From Nostalgic Lunch Banter to Texas Smoot Day: Reviving College Frat Legends at PVN

During a casual lunch at the café in Presbyterian Village North (PVN), two residents, Mike Amis, 82, and Bob Kerwin, in his 90s, were reminiscing about their college fraternity days. Amis, a spirited storyteller, fondly recalled his time as a Phi Delta Theta at SMU, while Kerwin, a retired tech pioneer from Bell Labs and an MIT graduate, shared a captivating tale about a Lambda Chi Alpha chapter at MIT.

Kerwin recounted an amusing anecdote from 1958 that resulted in the creation of the smoot, a recognized unit of measurement in 144 nations. He narrated how Oliver R. Smoot, Jr., a freshman at MIT, was chosen by his fraternity brothers to measure the length of the Harvard Bridge using his own body length. Despite the fatigue, Smoot’s dedication led to the establishment of the “smoot” as a unit of measurement, with the bridge spanning just over 364.4 smoots. This quirky incident was later commemorated with a plaque on the bridge and even found its way into the American Heritage Dictionary.

The tale took an intriguing turn as it was revealed that Google Earth integrated smoots as a measurement unit, and the Cambridge police department utilized the smoot-marks on the bridge for various purposes. Amis, struck by the impact of this incident on Smoot’s life trajectory, managed to connect with him, subsequently unraveling more MIT alums with ties to the smoot saga, including Dr. Neleesh Mehendale in Plano.

Fueled by this newfound connection, Amis initiated the idea of celebrating Texas Smoot Day at PVN, aiming to recreate the iconic smoot photograph and measure the new pickleball court in smoots. The event took place on Saturday, October 21 and blended the essence of science with fraternity camaraderie, as Amis rallied the community with his infectious energy and playful references to “Animal House” and the significance of the smoot legacy.

He marked the occasion with Neelesh and other enthusiasts, uniting the MIT Club of Dallas/Fort Worth and the local members of the Smoot family as well as the original Smoot himself – Oliver R. Smoot, Jr., joining the festivities via phone. In a nod to the originator of the smoot, Amis honored all the 5’7″ residents in attendance. This initiative was a testament to the enduring bonds formed during their youthful fraternity days, now reignited in the vibrant spirit of the “Old School.” Click here to learn more about the Smoot.

PVN Residents Measure Smoots on new Pickleball Court
The original Smoot on the Harvard Bridge