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

As members of Sigma Pi, we hope that what we do as an organization (and the work of our chapters) has a positive effect on the lives of our members.  I have had the opportunity a couple of times over the 20-something (and counting) years that I’ve been an alumnus to see directly, and be told by undergraduates, just how they have been changed by their membership in our fraternity.

One of the things I get to do as Director of Alumni Services is receive notices from friends and family when a brother dies.  Over the last month or so, I have received several notices.  Two of them stick out that I would like to share on this blog.

The first was a letter from Suzanne Pierce.  She wrote to notify us that her father, Norman O. Pierce (Gamma, Ohio State ’41) passed away on September 8, 2014.  Suzanne wrote, “It was his love and loyalty to his fraternity that influenced all three of his daughters to join sororities at Ohio State.”  With her letter, Suzanne enclosed a donation to the Sigma Pi Educational Foundation in memory of her father, along with sending us her father’s badge.  She wanted to be sure that it found its way back to Sigma Pi.

Brother Norman Pierce's badge, chapter guard, and officer emblem. 

 

The other letter I received contains the story of another member of Sigma Pi, and how the fraternity had a positive impact on his and other lives.  This letter came from Christina Poff.  She is the daughter of Alfred L. Poff (Beta-Omega, Lock Haven ’66).  Christina wrote me recently to let us know about the passing of her father.

Christina wrote, “Alfred L. Poff was a very proud Sigma Pi Fraternity brother for over fifty years.  My father was initiated into Beta-Omega Chapter on May 8, 1964.  After graduation from college, he married my mother and become a middle school / high school teacher, instructing science and biology.  He also held a secondary job of Health Officer for three different boroughs for many years.  He was very active in his family life, his career, his church, and his community.  He was a highly respected man in all facets of his life.  His favored role was that of a husband and father.

“Often while (I was) growing up, my father would share his memories of his college days, nothing these were some of the happiest years of his life.  A large part of that happiness was found in the brotherhood of Sigma Pi.  As a curious teenager, I asked my father many questions about Sigma Pi.  However, you may be pleased to know he never gave up any ‘secrets.’  And if there were any, he took them to his grave!

“After my father’s death, I realize just how much of an impact Sigma Pi had on (him).  Quite simply, Sigma Pi taught him how to be a ‘man.’  Growing up, my father didn’t have any male role models, as his father had died when my father was a child.  He was raised primarily by his mother and grandmother.  His only sibling was a younger sister.

“Just like a pebble thrown into a pond, the water ripples reach far beyond the spot where it was thrown.  Through the experiences and life lessons my father endured, it is evident that his morals, values, principles, and beliefs reached far beyond him.  It has rippled through his children, his former students, and the countless people he interacted with throughout his lifetime.

“One former student worked at the hospital where my father was in intensive care.  He explained to my father how he had impacted his life, stating that he now works as a respiratory therapist.  Later, my father informed me that this student had been involved with drugs and gang activities.  My father, as his teacher, had reached out to him at a critical point, spent time talking with him, and guided him along a positive path.

“We will never know how many people Alfred L. Poff had a positive impact on.  However, we do know that Sigma Pi Fraternity had a tremendous impact on molding his character.”

On August 15, 2014, Brother Alfred L. Poff passed to the Adytum on High. 

What impact has your Sigma Pi lifetime membership had on your life?  How has your Sigma Pi experience touched others?  Please share your stories with us by emailing me at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  Your story could be featured here. 

In a previous entry on this blog, I shared with you some details about the Governor Mike Beebe Veterans Fund and the involvement of Sigma Pi with the gala.  This Veterans Day, I want to bring you the story of a soldier who received one of the Governor Mike Beebe Veterans Fund Scholarships.

His name is SSGT Levi Crawford.  He was born and raised in Jonesboro, Arkansas.  Though he is not a Sigma Pi, Levi’s story is noteworthy and part of why he was awarded one of the Beebe scholarships.

Levi was active in the JROTC program at his high school, participating in the cadet challenge team, rifle team, drill team, and navigation team.  He held the highest rank, Battalion Commander, during his senior year of high school.  Levi joined the Army National Guard a few days after turning 17.  He went through basic training and AIT at Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri.  Afterward, he entered drilling status with the 1036th Combat Engineers and enrolled as a student at Arkansas State University.

Levi shared his story in his application for one of the Beebe Scholarships, “My unit was activated for a route clearance tour in Iraq in 2006.  Being that I was in college and participating in ROTC, I was not required to go.  But I decided to withdraw from ASU and go with my guys.”  The deployment ended up being 18 months long – 6 months of training and 12 months overseas.

SSGT Levi Crawford & his fiancee Casi

at the Governor Mike Beebe Veterans Fund Gala

 

 “During that deployment, I was stationed at Camp Anaconda.  Our mission was to find IED’s (route clearance), and my job was lead gunner for our patrol.  We had a very active deployment, routinely getting into enemy engagements and finding IED’s.  Although it was dangerous, with almost daily missions, the mindset was not ‘I wonder if anything is going to happen today,’ but more ‘I wonder where it is going to happen today.’

“We had our share of hard times during the deployment.  Several people were hurt, including my two roommates and my very good friend and workout partner.  We also lost a good soldier who was a great, fun-loving friend of mine.”

After his unit returned home from Iraq, Levi returned to college at Arkansas State.  That is, until another deployment came up.  This time it was Afghanistan, with the same mission he had in Iraq, route clearance.  Levi once again withdrew from college to deploy with his unit.

