Brothers Organize to Support Family in Wake of Tragedy


TJ Wedding-square

Brother Thomas “TJ” Virgin (Colorado) entered Chapter Eternal on November 10, 2015.

Brothers of the Gamma Kappa Chapter at University of Colorado Boulder are rallying behind the family of a brother who entered Chapter Eternal unexpectedly earlier this month. On November 10, 2015, Br. TJ Virgin (Colorado) entered Chapter Eternal following a tragic airplane accident near Akron, Ohio.

Brothers of the Gamma Kappa Chapter learned of the tragic accident by the early morning hours the next day. Ryan Lynch, a close friend and fellow Gamma Kappa Chapter alumnus, started notifying brothers of the tragic news. Ryan says the reactions ranged from shock to heartbreak after learning about the loss of a cherished member of their chapter, going all the way back to their days as candidates.

Dozens of brothers reached out to express condolences and offer support. By the evening of November 11, one day after the accident, close to 50 alumni brothers reached out to Ryan offering support for TJ’s widow, Andrea, and their 4-month-old daughter, Victoria. The chapter decided to set up a GoFundMe page where brothers and friends could provide financial support.

“Any time a brother had fallen on rough times, whether it was slipping grades, a difficult break-up, or family problems, TJ was always one of the first people there to offer support.”

The chapter set an initial fundraising goal of $5000 and distributed the link to the Gamma Kappa alumni directory. They intend to fund a memorial plaque at the chapter home in Boulder and start a college fund for TJ’s young daughter, Victoria.

The response was overwhelming as the alumni rallied to raise more than $5,000 in less than three hours. The fundraising goal was then doubled to $10,000, which was met only three days later. Ryan Lynch, TJ’s candidate class brother, says the chapter is confident they can achieve the new goal of $20,000 in the coming weeks.

“What I have learned from this experience is that brotherhood never dies,” Ryan says. “Brothers from my Sigma Nu class now live all over the world, and while we may have lost touch for periods of time, our brotherhood will live on forever.”

Ryan says TJ will be remembered as one of the most caring, intelligent, and friendly individuals he’s ever known. “Any time a brother had fallen on rough times, whether it was slipping grades, a difficult break-up, or family problems, TJ was always one of the first people there to offer support.”

While TJ won’t be around to watch his daughter grow up, Ryan knows Victoria Virgin has dozens of Sigma Nu “uncles” who will always love and protect her.  “TJ’s legacy will live on through his daughter, Victoria,” Ryan says.

TJ’s chapter brothers know he’ll be remembered as someone who lived his life in a manner that truly echoed the Creed of Sigma Nu. “He believed in the life of love, he walked in the way of honor and he served in the light of truth,” Ryan says. “Love, Honor and Truth — that was Thomas “TJ” Virgin.”

Brothers from other chapters around the country are welcome and encouraged to support Gamma Kappa Chapter’s fundraising effort during this time. Brothers wishing to lend the helping hand can do so by visiting the GoFundMe page at Proceeds will benefit Victoria Virgin’s college fund.

TJ Andrea Victoria

Brother Virgin is survived by his wife, Andrea, and daughter, Victoria.

Serving on the Educational Foundation Board of Directors is the Ultimate Leadership Development Experience

By Garrett Oberst (Butler)

Like many other collegiate members my age, I had no idea what the Sigma Nu Educational Foundation was a year ago. I didn’t know about the purpose of the Foundation or that it would change my life and instill in me the value of commitment to the Fraternity throughout my entire life.

My experience with Sigma Nu Educational Foundation began with what seemed like an accident. I applied to be a Collegiate Grand Councilman in the fall of 2014 thinking it was the only opportunity I had to gain leadership experience at the national level. To my surprise, I received a call from Joe Gillman, past Regent and chairman of the Foundation at the time. He told me of a new position with the Sigma Nu Educational Foundation, a position that I and Mark Nelson from Northwestern would be the first to hold.

While I enthusiastically accepted the offer to serve on the Foundation board of directors, I was hesitant and a little unsure of what was to come next. I had essentially just accepted a position with an organization I knew little about.

As I would soon learn, the Sigma Nu Educational Foundation grants the General Fraternity the funds they need to pursue these endeavors and enhances our fraternal experience both as collegians and members of the alumni chapter. Your scholarship, your LEAD sessions, and in many cases your chapter home, are all a result of the Foundation’s core purpose. If you have seen the beautiful Headquarters shrine, it is also a result of the Foundation’s hard work.

As collegiate members of the board, Mark Nelson and I are both current members of the awareness committee tasked with spreading the message of the Foundation to both alumni and active members. While our board is full of past Regents, Collegiate Grand Councilmen, and Alpha Chapter Affiliates, my opinion is valued as much as anyone else’s, and I am incredibly grateful for that.

