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Former State Senator Frank Watson ’68 Reflects and Offers Advice to Fellow Brothers

As a former Illinois State Senator and State Republican Leader, Frank Watson was part of an exclusive and influential group for more than 30 years, serving the citizens of Illinois from 1978-2009, until his retirement due to a stroke. Demonstrating leadership, dedication, and commitment to the American people, this experience was not Frank’s first time being part of such a distinctive group.

In fact, his membership in Phi Gamma Delta during his years at Purdue University were a gateway to making connections on Capitol Hill.

“Through my life in politics, I’ve had some unbelievable experiences,” Frank says. “There were five Fiji—not Purdue—members of the Illinois General Assembly and that formed a special bond among us.”

He’s also had the great pleasure of running into some Fijis unexpectedly.

“I was playing golf one day in Florida when the group I was put into had a Purdue Fiji, Steve Meyer ’71,” Frank recalls. “Jack Nicklaus—a 1961 Ohio State Fiji—hosted the Honda Classic PGA event, and I had the good fortune to talk with him about our fraternity life.”

Well before his life of public service, however, Frank found himself an impressionable young man seeking a place to call home during his college years. Initially, Frank found Phi Gamma Delta a convenient option to consider, but that was only the tip of the iceberg.

“What drew me to Phi Gamma Delta was the proximity of the house to campus and my freshman dorm,” Frank says, “But, after meeting the members, it was obvious that it was the place for me. We had a great pledge class, and the class just ahead and behind us was also excellent. The fraternity was filled with outstanding people.”

The social aspect of the fraternity certainly had its high points for Frank, including athletics, road trips (of which there were many!), card games, and pledging new brothers. Frank took on the role of Rush Chairman, enjoying it a great deal. But in addition to the fun, social side of Greek Life, Frank was grateful for Phi Gamma Delta’s academic encouragement. As a Pharmacy major, Frank found himself hitting the books often, a lesson in perseverance and dedication that he has carried through into his career, both as a pharmacist and in politics.

Throughout his life and career, Frank continues to stay in contact with his brothers and even seeks to meet new brothers.

“I find that when someone mentions that they attended Purdue, I always ask where they lived, hoping that we might have the Fiji Fraternity as a common bond,” he says.

Frank has returned to the house several times since graduation, each time feeling nostalgic about those days gone by.

“I have been back for football and basketball games and always stop by the house,” he says. “I enjoy seeing trophies in the trophy case, going to my old rooms, dorms, and the dining room.”

The adage that “brotherhood is lifelong” is something that Frank still abides by, making sure to stay connected to his brothers, thanks in large part to Jeff Cooke ’67.

“Our class for the most part has stayed together mostly through the efforts of one of our pledge class members, Jeff Cooke,” Frank admits. “Emails and phone contact has made that possible. We have our 50th reunion this year and have an excellent response due to Jeff’s efforts.”

When not reconnecting with this Fiji brothers, Frank, now retired, spends time in both Illinois and Florida. He still enjoys a good game of golf, but will be the first to tell you that his greatest joy is his family.

“The greatest joy for my wife and I are our four grandchildren, ranging from ages one to nine,” he says. “We also have a son, Chad, and a daughter, Kami.”

With significant life experience and influences—whether it be his private and public-sector work, general life experience, or his family—Frank recognizes the importance of education and tries to support his Fiji family as best as he can.

“I am a consistent donor to the fraternity, mostly the education foundation,” he states. “The cost of a college education today has sky-rocketed and anything we can do to lower the student financial obligation is helpful. In addition, the Purdue Fiji house is going through a major renovation and addition, so there will be many opportunities to help.”

Thanks to his years of life and career experience, Frank now has so much wisdom to share.

“My advice for others is to live life to its fullest,” he says. “You never know what tomorrow may bring. I am a perfect example of that and have made major recovery from my stroke with some limitations. I have been very blessed. Regarding the current brothers, the fraternity system seems to be under attack—some justified and some not. What I see going on with Phi Gamma Delta at Purdue makes me very proud. What the brothers do for others, their grade point average, campus activity, and of course, the expansion, is commendable. Keep it up, men!”

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