Category Archives: purpose of fraternity

Brothers Organize to Support Family in Wake of Tragedy

 

TJ Wedding-square

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brothers from other chapters around the country are welcome and encouraged to support Gamma Kappa Chapter’s fundraising effort during this time. Brothers wishing to lend the helping hand can do so by visiting the GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/5w9vaen8. Proceeds will benefit Victoria Virgin’s college fund.

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

From Passive to Powerful

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Mike Dilbeck is the founder of RESPONSE ABILITY and speaks to audiences around the country about bystander intervention and courageous leadership. Brother Dilbeck is an initiate of Sigma Nu’s Lambda Epsilon Chapter at Texas Christian University.

Like many of you, I have been paying close attention to all the news regarding the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the University of Oklahoma. As someone who visits campuses and speaks to tens of thousands of college students each year, I often think I have heard it all. However, I wasn’t prepared for this. Maybe it was because I had just seen the inspiring footage over the weekend of the tens of thousands of people marching in Selma, Alabama. Maybe it was because of the tears I shed as I listened to our president’s remarks in front of that bridge. Maybe it’s because the actions were just outright abhorrent and, as OU President Boren swiftly and powerfully said, “disgraceful.”

Even amidst all of my personal feelings, I know this is not who we are as members of the national fraternity and sorority community. I know this is not what Sigma Alpha Epsilon is truly about. I know this is not what represents the millions of us committed to dignity and respect for all. However, this is an opportunity for all of us all to pause and reflect on why something so divisive and offensive can happen at all.

There are many different ways to look at this incident and, rather than address the actions of the perpetrators, which most people will do, I want to explore the actions of another group of people involved: the bystanders. Anyone who was on that bus at the time of this racist chant and wasn’t participating in the activity is a bystander. Whether they wanted to be or not. Whether they chose to be or not. Whether they liked it or not. The simple fact is: when we see or hear something — anything — being done or said, we are a bystander.

What kind of bystander are you?

Now, here’s the question for them and all of us to ponder: what kind of bystander are we going to be? When we witness or hear anything that is inappropriate, offensive, unsafe, unhealthy, unlawful, dishonorable, or just plain wrong, we have a momentary choice to make. Are we going to stay silent, walk away, or laugh along? In other words, be a passive bystander? Or, are we going to choose to stand up, step in, and speak out for what’s right? In other words, be a powerful bystander? This is the choice we have — and we do make a choice, whether we experience making one or not.

We don’t know everything that happened on that bus this past weekend, but what has already become clear is there were both types of bystanders in reaction to the offensive and hurtful actions of a few. First, we know of at least one powerful bystander — someone who chose to take out their smartphone and record video of the chant. Then, hand that video over to someone who could do something with it to make a difference. By now, you already know that this video has gone viral and caused the SAE chapter being closed, all brothers moving out of the house, and the expulsion of two students. This action has also elevated the already-existing national conversation on race.

The reality is that we are expecting college students to do something that many will argue they are not developmentally ready to do.

As the founder of RESPONSE ABILITY, a program on bystander intervention and courageous leadership, I share various actions available to each of us in being a powerful bystander and intervening to prevent, end, or diffuse a problem situation. One of these actions is to do exactly what this bystander did — record video. This can be a powerful and safe alternative to direct, in-your-face confrontation to a behavior (which is also sometimes appropriate). They made the momentary choice to go beyond whatever fear they may have had and take some form of action to intervene. What this bystander did was brilliant and very effective. What this bystander did was demonstrate courageous leadership.

Which brings us to the other bystanders on the bus that evening. I want to believe there were more students who had a gut response that this chant was wrong. Granted, there will be more details to come out and we may very well find out that others did do something. However, my skepticism — even my own cynicism — doubts that anyone did. I fear that every other bystander that evening chose to be passive.

The reality is that we are expecting college students to do something that many will argue they are not developmentally ready to do. We are asking them to go beyond a deep-seated and real fear of standing up to their fellow peers and taking great risks in doing so. We are asking them to be bigger than they know themselves to be. Yes, we are asking this — not only of them, but of us all. Even though these students are at a distinct time in their lives, it takes something from all of us to do what we are not comfortable doing. There is nothing comfortable about intervening, regardless of age. Nothing! For many of us, this may be the greatest fear we have. Yet, none of this excuses us from tolerating the abusive, offensive, hurtful, and violent behavior we witness in our lives.

Are you going to give yourself permission to go from passive to powerful in order to be the man you have committed yourself to be?

To be clear, I am not telling you what choice you should make — this is up to you. My mission in life is to wake us all up to the opportunity we have to go past that which stops us in making the difference we are out to make. To empower us all to stand up, step in, and speak out for what’s right. To give us all permission to go from passive to powerful.

So, whether you are a college student, a parent, an employee, an employer, a spouse, a community activist, or any other role in life, you are a Sigma Nu. You are a man who has given your oath to the values of Love, Honor, and Truth. No matter how long ago it was when you were initiated as a Knight in Sigma Nu, you took a lifelong oath to uphold — and live by — these values.

Which brings us to my final question: are you going to live these values in your life at all times — or just when it is convenient and comfortable? Are you going to let these values guide you and empower you to stand up, step in, and speak out for what’s right — or turn your back on them and experience the shame and guilt from doing so? Are you going to give yourself permission to go from passive to powerful in order to be the man you have committed yourself to be?

When we do live from these values and make the choice to take an appropriate, effective, and safe action to intervene, I call this courageous leadership. And, I do truly believe in our ability to respond to any form of discrimination, sexual violence, corruption, cheating, bullying, hazing, and other issues by going beyond our shame and fear to demonstrate courage in momentary choices.

For colleagues. For family. For friends. For strangers.

In organizations. In business. In community. In life.

