Society lands on Chapel Street

Four years after its revival as a student group on campus, the Desmos senior society has acquired a house for future meetings and other functions.

Desmos — a senior society that was founded in 1950 but went through an inactive period from 1967 to 2010 — will purchase its house at 1249 Chapel St. within a couple of weeks, according to Joel Schiavone ’58, a Desmos alumnus who currently owns the house. But soon, due to other construction plans in the area, the house will be physically transferred to a nearby vacant lot at 1255 Chapel St. Schiavone said the house had been slated to be torn down and replaced with a new apartment building.

“I suggested that instead of tearing it down and incurring the ire of every preservationist in the community that our society, [should] purchase this [from me] and move it to the vacant lot next door,” Schiavone said in an email.

The main idea behind buying the house was ensuring the longevity of Desmos, according to current and former society members interviewed.

Desmos, like many other societies that lack a tomb to serve as their official buildings, has never had a house on campus before. In 2010, Schiavone, Bob Olmstead ’61 and Christopher Cory ’62, a former executive editor of the News, resurrected the society by contacting a new society on campus — which was jokingly named Key and Stone after the beer Keystone — and asking them to adopt the tradition and legacy of Desmos.

Schiavone, Olmstead and Cory admitted that the society’s nearly four decades of inactivity meant the majority of its history had disappeared. Everything from furniture to silverware to memorabilia had vanished, Olmstead said, and even today, members and alumni are not sure about the fates of these items.

“We don’t exactly know what happened yet,” Olmstead admitted. “Desmos had literally disappeared.”

Olmstead said the society’s purchase of the house “follows in the footsteps” of other formerly “underground” societies that have since acquired a house or tomb in order to ensure continuity of the society.

Four current members of the society, all of whom requested to remain anonymous, said the house will serve as more than just a meeting space. According to one student, members of the society will be able to access the house to study or host parties. Although the society currently rents an apartment, the student said the house will provide more space and a greater sense of ownership.

All students interviewed said Desmos is unique for its focus on establishing a sense of community and synergy within each class of members, as opposed to scoping out prestigious or popular students. According to Cory, Desmos’s very name comes from a Greek word meaning “bond.”

A current Desmos member said her class of members really took the name to heart. She recalled spending time with the society outside of weekly meetings at each other’s events, concerts and athletic games, as well as participating in community service together. Like many other senior societies, Desmos requires each member to give an autobiographical presentation at some point in the year — but she added that students in Desmos write letters to each other after each presentation, in order to provide feedback and foster closeness.

“At the end of the day we have to respect one another,” she said. “That mentality has really been important to me.”

The unique values of Desmos become evident in the tap process, said another current member. In picking the new class of students last week, he said, the group considered diversity but also thought about the group as a collective whole.

Each year, Desmos taps 16 juniors to join the society as seniors.

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