We Mourn the Loss of Dawn D’Orlando, wife of Brett Danko ’90, and Great Friend of Penn Delta

It is with great sadness that we share the loss of Dawn D’Orlando, a lifetime friend and supporter of Penn Delta.  Dawn, wife of Brett Danko ’90, passed away at home on March 16, 2024.  After a long and valiant battle with colon cancer, she has found the peace she deserved.

Dawn and Brett lived next to each other freshman year in the Quad’s Speakman Hall, sparking a friendship that remained as it grew into love and ultimately a real and fruitful partnership. That pattern would shape their lives together, including a tremendous impact on Penn Delta in the years to come.

As Brett was just embarking on what would become a decades-long commitment of service and leadership to Penn Delta, it was Dawn, while earnestly pursuing her nursing education, who encouraged and enabled Brett to take this path.  From transcribing Brett’s rambling thoughts to create early Penn Delta newsletters in his room at the chapter house to being an ever-present fixture at 4028 Walnut Street, Dawn was quietly and powerfully an emerging part of the Sig Phi Epsilon ethos.  Not only would Dawn forge lasting friendships with many of the Brothers (especially Jack Shores), her behind-the-scenes work and support of Brett were fundamental in the development and growth of Penn Delta. 

Many brothers have described Brett’s dedication to the Brotherhood as tireless.  Close observers knew however that it was Dawn’s energy and support that made Brett’s efforts possible. Over the years, as Brett continued with his hours of service to Penn Delta, it was Dawn who provided the opportunity to spend that time.  It was Dawn who advised and cajoled Brett in how to manage his growing role in the Fraternity.  It was Dawn who selflessly helped organize and run many events over the years that have brought Brothers together.

She managed this, of course, as a sideline to becoming a highly educated and respected medical professional (’90 BSN, Nursing; ’93 MSN, Pediatric Acute/Chronic Care; MPH, ’00 Columbia University) as well as a devoted mother to her and Brett’s children, Abbie and Nicholas.

 For those who did not have the honor to meet Dawn, the old adage – Behind every great man, there is a great woman – might hint at the impact Dawn had on Brett and our Fraternity.  For those who knew Dawn, Jim Carey’s take on that adage might seem more apropos: Behind every great man, there is a woman rolling her eyes.  Regardless, there is no disputing that Dawn and Brett, together, have had an indelible effect on Penn Delta.  She will be missed.

A memorial service for Dawn will be held at the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville (2688 Lawrenceville Road/Main Street/Route 206, Lawrence Township, NJ 08648) on Saturday, April 27th at 11am, with a reception to follow.

An endowment fund has been set up in her memory to support youth causes in the community and abroad.  All gifts will be matched by an anonymous Brother and are tax deductible. The link to the endowment fund is included below: