The Brotherhood of Speed: Lambda Chi Alpha’s Legacy at the Indianapolis 500


The Indianapolis 500 (Indy 500), the pinnacle of motor racing known for its rich history of over 100 years and thrilling spectacle, has been a significant chapter in the lives of many Lambda Chi Alpha Brothers. Their enduring connection to the event has created a tapestry of memories and traditions that highlight the unique bond between Fraternity and sport.  

George Spasyk, Lambda Chi Alpha CEO from 1968 to 1990, laid the foundation for the connection between Lambda Chi Alpha and the Indy 500 to grow. Spasyk opened his home to many Lambda Chi Alumni and family, Colleagues in the Greek Space, and friends. His hospitality and enthusiasm for the race created a welcoming environment for all those that joined him.  

“George made everyone feel so welcome, even with his sarcastic remarks,” Gary Tiller (University of Tennessee-Knoxville, 1972) said. 

The Indianapolis 500 was not just a one-day event for Spasyk. The weekend leading up to the race was filled with plenty of events to keep those who travelled occupied. The weekend started with a golf outing on Friday, a Champagne Brunch and Pre-Race Party on Saturday, with the addition of a softball tournament some years, the race on Sunday and a post-race steak dinner at Spasyk’s house featuring his famous potatoes. With Spasyk, the race weekend became more than just about watching fast cars. Race weekend was a reunion, a chance to reconnect with old friends and make new ones.  

“Coming together, whether it’s from the Brotherhood of the Fraternity or just the enjoyment of the 500, is a powerful experience,” said Mark Bauer, former Executive Director of the Lambda Chi Alpha Educational Foundation (California State University-Fullerton, 1979). 

Brothers from all over the world converge in Indianapolis. For example, Ron Holland (University of Alberta, 1971) started attending the Indianapolis 500 in 1975. Holland would make the trip from Canada to be there and experience the race. From then on, he attended almost every race up until 2018. Race weekend even had a transformative impact on some Brothers.  

Bauer’s involvement with the race started after being hired as a Chapter Consultant for the Fraternity in 1980.  

Later down the road, Bauer lived in California for some time and finally returned to Indianapolis for the 1989 Indianapolis 500 race. He learned from Spasyk that the Educational Foundation was hiring for its first Executive Director and was having a hard time finding the best candidate. Bauer contemplated the idea of becoming the Executive Director, and after a conversation with his wife, he decided to apply, ultimately earning the position. Bauer attributes much of what happened in his life after 1989 to the race that year.  

“By coming for the 500 weekend, my life sparked not only taking that job, but everything that’s happened since the summer of 1989. It was truly an inflection point for my life,” Bauer said. 

For Tiller, the race had a different impact. He too was hired as a Chapter Consultant after graduating from the University of Tennesse- Knoxville in 1972. In attending his first race that year, he was hooked. Through May, Tiller would even watch Qualifiers during his lunch break at the Fraternity. Tiller’s passion for racing extended beyond mere spectating. He began driving race cars, a hobby that spanned three decades. 

“Through my own participation in racing, I made friends and even co-drove with Buddy Rice, who later won the 500 in 2004,” he said. 

The Indy 500 has provided Lambda Chi Alpha Brothers with unforgettable experiences. Holland’s encounter with Andy Granatelli, the long-time car owner at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, stands out. 

“I met Andy on a flight to a Xerox training center, and didn’t see him again for another 20 years, running into him at a race,” he said. 

Granatelli asked Holland to wait where he was for just a few minutes so he could take Granatelli’s photo. Holland acquired a media pass for this race, therefore having a camera in hand. Granatelli came back with a woman to get photographed with and Holland did what he was asked. When searching through photos after the race, Holland’s son noticed the photo of Granatelli and the woman and was shocked. Holland had unknowingly taken a photo of Priscilla Presley. 

As the Brothers reflect on their decades-long tradition, there’s a shared understanding of the importance of preserving this legacy for future generations.  

“I think what that kind of gives birth to is a real appreciation for just seeing each other,” Bauer said, “but I think I’d be speaking for other guys, too, none of us live forever. It a great we get to be together one more time.” 

The annual gathering at the 500 serves as a poignant reminder of the enduring bonds of Brotherhood and the shared experiences that define them. The Indianapolis 500, with its storied history and thrilling spectacle, provides the perfect backdrop for the Lambda Chi Alpha Brothers to celebrate their Fraternity and friendships that have been forged over the years. As they look to the future, the Brothers remain committed to honoring the traditions that have made the race weekend such a significant part of their lives.