Category Archives: integrity

14 Sorority Women the U.S. Treasury Should Consider for the New $10 Bill

Photo by flickr user armydre2008.

Photo by flickr user armydre2008.

The Treasury Department announced this week plans to include a woman on the $10 bill as part of a planned redesign that will enter circulation after 2020. The announcement coincides with the Women on 20s campaign that’s been lobbying to put a woman’s face on U.S. paper currency. The Women on 20s campaign has gained momentum in recent months, though the Treasury Department says the timing of their announcement is merely coincidence.

Officials have yet to name which historical figure will replace or appear alongside Alexander Hamilton on the $10 note. Since the Treasury Department invited citizens to submit names for consideration, we decided to assemble the following list of remarkable sorority women whose courage and resolve blazed trails for others and left our country better than they found it. We invite all readers to suggest names of qualified candidates we may have missed. Here they are, in alphabetical order by last name.

Sadie T. M. Alexander, Ph.D (Delta Sigma Theta) was the nation’s first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in economics and later become a founder of the National Bar Association. In 1945 she was appointed to Commission on Civil Rights by President Truman. Alexander was also the first national president of Delta Sigma Theta.

Brigadier General Margaret A. Brewer (Zeta Tau Alpha) was the first woman general of the United States Marine Corps and served a distinguished career in executive positions at Camp Pendleton, Camp Lejune, and Quantico Marine Base, among others.

Brigadier General Hazel Johnson Brown, Ph.D. (Delta Sigma Theta) was the first African-American woman general in the United States Army.

Carrie Chapman Catt (Pi Beta Phi) was influential in passing the 19th Amendment and founded the National League of Women Voters.

Georgia Neese Clark (Alpha Phi) was the first woman Treasurer of the United States. Her signature appeared on all U.S. currency during her tenure. Clark also served as national president for Alpha Phi.

Marjorie Mehne Culmer (Kappa Delta) was elected national president of the Girl Scouts of the USA in 1957. As the former president of an organization that values civics, democracy, and leadership, Culmer undoubtedly meets the criteria for the currency note candidates.

Anna Elizabeth Dickinson (Kappa Alpha Theta) was an advocate for the abolition of slavery and staunch supporter of women’s suffrage. She played a prominent role in coordinating political campaigns in Union states in the months leading up to the Civil War. Dickinson was also the first woman to speak before the United States Congress.

Lou Henry Hoover (Kappa Kappa Gamma) advocated for volunteerism in her weekly radio broadcasts as First Lady. She served as national president of the Girls Scouts of America before and after her term as First Lady.

Jane Yelvington McCallum (Alpha Delta Pi) was a former Texas Secretary of State and served as publicity chairperson during the suffrage movement. She later served as chairperson of the Texas state ratification committee for the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and authored the Texas chapter of the National History of Women’s Suffrage. 

Francine Irving Neff (Alpha Delta Pi) served as the 35th U.S. Treasurer under President Nixon and later under President Ford. Following her service with the federal government Neff became the first woman appointed to Hershey’s Food Corp. Board of Directors.

Rosa Parks (Alpha Kappa Alpha) is widely regarded as “the mother of the freedom movement” for her role in the Civil Rights Movement. Parks received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and she was the first woman to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Building. As one of our nation’s most iconic and influential figures, Parks is an obvious candidate for this recognition.

Ivy Baker Priest (Delta Zeta) served as United States Treasurer with the Eisenhower administration from 1953-1961. During this time her signature appeared on all U.S. currency, making her a natural candidate to appear on the new $10 bill. She was once said to have quipped, “We women don’t care too much about getting our pictures on money as long as we can get our hands on it.”

Eleanor Roosevelt (Alpha Kappa Alpha) was a champion for women’s rights throughout her life and later become known as a steadfast advocate for human rights in general, which earned her the name “First Lady of the World.” As the U.S. delegate to the United Nations, she lobbied to pass the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For her unwavering support of these important causes, Roosevelt was voted one of the finalists in the Women on 20s campaign that seeks to replace Andrew Jackson with a woman’s face on the $20 bill.

Frances E. Willard (Alpha Phi) was a women’s suffragist whose influence was instrumental in the passing the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Willard also served as Alpha Phi’s national president.

Who did we miss? Leave a comment below or email news@sigmanu.org so we can make sure our list includes all qualified candidates.

