Robert Bazile, 19, a graduate of Archbishop Carroll High School, believed in planning for his future. That is why, according to his sister and friends, he wanted to become a member of Omega Psi Phi, a prominent national black fraternity, at the University of Pennsylvania. They said he wanted to join badly.
"He knew there are a lot of influential blacks in 'Q'" as the fraternity is also known, recalled his college roommate, Dennis Brooks, yesterday. Adult members included "famous people who had gotten places. He thought he'd have better connections for getting a job."
Baziale's sister, Jessy, 25, said he did not join during his freshman year, in part because his family opposed it. "As an undergraduate at Howard, I was always critical of the fraternities I saw there," said Miss Bazile, yesterday. I told him, 'Robert, I can't tell you what to do but find out what it's all about before you join.'"
But this spring, as he neared the end of his sophomore year as a premend student, Bazile decided to pledge the fraternity, which has a reputation for being gregarious and having strenuous initiation rites. For years on some campuses were branded with a branding iron on their shoulders or chests with the capital letter Q, which resembles the Greek letter Omega.
Bazile made it though the first seven weeks of the initiation, but he became increasingly tense, according to Donald Mason, another roommate. Mason said Bazile told him of being beaten with paddles and fists during initiation sessions and repeatedly complained of being sore.
Last Thursday night, in the middle of Hell Week, as the final week of fraternity initiation is known, Bazile went to one of the last initiation sessions at the fraternity meeting room. Precisely what occurred is not clear, but Mason said another pledge who was present later told him that pledges were beaten and forced to do strenuous running.
Philadelphia police said Robert Bazile collapsed in the fraternity house meeting room and died a few hours later in the campus hospital center when efforts to revive him failed.
The state medical examiner's office said Bazile died of a heart attack.
Philadelphia homicide detective are still investigating the incident. No charges have been filed.
There were nine youths in the room with Robert when he collapsed, according to campus spokesman Jack Hamilton, but he said only five of them were students at the University of Pennsylvania. The others were from either Drexel University or the Philadelphia Community College.
One pledge who was present when Bazile collapsed declined comment yesterday on the advice of his counsel.
Two other university students who were also present could not be reached for comment.
On the afternoon that he died, Robert had been studying fraternity history in his campus apartment with some "Big Brothers" (full fledged members of the fraternity), according to Mason. Mason recalled that a "set" - initiation rite - was planned for that evening.
The pledging ceremonies had already begun to leave their mark on Robert's life, Mason said.
There were evenings when Robert didn't come home. When he did, it would be early in the morning and he would get just a few hours sleep before geting to class.
"He was rarely eating any more at the apartment," Mason said. Mason said. Bazile neglected his school work and was indanger of failing two courses this semester, according to Brooks.
Bazile, who ran track at Archbishop Carroll, thought of dropping out of the fraternity's initiation "line" after about three weeks, Mason said. Some fraternity brothers visited him in his room one afternoon and persuaded him not to give up.
"He thought it would help him with job prospects," Jesaye Bazile said. "He was always looking ahead. The whole family is like that." Robert, Baziles father, a statistician for the Organization of American States, immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti in 1961 and brought his family over a year later when Robert was 5.
According to Grant Wright, a former U.S. Park police chief who was Omega Man of the Year in 1968, all fraternity brothers are required to help their fellows along in life.
Omega Psi Phi is a prominent black fraternity in Northeastern United States, and its members include such prominent Washington area people as Superior Court Judges Cari Moultrie and Spottswood Robinson, and Mayor Walter E. Washington.
In Washington Omega Psi Phi was active in the civil rights movement in the 1960s and today the organization sopnsors several charitable programs throughout the country, Wright said.
The fraternity was founded at Howard University in 1912 and became incorporated in 1918. Hamilton said the Omega group was not recognized as a fraternity on the Philadelphia campus. Since it had only about four pledged members, the group did not require a fraternity house, like the other fraternities, Hamilton said.
The eldest son in his family, Baziel wanted to become a doctor and return some day to his native Haiti, which he recalled only vaguely, his sister said.
Miss Bazile said her brother had enjoyed excellent health all his life and was always active in sports. In the bedroom of his D.C. home hangs a painting he made in high school of two runners in a relay, wearing the uniform he once wore for the Archbishop Carrool track team.