The Dream Girl of Phi Kappa Tau
By Dennis Walikainen
House cooks own a special place in the hearts of fraternity brothers. They are mostly women, and their home cooking helped generations of students through all the cramming, dating, partying, and other demands of Greek life at Tech.
We asked readers of TechAlum for memories, and one group’s response was overwhelming.
From 1957 to 1984, the brothers of Phi Kappa Tau enlisted the services of Laura Archambeau.
During her 27 years, she watched over 500 members (“her boys”), served 12,000 meals, and worked with 33 kitchen stewards, the liaisons between her and the brothers. For the men at 1209 West Quincy Street in Hancock, she was Mom.
The Mother of Phi Kappa Tau would walk to work wearing crampons when her 1968 Oldsmobile couldn’t make it up the driveway, which was often. Some days, the brothers admit, she would walk over the bodies to the abomination of a kitchen and just turn around in disgust and go home.
Laura’s leftovers were always waiting in the refrigerator for brothers returning from local saloons like the Monte Carlo, Golden Pheasant (aka the Duck), or Long Shot.
Laura’s specialties included “varnish rolls,” cinnamon rolls that the men summoned to the statue site, even after she retired. Chili was another cold-weather favorite that would keep the brothers working on their Winter Carnival statues, again continuing after her retirement.
Six kitchen stewards were called upon to serve as her pallbearers in August 1991. She died one day shy of her fifty-fifth wedding anniversary, at the age of 74.
In 2007, on the chapter’s fiftieth anniversary, the brothers placed a framed verse on her grave acknowledging her as “the dream girl of Phi Kappa Tau.”
Note: Phi Kappa Tau member Marty Schendel ’83, who delivered a eulogy at Laura’s funeral, provided material used in this story.
Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.