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Paying the Debt

Delta Sigma Phi alumnus supports fraternity and Mizzou

Published Jan. 12, 2015
Story and photo by Derek Poore

Greg Speno of St. Louis, Missouri

Greg Speno, BS EE’69, says his experience in Delta Sigma Phi helped prepare him for his career. “One precept of Delta Sigma Phi is ‘Paying the Debt,’ which is a lifelong obligation to support the fraternity and, by extension, Mizzou. Those are the two primary organizations that enabled me to become the person I am.”

Greg Speno returns to Mizzou to attend Tiger athletic events; visit his fraternity, Delta Sigma Phi; and for bits of nostalgia.

“I can remember our old fraternity house across the street on East Rollins,” said Speno, BS EE ’69. “Our ‘new’ house, which was built for our fraternity in the late Twenties and lost during the Depression, was repurchased and totally renovated four years ago with the help of numerous alumni. It’s much nicer.”

Speno, of St. Louis, is a major donor to the fraternity’s house on Richmond Avenue. Most recently, he pledged to create an endowed scholarship for Delta Sigma Phi students as part of his estate plan.

The Greg and Diane Speno Endowed Scholarship gives preference to students majoring in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) programs.

Speno said he has an affinity for those academic areas for several reasons, including what he sees as a need for U.S. higher education to ensure its spot in science and technological supremacy on the global stage. It’s also because he has seen the fruits of those investments up close in the past.

After graduating from Mizzou, Speno worked as an electrical engineer, helping to design cutting edge laser communications technology at aerospace manufacturer and defense contractor McDonnell Douglas. Speno helped implement technology used by NASA that served many missions into space, including Skylab. Speno can remember when a video system on the early space station broke down and his team analyzed the fault, prepared training tapes explaining how to repair it and sent up new hardware.

“Working with astronauts is kind of amazing, because those guys have an encyclopedic memory,” Speno said. “You tell them something once and two years later they remember it.”

Other career highlights include being engineering or program manager for five successful space programs, two laser radars in Earth orbit, and laser altimeters to map the moon, Mars and the asteroid Shoemaker.

Speno later worked for Boeing. He said the U.S. should be a leader in science and technology in order to thrive in the global economy.

“If you don’t have good STEM, you’re not going to stay at the forefront of the world economy,” Speno said. “Near the end of my career, I was responsible for contractually-required technical collaboration with military customers worldwide. Countries like Finland, Korea and Japan are competing hard,” he said. “STEM is my heritage. It’s an important thing for our country to be competitive. I think we have kind of fallen behind.”

Speno said his experience in the fraternity helped prepare him for his career, and he enjoys serving as a mentor to students. He said he is not only vested in giving back to Mizzou, but also to Delta Sigma Phi.

On the last day of finals week at the end of the 2014 fall semester, Speno was helping students clean and move out of the fraternity house for the holiday break.

“It’s this concept of repaying this debt," Speno said. “Mizzou gave me the technical background to become what I am, and the fraternity gave me the social skills and personality skills to get where I am.”

Published by the Division of Student Affairs, 211 Jesse Hall, Columbia, MO 65211 | Phone: 573-882-6776 | Fax: 573-882-0158 | E-mail:

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Last updated: Aug. 15, 2017