 

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

Illuminating a Path

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By Merritt Onsa

Photos courtesy of TJ Martin/The Weinstein Company

Brother Bill Courtney (Mississippi) just wanted to coach football again. But when his life intersected with the players on one of the worst high school teams in the State of Tennessee, he not only helped the team turn things around on the field, he showed them where true character and manhood come from.

“Football doesn’t build character. Football reveals character.” It’s a common refrain for Bill Courtney (Mississippi). And he should know, since he’s spent most of his life playing or coaching the game.

“In a lot of ways, football is a microcosm of life. There’s pain, triumph and loss. You have to work with other people and listen to someone else’s instruction. You have to learn the difference between hurt and injured. And when you get hurt, it sucks, but you still have to keep going. Those are all the same things that happen in everyday life, and how you respond does, in fact, reveal your preparation to deal with those things,” he says.
Ever since Undefeated — the documentary featuring Courtney and his role in turning around the Manassas High School football team in Memphis — won the 2012 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, Courtney has been invited all over the country for speaking engagements. He talks about leadership — as in, leading yourself and leading others — which is something he learned not only through football but also in Sigma Nu.

He regularly recalls what he first heard as a candidate: To believe in the Life of Love, to walk in the Way of Honor, to serve in the Light of Truth. “I remember thinking, ‘That’s an amazing creed; that’s something worth thinking about and implementing in your life. If you could just take that creed and walk the rest of your life doing those three things, by and large, you’d be successful.’ Those words have always meant something to me,” says Courtney.

As he coached the Manassas Tigers from 2003 to 2009, Courtney closed every team prayer with this challenge from the Sigma Nu Creed. It made no difference that the players didn’t know where those words originated; they still provide the guidance a young man needs in deciding how to live his life.

Before He Was “Coach”

For as long as he can remember, Courtney played sports, especially football. Raised in a single-parent home — Courtney’s dad left when he was just four years old — the only male role models he had were his coaches and teachers.

He lettered in six sports and played competitive chess in high school. He describes himself as “a fair athlete but pretty bright.” At the time, that didn’t necessarily seem like a good thing to Courtney. But one of his mentors, the chess coach and math teacher, had also played football in high school; he showed Courtney that being smart wasn’t necessarily weak. Courtney joined the chess team his freshman year, and four years later they won third place in the national tournament. “I learned a lot of valuable stuff from him. It was guys like him and my other coaches who formed my thinking as an adolescent,” he says.

Courtney was recruited out of high school to play football at several smaller colleges; but Ole Miss offered an academic scholarship. He accepted and planned to walk-on the football team, but six days before tryouts he separated his shoulder. And, as it turns out, once he saw the skill level of the guys on the team he knew he wasn’t good enough to play with them. “I just wasn’t that caliber of an athlete,” he says.

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When Courtney graduated with a degree in psychology and English, he decided to be a teacher and continue coaching. By the age of 22, he was a head varsity football coach, the youngest in the state of Tennessee.

So he got involved in other things during college; he wrote for the student paper and joined Sigma Nu, where he served as Lieutenant Commander in 1989. “What I remember most about Sigma Nu is living in the house and the relationships, fun and the understanding of people that I developed there,” says Courtney. He also played a key role in launching Epsilon Xi’s renowned Charity Bowl, which has raised more than $1.2 million since its inception. (See the sidebar about the history of the Charity Bowl.)

During his junior and senior years of college, Courtney coached soccer at Oxford High School and soccer, baseball, swimming, track and basketball at a private school, Oxford University School. When he graduated with a degree in psychology and English, he decided to be a teacher and continue coaching. By the age of 22, he was a head varsity football coach, the youngest in the state of Tennessee.

Once he got married, Courtney couldn’t afford to keep teaching and coaching. In 2001, he started a lumber business out of his living room. Classic American Hardwoods, Inc. sells lumber to companies that manufacture flooring, cabinetry, trim and furniture. His company, now with 120 employees and offices all over the world, is headquartered just blocks from Manassas High School near some of Memphis’ most underprivileged neighborhoods.

Building a Promising Football Program

It was two years later when an employee and fraternity brother Jim Tipton (Mississippi) had been volunteering at Manassas and asked Courtney if he was ready to get back into coaching. Tipton said there were 17 kids on the football team, some of whom looked promising; but in the last three years, they’d won only a single game. Courtney saw it as a challenge. “I didn’t go there to save anyone,” he says. “I went there to coach football. But it didn’t take long to realize the inherent dysfunction of those kids’ lives. That’s what turned ‘I’ll try it for a year’ into a six-year exercise.”

