Hollywood paints a negative picture of college fraternities and sororities, and while I admit there are problems that occur in the Greek Systems around the country, there is more good than bad happening on college campuses in 2014. My own life experience shows the positive influence a fraternity can have someone, and recently I got to talk with many college students who are currently seeing their lives impacted by association.
I had the honor to be a speaker at the 175th General Convention of Beta Theta Pi. This good and great fraternity assembled over 1700 people at the site of their founding (Miami University at Oxford, OH) for a three day celebration.
In addition to being a speaker in the convention's educational "Symposium", I am also a Beta. My chapter at San Diego State University has been closed for over a decade and while I served as a volunteer adviser to the University of Texas Chapter and as a District Chief in the 1990s, I have had little involvement with the organization in nearly 20 years. Showing up in Ohio I was not sure what to expect from the experience.
Over the decades the fraternity has recommitted itself to developing "Men of Principle" and the focus on education of the mind and character was very clear in all that the organization does to enhance the college experience (and beyond).
In addition to these college undergraduate leaders, there were many successful Beta alumni from all walks of life, including Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana (who has been volunteering to help lead the charge for leadership development training for many years). It was fun to see some old friends, and business/industry legends convene with the students in Oxford for the largest gathering of Betas in history. I was in college when I attended the 150th Convention in 1989, and was taken by how quickly time flies (and how this time I was part of the educational program).
Much has changed in me and the fraternity over the years. But much has also stayed the same. It was comfortable being in the midst of people who share this bond in the fraternity.
I was reminded of why I joined Beta Theta Pi, and how my small band of brothers at SDSU in the 1980s had a positive impact on my life. In many ways I am the person I am today because of these people and the experiences we shared. They are forever important.
Fresh concepts and perspectives were also part of the few days in Oxford. I am not to old to gain new knowledge and points of view and enjoy being made to re-think ideas. I had one conversation in particular that changed how I looked at an issue in the organization that bothered me. The person I talked with had no idea how his observations would transform my understanding. Boom... no matter what the topic, there is always new things to learn.
In addition to speaking I attended several of the other educational sessions and had thought provoking conversations with interesting minds who like to think (and challenge others to think). I am still learning, and continue to believe it is the people we encounter who can change our trajectory.
Congrats to the fraternity on 175 years. Maybe I will go back to the 200th convention (as I will only be 73 at that time!).
Have A Great Day