My growth throughout this experience has been tremendous. I have gained insight into the strategic planning process and have begun to understand how a board of directors develops a vision for an organization. I have also had the opportunity to network with many successful individuals that serve on the Foundation board. Most importantly, this experience has inspired me to continue to commit my time, my talent, and my treasures to the Foundation for years to come because I now realize its importance.

I encourage you to apply to be a collegiate member of the Sigma Nu Educational Foundation’s Board of Directors. While right now you may be unclear as to what you will be doing, I promise you can expect to grow from this experience more than you could ever imagine. More importantly than that, you will play a vital role in the development in the Foundation’s strategic planning in the years to come.

Garrett Oberst

Learning to Lead with the Educational Foundation Board of Directors

By Mark Nelson (Northwestern)

There are a small handful of things, I believe, that have been critical to my life’s development thus far. I think of my family, which has taught me respect and what it means to love. I think of my closest friends back home, who taught me humility. I think of my faith, which has shown me the importance of patience and trust. And I think of my fraternity, which has reinforced all these values while teaching me more than any college professor ever will. Until about a year ago, though, my definition of “my fraternity” was largely limited to my own chapter. This narrow definition changed completely when I joined the Sigma Nu Educational Foundation board of directors.

I was offered the opportunity to join the Foundation board well into my second term as Commander. Having already been to College of Chapters, I was hesitant to join. After all, I understood some of the work and prestige that came with the Collegiate Grand Councilman position. So why trade the chance to apply for a sought-after position for which I was well prepared, for a new position that I knew nothing about?

For me the answer was simple: the Sigma Nu Educational Foundation collegiate board member role gave me the opportunity to define a new position, support the long-term goals of Sigma Nu, all while working and learning alongside inspiring alumni who continue to give back to their Fraternity.

After over a year of service, I can confidently say that I made the right decision. The unforgettable experiences I have had on the board have been so many in number, they would require far more space to do their descriptions proper justice.

I could describe my time with Brad Hastings, the Foundation president, discussing World War II when outside the meeting room and planning ways to get collegians more involved when inside.

I could recall my time with Joe Gilman, a past Regent and past chairman of the Foundation, spending days at College of Chapters 2015 strategizing how to recruit other collegians to support the Foundation. I could also talk for hours about how I became teary-eyed when he bought a brick for the Pathway of Honor for everyone on the Foundation board.

Or I could write pages about my time with the current Foundation Chairman Al Wurster, driving with him to and from Lexington, talking about economics, favorite college experiences, families, visions of the collegians’ role on the Foundation board, and everything in between.

More important than my individual experiences is the broader characterization of the Educational Foundation. The Foundation board is a group of men who care deeply and passionately about Sigma Nu. It is a group that does more than donate their time; it donates their treasure. It is a group that selflessly spends free time finding ways to better the fraternity experience of collegiate members whom they have never met. It is a group that wishes you a happy birthday or networking opportunity when others forget. Above all, it is a group that exemplifies the true qualities of Sigma Nu.

While I cannot possibly convey here all of the fantastic parts of serving on the Educational Foundation, I can certainly try in-person. So, if you find yourself in Roanoke this January or in the Chicagoland area, I would be happy to meet and discuss the experience further.

Mark Nelson-square


9 Practical Tips for Effective Email Communication  

Photo by flickr user joelogon/Creative Commons license.

Image by flickr user joelogon/Creative Commons license.

Email dominates every waking minute of our day – but only if we let it. Instead of pursuing the elusive and utopian Inbox Zero, try these incremental changes to restore some sanity to your professional email correspondence. Master these tips and your professional network will thank you.

