25 years ago, my Pi Kappa Phi journey began with the Alpha Omicron chapter at Iowa State University. Over these wonderful years, I’ve been fortunate to experience some life changing and incredible moments due to my love, passion and commitment to our fraternity. I could talk for hours (which no one here wants me to do)….. about these incredible moments. One of my most memorable moments as a student was attending the 45th Supreme Chapter in San Francisco, California, sitting in the same seats as our student delegates here today. Just like you, I was soaking in the entire Supreme Chapter experience, connecting with alumni and fraternity leaders from across the country, and eagerly preparing to return to my chapter to lead my brothers. Little did I know that there would be a day when I would stand before you as the National President of Pi Kappa Phi. I am humbled by the opportunity to serve our fraternity as your president. And I am grateful for the confidence and trust that the nominating committee put in me to lead this fraternity as I follow in the footsteps of some incredible leaders and brothers of Pi Kappa Phi.
There are many people I’d like to acknowledge during my brief time before you today and unfortunately, I can’t make mention of them all.
We are blessed to have so many outstanding leaders who give of their time to better Pi Kappa Phi. To the men who I have served with on the National Council the last eight years, thank you for your unwavering support of our fraternity; and a special thank you to the National Presidents who led those council ’s: Mark Jacobs, Dudley Woody, Tracy Maddux and Tom Sullivan. You have all made an impact on me personally, professionally and in my service to our fraternity.
I’d also like to recognize the staff of Pi Kappa Phi, The Ability Experience, Pi Kappa Phi Properties and the Pi Kappa Phi Foundation. Our staff is truly exceptional. These men and women give of themselves to our fraternity each and every day. When I engage with them as a volunteer, they inspire me to be my best self as I serve Pi Kappa Phi. And of course, it takes an exceptional leader to lead a fantastic team and we have that in our CEO, Mark Timmes. Thank you Mark for all that you do for Pi Kappa Phi.
I’d like to ask the staff to please stand and be recognized one more time.
Finally, to my family. Annie, Lillie and Ben, thank you for your understanding and support. You have two parents who have committed themselves to furthering the fraternal experience – me with Pi Kappa Phi and your mother with Pi Beta Phi. We know that our love and commitment to Pi Phi and Pi Kapp takes time away from you. We hope you understand that we volunteer our time to our fraternity and sorority so that your world can be better. We believe that the fraternity and sorority experience provides the opportunity for men and women to become the best versions of themselves. We want to ensure this exceptional experience is available for you at the college you choose. Thank you for the sacrifices that you make so that your mother and I can serve Pi Phi and Pi Kapp as volunteer leaders.
And to my best friend and life partner Jenn, who celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary with me on Wednesday as we kicked off Supreme Chapter. As a member of Pi Beta Phi, a Vice President of the Pi Beta Phi Grand Council, past Director of Greek Life, a successful leader in higher education and a fantastic mother and spouse, I thank you for the influence you have on those around you and the enthusiastic support you give Annie, Lillie, Ben and me as we pursue our life’s dreams. I couldn’t do this without you.
I was born and raised on a small farm in Iowa where my parents still live today. My parents taught me about commitment, family values, and work ethic; they also stressed the importance of education. While neither of my parents have a college degree, they knew that getting a college education was a pathway for me to achieve my future dreams. I, like many of you, was a first-generation college student who had absolutely no idea what it would take to be successful at a university such as Iowa State.
Fortunately, Pi Kappa Phi was my light house — a beacon that showed me a path to success. Over a pizza and a movie on night while visiting Mike and Tony, two of my hometown friends and Pi Kapps, they insisted that I join Pi Kappa Phi – and so the journey began. As a student, I took advantage of every opportunity the Fraternity provided. I stepped into leadership roles, sometimes when I wasn’t ready, but I learned, experimented and committed myself to giving every opportunity a try, just as my parents taught me growing up.
As a leader in my chapter, I met traveling leadership consultants who I trusted, learned from and who are to this day lifelong friends. When I was 18, 19, 20 years old, I couldn’t imagine what an impact brothers Steve Whitby and Tom Atwood would have on my life, not just during my undergraduate years as a young leader in Pi Kappa Phi, but continuing on today, some 20 years later.
The fraternity has shown me the power of ‘personal relationships,’ and I truly believe that through personal relationships, you can change the world. Whether it’s relationships you have with a mentor, like the ones that I have with brothers Kelley Bergstrom and Bob Lane; relationships with a mentee, such as the one that I’m fortunate to have with Connor Carns, archon at our Associate Chapter at Grand Valley State; or personal relationships with fellow volunteers, brothers you met when you joined or brothers from other stages of your journey in Pi Kappa Phi. Surround yourself with people who have different beliefs than you do. Surround yourself with people who know nothing about fraternity life. Surround yourselves with people who are better than you and people you can call upon during the good times and the bad.
Strong relationships and the ability to surround ourselves with the best leaders are integral to meeting the current and future needs of fraternity life.
Fraternities and sororities are under attack. Pi Kappa Phi is under attack. Our very existence is being called into question by college and university leaders across the country, by media outlets who too often report on the problems we create for ourselves and by parents, who far too many times have lost a loved one because of the choices we are making.
Throughout Supreme Chapter, we have discussed with you several tragic fraternity related incidents that occurred this past year that have brought a negative light to Greek life. And this has certainly hit close to home for Pi Kappa Phi.
This morning, I stand before you and acknowledge that Pi Kappa Phi needs to do more to ensure the health and safety of our members.
