The 163rd Anniversary Convention was held this past June in Louisville, Kentucky. At the closing banquet, I had the opportunity to share a vision for the next biennium. In simple terms, our goal is growth and growth has many meanings. It’s not just about expansion or recruitment, although that certainly is important. It’s also about building on pro- grams and services already in motion so they can take root, and provide on-going opportunities to our members and be a valuable part of our future. Growth can also be about who we are as brothers, and how we utilize the True Gentleman as our guide to daily life, and how our words and actions reflect on Sigma Alpha Epsilon. So how do we grow? We start with what’s in front of us.
We have accomplished a great deal over the past two years and the Fraternity and Supreme Council are grateful for the leadership of Brother Tom Dement as our Eminent Supreme Archon. We believe the groundwork set forth in the areas of education and communication are on a very positive path forward. We are grateful to the professional staff and our many, many volunteers for their hard work and dedication. Over the next two years we remain focused on the steady implementation of our expanded educational programs and services. Many of those are already mov- ing forward and there are more to come. We are excited about the increasing engagement of our members through therecordonline.net and the results occur- ring with our new brand message and identity, and we are excited about the recent release of our new website to make accessing ΣΑΕ information and resources easier for everyone.
ΣΑΕ has been a leader in the area of Fraternity Leadership education since John O. Moseley famously said, “We have a schoolhouse, now we need a school.” In the 83 years since, ΣΑΕ has been providing quality educational programming to our members. The world has changed and how we communicate has also changed in both style and speed. Our upcoming programs recognize these facts, so while we celebrate our past, we are taking what we have learned, tailoring it to today’s world, and extending our reach to undergraduates and alumni alike. Because together, we can challenge ourselves to rise to new heights of achievement, seek fresh opportunities, and strive always to be True Gentlemen.
In January 2019, we hosted the first Executives Academy, with 350 plus students and advisors. Officer tracks included, Eminent Archons, Recruitment Chairmen and Health and Safety Officers. In January 2020, the Executives Academy will move to Phoenix, Arizona. This will allow us the opportunity to add Eminent Deputy Archons, Eminent Treasurers, Member Educators, and more Advisors to the program. It will be held at the Sheraton Grande at Wild Horse Pass on January 3–5, 2020.
In March 2019, we unveiled our new Emerging Leaders Academies. For decades, brothers have talked about how valuable it would be if we could reach more students and alumni and do so more frequently at less cost. Delivering these programs regionally provides that opportunity. The first Academy was held March 29–30, 2019, in Evanston, Illinois with the focal point of the experience occurring in the Levere Memorial Temple and on the Northwestern University campus. We added two more of these programs in the fall of 2019, one in Washington D.C. on September 27–28, 2019 and the other in San Diego California on October 4–5, 2019. Then in the spring of 2020, we will host two more, one in Dallas, Texas and the other in Evanston. As these programs take root, we are also able to offer more opportunities for volunteerism and support in facilitating these programs.
This fall, we will begin more substantive work on ΣΑΕ’s New Wellness Initiative. This is a program that I am very excited about. It will focus on personal health and wellness. The program is being designed to support our brothers of any age and any generation, and will focus on physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and nutritional wellness. Our goal is to bring together our brothers of every generation to learn and support one another in our quest to be healthy True Gentlemen.
These programs along with the on-going success of the Ritual Academy, hosted at the Levere Memorial Temple and scheduled again for July 24–25, 2020, will have the potential to reach thousands of our men each year as opposed to only hundreds.
The Greek community faces challenges and in a period of declining college enrollment in traditional four-year institutions, that can impact ΣΑΕ, just as it does other fraternities. Many of you have heard Brother Dement say “ΣΑΕ is not the best because we are the biggest, we are the biggest because we are the best.” If continuing to have the total largest membership of any college fraternity is important, a question the Supreme Council cannot answer alone, it will require renewed effort on the part of every chapter and member to seek out more qualified men, more True Gentlemen. Toward that effort a Coordinator of Recruitment has recently been added to the Fraternity Service Center Staff. While he alone cannot impact our growth, he can be a valuable resource to every chapter. Whether you need help planning, coaching on recruitment skills or assistance in polishing your messages, he and other staff stand ready. In addition, you will also find new resources available to you on the website including, posters, bid cards, and more.