In his first year at Manassas, the Tigers won four games and went to the playoffs. Every year after that, the more success they had the more the program grew in terms of team members and local volunteers. And, at the same time, Coach Courtney fell in love with the perseverance of these kids who’d faced more than their share of hard knocks primarily because of where they’d been born.

According to Courtney, an 18-year-old male from the neighborhoods around Manassas is three times more likely to be incarcerated than go to college by the time he’s 22 years old. Most of the kids he coached didn’t have a father at home; many had at least one relative in prison. They were hungry to learn about life and how to be a man. Courtney understood those desires; he’d faced them growing up without his father.

“I was able to say to them, ‘I know where you are. I came from where you are. I may be a white guy with a business and all that, but I really do understand what’s hurting you and what’s driving you. I was there; and if I can do it, you can do it,’” he says.

But he also knew from experience that “doing it” wasn’t something that happened in a vacuum. “The Lord put some unbelievable men in my life in the form of coaches. I don’t think I would be a third of what I am today if it weren’t for the men I played ball for, and that goes all the way back to elementary and junior high school,” he says.

Remembering that, Courtney knew he had an opportunity to reach these kids through something they cared about — football. Aligned with his mantra that “football doesn’t build character” he set out to help them figure out what does.

Committed to Character

What builds character? For Courtney, it’s living out those words he learned as a candidate. “It’s a commitment to integrity, hard work, honor and keeping your word. All of that comes straight out of the Sigma Nu Creed. The guy who wrote that meant it. The whole idea is to think about those words and make them a part of who you are. That’s where you build character. So when life hits you in the mouth, what you’ve built is revealed in how you handle those circumstances. The game doesn’t build character, but it will certainly reveal it.”

Day after day of hard work on the field and encouraging his players to keep their focus in the classroom, Courtney and his fellow coaches modeled what it means to be men of character. After reading Tony Dungy’s book Uncommon, Tipton introduced “The Uncommon Man Award” to help team members recognize the importance of doing well on and off the field. Every week, during their devotional time with the team, Tipton read a chapter from the book. The player who most illustrated what it means to be “uncommon” over the last week received the award before the pre-game meal.

Building a team of uncommon men wasn’t going to happen overnight; and it certainly wasn’t going to happen without help. Over time, at least 200 other volunteers served at Manassas in one way or another. Courtney eventually gathered a full staff of volunteer coaches; and members of local churches cooked pre-game meals, sent mentors to campus and hosted football camps for the team. “Every day it seemed someone new was asking how they could help at Manassas. Over the course of six years, with so many volunteers surrounding the team, it became a program,” he says.

And that program was attracting some attention. In Courtney’s sixth year, documentary filmmakers T.J. Martin and Dan Lindsay had heard about O.C. Brown, a promising lineman at Manassas; they wanted to create a 30-minute film about him. But once they saw the bigger rising-from-the-ashes story of the Manassas Tigers, they decided to temporarily relocate to Memphis to film the whole story. What resulted was an inspiring documentary that is well-illustrated by its title: Undefeated.

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Most of the kids Courtney coached didn’t have a father at home; many had at least one relative in prison. They were hungry to learn about life and how to be a man. Courtney understood those desires; he’d faced them growing up without his father.

Not Just about Football

The film, however, isn’t just about a once-failing football team’s rise to success. Courtney would be the first to tell you there were far more lows than there were highs in those six years. Four of his players were shot and killed in the course of his time at Manassas. This was about far more than the game of football.

In his words, “Undefeated has nothing to do with what happens on the field. It’s about being undefeated by your circumstances, and this group of people was not going to be defeated by their circumstances.”

And, it seems, the “people” he’s referring to aren’t just the kids on the team. “This is about two very diverse groups of people from very different socio-economic walks of life who put aside their preconceived notions and social inhibitions and just came together to work for a common goal. That’s the beauty of it.”

But just like football, it was a combination of pain and triumph. Every bit of those six years with the team was excruciating as Courtney worked and coached 16 hours a day before coming home to spend a few moments with his family. But he says it was all worth it.

“The rewards were immeasurable as more kids came to the program, as they started to win on the field and as they started to change the way they were approaching their lives. In our last two years, we graduated 36 seniors, and 35 went to college. When you see change happening in kids’ lives, you’re absolutely drawn to it. That’s the satisfaction you get by giving of yourself,” he says.

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“What builds character? It’s a commitment to integrity, hard work, honor and keeping your word. All of that comes straight out of the Sigma Nu Creed. The guy who wrote that meant it. The whole idea is to think about those words and make them a part of who you are.”

