• Fraternity Alumni
    Fraternity Alumni Thoughts from Jason Beck, Director of Alumni Services for Sigma Pi Fraternity, International

Sigma Pi Alumni – we need your input to help shape the future of Sigma Pi.

You may have heard that we are working in a partnership with Phired Up Productions to conduct a membership experience survey for both alumni and undergraduate members.  For alumni, this is a detailed survey asking you about things like your undergraduate fraternal experiences, what you would like to have gotten as an undergraduate, what you’d like current undergraduates to get out it, what you want to get out of Sigma Pi as an alumnus, and how we can help make Sigma Pi better.  

Your input is crucial to the success of this project.  You may have received an email over a month ago, asking you to complete the survey.  If you did take the survey already, thank you.  There is no need to take it again.  But if you have not responded and completed the survey, we ask you to please find the time to do so, and soon.

If you have not already participated in this survey, we ask you to find the time over the next 5 days to login and give us your answers and comments.  We need to have completed surveys from a wide variety of alumni from all over the map geographically, and all over the spectrum of ages/eras.  So no matter if you graduated in 1945 or 2013 or anywhere in between – if you’re from the west, midwest, south, northeast, Canada, wherever you are – we need to hear from you.

We need your help to understand what is happening in the Fraternity on a day-to-day basis. Will you please login sometime in the next 5 days and take the survey?

Here is the link to the alumni survey:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/sigmapialum

 

As I write this blog post and it gets posted to the web, we are just under three weeks away from a momentous event in Sigma Pi history – the dedication of our new Executive Office building, The Mitchell House.  This promises to be an impressive event, that I hope you are planning on being a part of.  This could be one of the largest Sigma Pi gatherings ever, outside of Convocations and Mid-Year Leadership Conferences.  There are, as of this writing, 11 Past Grand Sages scheduled to be in attendance.

The dedication will be held on Saturday, March 29, 2014.  All Sigma Pi’s - alumni, undergraduates, pledges, parents, plus our friends in the Greek community of other fraternities and sororities are all invited to attend.  (Please RSVP via the Facebook event page so we may have an idea of how many people are coming.)

Events on Saturday begin at 11am (central time), with the arrival of alumni, families, undergraduates, and other guests.  (Note that the interior of The Mitchell House will be closed to guests & visitors until the conclusion of the ribbon-cutting ceremony.)

At noon, the ceremonies begin on the front porch of the house, with welcoming remarks from Executive Director Michael Ayalon.  Next, Grand Sage Ed Levesque will speak, followed by Educational Foundation Board of Trustees Chairman Allen W. Yee. 

The official ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place, which will include all current & Past Grand Officers in attendance.  There will be a photo made of those participating in the ribbon-cutting.  Next, there will be a group photo made of ALL Sigma Pi’s in attendance.

Lunch will be served at 1pm, consisting of BBQ, hamburgers, and hot dogs, with potato chips and soft drinks.  From 1-3pm, house tours will be given for those wishing to learn about the history of The Mitchell House and view the Executive Office, and the newly revised Sigma Pi Museum.  That will conclude the official ceremonies.

In 1963, Shadowwood, just outside Vincennes, Indiana was dedicated as our Executive Office.  Shadowwood marked a milestone for Sigma Pi, as we symbolically returned to the area of our founding.  That place served us well through the decades.  It was a place to come and re-energize your Sigma Pi spirit and energy.  It was an old country estate, with columns on the front porch, an expansive grounds, and yes, that cornfield.  Eventually, we just outgrew Shadowwood and in 2003 Sigma Pi moved to the Nashville, Tennessee area, first settling in Brentwood.

