Phil Tappy, Mr. Pi Kappa Phi 1985

Phil Tappy (left) with Fred Quinn

He went on to serve Pi Kappa Phi at the national level as an area governor and then on the National Council from 1970 until 1981. He held the positions of National Secretary, National Historian, National Vice President, National President and Past National President. At the November 1976 National Council meeting, Tappy made the official motion for Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity to create its own national philanthropy, becoming what is now Push America. In 1985 he was named Mr. Pi Kappa Phi, the highest honor an alumnus can receive from his fraternity. In all of his professional success and philanthropic work, Tappy found time to have a wonderful family. He is married to Lisa and they have two children, Skip and Lee, both of whom joined Pi Kappa Phi through the Delta Zeta chapter at Appalachian State University.

If you could start college again tomorrow, what would you do differently? Why?

I was 17 when I started college and was not mature enough to have a great quest “for learning.” I made many friends and loved the college life, but I wasted the opportunity to really absorb the gifted teachers who wanted to share their love of their subject material. I made the great mistake of studying to pass tests and make good grades. I regret not studying to make their lessons and love of English, history, math and languages part of my long term memory. What a waste that was, and I regret it every day.

What have been your two or three most important/meaningful Pi Kappa Phi experiences?

  1. Having “brothers!” I grew up in a broken home and my only sibling, an older sister, ran away from home at 16. So, being a part of a college fraternity family was a treasure and a joy for me.
  2. Learning to be a leader. Being given an office (Historian, rush chairman, and Warden) gave me a wonderful opportunity to learn the skills of leadership, marketing and creativity, as well as compromise.
  3. Finally, staying involved in Pi Kappa Phi as a volunteer and national officer allowed me to meet so many wonderful men who became mentors and role models for me. I met U.S. senators, congressmen, athletes, doctors and business leaders, all of whom were giving time to their beloved fraternity. I wanted to do the same.

Over the course of your history with Pi Kappa Phi, you’ve seen the Fraternity become a lifelong brotherhood of leaders. Can you explain what you’ve recently learned about leadership in your own life?

The lessons I learned in Pi Kappa Phi of the necessity of hard work, honesty, getting along and, most of all, respecting all people have helped me in my career and in my marriage. Giving back is a theme that is so important, and I try to do that in my fraternity, my church, my community and in my family. That is the real key to happiness. I learned that because of Pi Kappa Phi.

What qualities do you look for in the people with whom you surround yourself, personally or professionally?

I love people who smile, laugh and are fun to be around. I seek out people who are positive. I love children (I have taught a third and fourth grade Sunday school class for 35 years) and old people. I have friends rich and poor, black and white. Each friend is a gift that I have been given by the grace of God. I also like to spend time with multi-faceted people of many interests.

The collegiate experience has changed greatly since you were an undergraduate member. Regardless of that change, what is a piece of advice you would give to current undergraduates or young alumni that is still applicable today?

Be a role model. Try to always do the right thing. Be humble and very generous in your praise of others. Make your words few, but meaningful. Lead by example and always be willing to stop what you are doing to help anyone in need. It is time well spent! I have made many mistakes in my life, but the ones I regret the most are things that I have done that disappointed people who cared about me. I am also saddened by lost opportunities. Chances I had to help someone else, when I “looked the other way,” will always haunt me. If I were a yojng man again, I would try to see more clearly the things that are truly important. Our Ritual of Initiation has all of those lessons…if we pay attention!