The Alpha Chi chapter would like to congratulate Joe Kuchta, its advisor and the National Fall 1998 pledge class namesake. All praise and happiness should be sent to Joe at the address above or his email address, kuc _at_ mit.edu; for questions etc. by email, contact apo _at_ mit.edu or cmc _at_ alum.mit.edu.
Below is a bit of information of Joe and a few of his achievements, showing why we feel he is deserving of this honor. Watch this space for the Joe Watch - for photographs and for more information on Joe and his whereabouts.
Joseph F. Kuchta ("COOK-ta") was born nearly 80 years ago in New Kensington, PA, a small town in Western Pennsylvania about an hour north of Pittsburgh. Through everything that he has done, he found time to raise a family of six successful, happy children.
His studies of biology at Tufts University in Medford, MA were interrupted by World War II. During the war, one of his responsibilities was to make sure the patients were cleared out of sickbay and made it safely to the lifeboats. More responsibility was thrust upon him due to the duties of the moment. He was on two ships that went down; he describes this by saying "I made it to Japan. It took me three ships." Altogether, he spent a total of ten years in the Navy.
After the navy and finishing school, he came to work at MIT as a safety engineer. His long affiliation with Red Cross began during WWII with his work on blood drives. He has continued involvement to this day, and has been on the board of CPR instructor trainer trainers.
Joe's scouting career began during the Depression. Inspired by his scoutmaster, Joe earned Eagle and attended the 1937 National Jamboree in Washington, DC. Thus began his lifelong involvement with Scouting. Joe's idea of shore leave in WWII was to seek out the local scouts to do service. Throughout his Navy career, he continued working with Scouts in port. After the Navy, he also continued his activity with the Boy Scouts, serving as a Scoutmaster for a period of time. In 1983, he went through the Wood Badge course, a leadership program for scouters.
It was through Scouting that Joe gained one of his more widely known fans. He was taking a busload of Scouts from Massachusetts to Philmont Scout Reservation in New Mexico. On the way there, they stopped on a Saturday morning at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. After touring the library, Joe, his two assistant scoutmasters, and the scouts were sitting on benches outside, having lunch. A limousine pulled up, and then-retired President Truman stepped out, saying to the scouts, "So, how do you like my library?" After talking to them and signing many autographs, he turned to Joe and the two assistants. Shaking Joe's hand, he told him how much he appreciated what he was doing for the youth of the nation.
At the St. Louis convention, Joe donated to our fraternity a statuette of a scoutmaster given to him many years earlier by his own scoutmaster. The understanding is that this statuette has been given a place of prominence in the APO National Office.
Joe first became involved in APO through Alpha Chi's affiliation with the New England wheelchair games in the spring of 1968. Alpha Chi was building temporary wheelchair ramps on the M.I.T. campus; as safety officer, and just helping out, he was working closely with the games. Around this time, he was pegged as a specialist in disability issues.
Joe's first contact with the Alpha Chi Chapter came in 1968 when, as chairman of that summer's Handicapped Olympics, he was referred to Alpha Chi by a colleague on the MIT staff. In AX, he found a group of enthusiastic young men, many of them sharing his love for Scouting, who were eager to help him with the Olympics. A few years later, he realized that HE belonged IN such a group, and became an advisor. When the then chairman of the advisory committee retired, Joe was the obvious choice to succeed him. He has served as Chairman of the Advisory Committee in AX ever since, more than fifteen years.
Joe was instrumental in developing two major service efforts in Alpha Chi. The first was an architectural barriers survey of Cambridge, which was actually conducted before he became an official brother. Then there is the CPR program. Over the years, Joe has trained well over a hundred brothers, many of them as trainers, and thus brought this skill to a significant fraction of the MIT community. Incidentally, at least two people are eternally thankful that Joe knew CPR.
Since he became involved with the chapter, Joe has touched the lives of every brother who has ever joined Alpha Chi, as well as many from other chapters. He became the chair of the advisory committee in the late 1970's, very shortly after he became an advisor, bringing renewed vigor to the office, and has been the most active advisor in this period by far. Even to this day, he comes to the meetings and offers advice, but never seeking the limelight, Joe is the model of a dependable contributor. He is supportive, and motivates the chapter without steering it inappropriately. Even now, he is very active in chapter service projects - driving, working, and wielding a spatula.
Rarely does he miss sectional and regional conferences and national conventions; he also attends regional staff meetings and retreats. Usually traveling by train, he meets people all across the country and makes a point of talking about APO and the value of the service our fraternity does. He helped former Region I Representative Tim Mangan design the "Care and Feeding of Advisors" workshop and manual. A version is still in use today. He quietly supported Region I for many years; whether it was cooking, or financially supporting Regional efforts, or contributing 'greatly' to the Region suite at conventions. While he did not like to draw attention to what all he was doing, he was a steady supporter of all that was done for the Region. He also attended a workshop on advisors twice at National Convention; the second time, he ended up running the workshop.
Echoing his abiding interest in scouting, he served as the Section 95 Scouting Chair in the mid 1980's. After this, he served as a regional Scouting Chair from 1989 to 1994. During this time, he also was an active participant in the National Scouting Relations Committee under Chuck Bowen.
Joe also looks for unusual opportunities to serve. He served on the Boston '92 convention committee, in a scouting related position. He cooks for chapter skills weekends, and he has fairly recently reworked AX's ritual kit, building a new podium from scratch.
He is retiring from MIT this year (for the second time). As his MIT responsibilities diminished, he added coaching the golf team, which he sees more as a mentoring position than job. Still, he does work for the athletic department, including serving as its safety officer. He also does small tasks such as updating the MVP plaques for the entire athletic department; the updates just appear, and nobody knows that he does this, and he does not tell anyone or ask for thanks. He is in the process of finding a suitable replacement as advisory chair, as every good leader should.
Though he is happy to tell stories about his life, he is very reticent about discussing his honors. When asked to write a biography of himself for the AX newsletter, he wrote an article on the role of an advisor. This typifies Joe's humility. Therefore, we know that he has received awards from the Red Cross and the Boy Scouts, but we don't know more specific details. However, we can detail the awards which he has received from MIT and APO. From MIT, Joe received the annual James Murphy award in 1983. This is the highest award given by MIT for service to the student bid by a staff member. Joe knew and worked with James Murphy, another advisor to Alpha Chi who was killed on the way to an APO national convention in 1966. AX has awarded Joe not only the chapter DSK, but has also bestowed its highest honor, Chapter Life Member. In its long history of over 60 years, AX has awarded this to only four people. Alpha Chi named its pledge class after him in spring 1979. Phyllis Tenney, advisor to Maine Maritine Academy (Phi Epsilon) and fondly known as "Mrs. T", the Fall 1985 pledge class namesake, agrees that Joe has deserved this honor for a long time.
Joe is an ordinary guy with an extraordinary commitment to the principles of APO. In his unassuming way, he lives leadership, friendship, and service in a way that we can all aspire to imitate.