Verne G. Istock, E’62
Co-Chair, The Alpha Epsilon of Chi Psi Re-Founding Campaign Committee
“The leadership I learned at Chi Psi is something I’ve built on all my life.”
In 2014, Verne Istock, E’62 became Chi Psi Central Office #7 after 40 years in banking. The former chairman of Bank One Corporation started his career as a credit analyst at National Bank of Detroit (NBD) in 1963. He quickly worked his way up the ranks, becoming chairman and chief executive officer of NBD Bancorp and NBD Bank in 1994. The following year, he oversaw the merger of NBD and First Chicago Corporation, and then was elected president and chief executive officer of First Chicago NBD Corporation. In 1996, he became chairman, a role he continued until his retirement in 2000.
He credits much of his lifetime success to the lessons he learned at Alpha Epsilon. “I tried to encourage men to take positions of responsibility in the fraternity.
For one thing, it teaches you something, but it also looks good on your résumé. I think that’s something that really helped me. I was in some good leadership positions.”
His leadership in Alpha Epsilon started while he was in school. “I was the Assistant #4 (#4.5). The reason I got that job is I needed the money. It paid $600 if you became the #4, and to get the #4 job you had to make sure you had two years of accounting, so I did that in my sophomore year while I was Assistant #4. Then I became #4, and then I became #1. We were awarded the Thayer Trophy for the class of ’62.”
“The #4, in those days, reviewed the monthly financial statements, so I had to go see Slip Slifer every month, and he would go over everything to make sure I was properly filling out the journals and the statements and so forth. That was an educational process, which unfortunately students don’t have today. I don’t care if you’re the Recruitment Chairman, the #2 or the #1. The fact that you’re part of the leadership, that the Fraternity has chosen you to be one of their leaders, is something that you can build on later in life.”
He says, “Leadership is about the willingness to assume responsibilities, solicit and encourage debate from various constituencies in the decision-making process, and then leading the effort once a decision is agreed upon.”
Among his best memories are of singing and formal dinners. “Whenever we had formal parties or even informal parties we always sang, and we would go out and serenade the sororities. There’s a picture of me and my now wife at a Chi Psi pledge formal, which was actually held at the War Memorial in Grosse Pointe. We were pinned at the time, and because of that picture, I think that’s probably one of my most memorable events back in my Chi Psi days.”
After graduation, he kept in touch with many of his fellow Brothers who lived in the Detroit area. “We would get together for couples events and played duplicate bridge with one another, and in recent years we started having annual Epsilon dinners at Homecoming where we would all get reacquainted and sing Chi Psi songs.”
“Chi Psi has been an integral part of our lives during undergraduate and postgraduate school just because we stayed very close with our classmates and their spouses. My Epsilon ’62 and ’63 Brothers that were part of this group are all still married to their original brides. In fact, I just saw one of them from the class of ’63, and he and his wife are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this weekend. All of us have remained quite close.”
He kept volunteering too, serving on the Epsilon Trustee Corporation and the Epsilon Educational Endowment, as well as serving on the fundraising campaign to refurbish the Lodge in the early 2000s. When he was asked to join the Chi Psi Educational Trust because of his historic involvement, he agreed. Later, he was approached to serve as #7.
“I was still on two corporate boards and too many nonprofit boards, so I had a pretty busy schedule,” he said at the time, “But Steve Crow and Dan Ahlberg persuaded me that I could arrange my schedule as I wanted to with this particular job, and I said OK, I’ll do it. We’ll give it a try and see how it works out. So that’s how I got to where I am.”
He says that he gives back to Chi Psi because “of the friendships we have built over the years, both Brothers as well as spouses. We always had a very close affinity to the Lodge in Ann Arbor, and somebody had to take up the leadership to get that going.”
He says that with the Alpha Epsilon of Chi Psi Re-Founding Capital Campaign, a new generation of Brothers can experience the leadership training and close friendships that he and his Brothers had at the Lodge. “With the re- founding of Epsilon and our investment in the Lodge, Epsilon will provide future students the opportunity to experience the friendship and teamwork of a conservative fraternal organization committed to gentlemanly behavior,” he says.
Without the Chi Psi experience on campus and beyond, I would not have developed life-long friendships with those having a common bond based on our unique history and tradition.