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

You really never know when you might meet another Sigma Pi brother.  This is the true story of how I met a brother while we were both on vacation – in the middle of the ocean.  Last month, I took a cruise from New Orleans to Cozumel, Mexico, then on to Belize, and finally Roatan Island, Honduras.  So, I’m on a large cruise ship – the Carnival Dream – with over 3,600 passengers and 1,300 crew. 

It was day six of this eight day voyage.  We’d visited all the ports of call and were steaming north through the northern Caribbean Sea headed into the Gulf of Mexico, through the area that’s between the eastern tip of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and the western end of Cuba.  I’m walking around on the Lido Deck, having just finished lunch and passing the pool area.  As I’m about to get back inside the air conditioned part of the ship, I glanced over at some of the deck chairs.

There, at the end of a row of deck chairs spread across this particular one, was a gray shirt.  And stitched upon that shirt were two large Greek letters.  My letters.  A purple and gold Sigma and a Pi.  I literally stopped in my tracks.  “What are the chances of there being another Sigma Pi on this ship?” I asked myself.  Then I said, “OK, I’ve got to see who this is and at least introduce myself.”

So, I back over to the shaded area of the Lido Deck, and waited to see who this shirt belonged to.  I wasn’t there more than five minutes before a man and his wife came through the row of chairs and sat down on the foot of this chair with a Sigma Pi shirt on it.  So, I walk over and ask if that shirt was theirs.  “No,” they said.  “It belongs to our son.  He just graduated from college and loved his fraternity experience.” 

I introduced myself.  They said they didn’t know where their son was, but he’d be back in a while.  I told them that I had a business card in my cabin, and that I’d go and get it and would be right back.  As I re-entered the pool area, I saw a guy standing with the two people I had just met.  This was the owner of that shirt.

His name is Jonathan Keppler.  He is a spring 2014 graduate from our Delta-Zeta Chapter at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL).  He has a marketing degree and currently is a marketing intern for Chevrolet and is the Marketing Coordinator for Apollo Heating & Cooling. 

 (That's Jonathan on the left, with me on the Lido Deck of the Carnival Dream in the middle of the ocean.)

In an e-mail conversation with me in the weeks since we met, Jonathan said, “On the boat I couldn't believe my parents when they said there was a Sigma Pi from the Executive Office on the boat.  I was thinking - what were the chances of this?  But I actually met two Sigma Pi's on the ship, with a total of four Sigma Pi's on the cruise.  So it was an amazing feeling to meet brothers in the middle of the ocean.”

I would agree with Jonathan’s comment.  Never did I think that I would meet another Sigma Pi brother on my vacation cruise.

I asked Jonathan about why he joined Delta-Zeta Chapter of Sigma Pi.  He replied, “The reason I joined Sigma Pi is because of my younger brother.  We are two years apart in age.  He joined Sigma Pi before me, and all I knew was the stereotypical fraternity that I saw in movies.  So my big brother instinct jumped in, and I wanted to see for myself what my brother got himself in to.

“Within the first hour at the fraternity house what I saw shocked me.  It was nothing of what I thought it was going to be like. Every fraternity brother introduced themselves to me.  They treated my brother with the utmost respect, even though he was still a pledge.  I found out about the philanthropies and community service that they do regularly, and the other help they do around campus.  I knew right then and there that this was something I wanted to be a part of.  

“When I left as an [undergrad] and became an alumnus, I was so proud to know that the reasons I joined were amongst the highest ideals and priorities of all the active members of the chapter.  I am looking forward to being an active alumnus of Sigma Pi.  My undergraduate experience was full of memories and some of those were made possible because of alumni.  I know that a successful functioning chapter is only that because of involved actives and an active alumni base.  I had that throughout my entire undergraduate career.  I want to give the same leadership and guidance that the alumni did for me back to the active chapter now.”

Jonathan, it was a pleasure to meet you on our cruise.  I’m proud to hear about the wonderful, positive undergraduate experience you had at Delta-Zeta Chapter.  I’m also pleased to see that you’re ready and willing to give back to the organization that you got so much out of during your college years.  Sigma Pi membership is for life, and you are embodying that spirt we hope our collegiate brothers are learning and experiencing. 