I also want to express to you this morning, that despite the negative image that may be affecting Pi Kappa Phi, I firmly and confidently believe that fraternity and sorority is needed more now than ever before. The values that are taught to us in our ritual of initiation and on display throughout our lifelong membership in Pi Kappa Phi will continue to help thousands of young men successfully navigate whatever it is that life’s journey brings them. Just like Pi Kappa Phi has done many times before, we are once again prepared to lead our Greek partners in changing this questionable image affecting fraternity and sorority.
Over the past three weeks I have spoken to a number of alumni, volunteers and leaders of our fraternity about the future of Pi Kappa Phi. And the overwhelming response that I get when asking these brothers about our future is “Will Pi Kappa Phi exist 25 years from now, 50 years from now, 100 years from now? What do we need to do today in order to sustain our organization into the future?”
So, what do we have planned for the next two years to help make Pi Kappa Phi more sustainable for those who come after us?
The answer is simple: We will continue to execute our Uncommon Leadership strategic plan with a laser focus on the health and safety of our members, on preventing hazing, on offering a premier student experience, on engaging our alumni, and on growing our fraternity.
At the center of every decision we make must be the health and safety of our members and those who are guests in our homes and at our events. Pi Kappa Phi cannot be purely a social experience fueled by high-risk behaviors. We must continue to deliver, research-based prevention education to our members while always examining how to improve these already effective educational programs. We must also be willing to consider monumental changes to our policies and standards. “The way it has always been” cannot and will not be how it is in the future when our only reason to stay the course is fear of change. We must be prepared for a shifting interfraternal landscape. We must also be prepared for a shifting landscape driven by the leaders on college campuses across the country. We must be prepared, as we always have been, to lead.
As part of our commitment to the health and safety of our brothers, we must double down on our efforts to eliminate hazing in Pi Kappa Phi once and for all. Hazing has plagued our fraternity for far too long and it’s time that it stops.
It doesn’t matter if hazing has been part of society for hundreds of years. I don’t care if other organizations or groups on our campuses such as the band, the football team or the fraternity just next door are hazing their members. As brothers of Pi Kappa Phi, we will not — we cannot — allow hazing to continue.
We must continue to ensure the student experience attracts the very best young men to join our chapters and produces successful leaders. We have many ways in which we do this, but none is better than the Ability Experience. Pi Kappa Phi will do more to take the Ability Experience to our chapters so that each and every member experiences service, feels the impact of our work, and matures as a person through their volunteerism and servant leadership with or on behalf of people of all abilities.
We must engage our alumni and provide them with meaningful ways to stay connected to Pi Kappa Phi, so that we can prepare brothers to be the future volunteer leaders our fraternity needs. This engagement will inspire brothers to give generously in support of the men who have yet to come by donating to the Pi Kappa Phi Foundation.
And we must continue to grow our membership by expanding to outstanding schools such as NC State, Stetson, Bowling Green, Northeastern, Loyola Chicago and UC San Diego to name a few. We must also continue to provide resources to our existing chapters so they can continue to attract top talent to join. Through a premier student and alumni experience, Pi Kappa Phi will continue to grow and attract men to this uncommon and lifelong brotherhood.
As you each prepare to leave here today —our undergraduate leaders heading back to chapters and campuses in just a few short weeks, our alumni heading home to families and careers, and our friends of the fraternity heading back to lives they put on pause in support of Pi Kappa Phi — I ask each of you to do just three simple things.
First, treat all people with respect and dignity. Treat others the way you wish to be treated. I have tremendous pride in Pi Kappa Phi and how we have become a more diverse and inclusive organization. I look out into this room and I am proud of the diversity I see, and I know that within our fraternity, within our chapters and within the walls of this Supreme Chapter, there is more that I, that we, can do to be a more diverse and inclusive organization.
Second, stand up for what you know is right. In a world too often focused on popularity and politics, it is our duty to do not what is convenient but what is right. When our standards are being violated, when others are being treated as less than simply because someone can get away with it, when the safety and well-being of others is at stake, we all must commit to intervene. Ask for help when you need it – from a fellow chapter brother, an alumnus, a volunteer, a national staff member, a campus advisor, or local law enforcement. We must help others in a time of need.
Finally, promote our brand. Pi Kappa Phi was founded on the premise of creating leadership opportunities for our members. Leadership is the foundation of our organization, and it is the concept of leadership that will guide us into the future. Wear your Pi Kappa Phi t-shirts, golf shirts, sweatshirts, lapel pins, baseball caps, you name it. Wear them as often as you can and wear them with pride. When people ask you about fraternity, be proud that you are a Pi Kapp and share with them the incredible commitment to service that Pi Kappa Phi has through the Ability Experience. Let it be known that our members are safe due to the alcohol educational programs we provide. Alumni, students and friends of Pi Kappa Phi, we all must come together to show those who do not understand fraternity the true meaning behind our organization. Todd Shelton and Jud Horras from the North-America Interfraternity conference shard with us on Friday the social media movement taking place on September 12 – #myfraternity. Don’t wait for September 12 to publicly share the wonderful things Pi Kappa Phi is doing – do this every day!
The challenge is before us all, but I am confident that the lifelong commitment each of has made to Pi Kappa Phi will propel us to even greater success in the future. And so, in keeping with tradition, I will ask that staff to distribute our Supreme Chapter challenge coin. Take this coin home. Carry it with you. Put it somewhere where you will see it every day. Let it be a daily reminder of the what we are called to do as men of Pi Kappa Phi. The challenge is before us all.
Look around this room.
We are the leaders – students and alumni entrusted to move our Fraternity forward – ensuring that those who come after us have the same opportunities that we have had. Partner with me to live our values. Step up when your name is called and be a leader. Invite others into our membership and do your part to offer them a premier Pi Kappa Phi experience.
I am excited and humbled by the opportunity to serve as your National President and on behalf of your new National Council, thank you for all that you do for Pi Kappa Phi.
God Bless our Fraternity.