The office in Brentwood was first set up in a small business incubator in a non-descript office building.  In October of 2006, Sigma Pi purchased a building just a stone’s throw from there on Wilson Pike Circle.  A dedication ceremony was held on July 25, 2007.  That building did have a sign out front at least, with our crest on it.  There was high speed internet service in every office, compared to the one shared dial-up internet access at Shadowwood.  We were sandwiched between a landscaping business on one side, and a financial services business on the other.  The back of the building was up against the noise of traffic on I-65.  There was no room to hold ritual meetings.  It was a functional office space with a small museum area, but it didn’t look like a fraternity headquarters building.

The search was on for a new home for Sigma Pi, one that looked and felt like a real fraternity headquarters building.  A search committee was formed and began looking at real estate options in the area.  The committee looked at 2 properties in the heart of Nashville’s historic Music Row.  They were nice properties with neighbors that included the movers and shakers of country music’s record industry.  But they were relatively small in size, and would have required extensive renovations in order to be turned into a functioning fraternity headquarters.  So the search continued.

Eventually, it became known to the committee that there was an impressive property on the market.  But it wasn’t in downtown Nashville, it was 20 miles east of the airport in Lebanon, Tennessee. The property had been a corporate headquarters previously, and had been on the market for a year.  The property was The Mitchell House.   This is a first-class fraternity headquarters building.

A Brief History of The Mitchell House

Construction began on the structure in 1906 and was completed in 1910.  It was the home Dr. and Mrs. David Mitchell.  Mitchell graduated from nearby Cumberland University, and shortly thereafter become the President of the University – the youngest University President in the country at the time.  His wife Elizabeth was stricken with typhus, and died in the house.  After her passing, Dr. Mitchell became heartbroken and eventually moved to the west coast.  The house remained vacant, but Dr. Mitchell would take the train in from the coast and could be seen roaming the house by candlelight, until he was overcome with emotions from the loss of his beloved wife.  He would then board the train and ride back west.  He could never recover from her death, and died broke.  Elizabeth’s ghost is said to sometimes wander the house.

The house sat empty for approximately a decade, before being acquired by the nearby Castle Heights Military Academy.  Castle Heights used the house as their “lower school” and the upper floors were used as dormitory space for the younger students.  This continued until the academy went out of business in the 1980’s.  Again, the Mitchell House sat vacant for another decade.  During this time, the building’s condition deteriorated and was close to being condemned and destroyed.

In the early 1990’s the founder of Lebanon-based Cracker Barrel Old Country Store acquired the house, and went to great lengths to have it restored to its 1910-era glamour and glory.  Following a complete renovation and restoration effort costing millions of dollars, the Mitchell House became the executive office of Cracker Barrel.  During this time, the house was added to the Tennessee Historic Structures List, as well as the National Register of Historic Places.

Due to a variety of factors, Cracker Barrel decided to sell the house in 2012, and consolidated their operations elsewhere in Lebanon.  After lengthy negotiations, Sigma Pi acquired The Mitchell House in late 2013, conducting sequential real estate closings on the same date to sell the property in Brentwood and purchase the Mitchell House.  The Sigma Pi Executive Office moved into The Mitchell House on October 30, 2013.

I look forward to seeing many of you for this historic day in Sigma Pi history.  Join us in Lebanon for the dedication of our new home!  (Please RSVP via the Facebook event page so we may have an idea of how many people are coming.)

Driving Directions to The Mitchell House 

From the Nashville International Airport (BNA)

If flying in, it is advisable to rent a car, as one-way taxi trips average $50 or more.

Follow signs for Donelson Pike & I-40 East

You will have to turn right off of Donelson to merge onto I-40 East

Take I-40 east for approximately 20 miles to exit #236 – South Hartmann Road

At end of ramp, turn left.  Follow S. Hartmann for approx. 2.6 miles

Turn right at red light at intersection with US 70 (W. Main Street)

Look for red light #5 – this will be N. Castle Heights Ave. – Turn left here

The Mitchell House will be on your left.

 

From the South (via I-24 West or I-65 North)

Take the exit for Tennessee 840 East (this is the South Nashville bypass and is built as an interstate.)

