Here at ATO Gamma Sigma, we cherish and celebrate the memories of our legends. They have devoted a part of their lives to the house we know and love. Their stories and impact on this chapter are forever a part of this fraternity's history.
Marie "Ma" Fell
Marie Angel Fell, or “Ma” as everyone called her, was born on November 23, 1917, in the small town of Springfield, Maine. Ma held several jobs before a temporary position opened in 1969 to become a cook at one of the fraternities at WPI, Alpha Tau Omega. After accepting the job she quickly gained the affection of the brothers and became known as the “sweetheart of ATO''. As well as being head of the kitchen Ma also served as the “resident psychiatrist”, using her countertop as a couch to listen to brother’s school, family, or girl problems. She also kept the men of the chapter in line and was not afraid to raise her voice. Ma remained the house cook of ATO for almost 30 years until she retired in 1997. After retiring from ATO’s chef she remained as its house mother. You would frequently find her in the ATO dining room on Tuesday nights playing “Pitch” with Tuna and the brothers of ATO while drinking two Heinekens.
Although Ma exhibited much of her dedication at ATO, she also extended her reach to other aspects of the WPI community. She and several other fraternity cooks had an informal ‘network’. With Ma as the most senior, she took a leadership role. If one of the cooks were sick or had a family emergency, another would step in. If another fraternity cook was out, Ma would cook a meal for that house in addition to her cooking duties at ATO. She didn’t get paid for filling for the other cooks, but she felt that the “boys need to eat”. Additionally, if there was a large function at another fraternity, Ma would help coordinate with several of the cooks to voluntarily help prepare for the event. Because of her involvement in a variety of activities, Ma became known beyond her ATO roots.
Ma was tapped for Skull in the class of 1981 along with Van Blumel. She became the first member of Skull who was not a member of the faculty, staff, alumni, or student population. At 63 years old, she was considered by many of her classmates as one of the gutsiest members of her class. When asked about her status on the WPI campus during her years of employment at ATO she replied; “they didn’t know the president’s wife, but they knew me”. In 1983, Ma was named the homecoming Queen of WPI at 66 years old, becoming the oldest Homecoming Queen WPI has ever seen. The story gained national attention, receiving headlines from California to Florida to Missouri.
On July 2nd of 2011, Ma passed away at the age of 93 years old. Months before her death, she expressed that she wanted a service to be held for her at ATO. A few weeks after her passing, over 150 members of the WPI community paid their final respects to the “sweetheart” of ATO. Many will miss the woman known as “Ma Fell”, who loved, supported, and made a difference in thousands of people’s lives. She will be remembered and cherished forever.
Before moving to Worcester, Harry Thompson was born and raised in North Brookfield, Massachusetts. He entered the U.S. Army in 1945 and fought in India for the closing years of WWII, where he achieved the rank of TS Corporal.
After his time in the military, he became associated with WPI by accepting a job as a bookstore manager in the early 1960s. He held this position for more than 20 years. He always found the students who were in the most need of money and gave them jobs within the bookstore. When Harry Thompson worked at WPI, Harry and many others viewed WPI as ‘their’ school. Since they embraced their ownership of the school and felt invested in its success or failure, they spent a significant amount of time involved in bettering the school. Harry was not married and had no children, but had ‘adopted’ WPI.
Harry spent much of his time with two primary compatriots, Richard “Olie” Olsen, a math professor and advisor to Alpha Chi Rho, and Dean William “Tuna” Trask. Much of what Harry did was behind the scenes, influencing the administration and advocating for students, so no one knew how much Harry did.
However, one of the visible initiatives that Harry was involved in went a long way toward improving campus life from 1968 thru 1984. In 1968, Harry, Olie, and Tuna, along with 2 students, created the Goat’s Head Pub. While the idea of a Pub on campus may be viewed as a great place to drink, it became much more than that. For many faculty, students, and staff it became a place to meet and talk at the end of their day in a casual setting. This gave students a setting to have discussions that would never occur inside the classroom. The Pub enabled all of them to step out of their roles and simply interact as people.
Although he was connected with many organizations on campus, none was greater than the one that he made with the brothers of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. After a few years of working at WPI, he became the beloved advisor of the fraternity, a position he would hold for more than 25 years. After a few years of being the advisor to ATO, Harry wanted more. In his early forties, he decided to pledge ATO to become a brother in 1966. In 1975 due to his involvement on campus Harry T was tapped for the Skull senior honor society.
Harry reached the lives of many in the WPI community. The day he decided to retire from the WPI bookstore in 1985, the school declared it “Harry Thompson Day”. The celebration that was held for him was attended by numerous members of the administration, many associates from the bookstore, his brothers of the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity, and The Skull. After his retirement, Harry continued to be an active brother and advisor to ATO until he died in 1991. In his will, Harry left his life savings, home, and all belongings to the fraternity that he dedicated his life to. Harry Thompson, “The Old Bastard”, still one of the most influential people to pass through ATO and WPI. To this day, The Old Bastard is still celebrated and remembered across the brotherhood of Alpha Tau Omega.
William "Tuna" Trask
Bill Trask was born on August 31, 1929, in Rochester, Vermont. He attended Middlebury College where he received his nickname “Tuna” his senior year. The origins of his infamous nickname come from this story he told before he died. “By my senior year at Middlebury, I weighed 197 pounds, and it was all in my gut. I guess I drank too much beer. Students took to calling me ‘Tuna,’ because of my shape. By the time I came back from Parris Island, I was down to 162 pounds. I was slim and slender, and the nickname didn’t seem to fit anymore. Years later, in the late 80s or early 90s, a WPI student met someone who’d known me at Middlebury; he told him about the nickname. He brought the story back to his fraternity house, and it didn’t take long for the name to stick. So today, 99 percent of the people at WPI know me as ‘Tuna’”.
In 1958, William F. Trask a.k.a. “Tuna” joined WPI as Director of Placement, a position he held for 34 years. During his time as Director of Placement, Tuna headed the creation of WPI’s Career Development Center as well as the Goat’s Head Pub. Tuna prided himself on having an open-door policy with his students as he wanted students to feel comfortable coming up to him without having to schedule a meeting. In 1975, the Dean of Students thought that Tuna’s closeness with the students and the creation of an on-campus bar were unprofessional. He was stripped of his title as Dean of Students and transitioned full-time into the placement office.
Despite retiring officially in 1992, he was on campus frequently, a visitor at ATO and other fraternities. He spent his retirement mentoring another generation or two of students, playing cards, and attending sporting events and student weddings. Tuna believed strongly in forming connections with one another. When eating dinner with the brothers he would tell them to put down their phones and engage with the people next to them. With his involvement on campus, Tuna was a major help in getting brothers jobs through his countless connections over the years. Tuna would be present at ATO bid night, and would tell every pledge, “this will be the best decision you ever make”. The legend of Bill “Tuna” Trask still lives on within the walls of 10 Regent Street as stories of him are still told to this day.