In those years Courtney changed, too. “Ten years ago I would have told you, if you don’t succeed in this country it’s your own fault. I’m here to tell you today, that’s just not true,” he says. “That sounds right, and it should be right. But the truth is, even in a country with all the opportunity in the world, until that opportunity is explained and that path is illuminated, you can’t expect a kid to just find it.”

To continue to help illuminate that path, Courtney and Tipton created The ManRise Foundation — a mentoring program for young men in Memphis schools. Mentors encourage morality, good character and responsibility through biblical principles and personal encouragement. Now that Courtney is no longer coaching at Manassas, several local churches continue to carry the torch and invest in the lives of the young people in Memphis through the foundation.

In 2003, he just wanted to coach football. A decade later, Courtney has a platform to spread the word about what it takes to impact the life of another human being. “All the money in the world is never going to fix this problem [of poverty]. This is a very human problem. The only thing that fixes it is in-your-face compassion, mentoring, real-life love and teaching about the healthy ways to live life. These kids are lost. But you light that human spirit with a little bit of hope and a little bit of guidance; and it’s amazing what can happen.”

And all it takes — is character.

Undefeated is currently available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Netflix streaming.

Pat Riley’s Legacy of Leadership

By John Bauernfeind (Indiana)

Pat Riley (Kentucky) and the Miami Heat begin their search for another NBA title tonight as they face the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Pat Riley is a man of his craft. He has won NBA championships as a player, coach and, most recently, as Miami Heat team president, a post he’s held since leaving the head coaching position in 2008. Championships define success in sports, and multiple championships mean greatness. His basketball legacy is unmatched, and he isn’t stopping anytime soon.

Riley’s basketball career began in Schenectady, NY, where he grew up the youngest of six children. A star on his school’s varsity basketball team, Riley chose to play college ball at the University of Kentucky after legendary head coach Adolph Rupp personally recruited him.

Kentucky was where Riley’s basketball persona began to take shape. He became a star at the University of Kentucky, earning SEC Player of the Year his junior year. It was also at UK where Riley joined the Gamma Iota Chapter of Sigma Nu.

“Rupp’s personality rubbed off on Pat,” said Brad Bounds, who played with Riley at Kentucky from 1964-1967. “Riley is the best competitor I ever played against.”

Riley’s first interaction with a championship game came his junior year when he led the 27-1 Wildcats against Texas Western with the 1966 NCAA Championship on the line. Bounds said that he and his teammates overlooked them, even though Texas Western had only one loss coming into the game. Louie Dampier, Kentucky’s starting point guard, who was All-SEC and an AP All-American that year, had the ball stolen from him three times in a row by Texas Western’s point guard, Bobby Joe Hill. “That’s when we knew we couldn’t take these guys lightly,” Bounds said. The story of the Kentucky vs. Texas Western game was made into a movie, Glory Road, as they beat Riley and the Wildcats, 72-65.

Bounds described Riley as “one tough hombre.” A very competitive person, he said that those traits have served Riley well in his successes in the NBA. In a recent phone interview, Bounds, who currently resides in Frankfurt, Ill., told the story of LeBron James’ free agent courtship by Pat Riley. Bounds said that his friends, who were Bulls fans, were excited at the prospect of signing one of the best players in the NBA to their favorite team. Bounds tried to quell their excitement, however, telling them to look out for Riley, who he predicted would successfully bring LeBron to Miami. Needless to say, James did not end up in Chicago thanks in large part to Riley’s role as team president.

After Kentucky, Riley was drafted by the San Diego Rockets in the first round of the NBA draft. He played limited minutes before bouncing around to the Portland Trail Blazers, and then signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, where he found himself teammates with the likes of Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain. Riley played sparingly, coming off of the bench for just nine minutes a game during his first year with the club.  Riley became known for his tireless work ethic, to the point where West would occasionally have to coach Riley in harnessing his intensity during practices.

In 1972, Riley and the Lakers embarked on a 33-game winning streak, an NBA record (coincidentally, Riley’s Heat team this year challenged the streak, tallying 27 wins in a row). Riley came off the bench that season, quickly becoming head coach Bill Sharman’s go to sixth man. That team in 1972 went on to win 69 games and defeated the New York Knicks for the NBA title. The 1972 Lakers are widely considered to be one of the best teams of all time.

Riley played three more seasons for the Lakers, a total of five, before being traded to the Phoenix Suns three games into his fourth season. Riley would play only one season with the Suns, retiring in 1976.

