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Remembering Daniel Poly
Ashley Leever
Antelope Staff
Courtesy Photo
This photo was used in tribute to Dan at his memorial services.

The first time Daniel Poly met Jenny Gierhan and her friends, he had jumped onto a couch busting out the lyrics to “Laredo” to make them all laugh.

“Whenever he would walk by any girl he would say, ‘You look so good today,’ even if you looked terrible. He knew how to make anyone smile,” Gierhan, a senior public relations major from Kearney, said with a laugh. Though Gierhan didn’t feel like she was one of Poly’s close friends, she, like most who met him— including 982 friends on Facebook— had fond memories.

Poly was a charmer. With an infectious laugh, a knack for playing the guitar, and the ability to make anyone smile, he knew how to woo a girl.

“When I think of Dan I imagine his guitar, his hair gel and his infectious smile— all of which seemed to help him with the ladies. He was a notorious charmer with an unbelievable talent of melting hearts,” said Hilke Brandon, a junior sports and business administration major from Alma and the president of the Alpha Phi sorority at UNK.

Poly’s charm didn’t just stop with the girls. He had an ability to become friends with anyone he met. As the president of the Theta Kappa chapter of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity from January 2010 until January 2011, Poly was beloved by his brothers in the fraternity.

“He was so well liked and was so positive. I cannot think of one negative thing about him,” said Dusty Newton, the chapter advisor for UNK’s Delta Tau Delta fraternity. “I think we were a huge part of his life. He was the only son in his family but had two sisters. He really loved having brothers.”

As a person described as carefree and easy-going by his friends and mentors, Poly was always there for his friends and family when they needed him most. “He was such a loyal friend and would never turn his back on you. I personally went through some tough times this semester, and Dan stuck by my side the entire time and always had my back,” said Alex Frantz, a senior finance major from Omaha and a member of the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity.

It was Poly’s positive personality and his love for his brothers that allowed him to carry on several leadership roles in UNK’s Greek Community. Poly was a member of the 2009 Interfraternity Council, held several leadership roles in his fraternity, and was a member of Greeks Advocating the Mature Management of Alcohol (GAMMA).

“Dan was extremely involved. There was not a thing you would ask him to do that he would not get done. I think this quality helped Dan get to the presidency level,” said Zac Deeds, former president of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity and a UNK graduate. “He was such a caring person who wanted to get to know every person he possibly could.”

As the leader of his fraternity, Poly did his best to be there for all his brothers. “He was someone who mentored the younger members and a leader that the older members liked and respected. He was also elected because he was a great representative of what it meant to be a Delt at UNK,” said Tracy Lungrin, former interim Greek life coordinator.  

Like many college dorm rooms, the Delta house put up a bulletin board after winter break asking for the member’s New Year’s resolutions. Poly’s resolution for 2011 was to put others first— before himself. “Dan’s friends and family came before anything else. He would drop anything he was doing if you were down and having a bad day,” Deeds said. “If you ever needed help, Dan was your man. No matter the size of the task he was always willing to jump in and help where he could.”

It was his love for people that helped Poly choose his path at UNK. “Dan was an organizational communications major— which allows you to do a lot of different things in relationship to working with people—” said Professor George Lawson, Poly’s advisor and professor at UNK. “I think he really liked that aspect of working with people.”

But like many college kids, Poly still wasn’t sure what he wanted to do as a career.

“We had talked about the human relations side of working with people. I really think he liked the people aspect of it, but being locked up in an office building running human resources was not his idea of a good time,” Lawson said. “He would have much rather been out having a good time with people rather than having to worry about their insurance or their life insurance policy. He was still struggling to find that niche for what he wanted to be in life.”

But as Dan’s presumed graduation date of May 2011 began to approach, his choices for a career began to become clear. “He had talked to his mom over Christmas break about his future. A few days later he told me he was considering hotel management. He could talk to anybody, so I could see him being able to relate well to any stranger,” Newton said.

Poly’s ability to meet people and make them laugh is what those closest to him will remember most. Tracy Lungrin’s fondest memory is of Poly modeling in a Greek Week fashion show. “When he and his counterpart, Allie Nightingale, came down the runway their routine was absolutely awesome,” Lungrin said. “It was at the moment when I realized and expressed to him after the show in my most Oprah-like voice, ‘Dan Poly—You can dance!’ He had style, swag and the kid had moves.”

With a passion for music and a love for his fraternity, Brandon remembers Poly as always having “a guitar and a brother by his side.”

 It was those moments with his brothers and his guitar that Poly seemed to enjoy most. “My fondest memories of Dan would be sitting outside the Delt house with all the guys while Dan sang about any song you could come up with,” Deeds said.

Daniel Poly was born on July 25, 1989, and passed away on Feb. 9, 2011. He is survived by his parents Dennis and Lynn Poly; sisters, Marie and Ellen Poly all of Omaha; and numerous friends.

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