Category Archives: Honor

Virtue is its Own Reward

Sword By Ben Nye (Arkansas)

It’s elegant language: “Let it be ‘Laus Virtutis Actio,’ which we interpret literally ‘the deed is valor’s praise’ and symbolically “virtue is its own reward.’”

I was undoubtedly struck by these words on first hearing them read from our beloved ritual. As is often the case in our ritual, the language is poetic, stirring, and enigmatic.

Along with references to the Christian Bible, poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Freemasonry, our ritual includes phraseology in Latin, Greek, and was written by countless brothers. Its language is taken from two millennia of ideas and includes the loftiest sentiments of Judeo-Christian and Greek stoic traditions. Sigma Nu’s ritual is challenging to understand and even harder to live up to.

Yet, as Sigma Nus, this is exactly what we are charged with: living virtuous lives worthy of Honor.

This is what brings us to the mysterious phrase about virtue.

So what exactly does “virtue is its own reward” mean?

Originally, I thought this phrase meant doing things that weren’t very fun and not expecting to get any reward for it. I equated virtue – doing the right thing – with always eating your vegetables. The thing is, we all really want dessert and the only reason we eat vegetables is to get dessert. In this equation, being virtuous was like eating vegetables without getting a dessert afterwards.

That’s what I used to think. Then I listened a little closer. Our ritual tells us that “virtue is its own reward.” Rather than comparing virtue to eating vegetables, a more appropriate analogy compares virtue to enjoying an exquisite steak. It takes most of us a while to cultivate a taste for steak; after all, most children don’t eat steak. They prefer macaroni and cheese, French fries, and candy; their flavor palates haven’t fully formed.

Reaping the rewards of virtue only come after cultivating our appetites for things we aren’t initially attracted to.

The child’s natural preference for junk food doesn’t mean, however, that he should perpetually eat food on the kid’s menu. How strange would it be to see a 40-year-old man order from the kid’s menu or get a Happy Meal?

Instead, the adult, as he matures, develops a refined sense of taste. Generic macaroni and cheese no longer sates his desire and he gains an appetite for finer food and drink. Like a perfectly cooked, tender steak. The Quest

The virtuous life is the same way. Reaping the rewards of virtue only come after cultivating our appetites for things we aren’t initially attracted to. Virtue is hard and requires a willingness to push through the natural desire to give up when the going is tough. Moreover, this can only come after one has realized that there is more to life than living for Friday and Saturday nights.

The rewards of virtue are found after getting your hands dirty at a Habitat for Humanity building site, planning and executing a successful philanthropy, acing a test that you spent many hours studying for, and choosing to do what is right rather than what is easy.

Striving for the rewards of virtue also leads to a subtle change in desires. Much like learning to appreciate fine foods, virtuous living gives a reward that is inaccessible to those who don’t attempt it. How can the man who has never dined in a fine steakhouse understand his friend who raves about it? Likewise, the one who never attempts the virtuous life can’t comprehend its higher rewards.

Teaching young men the virtuous life is exactly what Sigma Nu does. It teaches the fundamentals of virtue and encourages young men to continue until gaining its reward. Every LEAD session, properly run chapter meeting, or successful philanthropy event is an opportunity to grow in the pursuit of virtue and gain some of the rewards it promises.

All Sigma Nu brothers should join in the pursuit of virtue, trusting that its rewards outweigh the cost of pursuit. Like a child trying steak for the first time, believe that the taste is worth it.

Teaching young men the virtuous life is exactly what Sigma Nu does.

Chris Graham on Memorizing the Long Creed

Sigma Nu Leadership conference

Division Commander Chris Graham (Lamar/Stephen F. Austin) recites the Creed on stage at College of Chapters 2014.

 

Division Commander Chris Graham (Lamar/Stephen F. Austin) recited the “long Creed” of Sigma Nu at both College of Chapters and Grand Chapter in 2014. The staff of The Delta spoke with Brother Graham and asked him about the story of how he came to memorize the Creed and what it means to him.

After I was initiated, one of the first things I did – using the old merchandise form – I bought a copy of the long Creed, the short Creed, and a copy of A Serpent, A Rose and A Star. I framed the long Creed and hung it on my wall not long after I was initiated. The Creed was always something I was impressed with – the elegance and beauty of it.

Graham first saw the Creed recited in long-form at College of Chapters by then Division Commander Joe Cannon (North Texas). The experience was an inspiration to Graham who began to memorize the Creed while an undergraduate.

Fast forward a year or so before I graduated, I was living in the fraternity house between my sophomore and junior years. In the house we had the long Creed hanging on the wall in our room of honor. One evening I was there cleaning the room and I sat down and read the Creed. I realized that I had about a third of it memorized, without ever really trying to memorize it. Then I said, “I want to do this for me.” I never intended it for anyone other than myself.