My message to other alumni is this:  Wear your letters with pride.  Show them off whenever appropriate.  You never know when they will lead you to make a new connection or re-kindle the feelings of Sigma Pi brotherhood.  Even in the middle of the ocean. 

In 2008, Buddy Beck (Alpha-Pi, Arkansas State, ’58), his wife, and their Family Foundation in conjunction with alumni members of the Alpha-Pi Chapter of Sigma Pi Fraternity at Arkansas State University, including Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe (Alpha-Pi, Arkansas State, ’68), created the Governor Mike Beebe Veterans Fund.  The purpose of this fund is to provide financial assistance to members of the United States Armed Forces who have served in the Afghanistan or Iraq Conflicts and their sons, daughters, or spouses attending a post-secondary institution.  Thanks to the contributions by alumni and friends of Sigma Pi, the Sigma Pi Educational Foundation has been able to provide more than $159,000 to help support the educational pursuits of over 150 veterans and their families.

 

This year’s gala event is set for the evening of Thursday, October 2nd at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock, Arkansas.  This is Governor Beebe’s final year in office, as he is set to complete his second term as Governor, so we hope there will be a large turnout for the event. 

The scene during last year's Gov. Beebe Veterans Fund Gala

 

Governor Beebe with PGS Ed Levesque 

 

Individual tickets and sponsorships are still available.  You can make a donation, purchase your dinner seats (or sponsor an entire table if you wish) by visiting this website: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e9faxrrsd2750780&llr=jep4vodab

If you have any questions, please contact Jana Cohen at (501) 603-0113, or Lisa Pearson at the Sigma Pi Educational Foundation office at (615) 921-2300. 


Governor Beebe with Executive Director Mike Ayalon

 

On July 30, 2014, the entire staff of the Sigma Pi Executive Office volunteered at the local animal shelter, New Leash on Life, in Lebanon, Tennessee.  As an international fraternity, we ask our chapters to do community service in their cities/communities.  So, it is only fair that we do likewise and help set the example for our undergraduates.

 

We went to New Leash on Life, an animal welfare organization, and helped the staff there with a major project that they needed assistance with.  New Leash on Life is a no-kill animal shelter that receives no funding from taxpayers.  They survive on donations alone.  The staff there needed to clean out and reorganize their large garage storage area, but did not have the manpower to get the project done.

 MovingStuff

Executive Office Staff Helping to Clear Storage Area

 

Every member of the Sigma Pi Executive Office staff participated in this event.  20 of us each spent two hours working together to complete the project.  40 man (and woman) hours were donated to this community organization.  Yes, it was a warm afternoon in late July in middle Tennessee.  Yes, there were some unpleasant smells.  But, together we did it.  And, as a reward we were allowed to have some “play time” with some of the animals who are housed at the shelter.  

 Connor and Locke with dog

Expansion Consultants Connor Schwalm (l) and Andrew Locke with a dog that is ready to be adopted.

 

Our supervisor for the afternoon, Office Manager Ann Shapiro, kept saying, “I can’t believe you guys got all this done.  This would have taken us forever to get organized.”  

 GilliganDaviswithDog

Senior Expansion Consultant Michael Davis (l) and Assistant Executive Director Jason Walker spend time with a dog at New Leash on Life.

 

I can say that I was truly impressed with my fellow co-workers.  No one complained about having to participate.  No one said, “I don’t want to do this.”  We all worked together on this project.  The feeling of giving back to Lebanon, a community that has welcomed Sigma Pi with open arms since our relocation in late October 2013, was overwhelming.  Knowing that the work we were doing benefited these lovable cats and dogs made it all the more rewarding.  

Pons with cat 

Regional Director Kevin Pons in a selfie with one of the cats at the shelter.

 

Some of our alumni clubs hold community service events in their regions, and they should be thanked for their efforts.  More participation from alumni would be great.  As for our undergraduate chapters, you see that not only do we “talk the talk” about community service, but we also “walk the walk.”  For those who regularly participate in community service projects with your chapter, I say “Thank You!”  Keep up the good work.  For the others, hopefully our actions at the Executive Office will help motivate you to be a part of your chapter’s community service efforts.

GroupShot

The entire Sigma Pi Executive Office Staff at the end of their afternoon of community service at New Leash on Life. 