  1. Remove that comically long email signature after the first message. This makes it easier for you and others to scan a long email string for a specific piece of information buried somewhere in the conversation. If anyone needs info contained within your email signature they can still find it by scrolling down to the initial message.
  2. Use deadlines to help others understand your intended timeline for completion. Include a simple sentence like, “My goal is to have this complete by 4 p.m. today.” Avoid vague phrases like “ASAP” that tend to create confusion regarding expectations for completion. Communicate specific deadlines to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  3. Use the Drafts folder. Not sure about the tone of an important message? Worried your message might come across the wrong way? Save it to the Drafts folder and revisit the next morning or even the next week. After sleeping on it for a few days you might think better of sending the email and opt instead for a phone call or in-person meeting.
  4. Consider batching your email times so you can focus on important-but-not-urgent projects. Completing long-term projects requires periods of uninterrupted focus, and constantly checking and replying to emails makes this nearly impossible. Unless your job requires truly constant monitoring, have the confidence to close down the email and focus on one thing at a time.
  5. When emailing a group, specify which recipients you are expecting to take action. The more people copied on any given message the less likely anyone will respond. What often happens is everyone assumes someone else is going to answer the question or complete the task. This is similar to outfielders having a protocol for handling fly balls that land between positions. Clearly stating what action you expect recipients to take will also avoid unnecessary follow up emails.
  6. Avoid using Bcc except for rare occasions. Using the blind carbon copy feature is perceived by many as devious and even conniving. Be transparent about your communication and avoid using the Bcc feature. The rare exception is when you’re emailing a large group and don’t want to expose everyone to a potential reply all chain.
  7. Assume your message will be read by people it was not intended for and keep this in mind as you’re drafting the message. Out of convenience — and sometimes out of carelessness — people will forward emails to others you did not intend to read the original message. This can cause confusion and embarrassment for the original sender who wrote the message specifically for the intended recipient. Similarly, practice good email etiquette and ask the original sender before forwarding to new recipients if you have any doubts about the intended privacy of the message.
  8. Stop sending non-urgent emails after work hours. Replying to emails at 11 p.m. is not impressing anyone — you’re only contributing to the work/life balance issues that tend to bubble up in any professional work environment. Clarify expectations with colleagues and supervisors ahead of time. If replying outside of work hours is not expected then don’t make the problem worse. Relax, decompress, and pick it up the next day. Everything will be fine.
  9. Don’t be the first to reply to a group email. Let someone else initiate the perpetual reply all email chain, unless the email is specifically addressed to you. By the time you get around to answering the initial email it will likely be resolved without any involvement required of you. More often than not an email sent to a large group is merely for informational purposes. Chime in to an existing conversation only if you have something substantive to add. Of course, use your best judgment in all situations. There may be occasions where the sender wants to have confirmation of receipt.

Do you have additional tips for effective email communication? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

New Startup Aims to Provide Nutrition for Those on the Go


MacroFuel founders set out with the goal to make consuming a balanced and nutritious diet simple and effortless.

Max Tave (Cornell) and his classmate, Gus, came up with the idea for MacroFuel last year after enduring the effects of missing meals and subsisting off energy drinks and cheap protein bars as a result of long nights studying in the school library.

They set out with the goal to make consuming a balanced and nutritious diet simple and effortless. They worked with some of Cornell’s top PhD food scientists to develop their initial product, a healthy, wholesome drink that aims to maximize physical and mental performance.

MacroFuel’s all-natural recipe and portable packaging are designed to satisfy all of the body’s macro- and micronutrient needs in 30 seconds or less. They worked with food scientists to make sure the product would blend well with water.

Max and his MacroFuel co-founders have witnessed early success so far, earning support from two venture accelerators and investment offers from other groups.

With an interest in pursuing the humanitarian aspect of the company, the MacroFuel founders are now exploring potential initiatives to improve nutrition developing nations. MacroFuel currently makes a nutritionally complete meal for under $1 (not including packaging) that requires only 16 ounces of cold water.

Max says his experience co-founding MacroFuel has boosted his leadership skills, particularly the importance of being a good teammate through active listening. “Leadership is all about creating a vision, aligning people, and motivating them to achieve that vision. Our team has achieved early success because we are all super motivated and believe in the vision our founders have created for the company.”

MacroFuel maintains a company culture that is open, fun, and competitive. Instead of micromanaging, the group has found success by focusing on robust discussions that lead to new ideas.

What advice would they offer to other startup founders? “Be scrappy,” Max recommends. Too many startups see early success and start splurging on offices with lavish amenities, only to see their initial success soon dry up. Max and the team at MacroFuel take a different approach by staying lean and investing every dollar back into the company.

Max also advises would-be startup founders to make sure they are prepared for the demanding lifestyle required to get a new company off the ground. “When you start a company you need to live and breathe your idea,” he cautions. “There is always room for improvement and things you can and should be doing to increase your chances for success.”

As for advice directed at fellow Sigma Nus, Max urges entrepreneurs to use alumni connections, both at the national and local level. “Sigma Nu has an amazing network, and the alumni want to help and share their experiences with you,” he counsels. “With our food startup, we were able to get in touch with experienced alumni who’ve been in our position running a young company.”

Sigma Nu’s Gamma Theta Chapter provided an environment that helped Max and his fellow brothers excel in the classroom and surrounding community. The brotherhood supported all the various endeavors, from the pursuit of competitive internships to campus-wide events that involved top Silicon Valley tech firms.