Before I graduated college, I had the whole Love section memorized and I pretty much had the Honor section memorized. I would stumble with it but with those two sections I was close to having half of it.

After graduating, Graham set aside the Creed. During this time, Graham began his career and got married. Tragically, Graham’s young wife was stricken with cancer and she passed away not long after their marriage.

After she passed I sank into a depression or whatever you want to call it. You try to find a reason to get up every day. It wasn’t long after that I became Chapter Advisor at Lamar. I watched these young men reach out to me and engage me to be involved. I realized Sigma Nu was very important to me at that time because it was giving me something to live for. I don’t want to sound so morbid but it gave me a purpose beyond just getting up and going to work. It was just another extension and a reason to keep moving forward. And it truly reminded me of what was in our Creed, the concept of brotherly love, truly being there for others.

So I started reading the Creed again and really decided I wanted to finish memorizing it because it gave me such peace and solace. So within a few years I pretty much had it. I only recited it to myself as it was a personal thing, and I never saw myself being in a position to recite it for someone else until there was a death of one of our chapter’s charter members.

Graham was approached by the family of the deceased brother and they asked for some token of appreciation that could be provided during the service. Graham offered to recite the Creed at the wake which the family accepted. Additionally, the Funeral Ritual was performed just for the family prior to the burial service.

It was the first time I ever recited the Creed for anybody other than myself. As I was saying it, it was emotional because I knew who I was doing it for: the family, in honor of their father and husband who was such a great Sigma Nu and inspiration to me. I realized that I really did know it but I knew it because of what it meant to me.

After reciting the Creed at the funeral, Graham was approached by Zeta Psi (Lamar) to recite it at their formal. This started a series of recitations that included the charterings of chapters at Oklahoma, Stephen F. Austin, and Houston. Finally, Graham was approached by then Regent Charlie Eitel to recite the Creed at College of Chapters and Grand Chapter. At both conventions Graham recited the Creed before hundreds of Sigma Nu brothers.

People have asked me “Why?” and I always say that it was an inspiration to me and it still is today. There have been days where I have had the most rotten day and I’ll turn off my radio and just recite the Creed on the way home from work. It relaxes me; it reminds me of why I’m a Sigma Nu and the great things our fraternity stands for. I’m pleased that I have had the opportunity to share it with others and at College of Chapters and Grand Chapter.

To have so many students come up to me and tell me that I have inspired them reminds me of why I am a volunteer. I want to give back, I want to inspire those young men, just like I was inspired as a young man to be something more, to be better than just average. It was just one of those things that came into my life at the right time that I’ve been able to share. And it’s been an honor to be able to share, on whatever stage whether it be at a small chapter gathering or Grand Chapter. It was just something that I am honored that I have the ability to do and to share.

 

 

Dr. William S. Spears Pledges $1.5 Million for Leadership Training Facilities

June 2014 Nikon import 1183

Nearly 300 brothers of Epsilon Epsilon Chapter (Oklahoma State) stepped forward to match Dr. Spears’ $1.5M gift to build new leadership training facilities on the Headquarters property in Lexington.

Lexington, Va. – Sigma Nu Educational Foundation (SNEF) received a pledge of $1.5 million this week from Dr. William S. Spears (Oklahoma State) to build new leadership training facilities on the Sigma Nu Headquarters property. The Spears Family Epsilon Epsilon Center of Excellence will house classrooms, a climate-controlled archives room, and lodging for up to 75 for visiting chapters from around the country.

Dr.  Spears became inspired to make this gift after reflecting on the experiences he gained in his own chapter. “I feel indebted to Sigma Nu for the leadership capabilities I developed during my time with the chapter,” he said. “I believe my time with Epsilon Epsilon Chapter shaped me in ways that are still bearing fruit to this day.”

“The fraternity experience is important for our nation’s future,” he added.

In June of 2014, Dr. Spears challenged his fellow brothers of Epsilon Epsilon Chapter to match his gift of $1.5 million by November of this year. His Oklahoma State chapter brothers answered the call and raised the matching funds by the deadline. Nearly 300 brothers of Epsilon Epsilon Chapter stepped forward to contribute.

“It is our expectation that this challenge – this collaborative effort to support Sigma Nu – will be the spark that prompts brothers from other chapters to join what has become a growing coalition of alumni dedicated to making Sigma Nu the most formidable men’s fraternal organization in North America,” he said.

For Brother Bill, Sigma Nu was the bridge to adulthood. “It took me from the adolescent years to early manhood,” he says, “and the leadership skills I learned and developed through my fraternity experience have served me for more decades than I want to count.”

