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Rho Lambda Newsletter

DKE at OU

Last month’s newsletter about resurrecting the DKE chapter at OU in 2025 had only half the usual readership. I totally get it. My explanation was probably less than plain, and I know, from speaking to several of you, the topic itself can be daunting. Whether you support it completely or still have questions, my goal is to make it as clear as I can, so you’ll have all the particulars in front of you as we go along. If you have any thoughts about our efforts, including negative ones (which are most helpful), I’d like to hear them at sequimron66@gmail.com. All communication with me remains private. 

OU SPORTS

Let’s hear it for the OU softball team extending its winning streak to 36 games! And the OU golf team winning a back-to-back Championship in the Big 12!

The password we emailed to you opens any file. If you don’t have it, contact us. 

FROM THE DKE RL Board:

OU’s Spring Game drew over 54,000 fans, and the Sooner Football team put on an impressive display of offense and an improved defense. We continue to grow our Randy Morrison Scholarship Fund. I want to remind our brothers that our roadmap relating to the return of Rho Lambda to the OU campus in 2025 begins with DKE National and us in support finding an “interest” group of 10 or more high school students. That roadmap can be found on our website here. We’ll be updating those pages often.       Kerothen, Bob Tierno, Chairman

ΡΛ Brother of the Month – BILL NATION

THE RIGHT FRATERNITY & KARLEEN

“Fresh out of a Tulsa high school in ‘68,” said Bill, “after all the hormonal battles and age-related issues, I arrived at OU as a community of one. But after DKE rush, I knew I’d pledged the right fraternity.

“I enjoyed meeting brothers from all over the country who didn’t think like me. In due course, my initiation was the true acceptance; a bunch of different guys and me becoming a Band of Brothers. I learned how disagreeing with them and still maintaining our friendships broadened me. And over the years, those true and easy friendships have evolved and enriched my soul.

“I met Karleen on a blind date in ’69. She was a KD and a DKE Sweetheart—a super lady and easily as stubborn as me. 

Bob Tierno and I worked together to get the Student Store going. When Bob graduated, I took over for two years, adding rentals, fans, bikes, and refrigerators. We made a bundle off the new $600 HP calculators that could add and subtract at the touch of a button! 

RETAIL & KROGER

“Karleen and I got married in ’72. I had a dual major in finance and economics when we graduated in ’73. The Student Store had kindled my fascination with retail, so I accepted a position with Kroger, and I had a terrific career with them.”

Bill’s choice was astute. Kroger began as a one-man grocery in Cincinnati, and in ’73, it had $4 billion in sales and over 1200 stores in the Midwest and South. It was buying other chains and had recently changed its strategy to opening “superstores.” They needed people who could manage not $2,000,000 stores but $10,000,00 stores. 

Today, they have $141 billion in sales and are one of the world’s largest retailers. They’re the nation’s largest grocer operating under 28 different names. They’re also the nation’s largest food manufacturing business and the world’s largest florist. 

I’m impressed with Bill’s part in building the Kroger wave of expansion that he surfed with such enormous success. And he never leaves out Karleen’s contribution to that success.

“I started in a store in Dallas,” he continued. “Dallas had 68 different stores Kroger had purchased. I finished my 18-month training course in 8 months and then, as a store co-manager, opened 5 new stores. The first store I managed on my own was in a huge mall with an upstairs rental space where Mary Kay Ash, of cosmetics fame, had her office. Her husband routinely “shopped” at my store without paying. I billed her monthly, and she’d send me a check.

AMBER

“In ’77, just after our daughter Amber was born, the brother-in-law of Kroger’s CEO called me. We’d met when his son was the first baseman on a baseball team I coached. They were moving him to North Carolina to head a new division of Kroger and he asked me to join him there. Karleen and I, with our new baby Amber, agreed.

“We found a place in Charlotte, and I helped open 40 Kroger stores during a frantic building program in North and South Carolina. When Kroger’s CEO retired in ‘78, the Virginia division manager called me, and I agreed to be his assistant manager running his operations department out of Roanoke. I visited nine zone managers with over a hundred stores, perpetually fixing inventory, budget, and staffing problems at stores I’d never been to before. It helped that I’d grown up with country folk, so in retail grocery stores, we all spoke the same language. But I was on the road constantly.”

It didn’t surprise me to hear Bill describe his career. He’s that calm, talented guy whose quiet success at everything he does attracts the attention of department heads, who call him asking if he’d like to solve some of their thorny problems. I’ve been on a few fairways with him, too, and I can verify that he’s funny as hell and plays a mean game of golf. In the business world, that’s the mark of a jolly good fellow.

BILLY

“Six months after our son Billy was born in ’82, the Memphis Division manager called, asking if I wanted to trade positions with his assistant manager. In our interview, we mostly talked about football. I convinced Karleen the job was right for me, so with our baby boy and daughter, we moved to Germantown, a suburb of Memphis. I got a lot of requests to move over the years, but the schools were so good that we stayed there for 20 years.

KARLEEN

“A few months after Billy graduated from high school in ’99, my darling wife was diagnosed with leukemia. We made lots of trips to Houston for her to get six or seven different clinical trials of the latest treatments. In ’02, the Senior Vice President of Kroger called me. We’d just bought King Soopers, Ralphs, and Fred Meyer grocery chains, and he wanted me to assimilate them into Kroger. We agreed and moved our family to West Chester, Ohio, near Kroger HQ.

“The Senior VP wanted me to integrate not just the staffing changes but procurement, communications, and operations. The corporation’s Management Information Systems weren’t working well either, so he gave me that, too. I got that all underway, and he gave me the title of Director of Retail Operations.

“Each month, Karleen and I traveled to Houston for a week of stem cell transplants, sometimes flying commercial, sometimes on the company plane. I finished that company-wide integration job in three years and retired in ’05. I got my hip replaced, and we continued to go to Houston for Karleen. In ’08, she started to recover, so we talked about moving to a warmer climate. 

“We hated winters, but we decided we loved Germantown. Our friends and our church were there, so we returned. That was home for us. We had a wonderful 7 years, and were able to make one last trip to OU together. In 2015, my wonderful wife of 43 years passed away in her sleep. She’d followed me all over the country, raised our two beautiful kids, and was involved with my success with the company all the way. A real trooper. Super lady. I miss her.”

Bill and I’ve had compelling conversations. When my wife Michelle died in ‘2019, he called me, and we had a frank exchange about grief and sunlight. I’d wondered what could fill my emptiness, and he described how his connections with his grandkids were becoming much more significant. I live next door to mine and saw he was on to something. They’ve been my oxygen ever since.

FAMILY

“Our kids and grandkids live close now. On the left are Amber and Craig with their kids, Ava and Cash. On the right is Billy with Sydney and their son Billy.

“My grandfather’s name is William, and so is my dad’s. My daughter checked our ancestry recently and found an unbroken string of 25 William Nations ending with my grandson. What a surprise that was.

“One more thing about the Deke house” Bill said. “I loved our parties, but Mom Moran put the polish on us, and that had a huge payoff.” True, that. We’re both gentlemen, with the Deke pins to prove it.

Ron Sorter

Leave a comment if you wish, or contact us. Keep an eye out for June’s Newsletter!

If you’d like information about making a tax-deductible donation to Randy’s Scholarship fund, here are some FAQs to help you.

Please get in touch with Rich Burns if you know of any Brothers who’ve passed away or aren’t receiving our Newsletter.

RIP, Randy

Kerothen,

The ΡΛ Commo Crew