Alpha Phi Delta Foundation

Chapter Histories - Rho Chapter

Rho Chapter in General

Rho Chapter is Founded: 1926

On February 6, 1926, our Rho Chapter was installed at the then Carnegie-Mellon Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (pictured above). Rho was chartered after a nearly two-year cessation of expansion. Alpha Phi Delta has added chapters every year from 1919-1923. But no chartering occurred in 1924-25; this had much to do with the Fraternity developing its constitution, paying down debt, building an expansion strategy, and setting up a district system in those years.  Rho Chapter came about by the good works of Grand Consul John Pasta. Consul Pasta John worked hard on liquidating the Fraternity’s debt, with great fraternal support of the brotherhood. To build on that spirit, he decided a new bout of expansion was needed to build up fraternity spirit, fraternity growth, and fraternity finances. Hitting the ground running, Brother Pasta began negotiations with five college groups for the installation of new chapters. One of those five groups was a local Italian fraternity on the Carnegie Mellon campus. With merger negotiations complete in early 1926, the Rho Chapter was installed at the Carnegie Institute of Technology as the 17th Chapter of Alpha Phi Delta.  Rho Chapter initiated 69 members from 1926-1943; it was never a large chapter; it usually had a roster size in the mid-teens. The Chapter closed during the peak years of World War II and was briefly reactivated from 1947-1952, with 25 more Rho men initiated in those years.  Since 1952, Rho has been inactive; as of 2019, there are no living alumni of Rho Chapter.

The Nu-Rho Chapter House

In the mid-1920s and into the early 1930s, the Nu Chapter (University of Pittsburgh) and Rho Chapter (Carnegie Mellon Institute) shared one chapter house located at 4801 Centre Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Chapter's house was quite large. In fact, it was so very large that the 1927 National Convention of Alpha Phi Delta was held at that Chapter house. This was the first and only time in our long history that a National Convention was held at a Chapter house. 

As you can see, with its wrap-around porch, ionic columns, and connected addition on one side, this was not just some typical little house -- it was spacious. It was a house with a large enough downstairs area to host the 1927 National Convention and its related Grand Council Meeting, with delegates from about 20 chapters and colonies present. 

Pictured above are the officers and delegates of the 1927 National Convention posing in front of the Nu-Rho house.

The Nu-Rho Chapter house was located at 4801 Centre Avenue in Pittsburgh. That house no longer stands. These days that site -- which was once the home of one of our National Conventions -- is now the home of the "Penn Station Sub Shop" (a sandwich store) and some business offices.

Kappa Chapter - Individuals

Joseph T. Gemmi

Involved in Manhattan Project, designing U.N. building

Rho '34

Joseph T. Gemmi (Rho '34) was born on July 29, 1913 and raised in Newark, New Jersey. He was initiated into our Rho Chapter (Carnegie Mellon Institute) on April 20, 1934. In 1939, He graduated from Carnegie Mellon with a Bachelors of Arts degree. He went to become a well known architect. For awhile he lived in North Africa where he worked as an architect for the government of the then-Italian colony of Libya. Upon returning to the states he took a wife Olga Maffei in June of 1940, and returned to Newark. The marriage would be short-lived.

During the Second World War, Gemmi was put to work by the War Department to work on a project that would have a monumental affect on the ending of the War, and indeed on world history. His work assignment for the War Department was on a top-secret assignment known as The Manhattan Project. Gemmi was one of a team of architects which designed the building and equipment for production of atomic bomb parts at Decatur, Illinois. This project led to the successful development of the atomic bomb, which in turn led to an early ending of the War after it was used on Japan (which soon after surrendered). 

Brother Gemmi given a special citation in 1947 by the United States War Department for his work on the Manhattan Project. Brother Gemmi received a certificate of recognition and a silver lapel pin from the War Department for his work. The certificate, which was signed by the Secretary of War, certified that Gemmi "participated in work essential to production of the atomic bomb, thereby contributing to the successful conclusion of World War II."

In addition to his work on the Manhattan Project, Brother Gemmi had another achievement of note: He was been one of three architects to work on the designing of the United Nations building in New York City. Gemmi was a member of the American Institute of Architects and the New Jersey Society of Architects. 

After the World War II, Brother Gemmi married again; this time to Joan Bianco of the Bronx, New York. The two would remain married for 24 year, until his death. He passed away on January 31, 1971 at the young age of 57.

Carlo M. Vannicola

25th National President  (1960-62)

Rho '26

Carlo Maria Vannicola was born on September 7, 1906, in Italy, to Ambrozio and Clotilde Vannicola. He was the last National President to have been born in Italy. Vannicola and his family arrived in the United States on April 29, 1918 aboard the ship Dante Alighieri which took them all from Genoa, Italy to New York City. 

He attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology and was initiated into our Rho Chapter on April 9, 1926. He graduated from the Carnegie Institute’s  College of Fine Arts in 1929. From Carnegie, he moved on to the National Academy of New York where his artistic talents won him the Suydam Silver Medal Award in 1931. This was only one of many awards. He also wrote many papers in English and Italian on Byzantinology, Monasticism and the Renaissance, and was listed in “Who’s Who in American Art.” Vannicola worked as Art Director of the Radio Keith Orpheum (RKO) Theatres, before going in business for himself as a printer. 

Brother Vannicola’s many fraternal roles included Boston Alumni Club President (1937-1941), First District Pro-Consul (1941-1943), Grand Tribune (1943-1946), Grand Quaestor (1946-1953), National Treasurer (1953-1960) and National President (1960-1962). He received the Outstanding Alumnus Award in 1942 and an Expansion Award in 1948. He reactivated Sigma Chapter in 1961. In 1973, he was chosen as the Chairman of the newly established Alpha Phi Delta Scholarship Fund, a position he held until his death in 1977. 

Brother Vannicola’s artistic talents have also greatly contributed to Alpha Phi Delta. Many of the sketches, drawings and caricatures of The Kleos of the 1940s were the product of his fine hand. An avid student of heraldry, he also redesigned the Fraternity’s Coat of Arms.

In 1936, he married to the former Marietta Aurelia Picone, they raised three children. Carlo Vannicola, at age 71, passed away on September 12, 1977, after having attended the National Convention just a few weeks before. To honor his significant commitment to Alpha Phi Delta and his serving as first leader of the Scholarship Fund, it was decided that the first National Scholarship established would be named the Carlo M. Vannicola Scholarship.