In 1977, Riley, longing for a return to the game, found himself hired as a radio play-by-play man for the Lakers. Riley called games for two years, until during the 1979-1980 season a twist of fate changed Riley’s second act in basketball. Then Lakers head coach Jack McKinney was injured riding a bike to play tennis with Paul Westhead, a Lakers assistant coach. McKinney crashed and, upon being found unconscious, was rushed to the hospital. McKinney’s vitals were fine, but doctors kept him in the hospital. The Lakers, now without a head coach, needed one in a hurry. They promoted Westhead who, after six games, was allowed to continue coaching throughout the season. Westhead had one demand, however: that Riley serve as his assistant coach.

In Riley’s first year as a Lakers assistant coach, the team won the NBA title. Led by veteran Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and rookie Magic Johnson, the Lakers defeated the 76ers on their home court, with Johnson recording a near triple-double in game six in place of injured star Abdul-Jabbar.

The 1981 season was a disappointment as the Lakers managed to win 54 games but would stumble in the playoffs as they watched the rival Boston Celtics defeat the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals.

The 1982 season began similarly to how the previous season had ended and after eleven games, Paul Westhead was fired as head coach of the Lakers. The Lakers wanted Jerry West to be head coach. West wanted Riley to be coach, and an awkward compromise formed: the Lakers had asked West to be the team’s offensive coach, whereas Riley would assist on defense. West thought he’d be merely helping Riley out. Riley didn’t know what to think.

In the end, everything worked out. Sporting the Western Conference’s best record midway through the season, Riley was coach of the West for the All-Star game. His Lakers team earned the number one seed in the playoffs, and cruised to the Finals where, once again, they defeated the 76ers in six games. In his first year as a head coach, Pat Riley had himself a championship ring.

Riley would win three more championships with the Lakers, in 1985, 1987 and 1988. After winning his first title in 1982, Riley’s Lakers lost in the Finals the next two seasons, to the 76ers in a sweep and to their archrival, the Boston Celtics, in seven games. The next season, the Lakers defeated the Celtics 4-2 for the championship. In 1987, after missing the Finals the previous season, the Lakers again defeated the Celtics in six games for another title. In the locker room after their victory, Riley guaranteed a repeat next year, and issued his statements once more to the city of Los Angeles in the Lakers’ championship parade. Riley delivered on his promise, as the Lakers beat the Detroit Pistons in seven games in 1988. The next season, the Lakers were swept by the Pistons in the Finals. The year after, Riley’s team failed to reach the Finals and he resigned from the team. Ironically, 1990 was the first year Riley had been named Coach of the Year.

Riley then went on to coach the New York Knicks, leading the team to the 1994 NBA Finals where they lost in seven games. Riley spent another year with the club before moving on to be the head coach of the Miami Heat, where he has served in various roles ever since.

Riley is often pictured in telecasts of Heat playoff games, usually sitting behind the Heat bench, but not too close to the players. Riley is stoic; rarely do you find him offering the slightest emotion on his face.

Riley coached the Heat from 1995 to 2003. Before the start of the 2003-2004 season, Riley stepped down as head coach and took over as the team’s general manager. Under Riley, the team drafted Dwayne Wade in 2003, and saw him turn into one of the league’s most dominant players. At the start of the 2005 season, head coach Stan Van Gundy resigned from his duties, and Riley assumed the head coach position once again. Riley took the Heat to the NBA Finals, where the Heat defeated the Dallas Mavericks in six games.

After last year’s championship, Riley had amassed eight NBA Titles; one as a player, five as a coach (one as an assistant coach), and one as an executive. Now, as acting President of the Heat, Riley is in search of a ninth championship ring.

In every level of his NBA tenure – tireless player, hard driving coach and esteemed executive – Riley has inspired excellence among his fellow coaches, players and teammates. Pat Riley has found ways to get buy-in from all players with his uniquely positive approach to leadership. If LeBron James is the face of the Heat franchise, then Riley is its protector behind closed doors.

After being named Coach of the Year three times, Riley was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008. In 2012 he was honored with the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award, presented each year by the National Basketball Coaches Association to the coach who best exemplifies integrity, competitive excellence and relentless promotion of professional basketball. Riley is also the only person in American sports to have won a championship as a player, coach and executive. That makes for an outstanding career and legacy, one that won’t be forgotten by the basketball world or Riley’s Sigma Nu Brothers.