With leadership roles as Recruitment Chairman, Social Chairman, and Risk Reduction Chairman, Max says his Sigma Nu experience helped him develop the individual skills that would help him excel after college. The competitive but supportive chapter culture helped him further refine his entrepreneurial ideas.

Max and his team are looking to build off their early momentum by raising capital and opening up a second seed round. As with any startup, sustained success and eventual growth requires capital to build on the initial momentum.

Visit MacroFuel’s Kickstarter page to learn more about supporting their continued growth:

Max Tave - MacroFuel

Co-counder Max Tave (Cornell) demonstrating MacroFuel’s ability to provide nutrition on the go.

The Delta of Sigma Nu – Summer 2015

Table of Contents



The Enduring Power of Quality Service
Bill Watson’s success in real estate is a testament to mastering the basics of sound business practices.

Bayou Baker
Pastry chef Dwayne Ingraham (Southern Mississippi) competes on the Hunger Games of
cooking shows.

Taming the Data Beast
How an under-30 startup CEO is using big data to help Fortune 500 companies turn profits.

An Authentic Shave
One startup founder’s quest for an authentic shave and values-driven entrepreneurship.


From the Editor
An introduction to the Summer 2015 issue.

A look back in history, plus updates from the General Fraternity office.

Chapter and Alumni News
Dispatches from around the country.

Book review: Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, by Neil Howe and William Strauss.

Plus the latest titles by Sigma Nu authors.

Higher Education
Exploring how a school’s prestige influences career trajectory.

Perspectives on Our Past
Grand Historian Bob McCully (San Diego State) chronicles Sigma Nu ties to iconic San Francisco landmarks.

Division Commander Chris Graham (Lamar) reflects on the challenges of advising today’s college students.


Chris Graham

Alumnus Chris Graham (Lamar/Stephen F. Austin), right, began his volunteer service in the early 1990s as Zeta Psi Chapter Advisor. He has since served as Zeta Psi House Corporation President and South Central Division Commander. Graham has been recognized by Sigma Nu as Chapter Advisor of the Year (2007) and twice as Division Commander of the Year (2010, 2014).

What do you think is challenging about working with today’s students rather than students from a previous generation?

Today you have so many communication mediums at your disposal, to me it’s harder now with the options available then it was back then. When I first started as an advisor there was no public internet. If you wanted to talk to someone you either had to find time to when you both could sit down and talk or you had to use the telephone.

Advisors have to come up with a communication medium that both he and the officer agree to. What is the communication standard between you and the officer you are advising? And you both have to agree to it.

What advice would you give to someone who just pledged Sigma Nu?

Don Humphreys had some words of wisdom at Grand Chapter that every candidate should listen to. He said very simply, “When faced with something new, you should go for it.”

Don’t become a candidate just because you want to say you’re a Sigma Nu, become a candidate because you want to be a Sigma Nu and want to make Sigma Nu better. Have a purpose and go for it, don’t just sit back and be the member in the back of the room or the member in the back of your candidate class who’s not doing something. You’re only going to get out of it what you put into it – that’s an age old saying – But I don’t think it’s ever truer than for a candidate.

What do you think are some of Sigma Nu’s best traditions?

I love going to any candidate and initiation ceremony, any chapter meeting; it’s very important to me that I have those opportunities to attend because they remind me of why I’m a Sigma Nu. It’s what we agreed to in our vows: to honor the five objects laid down by our founders. You are reminded of why you do what you do, why you behave the way you behave, what you want to be known for, what you want to stand for. It’s a constant reminder.

What do you think makes a great Alumni Advisory Board?

Wherever possible, bringing in diversity really seems to foster growth and strengthen the collegiate chapter.

Zeta Chi’s (Houston) AAB is almost an all-star team. It’s because of several things that are there: there’s a huge diversity of age, the positions they held in the chapters, and what chapters they came from. To see the information coming from other chapters on how they did things, to help strengthen their chapters has been really great.

Additionally, with Zeta Chi Chapter wanting to become a Rock Chapter, actually finding some advisors that were part of Rock Chapters, so they really understand that commitment that it takes. The advisors ability to express that and to see that dialogue taking place between the officers and the advisors has been really encouraging and has given me ideas on how to strengthen some of the other AABs that I have.

What are some of the best things you have seen AABs put in place?

Recently I watched an AAB take an approach during officer transition that I think has a lot of potential. The transition was designed by taking the Pursuit of Excellence Program and breaking it down by what each officer or committee chairman was responsible for. It’s not just looking at the officer manual, but taking the Pursuit of Excellence Program and what it takes to be excellent in each criteria and determining who really has the responsibility to make sure that happens.

It’s amazing when you spread that out, it’s pretty much every officer, every chairman in the chapter that has a responsibility for bringing in the information and putting it into the submission.