Dr. Spears also cited the important role his father and uncle played in encouraging him to join the Epsilon Epsilon Chapter at Oklahoma State. “They were exceptional role models for me,” he said. “This gift honors their memories and the Spears family overall.”

William Spears Portrait

Dr. William S. Spears: “The fraternity experience is important for our nation’s future.”

 

The founding principles of Sigma Nu are of particular importance to Brother Bill, as they align closely with the values his family taught him. “As the first Honor fraternity, Sigma Nu has a set of values that I embraced,” he continued. “They were the same values I was taught in my early years. So the gift honors both the fraternity and my family.”

Past Regent and SNEF chairman Joe Gilman (Morehead State/Georgia) is among the many longtime alumni volunteers to understand the significance of this pledged gift. “I want to extend my deepest gratitude to Brother Spears for his transformational gift supporting the ideal of ethical leadership,” said Gilman. “We are proud to have one of the most visited headquarters of all national fraternities,” Gilman continued. “This gift will enhance the experience of tens of thousands of collegiate and alumni brothers who will visit the Headquarters Shrine for decades to come.”

“In recent years we have witnessed a positive trend of local chapters forging stronger partnerships with the General Fraternity,” Gilman observed. This relationship with Lexington has long been a priority for Brother Bill and the Epsilon Epsilon Chapter, as illustrated by the chapter’s annual bus trip to visit VMI and the Headquarters Shrine. “Knowing the ties our chapter has to Lexington,” Brother Bill said, “the annual trip serves to ensure that Epsilon Epsilon is always tightly connected to its Sigma Nu roots.”

Neil Gilpin, longtime advisor for the Epsilon Epsilon chapter, was also quick to recognize the impact this investment will have on the fraternity’s budding leaders. “This will be a place where brothers will learn and develop the skills to become ethical leaders and embrace the ideals of Sigma Nu while at the birthplace of our great fraternity,” he said. Gilpin also reiterated Dr. Spears’ goal for this matching gift to spur other chapters to host similar fundraising competitions that support programs and scholarships coordinated through the Sigma Nu Educational Foundation.

“This kind of engagement simply confirms what I believe about the lasting positive influence that a fraternity provides,” Dr. Spears added. “Our members are truly part of a brotherhood: these gifts are tangible evidence that brotherhood lasts.”

DSC_1002

Alabama Governor Issues Proclamation Honoring Sigma Nu Fraternity

Jacksonville State University, where tonight a proclamation will be presented declaring January 1, 2015, as "Sigma Nu Day" in the state of Alabama. Photo by flickr user Jay Williams.

Jacksonville State University, where tonight a proclamation will be presented declaring January 1, 2015, as “Sigma Nu Day” in the state of Alabama. Photo by flickr user Jay Williams.

Jacksonville, Ala. – Alabama House Representative K.L. Brown will read a proclamation this evening recognizing the chapters of Sigma Nu Fraternity in the state of Alabama. The proclamation, signed by Governor Robert Bentley, will recognize the historic men’s fraternal organization as the only such group founded in direct opposition to hazing and rooted in the honor principle.

Earlier this year Governor Bentley signed the proclamation declaring January 1 as “Sigma Nu Day” in Alabama.

The proclamation will be presented during a ceremony at 7:00 p.m. CT this evening on the 11th floor of the Houston Cole Library on the Jacksonville State University campus.

Rep. Brown will be joined by national alumni leadership from Sigma Nu Fraternity, including Sigma Nu Educational Foundation (SNEF) board member Ralph Moore, past Sigma Nu Fraternity board member Austin Landry of Birmingham, and SNEF chairman Joe Gilman of Atlanta. Mr. Gilman is also a past national president of Sigma Nu Fraternity. Dr. William A Meehan, president of Jacksonville State University, is also expected to attend.

The story behind the proclamation is a testament to the strong student leadership that has come to define Sigma Nu Fraternity. Kenneth Smith, a political science major and member of the Sigma Nu chapter at Jacksonville State, originally proposed the idea to Rep. Brown. “I wanted to do something different to celebrate Sigma Nu and our Founders’ Day for 2015,” Kenneth said. “With everything going on in higher education right now I know elected officials and other public servants like to hear from younger college students.”

“This proclamation reaffirms the ideals Sigma Nu stands for at the campuses where we have chapters and in the communities where our alumni live,” Kenneth continued. “To some this might seem like merely words on a paper. But I’m glad I get to live out these high ideals and hold this brotherhood close to my heart.”

The signed proclamation, included below, will be framed and displayed at the Sigma Nu Fraternity national headquarters office in Lexington, Va.