Forget hugs, I need a handshake

By Associate Director of Leadership Development Alex Combs

The handshake.  It’s pretty remarkable how a simple gesture can convey such a powerful message.  Indeed, a true testament to the importance of non-verbal communication.  We use the handshake to greet, say farewell, congratulate, even size-up our fellow man.  But do we use it enough in our work together?  I was struck by this thought while reading an article in Harvard Business Review exploring that very concept.

Today’s business world is teeming with contracts.  Unsurprisingly, the same applies to Greek life, as well.  We are infatuated with laying out every expectation and rule for our undergraduates and creating contingency plans for the unexpected, down to every foreseeable detail.  Amidst terms & conditions clauses, insurance affidavits, recognition agreements, accreditation programs, and the like, we must admit there is little room left to the free-will of undergraduates, whether that be of an insidious or altruistic nature.

Granted, many of us believe these to be necessary evils to a system fraught with liability and engulfed by insurance policy, perhaps accurately so.  But is it ever considered that the very contracts we use to preserve our working relationships might be doing more to decay them, instead?  Maybe then we wouldn’t be so quick to believe these as necessary.

The point – an agreement over a handshake can set the general guidelines to a relationship, while leaving room for common sense and goodwill to govern actions when those unexpected or unforeseen circumstances arise.  However, with contracts, they set out to explicitly define what could otherwise be governed by social norms, removing our responsibility to adhere to common sense and instead obsess over the details of the contract.  Therefore, anything not stated in the contract is free game.

It’s simply paradoxical that the more we try to define expectations, the more we leave unsaid.  The more specific I state my parameters, the more parameters I’m forced to specify.  This can go on to a seemingly limitless degree, much to the detriment of not only our relationships – being based more on distrust than trust – but also our performance.

In the article, a CEO describes one of the worst decisions of his career.  He set out to develop a detailed performance evaluation that would guide decisions on raises, bonuses, and benefits.  He thought it would increase transparency and understanding of the ideal performance.  He was wrong.  Instead, his employees only cared about meeting those terms, regardless of whether or not it was to the benefit of coworkers or the company.  Ultimately, morale and overall performance tanked.

Perhaps that is why honor codes are often so simplistic.  It sounds like something you would agree to over a handshake.  I must admit, having managed many students and consulted many chapters, I’ve expected a lot of things from many people.  But I’m never more confident about those expectations being met as I am when I can look that person in the eyes and say, “I’m counting on you to do the right thing.” Then we follow that with a handshake.

Source:  Ariely, D. (2011, March). In Praise of The Handshake.  Harvard Business Review, 40.

Golf and the honor system

We’ve been preparing a story for the fall issue of the magazine that will discuss the honor system as it exists at VMI and in Sigma Nu. The story will include examples of cultures and subcultures that operate with a system of trust and peer accountability, just as the honor system operates within VMI, Sigma Nu, and a select number of other schools with strong systems of self-governance.

One of the classical examples of a functioning honor system comes from the game of golf. Here are some excerpts from two recent stories on the subject, one from The New York Times and the other from ESPN.

On a golf course in Scotland that employs an “honor box”:

One tradition is unlikely to be altered. A small sign on the outside of the clubhouse reads “Pay Green Fees Here.” Below the sign is a metal slot, where golfers drop envelopes with their money. The course is run on the honor system, with no attendant in sight.

“The system works well because it reflects the traditions within golf of honesty and integrity,” said Hamish Grey, the chief executive of the Scottish Golf Union, which oversees the men’s amateur game here.

And ESPN on a famous case from the 1925 U.S. Open:

More than 80 years after Bobby Jones’ ball barely budged, the story is still told to show golf is a game of honor. The great amateur was competing in the 1925 U. S. Open when, unbeknownst to anyone but himself, Jones’ ball moved ever so slightly as he addressed it in the rough.

There were no referees to call a foul, no officials to slap him with a penalty. Jones’ playing companion, Walter Hagen, didn’t see the infraction, nor did his caddie or any spectators. The tournament title hung in the balance, but when the round was completed, it soon became known that Jones had assessed himself a 1-stroke penalty.

The ball moving did not help him any, nor was it any great violation. But it happened, and those are the rules. So Jones thought nothing of it. That stroke cost him outright victory, and he then went on to lose a 36-hole playoff to Willie Macfarlane.

Jones was asked about his decision by a reporter after the round. His response? “You might as well praise me for not robbing banks.”

Read the full story here.

If you know of any other groups or subcultures that live by a system of mutual trust and accountability, share them with us in the comments section below.