When a dream becomes a reality: the story behind the Iowa State Shelter

Posted by: Jack Kreman - October 23, 2015

Four years ago, the Gamma Pi House Corporation at Iowa State University put in motion the plans to demolish the weathered 60-year-old Delt shelter to build a 32,000-square-foot contemporary building for the Gamma Pi undergraduates to proudly call home. On August 16, 2015, 64 undergraduates moved in to the newly-constructed Gamma Pi Shelter. However, the planning and execution of a total reconstruction took many man hours and an abundance of alumni generosity.

2011: To renovate or rebuild?

A local architect was hired to evaluate the former shelter and advise on a complete renovation of the shelter versus building from scratch. Due to updated building codes, the house corporation deemed it a prudent investment to tear down the current structure and rebuild.

2012: A unanimous approval.

Pennington and Company was hired to conduct a feasibility study with the Gamma Pi alumni to determine the level of interest in rebuilding from scratch. The result was a resounding ‘yes’ from the nearly 85 surveyed alumni.

The original architect was instructed to design the master facility plan which included preliminary floor plans and implementation details.

2013: Funding.

With floor plans in hand, the Gamma Pi House Corporation built momentum and enthusiasm among the Gamma Pi alumni.

To ensure the Gamma Pi Educational Foundation was created correctly to receive tax deductible contributions from the soon-to-be-implemented capital campaign, the house corporation hired a law firm to assist the re-organization of the foundation. The law firm also evaluated the conceptualized building to determine what percentage was considered educational; 42% of the 32,000-square-foot facility was declared educational.

With the house corporation and educational foundation squared away to receive funding, and in the scope of the capital campaign, alumni could choose to make a five-year, tax-deductible pledge to the foundation or make a direct, non-deductible contribution directly to the house corporation.

2013-2014: Capital campaign.

The capital campaign ran through the rest of 2013 and 2014, with 50 percent of the initial capital being raised prior to the official announcement of the campaign.

Of the nearly 1,000 living Gamma Pi alumni, 20 percent contributed to the building project.

2014-2015: A home rebuilt.

The demolition of the old shelter took place in July of 2014 with the official start to construction beginning in August later that summer. It took approximately one year to construct the three-story brick building in which the Gamma Pi undergraduates now reside.

The ground-level of the building consists of a kitchen, dining room, living room, TV room, recreational room, conference room and general purpose room. The second and third floors house 28 suite-style student rooms along with a large group study room per floor. The basement is fully-finished with the chapter room to house the entire membership and a full-scale university type classroom, seating nearly forty students.

Gamma Pi House Corporation President Steve Jones (Iowa State, 1972) and Chuck Safris (Iowa State, 1963) played pivotal roles in the successful execution of the capital campaign and building project. When asked his biggest challenge during the process, Jones explained, “Since we allowed alumni to spread donations over five years, and we’re raising 50 percent of the building cost with alumni donations, what we didn’t have experience with was once you start construction, you have to have sufficient cash flow, which comes from the bank and the capital contribution from alumni. Those contributions have to come fast enough to make the progress payments to the contractor. In simple terms, you’re paying for the building with 50 percent donations spread over five years, but the building is going to be built in one year and you need enough funds on hand to make that work.”

“If Chuck and I had any advice, you either have to start the campaign early enough that you have 100 percent of your alumni contributions in the bank before you start building or you have to have a good feeling that the donations will come in fast enough.”

A photo album of the new Gamma Pi Shelter can be found at the Delta Tau Delta Facebook page at