cell phones has also triggered a major change in the way that younger brothers and alumni communicate as compared to the earlier graduates. “Even after I graduated, there was no email and long distance phone calls were expensive,” Paul said. “You actually wrote letters and postcards to keep in touch with friends.”

When Paul was at the Chapter House, Beta Pi’s ownership of the house allowed for active involvement in the upkeep, as well as bonding between brothers. “We did much of the house upkeep ourselves,” said Paul. “We painted the house and paneled rooms. Not only did we have discussions together and played together, but we worked together. Now, since the university owns the house, the undergrads aren’t even allowed to do that.”

Paul Zaentz’s Enduring Commitment to Beta PiDespite the changes, Paul has nothing but confidence in Beta Pi. “I hope the chapter keeps getting young men who want to grow and participate in the world around them. I think that’s the type of man that’s in the brotherhood now, so those are the individuals who will seek out Beta Pi. Somehow you tend to gravitate to the place where you belong.”

In many ways, Paul credits the fraternity with having broadened his horizons and helping him to discover and appreciate other ways of thinking and different cultures. “Living for 3 years with a group of guys, you really learn to respect other people thoughts, their privacy, and their work habits.”

In Paul’s travels, he’s continued to learn about life and the people around him. “The one thing I’ve noticed that people all over the world want is for their children to have a better life than they did,” Paul said. “There’s just some universal truth to that.”

 “I have been blessed,” Paul continued. “In my job, I get the opportunity to work with so many intelligent and creative people, and I’m inspired by their passion. In the film business, you’re also working with younger people, and they keep you on your toes on what’s happening in music, what’s happening in their world… I think it keeps me young!” Paul said, laughing.

Paul’s one piece of advice? “Get involved as much as possible with the social and political issues that are happening around you, encourage others, support people, and try to change things for the better,” he said. “All the films I get involved with try not only to entertain, but to get people to think about how they can make a difference. The movie I’m working on right now is about women’s rights in Pakistan. People say ‘Can’t you just do romantic comedies—something easy?’ I say ‘no’. Every film we’ve made, no one else wanted to touch, but they’re stories that I’m passionate about and need to be told.”