He wrote, “I was stationed at COP Wilson Afghanistan.  Our mission was the same, but my job had changed.  Before the deployment I attended several schools, one of which was a school to learn how to teach/train other soldiers.  So for the pre-deployment training, I was training other guys on the weapon systems, rules of engagement, and tips and tricks I had learned, along with getting them in the right frame of mind to be a good gunner.

“As we started missions, I was mostly the lead gunner.  But shortly after, I was asked if I would take the role of the lead TC, which is in charge of the lead vehicle.  Not very many missions later, on 20 May 2010, we geared up and started the mission, just like every other day before.  Except this one packed a surprise.

“We got settled into the vehicle for another long, hot mission and left the gate.  Less than 15 minutes into the mission, and I believe still in eyesight of our COP, we rolled up to a culvert.  Culverts are a popular place for IED’s to be hidden, so I told the driver to slow and get close to the edge.  I leaned against the window, pressing my helmet against (it) to look down in the culvert.  As I looked down, a loud boom rang out and I was slammed into the side of the vehicle.

“When coming to a moment later, not sure what had happened, I asked if everyone was OK.  My gunner was in shock, but fine.  My driver, though, was hurt pretty bad.  I was blinded from the blast.  Not knowing the extent of my driver’s injuries, or mine, I told the gunner to get on the radio and call for two urgent surgical.  This let the convoy commander and everyone know we had two soldiers that were severely injured and needed assistance.  It was very loud and I knew medical assistance would take a minute.  I was completely blinded, but I could hear small arms fire that I knew was not us, along with our crew weapons ringing out.  Then another distinct sound of an RPG that made me cringe up, even though I was in pain and it hurt to move.

“(There was) the sound of enemy artillery exploding all around, followed by the very distinct ‘woosh’ sound of another RPG being fired and the explosion when it hits.

“With all the adrenaline pumping and shock, I did not even realize we were hit with an RPG-7, which has a heat round that burns very hot to melt armor, until my driver said something.  Not being able to see or move much but my left arm, I was left helpless and felt even worse not being able to help my driver.  The only thing I could do was talk to him.  So that is what I did, trying to bring a level of calm to the situation.

“Sometime during the engagement, I blacked out, and do not remember much of anything until being in the intensive care unit at Walter Reed.  I regained vision in one eye and knew I was in the hospital.  I was very glad to see my family in the room.  I never regained vision in the other eye, had limb salvage surgery on my right arm, suffered a traumatic brain injury, and received a lot of shrapnel from my knees to my head.”

Levi says, “I am now out of Walter Reed, somewhat of a medical miracle in my recovery, and now going back to college, where I am getting a minor in renewable energy.  I have not yet decided on a major.  Another reason I am attending school, and perhaps the most beneficial, is for my mental well-being.  I am 28 years old and retired.  To most people, that sounds like a dream come true.  But for me, 28 is too young to be retired and not doing anything.  I found myself out of my house alone and bored 90% of the time, which quickly becomes depressing.  The social interactions of being a student and the mental challenges of class have already made a difference for me.”

Sigma Pi Educational Foundation Director Lisa Pearson, who attended the Beebe Gala said, “I had the privilege of meeting Purple Heart recipient SSGT Levi Crawford that evening.  He touched on his military story and his appreciation for the financial support received from the veterans fund to continue his secondary education.

“One area Levi talked about was how the Beck PRIDE Center on the Arkansas State University campus played a tremendous role, not just in his enrollment process and applying for financial aid for college, but in the reintegration back into society after returning from war.  SSGT Crawford spoke of the ladies at the Beck PRIDE Center, Ms. Lynda Nash, Executive Director, Susan Tonymon, Former Executive Director and Kelly McCoy, Service Specialist and how they assisted him with his doctors’ visits and medication.  He credits them for being a part of his recovery process.  

“He talked about while at Walter Reed recovering from being wounded overseas where they gave him his daily schedule filled with doctor’s visits and times of when to take his daily meds.  He had no idea when he returned home this daily routine would be all on him.  This is where the ladies of the Beck PRIDE Center stepped in and assisted, directing him to doctors and reminding him to take his meds. 

She continued, “He also spoke of his fiancé Casie, who upon hearing of him being seriously wounded, rushed to his bedside at Walter Reed and stayed by his side every day of his recovery.  He said that seeing her face when he awoke was the most beautiful sight he had seen.  He knew he was alive.”    

The mission of the Beck PRIDE Center is: To provide combat wounded veterans with first class educational programs and services at Arkansas State University. These include, but are not limited to: resources to access to the higher education experience, resources for counseling, personal rehabilitation, advocacy, and financial assistance; supporting these individuals to achieve their post military service goals.

The Beck PRIDE Center is focused on Personal Rehabilitation, Individual Development and Education.

 

The Beck PRIDE Center is located in a university setting to provide a centralized opportunity for veterans to:

  1. Explore career options through counseling and testing
  2. Participate in skill or placement testing as necessary
  3. Secure an academic advisor to develop a degree plan of study
  4. Utilize the specialized physical and mental rehabilitation services that are available including physical therapy, speech language pathology and mental health counseling
  5. Utilize our veterans' educational services officer for benefits advisement
  6. Include family members who desire education on care giving and need counseling
  7. Identify other services that may be essential to them
  8. Be referred when necessary

We salute SSGT Levi Crawford, and all of the Veterans who have served this country through the years.  Thank you Veterans!   For more on the Beck PRIDE Center, visit: http://www.astate.edu/a/beck-pride-center/

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

 

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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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