Commendation 

By the Governor of Alabama 

WHEREAS, since its founding on January 1, 1869, at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, the Sigma Nu Fraternity has been a pioneer in the fraternal world; and

WHEREAS, Sigma Nu currently has 172 active chapter and colonies on college campuses throughout the United States and Canada. Sigma Nu has initiated more than 230,000 members since its founding; and

WHEREAS, active Sigma Nu chapters in Alabama are located at Jacksonville State University, University of Alabama, Auburn University, Samford University, The University of Alabama in Huntsville, Birmingham-Southern College and Huntingdon College; and

WHEREAS, originally founded and known to this day as The Legion of Honor, Sigma Nu is the only social fraternity in existence founded in firm opposition to hazing and based on the principal of honor; and

 WHEREAS, Sigma Nu is the first general college fraternity to offer risk reduction policies and a comprehensive membership education program, remaining committed to both their mission and vision for more than 140 years; and

WHEREAS, the mission of Sigma Nu is to develop ethical leaders inspired by the principles of love, honor and truth, to foster the personal growth of each man’s mind heart and character and to perpetuate lifelong friendships and commitment to the fraternity; and

WHEREAS, Sigma Nu’s organizational structures and internal operations provide for the effective deployment of resources to deliver an unmatched level of service to its constituents; and

 WHEREAS, Sigma Nu is continually increasing its membership and capabilities as it creates and capitalizes on new markets and opportunities that support the fraternity’s mission; and

 WHEREAS, Sigma Nu enhances the experience of its members and builds a sense of community in a way that generates a desire to invest time, talent and treasure in the development of both the organization and its future members which is recognized by all as a contribution to the greater good:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert Bentley, Governor of Alabama, do hereby commend the Sigma Nu Fraternity upon its 146th Anniversary on January 1, 2015. 

Given Under My Hand and the Great Seal of the Office of the Governor at the State Capitol in the City of Montgomery on the 20th day of November 2014.

JSU at the Rock

Brothers of Iota Lambda Chapter (Jacksonville State) during a visit to the Headquarters Shrine earlier this year.

 

Every Given Sunday

FOX NFL SUNDAY co-host Curt Menefee

By John Bauernfiend (Indiana)

The first thing you notice about Curt Menefee is his voice. It’s the same voice that’s hosted FOX NFL Sunday since 2006. It’s the voice that has called preseason NFL games, the voice that has called UFC fights. Yes, that voice.

The first time I heard the voice in person I was standing at the security desk in the lobby of the freshly painted FOX Sports 1 studio in Los Angeles, only a few minutes before our meeting to interview the iconic broadcaster.

As I stood, my back facing towards the entrance, Menefee walked in, talking of just having seen “Kobe in the parking lot.” For a moment, I had to focus to shake Mr. Menefee’s hand, which completely engulfed mine. Curt then says he’d meet us in the conference room in a few minutes. The three of us went, and though it turned out that Kobe Bryant was not in the parking garage (it was Cobi Jones, member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, still very cool), reality was not lost on us and where we were.

Menefee grew up in Atlanta, Ga., where he attended Henry McNeal Turner High School. He says he always knew he wanted to be in sports, specifically as a television producer. Menefee, as even he admits, says how he ended up at Coe College is odd.

“It’s one of those decisions you make when you’re seventeen years old that you look back and you go Why did I make that decision? I don’t know. It just kind of felt right.”

As he tells it, as a senior in high school, Menefee and the rest of his AP English classmates were permitted to miss class to meet with college recruiters. A representative from Coe College was there, his booth clearly not as popular as some of the others. Menefee felt bad for the guy, went up to him and struck up a conversation. Eventually he and Menefee exchanged information, and, soon enough, postcards and phone calls started reaching Menefee in Atlanta all the way from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“I knew I wanted to go to a small school away from home, and everything just kind of felt right,” Menefee says. “They had no journalism program, there was no speech department. I mean there was nothing.”

“It makes no logical sense.”

If you live your life with honor, you get opportunities that maybe you wouldn’t. People look at you and will respect you for that.

For two and a half years while he was in school, though, Menefee worked at a local television station. He says his hands-on experiences were more valuable to him than a prestigious journalism school would have been.

“I look back and I would not change a thing,” he says. “I think it helped me become who I am. I got opportunities there that I never would have gotten had I gone to Syracuse or Missouri or one of the big journalism schools.

“I was on air when I was nineteen years old, when I was a sophomore in college. I was reporting for the last two and a half years I was in school. That never would have happened anywhere else.”

StrahanBradshawMenefee

Menefee, right, on the Fox NFL Sunday set with Michael Strahan and Terry Bradshaw.

The first semester of freshman year, Menefee joined Sigma Nu, but it didn’t work out and he eventually depledged. Returning to school for his sophomore year, he once again rejoined Sigma Nu, and served as his candidate class’s president. “Like a lot of things in my life,” Menefee observes, “it worked out better than planned.” He also says that Sigma Nu helped establish a set of values that he still lives by.

