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At the recent Beta Pi dinner at Ben and Jack’s Steakhouse in New York City, our host, Jeff Kaufman '83, put together a slide show of Beta Pi Brothers in and outside the Chapter House. Some of these slides depicted John F. E. Hippel.

Looking at these slides brought back memories of John F. E. Hippel. Most of our present Brotherhood never had the pleasure of meeting him. Many have no idea of his importance to Beta Pi. Brother Hippel was a founding member of Pi Kappa Alpha at the University of Pennsylvania. He remained a dedicated member of PiKA his entire life, thereby fulfilling the PiKA creed, “Once a Pike, always a Pike."

After graduating from Penn, Brother Hippel graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, where he served on Law Review. After Law School, he was a founding partner in a law firm that came to be named Obermayer, Rebmann, Maxwell, and Hippel. This firm continues to this day to be one of the most talented, famous, and celebrated law firms in the United States.

Despite the demands on his time by the law firm he founded, he always had time for the fraternity that he loved. He was a regular visitor to the Chapter House and was the sponsor of an annual event known as “The Barge” that no Pi Kappa Alpha undergraduate would ever not attend. He reached the pinnacle of his involvement when he was elected to be President of the Pi Kappa Alpha national fraternity. He remains the only Beta Pi to achieve this distinction.

All of the above is common knowledge to our older members. However, there was more to John F. E. Hippel than his law firm and fraternity. In private life, he struck a significant blow against segregation in the Lower Merion School District, a suburb of Philadelphia. In 1963, Lower Merion was integrated at the Junior and Senior High School levels as there was only one Junior and one Senior High School. At the primary school level, there were five elementary schools. One of these elementary schools, the Ardmore Avenue School, was comprised of the majority of black students living in the school district. The four other schools were overwhelmingly white. It was widely known that the conditions and facilities of the Ardmore school were far inferior to the other four schools.

A local chapter of the NAACP urged the Lower Merion Board of School Directors (LMBSD) to improve the Ardmore school. Under the leadership of Brother Hippel, who was serving as the President of the LMBSD, a decision was made that would end segregation at all the schools in the district. The Ardmore school was closed. All students at Ardmore were reassigned throughout the system to integrate all four remaining elementary schools. All students unable to walk to their new schools were to be bussed.

Complete integration had begun and was accomplished under the watchful eye of brother Hippel. On the 50th Anniversary of the decision to close the Ardmore school, a local newspaper, the Merionite, wrote,“…today we reap the benefits of that momentous resolution. President Hippel commented, ’The ultimate decision was based upon humanitarian values and on consideration of the disadvantages ultimately inherent in any form of segregation.'"

The Merionite article can be accessed by this link.