For more information about New Leash on Life, visit them at: http://www.newleashonline.org/  or see their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/newleashonline?ref=br_tf.   A special thank you to their Office Manager Ann Shapiro, Executive Director Amy Haverstick, along with Directors Davina Herr, Alex Keith, Holly Liter, Colette Lanham-Stoffell, and Judy Wallace.  The President of New Leash on Life is Angela Chapman, Vice President of Operations is Sue Tompkins, Secretary is Leah S. Cesternino, and the Treasurer is Dawn Hall.

Time is running out for you to register to join us in Orlando this August for the 52nd Biennial Convocation of Sigma Pi.  Registration remains open through end of business next Monday, July 14, 2014.  You can register online by clicking this link: http://sigmapi.org/index.php/step-by-step  then selecting the appropriate package and clicking on the “Register Now” button.  Note: You MUST have a free username and password set up at http://www.mysigmapi.com before you can register.  If you have questions about the process, be sure to click on the “Registration Instructions” button.  If you are a delegate or alternate for your alumni club, be sure to also complete and submit the Credentials form.

Convocation is always one of my favorite Sigma Pi events.  This one will be the 11th that I have attended. My first was in Irvine, California in 1992.  I was a newly initiated undergraduate, eager to experience an international-level event.  What an experience it was!  From the sheer numbers of brothers all in one place, to learning how Robert’s Rules of Order really works, it was an event to behold. 

As a 20 year-old from northwest Georgia, I had never experienced Southern California before.  So, part of my Convocation experience was going out a week early and doing the tourist stuff.  I did the NBC tour in Burbank, went to Universal Studios, toured the Warner Brothers lot and studios, and got to sit in the front row of the audience for a taping of “The Arsenio Hall Show” at Paramount Studios.  I walked by actor Jonathan Frakes (Cmdr. Will Riker) while he was sitting outside a sound-stage in-between shooting scenes for “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” got to see the sets for “Cheers” and “Entertainment Tonight,” and stand on the set of “Soul Train.”  I took one of the van tours of Beverly Hills to see the stars’ homes.  I walked along Rodeo Drive, sat on the beach at Santa Monica, drove the Sunset Strip, and shopped at Tower Records - and all of it because I was going to Convocation.  And all that was before Convocation had even started!

Convocation itself was quite the experience.  Especially that particular one.  Meeting so many brothers from all over North America, not to mention the Past Grand Officers that were there.  Watching Brotherhood on display as Bobby Burgess (Upsilon ’63) received his Founder’s Award with his chapter brothers coming together to surprise him in song.  I was hooked.  The tourist experience combined with the unbridled brotherhood that I experienced during Convocation, made me know that this Convocation would not be my last.

Baltimore 1994, Tampa 1998, Phoenix 2000, Philadelphia 2002, Chicago 2004, New Orleans 2006, Long Beach 2008, Danvers 2010, and San Antonio 2012.  The only Convocation I’ve missed was in 1996 when it was held in Toronto.  I was in the Atlanta area at the time, which was hosting the Centennial Olympic Games during Convocation.  Between not being able to be off work during the Olympics, and having some tickets to Olympic events I could not make it.

Besides remembering the cities and the hotels of Convocations, one thing I treasure from my Convocation attendance is the friendships I have made with brothers as a result of seeing them every six months or so at Sigma Pi events.  From Past Grand Sages to alumni volunteers.  From meeting a “shiny pin” undergraduate, to seeing them attend again as an alumnus. 

So, I encourage you to begin or continue your Convocation experience by joining us in Orlando.  Who knows, maybe you will have the kinds of experiences like I have that will not only “recharge” your Sigma Pi batteries, but also get you in the habit of attending Convocation.  There’s even an official group for those of us who attend Convocations – The Sigma Pi Historical Society.  Membership is open to any brother who has attended two or more Convocations.  You can become a Fellow of the Society upon attending your fifth Convocation. 

One of my favorite things at Convocation comes at the very end, when all the brothers gather in a huge circle around the ballroom, join arms, and sing “The Fireside Song.”  I always get a little choked up and have to fight back the tears during this.  It symbolizes that even though we may have disagreed over motions that came to the floor for debate, or were on opposite sides of some vote, in the end we are all brothers of Sigma Pi.  It is a great way to close out Convocation.

I hope to see you in Orlando!

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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.

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Tel: 615.921.2300

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