“When you’re 18, 19 years old and you’re a young guy on a college campus, everyone’s having fun and you’re just living life. You tend to get wrapped up in a world with you and your friends and that’s it,” Menefee says. “When you go to fraternity meetings every Sunday, and when you see that crest and those words on a daily basis, it just kind of reinforces that there’s a certain way to live your life. I think Sigma Nu reinforced in me, at a young age, on a daily basis, of who I wanted to be and how I wanted to be perceived. If I ever wanted to achieve anything in my life, there are certain values you have to understand and adhere to.”

After Menefee graduated from Coe, the station where he had been working for two and a half years offered him a full-time job to work in the news department. But Menefee turned it down. Instead of sports, they wanted him to work in the news department. “I don’t want to have to knock on someone’s door and tell them that their kid passed away,” he remembers thinking.

Menefee kept working at the station as a freelancer. Then an opportunity came in Des Moines, Iowa, where Menefee worked as a sports reporter for a year.

Everywhere I’ve ever been, my whole goal has been to be the best guy in that market at the time. The rest of it takes care of itself.

Menefee then moved on to Madison, Wisc., and worked there for two years as a weekend sports anchor.

From there, he went to Sports News Network (SNN), a D.C. based company that was trying to become a 24/7 sports network. But the fledgling network soon went bankrupt and Menefee would spend the next eight months unemployed until a chance encounter with a man running for the U.S. Senate.

That person was Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin politician on his first campaign for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Menefee worked on the campaign for several months before leaving in July to accept a weekend sports anchor position in Jacksonville, Fla. (Feingold won the campaign and became a U.S. senator that November.)

Menefee remained in Jacksonville for a year before moving to work as the weekday sports anchor in Dallas.

After his three-year stint in Dallas, Menefee went to work for the FOX affiliate in New York City where he worked for seven years before leaving to work for the Knicks and Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Things were humming along for Menefee’s career. He worked hard wherever he was and took new opportunities as they came up. His career thus far would be considered a great success by any measure.

In 2006, FOX asked Menefee to be the host of FOX NFL Sunday, the network’s flagship NFL pregame show. “You give yourself more opportunities working hard at the place you are now,” Menefee says, reflecting on his career thus far. “Everywhere I’ve ever been, my whole goal has been to be the best guy in that market at the time. The rest of it takes care of itself.”

The first NFL game Menefee ever attended was an Atlanta Falcons preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The quarterback for the Steelers at the time was four-time Super Bowl champion Terry Bradshaw, who is now Menefee’s broadcast partner along with other NFL legends Jimmie Johnson, Howie Long and Michael Strahan.

MENEFEE10

In 2006, FOX asked Menefee to be the host of FOX NFL Sunday, the network’s flagship NFL pregame show.

The planning for FOX NFL Sunday begins each Thursday with a morning conference call between the on-screen subjects and the show producers. As Menefee explains, everyone but him is in L.A. during the week; Strahan is in New York, Johnson is in the Florida Keys, Long is in Charlottesville and Bradshaw is in Oklahoma. The call serves as a preliminary hearing, to map out what topics should be broached and what the crew is leaning towards discussing.

Menefee will usually write from about 8:00 to 11:00 on Saturday mornings to prepare for Sunday’s show. After that, he and the other cast members check in to a nearby hotel. They watch the college games while doing final preparations for their own show, breaking up around 5:00 p.m. From there, he goes to bed early, trying for eight, to wake up at the brisk hour of 4:30 Sunday morning.

Menefee and the others are in the FOX Sports studio by 5:30 a.m. They have a meeting at 7 a.m. that serves as a full dress rehearsal – suits, ties, make-up and all. Then they go live on air at 9 a.m. pacific time.

We ask Menefee if he gets nervous talking in front of 20+ million viewers (Fox NFL Sunday is the most-watched NFL pregame show). “I honestly don’t get nervous,” he says. “I can remember as a kid, my mom saying that I don’t get too high or too low on anything. I don’t think about how there are millions of people watching me. We’re just having a conversation and there happens to be cameras there. I’m fortunate.”

The show lasts for an hour, with the first set of NFL games beginning at 10 a.m. PT. Menefee narrates periodic highlights during gamebreaks throughout the day, as well as the halftime highlights. The show ends once the second set of games conclude, which is typically around 5 p.m. PT. “It’s basically a twelve hour day. We finish up with a little meeting then get out of here.”

In addition to his job hosting FOX NFL Sunday, Menefee also hosts FOX Football Daily, which airs Monday through Friday at 6 p.m. ET on the new Fox Sports 1 network.

RAY_9585

When FOX Sports launched its new network in August 2013, network president Eric Shanks asked Menefee if he wanted to deliver the network’s mission statement, which he gladly accepted.