If you would like to empower yourself — and others — in making this kind of difference, I invite you to join The Revolution for Courageous Leadership by visiting our website. Here, you will get exclusive access to valuable and free resources, including the recently-published eBook, “The Manifesto for Courageous Leadership.” Mike’s personal website is mikedilbeck.com.

Mike Dilbeck

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

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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.”

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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.”

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Research shows how fraternity membership enhances personal growth

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Chapter presidents share best practices at College of Chapters, Sigma Nu’s flagship leadership training conference.

By Merritt Onsa

The UniLOA assessment is a 70-item, self-reporting instrument designed to measure student growth, learning and development or “GLD” of college and university students. The research is conducted by the Center for Learning Outcomes Assessment at Indiana State University.

UniLOA measures behavior at key points in a student’s college career and focuses on seven critical domains: critical thinking, self-awareness, communication, diversity, citizenship, membership & leadership and relationships. In the last few years, this diagnostic tool has provided a rich source of new data to inform program development and support services on campuses across the nation.

To ensure high reliability, the authors spent three years developing and testing the instrument before reporting their findings. Now, after six years of data collection, themes and patterns have emerged about the impact of fraternity membership on the development of male students.

The spike in development—especially in the first 15 credit hours—is not seen in athletics, student government or residence life; it’s found uniquely in fraternity members.

Five national fraternities have participated in this research along with more than more than 300 institutions of higher education. Students—not just fraternity members—from across the campus life spectrum have participated in the study.

However, the results confirm what many fraternity members have known all along—the fraternity experience positively influences the personal development of male students. This is demonstrated in three key outcomes from the research:

  • Fraternity men experienced higher net gains in growth over their academic lifespan in each of the seven critical domains.
  • Average growth of fraternity men was higher than non-affiliated men during the first semester of their first year in college, which is often the “pledge” semester.
  • Fraternity men scored substantially higher in “citizenship” and “membership & leadership” than non-affiliated men.

The spike in development—especially in the first 15 credit hours—is not seen in athletics, student government or residence life; it’s found uniquely in fraternity members. And the North-American Interfraternity Conference President and CEO, Peter Smithhisler, says it’s the best argument against deferred recruitment. “The earlier a man can join, the more significant his development,” he says.

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Director of Leadership Development Scott Smith facilitates a discussion at the 2014 College of Chapters in Roanoke, Va.

Of course, the authors of the UniLOA acknowledge that growth, learning and development happen naturally through the maturation process; but meaningful and consistent engagement in organized activities like fraternities tends to accelerate the rate of GLD for those students.

The NIC has been aware of UniLOA for the past five years; however, the organization waited to react to the results until the data could be replicated. Now that it has been deemed a reliable and valid instrument that consistently reveals the same overall patterns, the NIC is working to help undergraduate members and college administrators understand the total impact of the fraternity experience on male student development.

“While we own, acknowledge and are dealing with the issues that are out of line with the values of the fraternity experience, we also have to start identifying what’s going right. As a result of the new member experience, young men have leadership opportunities, interact with a diverse group of students and develop personal relationships. If we can eliminate the negative aspects and enhance the positive aspects, I expect the fraternity experience to become even more impactful,” says Smithhisler.

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Chapter presidents discuss ways to positively influence their campus at the 2014 College of Chapters in Roanoke, Va.

And that opportunity rests in the hands of our current chapter members. “Our current undergraduates are entrusted with the future of fraternities. What they do today in the ways they recruit, create expectations and how they lead, all of these things will determine the focus of fraternities in the future. And it’s up to the undergraduates to ensure our future,” says Smithhisler.

At the same time, alumni play an important role in the development of young men. Smithhisler challenges all fraternity alumni to reengage with their organization as role models and mentors. “Undergraduates need positive role models to provide guidance and encouragement along the path to becoming fraternity men. It’s through mentorship that student leaders are taught the value of fraternity membership and how to live out those values in their daily lives,” he says.  Equally as important, “alumni must resist perpetuating the myths and stereotypes through their interactions and expectations of the young men in our chapters.”

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Vice Regent John Hearn stands by to assist chapter presidents during a goal-setting session.

To continue to share the research outcomes, the NIC created The Case for Fraternity Rights website and is working through multiple channels to disseminate the information therein. They are communicating directly with IFC and campus leaders, especially those campuses with deferred recruitment. And they’ve translated the research into a 60-minute presentation that their 75 member organizations can use at national conventions or provide to traveling staff members to share with individual chapters. In case you’re wondering, the NIC is not affiliated with UniLOA and does not commission, finance or influence the research in any way.

In addition to communicating the good news about fraternity life to those closest to the experience, the NIC is working to share this research with other stakeholders like the media, government officials, parents and potential new members.

To learn more about the research visit http://nicindy.org/fraternityrights/ and help us spread the word about the dramatic positive impact fraternity life has on student growth, learning and development for the young men who join.

This story originally appeared in the fall 2012 issue of The Delta.

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

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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.

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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.

New Group Learning Environment Mirrors Fraternity Leadership Development Programs

Faculty member Dave Mainella works with chapter presidents during the 2012 College of Chapters in St. Louis.

GOOD magazine has a new story up about an intriguing program at Penn State that aims to provide professional mentoring for college students all living in the same house:

Imagine as many as 60 entrepreneurial college students living under a single roof and being mentored by successful professionals in their chosen fields. That’s the idea behind a social living project called co.space in State College, Pennsylvania.

Working with more than 50 student interns from Penn State, New Leaf built the framework that will serve as a model for other universities interested in the project: a two-year program for juniors and seniors that includes a semester of training, the opportunity to lead a semester-long project, a summer internship, and a personal mentor—plus a plethora of professional networking options in-house.

It sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? What are some ways fraternities could collaborate with GOOD or co.space on a similar project?