Follow 840 to its end at I-40

Follow exit ramp for I-40 east

Take the FIRST exit off of I-40 (Exit 236 - South Hartmann Road)

Turn left at the top of the exit ramp

Follow South Hartmann Road for approximately 2.6 miles

At the red light for US 70 (West Main Street) turn RIGHT

Look for red light #5 (it will be the 5th light you come to)

This is North Castle Heights Avenue - turn LEFT here

The Mitchell House will be on your left. 

 

From The West (via I-40 East)

Follow I-40 through downtown Nashville

Continue past the airport for approximately 20 miles

Take Exit #236 (South Hartmann Drive)

Turn Left at the end of the ramp and follow South Hartmann for approx 2.6 miles

At red light for US 70 (West Main Street) turn RIGHT

Look for red light #5 (it will be the 5th light you come to) and turn LEFT there

This is North Castle Heights Avenue

The Mitchell House will be on the left. 

 

From the North  (via I-24 East or I-65 South)

As you approach Nashville, 24 & 65 will merge

Follow signs for I-24 East through downtown until you merge with I-40

Take I-40 East (signs will say Airport/Knoxville)

Follow 40 east to Exit #236 (South Hartmann Drive)

At top of ramp, turn LEFT and follow South Hartmann for approx. 2.6 miles.

At red light for US 70, turn RIGHT 

Look for red light #5 (it will be the 5th one you come to)

Turn LEFT at this light - it is North Castle Heights Blvd.

The Mitchell House will be on your left. 

 

From the East (via I-40 Westbound)

Follow I-40 to exit #236 (South Hartmann Drive)

At end of ramp turn RIGHT

Follow South Hartmann for approx. 2.6 miles

At red light for US 70 (West Main Street) turn RIGHT

Look for red light #5 - it will be the 5th you come to

Turn LEFT here - it is North Castle Heights Blvd.

The Mitchell House will be on your left.

 

Lodging Information for Dedication Weekend

 

Sigma Pi has arranged for room blocks and discounted rates at two Lebanon motels for the weekend of the new Executive Office dedication.  You MUST call the hotel directly to reserve your room and you must mention that you are with Sigma Pi in order to get the room rate and be in the block.  Reservations should be made ASAP.

 

Comfort Inn & Suites - $74.95/night – (615) 443-0027

Econo Lodge - $39.95/night – (615) 444-1001

 

Other hotels/motels in Lebanon:

La Quinta Inn & Suites – (615) 470-1001      Quality Inn – (615) 444-7020

Days Inn – (615) 449-5781                   Hampton Inn & Suites - (615) 444-3445

Ramada – (615) 444-7400

Holiday Inn Express & Suites – (615) 994-3225

 

Additionally, for those wanting to explore downtown Nashville either before or after the dedication, a rate of $175/night is available at the Courtyard by Marriott at 1901 West End Avenue, Nashville.  Use group code SIG.

 

So here we are in 2014, the new year.  That time of the year a lot of people make lists of resolutions.  Those things we resolve or hope to accomplish in the upcoming 12 months.  Some of you have made those lists.  Some of you have already broken some of those resolutions. (Hey, it happens.)

But instead of trotting out the same old things we want every year, this time I’m trying something different.  This list is NOT a list of things I want to accomplish.  Instead, this is a list of things I wish my Sigma Pi brothers (both alumni & undergraduate) all across North America would do this year.  Are they all realistic? Probably not.  But, boy if just some of them came true… wow what a difference 2014 would make.

 

1-  We get through this year without a major risk management violation, or worse.  I’ll start with one that is more of a wish and a hope for our undergraduate chapters.  But alumni are sometimes guilty of FIPG violations in an attempt to “relive the glory days” or “show them how we used to do it.”  Well, those days are long gone, my brothers.  And times have changed.  But, think about it.  What if every chapter were to follow the rules?  What if no one had to go to the hospital to get their stomach pumped?  What if no one was cited for underage possession and/or consumption?  What if no kegs were involved in any party/event?  What if everyone followed the rules and had a good time anyway? 

