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Family, fraternity honor late student Greg Walters

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Family, fraternity honor late student Greg Walters

By Lauren Rosenblatt / Assistant News Editor

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On the first day of fraternity rush, Gregory Walters wore a dressy L.L. Bean vest over his button-down shirt. It was also one of Greg’s first days at Pitt, and the other fraternity brothers thought he had overdressed for the event. 

“After seeing him in what is now known as his common attire, I instantly coined the [nickname] Vest,” said Scott Elias, one of Walters’ Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brothers. “Soon after, it caught on with the fraternity … but Greg realized he only owned one vest, so he went out to buy more and embraced the reputation he had acquired.” 

Known for always wearing a vest, always asking questions and always being up for a challenge, Walters touched the lives of everyone who knew him.

Police found Walters dead in his Ophelia Street apartment on April 18. Walters, who was born in Columbus, Ohio and attended Pine-Richland High School outside of Pittsburgh, spent his freshman year at the University of South Carolina before transferring to the Community College of Allegheny County in the fall. Greg came to Pitt in January and joined Pi Kappa Phi soon after. Both his fraternity brothers and his older brother, Ian Walters, said knowing Greg made their lives better. Greg was 18 months younger than Ian, but Ian said Greg was one of his closest friends.

“We were obviously brothers, but we were also close friends,” Ian Walters said.

The thing about Greg, Ian said, was that he enjoyed the small things in life. He and Greg would spend time hanging out, sending each other goofy text messages or driving around in Greg’s car listening to music through his subwoofers. 

“That’s the thing, we didn’t have to be doing anything. It made every moment, even insignificant ones. Greg made them memorable,” Ian said. 

The brothers of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, including Elias, said they missed their newest brother, who rushed three months before his death.

After the first day of rushing, Elias took Walters under his wing and was delighted to hear the fraternity had offered him a bid to join. Elias quickly became a mentor for Walters. 

“I had sent him a text congratulating him on the honor. I told him I had high expectations for him, and I was excited to see him excel in the associate member process [similar to the pledging process],” Elias said. “Rather than accept the text and move on, he challenged me to guide him to those new heights.” 

Over the course of the next three months, Elias said Walters shaped who he would become.

“He tested me to be the best man I could be in order to help him succeed, and I am proud to say that because of Greg, I am a better man,” Elias said. 

Through the outpouring of support after Greg’s passing, his mother, Lisa Walters, said the thing that struck her most was how many lives Greg had touched. 

“What has struck me by the whole experience was the impact Greg made,” she said. “He was only at Pitt since January but seeing the devotion [of his fraternity brothers and friends] was amazing.”

Outside of Pitt, his mother said, former middle and high school teachers, old neighbors, friends from South Carolina and elsewhere around the country all came to Greg’s funeral. 

“His life mattered, I don’t know if he knew that. In certain ways, this has been an uplifting experience,” she said.

Isaac Minkoff, Walters’ pledge class president, found a similar role in Walter’s life. 

“The last thing I remember Greg saying to me was, ‘Hey, dude, it’s my man, Isaac. He’s the man! My inspiration!’” Minkoff said. “I’ve never been anyone’s inspiration before.” 

But whether it was through motivation or inspiration, Walters left his mark on all those he interacted with. Adam Wolff, Walter’s “big brother” in the fraternity, said when the pledge class first heard the news, they began to mourn. But as they sat together, they decided it was better to share their memories, telling stories of their time with Greg for more than an hour.

“Three months ago none of us knew him, but within three months, we had dozens of amazing memories with him,”  Wolff said. “It speaks volumes that we knew Greg for such a short period of time, yet he had such a large impact on our lives.” 

Wolff got to know Walters over Market Central meals and weekend hangouts. Their time together was filled with questions about Wolff from Walters and his compassion for his big.

“Whenever I had a test I was stressed about he asked me how it went. Right when I got back from spring break he was interested in how mine went instead of telling me about his,” Wolff said in a speech at a memorial service for Walters. “He always put others above himself.” 

Jon Carpizo spent plenty of time with Walters, but got to know him best during a memorable walk through South Oakland. 

As they walked past the Carnegie Museum of Art, Walters told Carpizo about his family. 

“I’ve never heard him speak with such emphasis. He was so proud … I could tell he had the same ambition to be like his dad and the same will to do something different like his brother,” Carpizo said. 

The advice that came next is what Carpizo will carry with him through the rest of life. 

“Greg then said, ‘Exactly … There’s always going to be someone who wants to do the same thing as you. But what are you going to do that’s different? What are you going to do that’s going to make them different from the rest of them? … All I’m saying is if you want to make it someday, you have to be willing to do something different from everyone else,’” Carpizo said. 

For Carpizo and other brothers of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, Walters had already set himself apart. 

“Greg was already different … He was already impactful. His personality was so unique, so inviting. He added humor to any occasion. He gave everyone a chance, regardless of anyone’s opinion of them,” Carpizo said. “Greg was comfortable with who he was.”

Just like Elias, Carpizo felt that Walters fit the ideal image of a Pi Kappa Phi brother — someone who is selfless and of upstanding character. 

To honor his memory, the fraternity is founding the Gregory Walters Memorial Scholarship,  which the fraternity will award annually to a newly-initiated brother who, just like Walters, “encompasses what it means to be a Pi Kapp.”

Fraternity president Anthony Kincade said there are not yet any concrete plans in place, but the fraternity will award the first scholarship at the end of next spring, after the next rushing process. Donations from alumni and friends and family of Walters will fund the scholarship. 

The brother who receives the scholarship will also possess the same character traits Walters did. 

“The award will go to a truly dedicated brother who has proven that he is willing to do whatever it takes for the chapter’s success,” Kincade said. “A brother with a free spirit who displays selflessness at all times and goes out of their way to ensure the happiness of others.”

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Family, fraternity honor late student Greg Walters