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.