2-  Alumni that had a good time as undergraduates recognize that they should be helping today’s undergrads through giving.  I don’t mean financial gifts here, although they certainly are needed, and I’ll get to that in a moment.  I’m talking about giving a couple of hours a month back to our undergraduate chapters.  We are in need of more Chapter Directors and Province Archons.  I’ve got a list I can send you of where we need alumni to step up and help out.  Additionally, where we have CD’s & PA’s in place, they could use support and assistance in the form of Alumni Advisory Board members.  A couple of hours a month isn’t too much to ask to help our chapters.  If you’re interested, contact your CD, PA, or me.

3-  Our alumni will recognize that financial contributions are necessary and beneficial to our organization.  OK, here’s the one about money.  Some alumni feel like the only time they hear from us is when we’re asking for money.  That’s sad.  Sad that they feel that way, and sad that for some, it’s probably true.  The truth is that we need financial donations to help support our chapters as well as our alumni.  Sigma Pi does not charge alumni dues to our members.  That’s different from other Greek-letter organizations.  Our Educational Foundation is the IRS 501(c)(3) entity where you can give to Sigma Pi tax-deductible donations.  The Foundation has a lot that they can do to support what Sigma Pi is doing.  And they want to do more.  However, if they don’t have the donations coming in, then they can’t give money back.  It’s just that simple. 

You can do like I do, and become a monthly donor.  I have part of every paycheck I get go to the Foundation.  It is simple.  I don’t even have to think about it.  It comes out before I see what my “take home pay” is.  I don’t even miss it now.  But I know that that amount out of each check is going to help Sigma Pi.  We have several alumni who give a monthly amount of $18.97, in honor of our founding year.  Those small amounts add up every month.  You can make a gift to the annual fund.  You can make a gift directly to your chapter through a CEF (Chapter Education Fund).  You can make a planned-giving arrangement where a portion of your estate will go to the Education Foundation after you die.  In many instances, you can make a matching monthly donation through your employer.  (Ask if your employer does this.)   The bottom line is this:  we need your continued contributions to help Sigma Pi.  www.sigmapiedfund.org/donation.php

4-  We banish the phrase “I was in Sigma Pi in college” from our vocabulary.  This one is a pet peeve of mine, I’ll admit.  But while you were a pledge and then an initiate during your college years, you are a Sigma Pi for LIFE.  Your membership lasts from the day you pledge until the day you die.  Too many alumni think that their membership was only while they were in college.  That’s wrong.  We have to drive home to members, beginning when they are pledges and learning what it means to be a Sigma Pi, that they are members for life.  Their brothers will be there from them for the rest of their life.  They are making life-long friendships and experiences while they are undergraduates.  But, the benefits of membership are for life.  Instead of that phrase, which I won’t repeat here, I want to hear, “I am a Sigma Pi,” from alumni, and undergrads.  Life loyal alumni are what we want.  That starts by learning/remembering that membership is for life, then acting like it.

5-  Everyone will realize that their fraternity experience is not just limited to their campus, but is tied to the international organization.  This is what I like to call “the big picture.”  You may pledge and initiate at the Alpha-Alpha Chapter of Sigma Pi at so and so university.  But, while you may only experience the fraternity through the prism of only your campus experience, there is an entire international organization here for you.  For undergraduates, you should take advantage of experiences like MYLC, SPU, and convocations where you can meet other brothers from other campuses from all across North America.  You can see that some of your local problems are nothing compared to what other chapters are going through.  You can find other chapters that are experiencing some of the same issues you are.  And you can network with these brothers and start to build your fraternal network.   For alumni, you should realize that you joined an organization larger than just your campus.  You are a lifetime member of an international organization with campuses and alumni all over North America.  Your financial contributions through the Educational Foundation benefit all of Sigma Pi, not just your campus.  To give to your local chapter and be concerned about its welfare is to be expected.  But, you should also expand your vision to include helping all of Sigma Pi.  Giving of your time and experience as an alumni volunteer, or giving money to the Foundation benefits all chapters.

