David Allen: Our unlikely hero
passes into Chapter Eternal
by Jeff Burnside
He was a most unlikely hero in our campaign to build the new WSU Sigma Chi Centennial Chapter House.
Brother David Allen (Beta Upsilon 1952) donated just $50. In cash. He said it’s all he had. As it turned out, his gift was so much more than money.
He’d planned to be at our Grand Opening on August 8th. But, at 90, his health took a turn for the worse. The day before the big event, he wrote a letter to the chapter. “I am deeply sorry that I cannot be with you for this memorable event.”
Just 10 days later, Brother Allen passed into Chapter Eternal, just long enough to know that we cut the blue and gold ribbon to open our new chapter house. It must’ve surely brought a smile to his face.
That August 7th letter was one of the final things he ever wrote. “I still hold in my mind pictures of life in the old Sig House, from years in the old back wing to a room at the front of the house,” he wrote. “I had hoped that I might be able to be with you for these days of celebration.” He loved Sigma Chi his entire long life and he seemed to deeply revere the letters and emails from the campaign that brought him back into the Sigma Chi family after many years away.
“The exchanges of correspondence I have been having with you,” he said, “...is really making me realize what a deep connection I have with Beta Upsilon of Sigma Chi.”
David was a monk. He spent 58 years in monastic poverty in the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, Massachusetts. No cell phone. No salary. No bank account. So, he cobbled together what he called “pocket change” to send in that humble donation. When his gift was written about on social media last year, more than 11,000 people saw it, inspiring others. ‘If he can do it, I can do it’ was the unspoken message.
Over the years, he actually made three small donations – always in cash.
But it didn’t stop there.
‘O Lord’ he wrote
David also proudly wrote two prayers for Sigma Chi’s campaign, which were shared widely and read during our Groundbreaking Ceremony and the Centennial Reunion. David took his writing very seriously and asked for research to help him get the prayers just right. He took particular effort to inspire new brothers.
“Now, as we break ground for the building of a new Chapter House,” he wrote, “we pray that all who become members of this Chapter of our Fraternity may be Men of Good Character, Students of Fair Ability, With Ambitious Purposes, Congenial Dispositions, Possessed of Good Morals, Having a High sense of Honor, and a Deep sense of Personal Responsibility, as the Jordan Standard states as set forth and declared by Isaac M. Jordan and all our Founders in 1855.” And “O Lord, may we accomplish the goal of designing and building a place where all of the undergraduate brothers of Beta Upsilon Chapter of Sigma Chi can live, study, and work under one roof.”
He often sought visits with his Sigma Chi brothers during the rare vacation time granted to him. As time went by, he grieved that many were passing on. “At the time that the big reunion was being planned last year,” he wrote in an email, “I found myself wondering just how many of those in my time in Beta Upsilon are left.” As a devoutly religious man, he surely contemplated his own mortality.
‘I don’t think this is it’
And perhaps that was part of the motivation for his most touching gift of all. Items of value are not welcome in a monastery. He recalled that his Sigma Chi gold ring had, for decades, been in deep storage in an attic at his childhood home in Spokane. It was being readied to rent by his relatives and he feared the ring would be lost forever. But his niece Jennifer Allen Lucke and her husband, perhaps warmed by David’s kindness and sincerity, went on a mission to search for it. Eve after eve, dark corner and dark corner, box after box – and nothing. On one final look into what was the last dark corner, Jennifer’s husband found a ring. “He told me ‘I don’t think this is it - there is a ring in this box, but it looks like it may have more to do with his church life because it has a white cross on it’.’ Jennifer is an Alpha Phi and knew right away the White Cross meant Sigma Chi. They’d found it. “He was very eager to make sure this ring got to the right place,” she said.
Now that ring will be made into a necklace to be worn at events by each year’s WSU Sweetheart of Sigma Chi, beginning now with Centennial Sweetheart Jade McShane. “I would be honored to be the first,” Jade said. “Very special for all the Sweethearts!”
In his last days, David “knew where was going,” his niece said. As a man who devoted his life to God, his friends to comfort in knowing he must’ve been at peace and certain of his next destination.
Drawn to a society of brotherhood
Sigma Chi was not his only society of brotherhood. Right after college, David enlisted in the Navy and saw active duty in Korea. The military was another form of brotherhood for David. Shortly after his tour, he began his life in the church. Yet another form of brotherhood. His third.
“Brotherhood, brotherhood, brotherhood,” concluded his niece.
He is described in his obituary as “gently welcoming, kindly attentive and calmly perceiving of the needs of others.”
David’s story is now on display in the trophy cases at the new chapter house. We thank you, brother David, for your fraternal bonds. And we know you’re listening.
His final letter written to the chapter days before his passing. Click on letter to read a full size version.
Brother David Allen (WSU 1952) passed away just days after he learned of the opening of our new Centennial Chapter House.
HIs letter and his $50 cash contribution. It was all he had.
LEFT: This post went viral when more than 11,000 people saw his story. 'If he can give, then I can give.' ABOVE: David as a young Sigma Chi in a 1952 group photo. BELOW: Now on display in one of our history displays in the new chapter is David's final letter, his cherished Sig ring and a 1952 chapter newsletter.
Jennifer Allen Lucke, David's niece, presents his cherished ring. She and her husband found it buried in a box in storage. It'll be made into the official WSU Sweetheart necklace.
David's prayer written for the Groundbreaking Ceremony for our Centennial Chapter House. Click to enlarge.