National President Tom Sullivan’s Inaugural Address

National President Tom Sullivan giving his Inaugural Address at the 55th Supreme Chapter in Austin, Texas

After the installation, Sullivan gave his National President’s Address before the Supreme Chapter including his aspirations for the upcoming two years.

It is difficult for me to find the appropriate words to describe the many emotions I am currently experiencing, only to say that I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to serve our fraternity in this role.

Thank you to those involved on the various nominating committees as well as the student and alumni members that have chosen to place their trust in me to serve on the Council over the last decade and for the opportunity that lies ahead. I would also like to acknowledge the national presidents that I have had the honor of serving with during this time – John Andrews, Jeff Wahlen, Mark Jacobs, Dudley Woody, and Tracy Maddux as well as those serving on the various councils – your impact on me is certain and your imprint on our organization undeniable.


I’d also like to recognize the staff of Pi Kappa Phi, the Ability Experience, Pi Kapp Properties, and the Foundation. These men and women give us their blood, sweat, and tears each and every day. They get up early and go to bed late always thinking about how they can best support our membership. We are so fortunate to have such an incredible team. This of course includes the quarterback of this team, a transformative leader, one that has impacted our Fraternity and the greater fraternal landscape, guiding us to heights I’m not sure we would have ever imagined. Mark Timmes.

  • Although it pains me as an Aggie to hold Supreme Chapter in Austin I certainly benefit by the fact it affords me the on-site support of my friends, chapter brothers, and loved ones. I’d like to acknowledge several of my colleagues and friends from St. Edward’s University; my dear friend and Eta Rho brother Brett Lee, and many members of my family including my parents Brenda and Harlan Broberg and Susan and Tom Sullivan. Thank you all for your love and support.
  • I also want to offer a special thanks to my Delta Omega chapter brothers that are here supporting me today. Some of my most cherished memories come from our time together. What an experience we had! We were giants and you are gold!
  • There are many individuals to thank and at the risk of missing someone I want to also acknowledge a few:
  • Dr. Pat Figley – Past National President and Mr. Pi Kappa Phi. I would not be here today if not for you. Pat, thank you so much for believing in me.
  • Jim Krucher – past national council member and Mr. Pi Kappa Phi. Who knew that New Jersey and Texas would go so well together! We both share a passion for the recruitment/growth in the Fraternity. You have been such an important advisor and friend to me these many years and I am grateful.
  • Jason Dodd – chapter brother, former assistant executive director of the Fraternity, my first supervisor. But more than these titles, you have been a mentor, friend, and big brother. There isn’t a major decision I’ve made in my life that didn’t include insight from Jason. Your kindness and sacrifice for others is a model for all of us. There is a very short list of people I have strived to be more like over the course of my life – my four parents, and you.
  • Dr. Jordan Turner, my college roommate for four years, lifetime friend, and the person who introduced me to Pi Kappa Phi even though he ended up being a member of Pi Kappa Alpha! Jordan flew in from Birmingham to be here today. I remember clearly standing in the doorway of our apartment on the day I moved out some 21 years ago and asked, pleaded really, that no matter the distance between us you wouldn’t let our friendship fade. Many friends have come and gone in my lifetime but you have always been there. Thank you for making our friendship a priority.
  • Finally to my dear wife Cheri. My girl. You are the story of my life. Everything begins and ends with you. You have given me so much, our two precious children Owen and Carly, you have supported my involvement with the fraternity even though fraternal membership was foreign to you. You have given me your heart. I’m so thankful you pursued me so vigorously, insisting that we begin dating nearly a decade ago. Once we removed the restraining order I believe things worked out well. In all seriousness, you are this Pi Kappa Phi’s rose.