“I was honored by it,” Menefee said. “There are hundreds of employees that they could have chosen, and they chose me. It meant a lot.

“FOX has been very good to me,” Menefee says. “As the saying goes, ‘how often do you get to go to work and do something you love?’ Between the NFL, soccer (Menefee has announced UEFA Champions League games before) and UFC, it’s rare that you have just as much fun at work as you do at home.”

In the offseason, when he’s not focused on football, Menefee likes to travel. He’s been to every continent and over eighty countries. He golfs, sometimes with his wife and sometimes with Bradshaw in Hawaii. He’s rung the NASDAQ opening bell in Times Square. Yes, Curt Menefee is a man who is enjoying life.

But Menefee has also found himself in the anchor’s chair during critical times in our history. In 2001 he was living less than a mile from the World Trade Center. Menefee remembers having to walk home the 60 blocks from work that night. Everything was quiet, he said, except every now and then you’d hear a siren and that was it.

“You wake up the next morning and ask yourself ‘was it a dream?’ September 11, because I was there and because I was so close to it, has a different connotation than just a date on the calendar, and I don’t think anybody takes it for granted.” (Curt’s reflections on living in Manhattan during the attacks were especially meaningful as we happened to be meeting on the 12th anniversary.)

“It goes back to realizing the power of this medium,” Menefee says, referring to the impact of journalism in this day and age. “People are watching and they understand, and if you’ve got a chance to connect people to an event that has happened, that’s what I am. I am the conduit for that, rather than just giving out statistics.”

Sigma Nu reinforced in me, at a young age, on a daily basis, of who I wanted to be and how I wanted to be perceived. If I ever wanted to achieve anything in my life, there are certain values you have to understand and adhere to.

“99.99 percent of the time, that’s all it is, nothing serious,” Menefee continued. “But when it is something serious, I think you have to remember they’re human beings we’re talking about. I think too often it’s easy to say, ‘my job is to just get facts.’ Your job is to make a human connection.”

But it’s more than that. Sure, the playful banter he shares on the set is fun, but for Menefee it all goes back to honor as your personal reputation. Through it all, through his time at Coe College to FOX Sports 1 to trips to Afghanistan to support American troops, Menefee has lived a life filled with honor.

“Love, honor, truth, I always go back to those three words,” Menefee says. “Love and truth are valuable, but honor is the key, because if you do everything in your life with honor, I think you tend to go the right way. This business that I’m in, if you do it right it’s supposed to be about honor and truth. But I also believe that if you live your life with honor, you get opportunities that maybe you wouldn’t. People look at you and will respect you for that.”

“It’s about you, it’s about your name, it’s about your reputation, it’s about your family name, and I think that is where it comes back to, that word ‘honor.’ Honor is the key to everything I’ve ever done in my whole life.”

All photos courtesy of Fox Sports.

My Fraternity Tattoo

Photo by Flickr user deano

Photo by Flickr user deano

By Steven Harowitz (Central Florida)

I broke a well-known rule of life: Don’t get a tattoo on spring break in Panama City when you’re 18.

I placed the Fraternity letters on my right shoulder one sunny day with some of my brothers circled around me. It wasn’t planned and definitely not thought out, but in the moment I felt like it meant enough to me to have the letters placed publicly on my body.

Fast-forward a few months. I’m visiting friends in a sleeveless T-shirt (which warrants an entirely different discussion) when one remarks about my “frat tat.”  It was the first of many less-then-enjoyable conversations over the next few years with one central theme:

“Why would you get that on your body… forever?”

It seems that most individuals, even those involved in Greek life, did not feel this permanent choice was wise. As if being a fraternity member was only acceptable as long as I wore my letters in a non-permanent way.

I’m willing to admit this only now with a few years of reflection: I bought into the shaming. I believed the friends and acquaintances who took my choice away from me.

Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten that tattoo. Maybe I should always have it covered so people don’t judge. Maybe I shouldn’t have placed something on my body that wouldn’t identify me as a “frat boy” the rest of my life.

For the majority of the last five years I refused to show my tattoo to people.  I would make up an excuse, or say it wasn’t done, or just downright say no. I was afraid I would be labeled, yet again, as a dumb “frat boy” who made a bad choice one spring break. My arms, and fraternal pride, went into hiding.

I placed the letters on my body because I wanted a reminder to myself, and to those who see it, that I strive to live a life based on a set of values.