 

OK, there they are.  My 2014 “hope for” Resolutions.  Now, let’s all work together to help make these resolutions real in our daily lives.  Happy New Year!

First of all, let me say a huge "Thank You" to all of our alumni volunteers for all you have done, and will continue to do, for Sigma Pi.  To the Province Archons, Chapter Directors, Faculty Advisors, Alumni Advisory Board members, House Corporation members, and anyone who has given of their time, money, energy, expertise, advice, and more to help Sigma Pi this year - know you are appreciated.  We wouldn't be where we are as an organization without you.  Our chapters wouldn't be where they are without you.  Know that we will need your continued efforts, contributions, and more as we move into 2014 and beyond to take Sigma Pi where we all want it to be. 

I want to take this opportunity to remind you about some "members only" savings opportunities, as well as give a lead for those of your searching for a last-minute tax deduction.  

These "deals" are available to ALL Sigma Pi members, both alumni and undergraduates.  And they are available to you year-round, not just here during the holiday season.  The full list can be found in the “Partners” section of our website, www.sigmapi.org.  The direct link is: http://sigmapi.org/index.php/resources/partners.

For example, you can get a discount on your car insurance through our partner, Nationwide Insurance.  In addition to bundling discounts, they offer a special discount just to Sigma Pi members. 

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If you need to rent a car, Sigma Pi members are eligible for free membership in the Emerald Club of both National & Enterprise Car Rental. Once you have set up your Emerald Club account, reference your Emerald Club number and Customer ID# XZ56Y01.  Create your personal Emerald Club membership and take advantage of this rental program by clicking here.

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Looking to upgrade your wardrobe, or just get something new?  Sigma Pi members get 15% savings on regular and everyday value priced merchandise at Brooks Brothers US & Canadian stores when you enroll by clicking this link.  Please enter the following information to validate your membership with Sigma Pi:  Organization ID#: 04901  Pin code#: 44088.

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Hotel savings are available to Sigma Pi members through the Wyndham Hotel Group.

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Active and alumni members can book hotels with 15% off best available rate for all brands except Wyndham which is 10%. Two ways you can book your reservations to receive your discount- by phone or websiteWhen making reservations please mention corporate ID: 1000010948.

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For special savings and discounts every time you rent a car with Budget Car Rental, including free upgrades, unlimited mileage, and the lowest possible rate, use Sigma Pi code: BCD#Z051113.

Remember, these discounts and more are all listed in the partners section of www.sigmapi.org.

 

As the clock ticks toward the end of the year, are you finding yourself looking for a last-minute tax deduction?  If so, then think about making a donation to the Sigma Pi Educational Foundation.  Your contribution is fully tax-deductible on your 2013 return. You can give to the Foundation through the annual fund, your chapter’s educational fund (where applicable), your corporate matching gift program, endowed giving, memorial gifts, or by planned giving through your will or estate.  Click HERE to donate securely online, or you can mail your contribution to: Sigma Pi Educational Foundation, 106 N. Castle Heights Ave., Lebanon, TN 37087.  Or you can contact Foundation Director Lisa Pearson at (615) 921-2300 x-313. 

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About Jason Beck

beck-webJason Beck serves as the Director of Alumni Services for Sigma Pi Fraternity, International. Founded in 1897, Sigma Pi Fraternity is the leading, international men's collegiate fraternal organization which provides training, guidance and innovative opportunities for Leadership Development, Social and Personal Development, Academic Achievement, Community Service and Heightened Moral Awareness for its brothers throughout their lives.

Contact Jason:

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Tel: 615.921.2300

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