The sun has not yet smiled on the Mid-Western Plains but the airport is filled with men wearing Phi Delta Theta letters over their heart. The Presidents Leadership Conference (PLC) has reached its conclusion, and we are on our way back to our institutions to carry out our leadership mission. Back at my institution, a boy sleeps soundly with his favorite teddy bear under his arm, a little girl dreams of Cinderella, and my wife keeps one eye on her cell phone awaiting my call. It is 3am in California. I do not report to PLC on behalf of a Phi Delt Chapter; I do not work in higher education; I am not a General Headquarters staff member; Nor am I a General Council member. I am simply a man who is proud to be a Phi. At every conference, the undergrads are asked to thank the event faculty for taking time away from work and their families. If the undergrads only knew how grateful we are to have the opportunity to experience the development of their character. Those who do not wear the letters of Phi Delta Theta often ask me why I would travel across the country for a “frat” conference. The answer is simple….
I finished my undergraduate brotherhood experience with Phi Delta Theta in the late 1990s. The experience that I gained from being a chapter president allowed me entrance into the professional field of my choice, a collection of valued lessons to guide my decision making and a large group of friends for life. I left college and began a 15-year commitment to personal and professional development. In my post-graduate life, I had earned exemplary professional accolades, got married, purchased a home, and had welcomed the arrival of 2 beautiful children into this world. Then, I received an email from the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity challenging me to become the greatest version of myself. That was not the message on the cover of our rush manual in the fall of 1992 (designed to resemble the cover of a playboy magazine). The accompanying video explained how we made the hard decision to declare ourselves an alcohol-free housed brotherhood and the new-found mission of our membership. We are now what we had once pretended to be: a character building lifetime commitment. In an effort to honor my commitment, I volunteered to be a faculty member at the Kleberg Emerging Leaders Institute this past summer. This was not your father’s Phi Delta Theta.
These days, I am pleasantly surprised by the character of our undergraduate members. Our organization is comprised of men who excel academically, men who are committed to their university and the surrounding community and men who have seized the opportunity to be part of something bigger than they alone strive to be. This is not the entitled generation stereotyped in HR case studies. Our membership is committed to deriving maximum benefit from their college experience.
Phi Delta Theta is a fraternity for life. As such, we are committed to recruiting the men of highest moral character on every campus across the US and into Canada. As alumni, it is incumbent upon us to support our Fraternity’s direction. We should be humbly aware enough to admit that ‘what is’ is as important as ‘what was’ and continue with the mission to recruit members for life. If nothing else, it should be our duty to help young people avoid making the mistakes we may have through our mentorship.
As a faculty member, I have had the opportunity to help our emerging leaders and incoming presidents understand the role that our cardinal principles will play in their development as students, professionals, husbands and fathers. We have explored the transferable social skills that will differentiate our membership from other students as they enter the professional world. The process of teaching serves as a continual reminder of our principles and is never an exhaustive experience. I learn as much as I share with the undergrad members of our Fraternity. I have never been more confident in the future of Phi Delta Theta!
At Phi Delta Theta, we understand that friendships built in the principles of The Bond have lifelong dependency. We understand that learning and educating does not end at graduation. We understand that decision making is the key to success and the right decisions are rooted in our cardinal principles. We understand that hazing serves no purpose except to devalue those we have deemed worthy of wearing our letters over their heart. We understand that the feeling you get from helping others is far more enjoyable than the feeling you get from over-consuming alcohol.
So when my neighbor (who spent just 2 years in active fraternity experience) asks me how the “frat” event was…? I will simply reply, “You wouldn’t understand”!
David Kovacovich (Arizona State ‘97) served as Chapter President and IFC VP of Fraternal Affairs during his undergraduate journey at Arizona State University. Brother Kovacovich has been a faculty member for the Kleberg Emerging Leaders Institute and Presidents Leadership Conference. He currently serves on the Phi Delta Theta Educational Committee.