I helped facilitate an Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute last summer during which I asked a participant to redefine the term “frat hard.” It was written in his Twitter profile and when I pointed it out he apologized and then deleted it.  I pushed back, telling him not to run from the term, but to tell people what “fraternity-ing hard” actually meant: living by your values, caring for your brothers and the greater community, leading a life of integrity.  A renewed sense of pride rushed over me until I remembered my own refusal to own my fraternal roots. I let those around me take the symbolism of my tattoo and skew it into a generalized, stereotyped version of fraternity.  I didn’t have Greek letters (and in correlation, my values) placed on to this once-in-forever body for others; I placed the letters on my body because I wanted a reminder to myself, and to those who see it, that I strive to live a life based on a set of values.

How dare they see this symbol and think it’s a mistake. Those values are tattooed to my heart, mind, and soul; what’s a shoulder in comparison? Even as I write this article at a crowded coffee shop I get antsy thinking the woman next to me saw the title of my article and upon reading “My Fraternity Tattoo” decided I was just another frat boy. It’s an ongoing struggle.

I strive to live a different life. I refuse to let Greek members who live incongruently with their values ruin an experience that helped thousands become leaders in their communities.

I refuse to let people take an experience that has shaped me into the person I am today and decide that it must be the same as that of all others.

I refuse to let others turn my tattoo into a symbol of raging parties that upset entire neighborhoods. I refuse to let my tattoo stand for disrespecting other’s identities. I refuse to let my tattoo stand for hosting theme parties that disparage a community. I refuse to let my tattoo stand for hazing new members because of a skewed perspective of what building brotherhood means.

My tattoo stands for actual community service, where brothers spend their time directly helping others, not planning a philanthropy that just swaps money between organizations. My tattoo stands for not being a bystander if I see someone acting dishonorably. My tattoo stands for supporting my brothers in all their endeavors, not just by liking a Facebook status, but actually showing up at their athletic events or at their bedside when sick.

My tattoo stands for refusing to let Greek professionals be harassed because they held a Greek community accountable for the community’s actions or inactions.

I now wear sleeveless shirts – not because it’s hot outside or because I feel like I have muscles to show off (which believe me, I do not) but rather because I invite the discussion.

“Yeah, I do have a tattoo.  I’ve had it for a few years.”

“Yep, those are Greek Letters. I am a member of a Fraternity”

“No, I did not get hazed.”

“No, I didn’t pay for my friends.”

“Do you have a few minutes, I would love to tell you what a true Greek experience looks like.”

My tattoo stands for opportunity to educate others on what Greek membership really stands for.  My tattoo stands for Love, Honor, and Truth. My tattoo stands for the pride I carry from being a Sigma Nu and a fraternity man. Want to talk about it?

Steven Harowitz is an initiate of the Mu Psi Chapter at Central Florida and the Coordinator of Student Involvement and Leadership at Washington University in St. Louis.

Wells Ellenberg 2014 College of Chapters Keynote Address

Sigma Nu Leadership conference

I can’t believe it’s been two years since I was standing in your shoes as the newly elected Commander of my chapter. At the time, I thought I had all the answers.  In retrospect, I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.

As you will soon discover, this year is going to be one of the most difficult and challenging of your lives. The responsibility is great; the liability, even more so.

But when the stakes are high, so too are the rewards. Tonight, I want to share some advice and perspective that will hopefully help you make the most of your term as Commander.

I want to begin by asking three simple questions. Your answer to each of these questions will be a good indicator as to how successful your term will be.

First:  Are you in this for the right reasons?

There are two types of leaders in this world: those who seek to add value to every endeavor, and those who seek to extract it.

As Commander, you should be focused on creating value for your organization by leveraging your strengths and the strengths of your members to solve problems.

If you are in this for yourself, for a line on your resume or a letter of recommendation, you will almost certainly fail.  How can you govern each act by a high sense of honor if your decision to run for office was based on dishonorable motives?  You will lose the respect of your members and ultimately yourself.

Second:  Will you be an ethical leader?

Much of your curriculum these past few days has focused on the concept of ethical leadership.  In my opinion, ethical leaders are those who lead with vision and courage.  They have a vision of a better future for their organization and are willing to make the courageous decisions along the way to turn that vision into reality.

I cannot think of a more appropriate venue that the Virginia Military Institute to share this message with you.  One of the Institute’s Latin mottoes, when translated, reads: “By vision and courage.”

Ethical leadership often involves saying “no,” and choosing the harder right over the easier wrong.  This is no easy task.  But make no mistake – your members elected you to lead; to make the difficult decisions they themselves are not willing to make.

Third:  Will you leave a lasting legacy?

Twelve months from now, at the end of your term, will your members be willing and able to fill the void you leave behind?

I am not suggesting you handpick a successor; quite the contrary. Identify those individuals who are capable of following in your footsteps. Give them opportunities to prove themselves, and provide them with support and guidance along the way. Then, let them compete for the hearts and minds of their would-be constituents. Let them prove they have the vision and courage to take your place.