What a special time to be a member of Pi Kappa Phi! As many challenges as there are in front of us, look at what this organization has accomplished in such a short window of time! You know, when I joined Pi Kappa Phi I did it for only one reason…I needed a life preserver! Jason Dodd would tell you it wasn’t my decision and that the chapter needed the dues. There is some truth to that, however, I will tell you that I was a lost, lonely,17 year old that new only 2 people among 45,000 at the university. The Fraternity took me in, elected me as Vice Archon my sophomore year, and sought my assistance in creating a better chapter experience for our members. I stayed in the same role for three years during which time we transformed from a 18 man chapter to a 100 man chapter, went from one of the worst in grades to one of the best, went from doing nothing for the Ability Experience to sending three brothers on the Journey of Hope, several to Camp, and raised over $12,000 in one year! We also moved from a three bedroom modest house with a chapter room converted from a garage to a 30 man house on sorority row. Life was good! It really was a transformative experience. Upon graduation I had been so inspired by this experience that I went to work for the national fraternity, leaving a budding career in television sportscasting. We weren’t given a transformative experience, we were given the tools to create our own transformational experience. For me it was Tracy Maddux, my leadership consultant that encouraged me to pursue my belief in a personal-contact orientated recruitment plan. Without his support I am certain my chapter experience and life experience would have been far different. You see, the choice was ours and we fought to create something special.

Over the last several weeks I’ve thought a lot about these experiences and the word that has kept coming to mind is transformative.

Today, I believe we are offering you, our students the opportunity for transformative experiences, but like anything, it is ultimately up to you to decide what you want to do with this opportunity. Will you sit at the back of the room and listen as decisions are made for you or will you take an active role in creating a transformative experience for you and your members? Choice is such a powerful concept. You have the choice to lead! You have the choice to serve! You have the choice to learn! What will you choose to do? Some choose to abuse alcohol. Some choose to haze. Some choose to live by values that are not congruent with those of our fraternity as described by our ritual. You have the choice as leaders in your chapters to make the right decision and create a transformative experience for the brothers. You have the power to effect change, to lead, and to create a for-life experience that is so profound that it brings you back to conferences such as this year after year to celebrate your membership in the fraternity. The choice – is – yours.

Just as our students have a choice in creating a transformative, life-long experience, so do our alumni brothers. As I said before, this is more than a four-year experience. We took an oath for life to honor and support the fraternity. To assist our brothers, and do our share for the greater good. That is what you all are doing now by being here this weekend and coming back year after year which I see so many of you doing. But you know, just as I was that lost kid that walking around campus at A&M desperately looking for friendship and connectively to others, so do I believe we have alumni out there that are similarly craving something more in their lives but unable to figure out what will quench the need. I am certain that this can be found through the transformative bonds of brotherhood. We owe it to our brothers to get out there and find them, reconnect with them, and get them re-engaged with the fraternity. Someone told me the other day that they only hear from the fraternity when we want something from them. Well….yeah, no kidding! We do want something from you. You. That is what we promised when reciting the student creed and taking the oath of membership. We committed to a lifelong experience. So, I’m not ashamed to say that I do want your time, talent, and treasure for the fraternity. We need to bring these brothers back into the mix. We desperately need their advising and experience as modeled through Dr. Wade Birch. We need their expertise to help our brothers grow and develop as responsible citizens. We need their treasure as well. Again, not afraid to say it. What is wrong with asking our members to contribute what they can for the betterment of the organization? Just this weekend alone we have raised over $100,000 in multi-year pledges for the campaign. In fact, if you are in this room and haven’t made some sort of pledged commitment I implore you to do so. Every gift makes a difference, there is no minimum attached to the request. We just need your support. Curt, Carrie, Chris, any of us would gladly sign you up today. Join us in supporting and advancing this transformative experience!

Now, over the course of the last year many people have asked me what I’m going to do as national president. It’s a reasonable question. As I stand here before you at this 55th Supreme Chapter I am clearly reminded that this is not about me but YOU – students, alumni, family and friends. The national organization and its various entities have a well-developed strategic plan and guiding documents that have outlined our path of progress through 2020. Though I have no desire to deviate from this plan I will of course want to highlight and focus on a few critical areas that I believe will have significant impact.

