As a trying fall semester for Kappa Alpha winds down, the chapter will spend this week honoring a member who died in August.
During the fraternity’s philanthropy week, members will fundraise in memory of junior Nicholas Upton, a former member of the fraternity who drowned while studying abroad in South Africa this August. Kappa Alpha usually raises money for muscular dystrophy patients, but leaders in the fraternity said they changed the week’s focus to reflect the impact Upton had on the group.
The chapter has been selling apparel at Foggy Bottom Grocery on F Street so students can use money stored on their GWorld money to pay for the gear. Kappa Alpha will also host two hour-long “charity rides” at SoulCycle and FlyWheel this week, as well as two penny wars in Kogan Plaza and a fundraiser at Sweetgreen on Monday night.
Chapter president Omar Ali said the chapter wants to dedicate a tree and a bench on campus to Upton, and said any extra funds raised would go to a local water safety awareness foundation. It would cost about $2,500 to add a plaque to a bench on campus and $5,000 to plant a tree, Ali said.
Ali met Upton on their second day of freshman year in an architecture class, and the pair lived on the same floor in Thurston Hall. Ali said he hoped the tree and bench would be placed near two locations he called Upton’s “homes” on campus: the Smith Center and the Kappa Alpha house.
“If you didn’t find him in one or the other, then I seriously don’t know where he’d be – maybe going for a walk or checking out museums of architecture,” Ali said. “I want it close enough to both places where people can be like, ‘Wow, this guy,’ where he can be seen. I don’t want that memory to ever fade. That’s my biggest fear – is people don’t realize how impactful Nick was.”
Upton’s body was recovered near New London, South Africa on Sept. 4, five days after he was last seen swimming with friends in the East Cape province.
Upton was an international affairs major and a member of the rowing team.
Ali said Upton had one of the highest GPAs in their fraternity, he said he hopes that with a memorial, students – “not just my brothers but people at GW” – will aspire to be like him.
“I mean he couldn’t catch a ball for the life of him, but you know, there’s this picture of him on a boat and just like arms flexing and everything and dude looks yolked,” he said. “He’s a Jack of all trades, but beyond that, when we went to his funeral, people were talking about his outstanding character. Like he always stood up for the right thing, like a beacon of light, like a lighthouse in the darkness.”
Aaron Goodtree, a junior and the chapter’s philanthropy chair, said students outside of Greek life have bought apparel through the fraternity over the last few weeks, which doesn’t normally happen during the general Greek-life-oriented fundraising. Goodtree is a former Hatchet reporter.
He said other organizations Upton was involved in, like the rowing team, were “very excited” to play Kappa Alpha in a dodgeball tournament alongside sororities on Sunday.
“Nick’s loss was felt across campus. You saw how many people were at the vigil and I can’t imagine that all those people knew Nick personally,” Goodtree said. “It was such an outpouring of support.”