One of your most important responsibilities as Commander will be to cultivate a sense of ownership amongst your members.  You may be their leader, but this is their chapter, and they are stakeholders in both its successes and its failures.

Remember:  Your obligation to excellence, at its heart, is an obligation to others.

Having considered these three questions, and their implications, you may feel a little overwhelmed or apprehensive.  Allow me to offer some words of comfort: you are not in this alone.

College of Chapters has provided you with a roadmap for success; a guidebook for achieving excellence. And, as you have seen over the past few days, the Fraternity offers a wealth of resources to help you along the way (if, of course, you choose to take advantage of them).

You will undoubtedly face adversity. And you will undoubtedly make mistakes. I did. But if you commit yourselves to leading with vision and courage, your alumni and this Fraternity will stand beside you every step of the way.

But you, and only you can make this commitment, and the time to make it is now.

Last year, your predecessors were asked to make this same commitment. Some of them chose to lead with vision and courage; others chose to maintain the status quo; to accept mediocrity; to shirk their obligation to excellence.

In particular, two Commanders from last year come to mind: one from North Carolina, the other from Ohio. Each had inherited a once-strong chapter facing serious operational deficiencies.  Each left College of Chapters with a vision, and a framework for achieving that vision, knowing that the survival of his chapter was on the line. But only one had the courage to govern his chapter with the high ideals and noble purposes of this fraternity – Love, Honor, and Truth.  The other saw his chapter’s charter suspended and its doors closed, on his watch.

Tonight, though he is not in attendance, please join me in thanking Brother Josh Cherok from the Zeta Gamma Chapter at Kent State University for his hard work and dedication to excellence.

Sigma Nu Leadership conference

The question remains:  Will you follow Brother Cherok’s example and lead your chapter with vision and courage?

I want to share with you three pieces of advice that served me well during my term as Commander.

First:  Be kind.

Kindness inspires results. People enjoy working for those they enjoy working with. Whenever possible, let your members know that you respect them and appreciate their contributions. No matter how hard you try, you simply cannot run a successful chapter on your own.

In their book Remarkable!, Randy Ross and David Salyers draw an important distinction between leadership and power. Leadership is about influencing others.  Power is about dominating them.  And nothing of enduring, positive value ever happens by force.

Second:  Be humble.

The position of Commander is a thankless one. Your best will never be good enough. Your achievements will be minimized and your mistakes blown out of proportion.  But, at the end of the day, if you can look back on your term confident that you left everything on the field, you can hold your head high and be proud that you did your level best.  What more could anyone ask?

In times of trial, I often look to a passage entitled “The Penalty of Leadership.” The passage comes from a 1915 Cadillac advertisement in the Saturday Evening Post. Cadillac had just introduced the first mass-produced V8 engine automobiles. The company’s competitors said they were destined to fail.  Cadillac responded:

“If the leader truly leads, he remains – the leader.  Master poet, master painter, master workman; each in his turn is assailed, and each holds his laurels through the ages. That which is good or great makes itself known, no matter how loud the clamor of denial. That which deserves to live – lives.”

Third:  Have fun.

Your experience as Commander will serve you well in the real world. And though you have taken on some real world responsibility in this new role, you are not in the real world just yet. Take advantage of every opportunity to enjoy yourselves and spend time with your friends. You will look back on college as four of the best (but also four of the shortest) years of your lives.

Take a moment and look at the person seated to your left and to your right.  Collectively, we are a diverse group of individuals representing a diverse group of chapters.  For example:

Garrett Oberst from the Epsilon Mu Chapter represents 103 members.  Tony Lee from Eta Omicron represents 49.

Jon Paul is the Delta Gamma Chapter’s 106th Commander.  Brendan Hall is Mu Psi’s 9th.

Glenn Walls leads the Iota Delta Chapter from Harrisonburg, Virginia.  Cody Wagner leads Delta Iota from Pullman, Washington.

And yet, despite these differences, each of these chapters is on pace to achieve Rock Chapter status.

The metrics we use to judge success from one campus to another vary.  But ethical leadership is the constant; vision and courage will always be the keys to success.

I want to leave you with the words of General George Patton, best known for his command of the Seventh and later the Third United States Army in the European Theater of World War II.  Patton, an alumnus of the Virginia Military Institute, is remembered for his fierce determination, capable leadership, and ability to inspire men on the battlefield.  He said, “Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way.”

Gentlemen – I hope you choose to lead; to lead with vision and courage; to meet and exceed your obligation to excellence. Your chapter needs you. This Fraternity needs you. And this country needs you, desperately.

I am honored to call each of you “Brother.” Good luck, God’s speed, and remember: there is no honor in mediocrity.  Honor can only be obtained through excellence.

Wells Ellenberg (Georgia) is a past Collegiate Grand Councilman and the 2012 Sigma Nu Man of the Year.