The negative stereotypes associated with male Greek organizations were a big part of the (uninformed) perspective I used to have toward Greek life, and why I had no interest in joining any fraternity for most of my college career. Besides, I never had trouble meeting people, so why would I "pay to have friends?!"
But when I took time to stop and really examine my life and relationships as a young college student, I knew that I longed for something deeper. I wanted to do more than just say hi to as many people as possible while walking across campus to class, go to house parties, and dance at crowded bars. What I truly yearned for was to have thought-provoking conversations, get to know people on a deeper level, and foster the type of strong bonds that would challenge me to progress in all aspects of my life. Deep down, I knew that those things were the pillars of true friendship.
In 2007, my best friend approached me and said, "We should start a fraternity." The idea was crazy and we were both so busy with school and other commitments that we hardly had time to sleep. But when he told me more about the fraternity that was coming to our campus, my opinion of Greek life quickly changed.
He told me that the group was known as "Men of Principle” fraternity. It stood for lifelong brotherhood, cultivating intellect, respecting women, and was even fondly referred to as "the singing fraternity!" What impressed me even more were the things he told me this Greek organization did NOT stand for: hazing, using alcohol or sorority women to recruit new members, wearing the letters while drinking, etc. So during my junior year of college, I made the decision that would change the course of my life forever, and became a Founding Father of Beta Theta Pi at my university.
As Founding Fathers, all 32 of us worked hard to build the foundation of the “Beta Bridge” that would span into the unknown of the future. It was clear that this figurative bridge would be left unfinished, as the fate of our legacy would be in the hands of the men we recruited. We felt confident that as long as we chose men who were true to the values our letters stood for, we could come back to campus years in the future, to see how much our Brotherhood had thrive. We could return as living legends!
Most men tend to talk about their fraternity experiences in the past tense. But that is not how we approach our brotherhood. To us, Beta Brotherhood is a lifelong bond that only strengthens over time.
In the summer of 2014, three of my fellow Founding Fathers married their Beta sweethearts. I had the honor of being a member in each of their wedding parties. The groomsman gift that I received from one of my brothers was a giving key, specifically, a LEGENDARY key necklace.
Admittedly, at first, I was somewhat confused. "You're giving me a necklace as a gift?" Residing on the West coast, this brother is much more into fashion that my Midwest self, so I thought this was just another part of his "accessory swag" that he wanted us to start wearing. But, like so many of the stories you will read on this page, once I learned the story and meaning behind the work that Caitlin Crosby was doing, this “swag” had a powerful effect on me. The meaningful symbol embodied the essence of what we as Beta Brothers all shared. I felt empowered by all that this key stood for and those taking part in the Giving Keys movement, those who benefit from it, my fellow Founding Fathers, and the Brothers that came after us. Each time I donned the LEGENDARY key necklace, I remembered the words my Brother had said to us on his wedding day, “You are all legends. You have done extraordinary things that others can only dream of. You inspire me to live my life to the fullest, and I hope you can use this necklace to help someone realize how legendary they are in your life.”
For several months, I considered who would be worthy of this type of gift. It was only when I came across the definition of Servant Leadership that I knew exactly where the necklace needed to go.
SERVANT LEADERSHIP – “a leader with a focus on serving followers for their own good, not just the good of the organization, and forming long-term relationships with followers, encouraging their growth and development so that over time they may reach their fullest potential.”
To fully understand just how deserving of this key the recipient(s) were, please consider some of the following facts about what the chapter of Beta Theta Pi had done in just 5 years since the Founding Fathers had graduated.
- Academics – Had the highest GPA of all fraternities EVERY SINGLE SEMESTER spare one
- Arts – Won the “Greek Week” contest several times, with specialties in the service and DANCING areas
- Business – Held a majority of positions in the business school’s portfolio management area, which manages $18 million of the University's endowment (and has 100% career placement after graduation)
- Membership – From our humble beginnings of 32 men, the chapter now is proud to have 164 Brothers/alumni that call this campus his home or alma mater
- Service – Committed to an unprecedented TEN-YEAR partnership with 5 local elementary schools. The brothers tutor, coach, etc. at some of the schools. During this 10 year commitment they have pledged at least 50% of our brothers will volunteer – every week
- Recognition – At this year’s general fraternity convention, our chapter won the 2 highest awards possible to attain – something that has NEVER been done in our group’s history
So many brothers in the chapter have made this phenomenal growth and positive ripple effect happen in a myriad of ways. There are several brothers that I have gotten to know since I graduated, and they are all impressive. Humility is not in short supply, as the spotlight does not stay on one person for long. The current Brothers of Beta all showed me that it was not about the Founding Fathers coming back as Legends, it was about the LEGENDARY work that our Fraternity continues to do through the strength of a principled brotherhood.
Still, I knew that I had to pay my gift forward to show my gratitude for bringing the dreams of the Founding Fathers to life, and the president of the chapter was just the person for it. Because of how special this gift was to me, I made sure I presented it to him in a way that would help him realize how thankful I was for his service – through a deep conversation – exactly what I had longed for 7 years earlier. He accepted graciously, and continues to work in concert with the past president and other legend-worthy Betas on campus.
Talking/thinking/typing about these men literally brings tears to my eyes and goose bumps to my arms. Words can hardly express how thankful I am that I took my best friend’s advice to join, or how strongly I feel that all of these men are worthy of wearing the letters of Beta Theta Pi.
This experience has proven that the effort of building the foundation for a group with a worthy cause is time well spent, as it will make way for the LEGENDARY work that will follow in your footsteps.