There are approximately 7,360,000 men attending college in the United States. I realize that we are not on every campus in the United States, but this number would certainly suggest that our market of potential members is enormous. Sounds easy enough, right? I remember my mentor Past Eminent Supreme Archon Lou Smith, who would always say “Just bring in one person to replace yourself”. Given our model of “no pledging” it opens many doors to recruit men 365 days a year. This is an opportunity not many fraternities have employed but we can! Imagine if every member of every chapter identified and recruited one new member each year. In the current climate that is not always the easiest thing to do but students today are more sophisticated than I was as a freshman, and technology has created challenges for the development of interpersonal relationships. These days we don’t talk nearly as much as we text, and therein is the opportunity. While e-communications and text pro- vide ease of access in communication, we must build on it. I encourage you to reach out, introduce yourself to men you meet around campus or in the classroom. Talk by phone, invite men to join you for an intramural game, participate in a philanthropic event with you, or simply grab lunch or dinner. Recruitment is about building relationships and there are many ways to accomplish it that move far beyond text or a specific recruitment event. It’s really no more complicated than initiating communication and building friendships.
We are also committed to expanding to new campuses, some where we have been before and other opportunities that may present themselves for the very first time. Our expansion team is dedicated to finding great campuses where we can colonize and build healthy, sustainable chapters. We also believe that you can each be helpful in keeping your ears to the ground. Our goal is to add twenty new groups in the next two years. We have a good start with eight already in development and with several interest groups and colonization’s in the works for this fall and spring. Yet expansion is not without challenges, and during a time when the Greek community is under a great deal of scrutiny we must pay close attention to where our best chances are to create thriving new colonies and thus chapters. So, as your newly elected Eminent Supreme Archon, I encourage you to contact the Fraternity Service Center if you know of a campus we might want to explore.
Experience tells us that our most successful chapters have engaged mission focused alumni support. We have recently added alumni development tracks too many of our educational programs and with the Executives Academy we have actually integrated the program to work in conjunction with chapter officers attending from their chapters. Yet, we know that in order to provide on-going service to our members, we need more engaged volunteers. We can provide the resources to help support involvement, advance volunteer knowledge and create opportunity, but we need more alumni of ΣΑΕ or individuals in the communities where we have chapters who believe in what we are doing and want to help us move the ball forward. We also need to tap into the currently unused potential of our undergraduate chapters. It is time that we ask our undergraduate brothers to help mentor chapters in your area or Province. When you have a successful program, we would ask that you work with other chapters struggling in that area so that they can emulate your success. You can share ideas directly with them and take advantage of sharing it with the realm by submitting your stories of success to the communications team at the Fraternity Service Center for possible feature on therecordonline.net or in the print Record as well.
It is time that we make sure that each of our chapters has engaged mission centered mentors and advisors. To accomplish this, we first need to take stock in where we are now. To that end, I am going to ask our Province Archons to take the lead, with the assistance of the Fraternity Center Staff, we will undertake an audit of each of our chapter’s alumni advisor status. All too often I hear, “Well we have advisors, but we never see them, or we don’t get along with them, etc.” Each of our chapters deserves support from advisors that are engaged and assist- ing the chapter and the brothers of that chapter to achieve the highest potential possible. If that means that we need to recruit engaged and effective advisors, we will recruit them. If we need to repair relation- ships between the chapter and their advisors, we will help to develop a positive relationship between the parties. We must always remember that our sole purpose for our involvement as alumni is to foster an exceptional fraternity experience for our undergraduate brothers and help to assist them in becoming the best person they can possibly be.
OUR WORDS AND ACTIONS
Brothers, it’s also time we grow our Brotherhood, not in size but in thinking. In an organization the size of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, we are going to have those discussions. But at the end of the day, we are brothers in the bonds of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. When there is dissension within our ranks of a negative tone, it diminishes the organization and it diminishes the experience of the young men throughout the realm, who depend on us for guidance and a clear path forward. There are as many exciting decisions to be made as there are difficult ones and we ask for patience and understanding regarding both. We are strongest when we stand as one. As we say on the Supreme Council when we debate an issue, we passionately support our position, but once the decision is made, we all support it. So, your leadership on the Supreme Council intends to spend our time and energy on building our brotherhood and invite you to join us. While we focus our attention on that discourse, we empower the Fraternity Staff to lead the operations of the organization. These men and women work long dedicated hours, and they do so with commitment to our mission like no other.
They rejoice with us on our best days and they shoulder responsibilities on the tough- est. It is this team who each day seek opportunities to actively promote the Fraternity and support our ability to Rise Above!
As we begin the next biennium and work to move Sigma Alpha Epsilon to even greater heights I invite you to remember that while being a male is a matter of birth, and being a man is a matter of age, being a gentleman is a matter of choice. Thank each of you for making the choice to be True Gentlemen in Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Phi Alpha!
GREGORY D. BRANDT
Eminent Supreme Archon (Drake ‘84).