In order to truly provide a transformative experience it is essential that the Fraternity, Foundation, Properties, and the Ability Experience are aligned and working synergistically. To this end I am calling on the leadership of these entities to come together this fall to meet as a cabinet, and have some dynamic discussion about who we are, what we need, and how we will align ourselves to maximize our impact.

Speaking of ABEX, for many years our Fraternity has taken great pride in being the only organization within the Fraternal world to have created and supported its own national non-profit service organization. The Ability Experience is not something we do it is a part of who we are. Service over self is defining, it is what our ritual calls on us to do, and it is Transformative. Because of this I am calling for a heightened commitment from all of our chapters to emphasize volunteerism, awareness, and fundraising through the Ability Experience and further challenge our 180 chapters to collectively raise $1million in the coming year! We can’t have big results without big goals to push us to success. Although fundraising is just one aspect it is one that drives critical offerings of support to those that can benefit from our philanthropy. It is time we take things to the next level and with each chapter raising a minimum of $5,500 each we can get there.

Alumni. You have heard me say that Pi Kappa Phi is not just a four year experience it is a for-life experience. Now, maybe more than ever, we need our alumni to step up and support the greater organization with their time – talent – and treasure. We know our most successful chapters have highly engaged alumni supporting the operations of the chapter and its individual member development. We also know that too few chapters benefit from this level of support. To this end I challenge our alumni leaders to work with Fraternity staff to ensure that every chapter has at least a chapter advisor, member education advisor, and financial advisor by the end of the 17-18 academic year. We know people that can make a difference in our student’s lives and it is essential that we act.

For several years now a challenge coin has been presented to this body as a symbol used to bring us back to certain essential concepts for our organization. For me this concept comes from creed which calls on us to make a lifelong commitment to one another. I’d like to ask the staff at this time to distribute this challenge coin and hope that you keep it with you and use it as a reminder of our fraternal bonds.

Finally, I have five items I am instructing our Fraternity Staff to act on in the coming year:

  1. Fully establish a Committee on Higher Education that will stay in front of current student development theory, trends, and best-practices within higher education. This would include but not be limited to recommending various ways the organization can best support our students, including our underrepresented students.
  2. Research and propose a model for chapters to use in support of establishing and sustaining a parent/family club. Now more than ever parents and family members are playing a very active role in their student’s collegiate experience and it would behoove us to harness this interest to dynamically support our chapters and compliment the efforts of our board of advisors.
  3. Research and propose a dynamic chapter-focused alumni communication strategy that would include but not be limited to the use of social-media, website, and printed elements. Years ago we had the CAR program that, through the headquarters, supported the development of newsletters for our chapters that went out to their alumni. I believe that something like this, as part of a comprehensive plan, could truly transform our connection to our alumni brothers.
  4. The current cost of insurance at $200 a man per year is difficult to maintain yet we know that as chapters make poor decisions that violate our risk management policies our rates will eventually go up. Should a chapter pay for the mistakes of another chapter? Can we incentivize sound decision making by offering reductions in insurance for chapters that choose to support alcohol free housing or go to a no pledging process with immediate initiation? Though these are just some ideas, research tells us that there are best-practices out there with regard to risk reduction that can truly positively transform a chapter experience. Therefore, I am asking staff to research and report on the potential impact of a variable rating model for setting chapter insurance rates.
  5. For many years we have utilized the President’s Circle as a mechanism to engage our undergraduates in a culture of giving to the fraternity in hopes that this will encourage future giving as an alumni member. Though I believe the intent of this program is appropriate I believe its execution and depth of offerings is lacking. To this end I am instructing the national staff, in partnership with the Foundation staff, to research and propose a President’s Circle 2.0 that updates and strengthens this program as a mechanism to support the transition process from student to alumni member and serves as a pipeline for life-long giving.

I believe that the men of Pi Kappa Phi are a people with a purpose, committed to service over self, and poised to provide a transformational experience that is far more than a four-year experience, but a life-long experience that nurtures the mind, body, and spirit of its members. Today I call on our students, alumni, family and friends to do their share to make it so…the choice is yours. Thank you and may God bless this Fraternity.