One of my more interesting transitions from being an undergraduate to working for Central Office is seeing the relationship that an Alpha has with its alumni. Coming from an incredibly young Alpha, we did not have any alumni that had an experience that was too different from our own. Too often in my travels I have seen Alpha leadership fail to appreciate the full benefit of having a strong alumni presence.These are volunteers who care deeply about trying to foster a similar values-based experience that prepared them for their life post-graduation. They often have a wealth of experience about your college and the way Greek Life works on your campus. They can help you in unique ways when your Alpha recruits, hosts a social event at the Lodge, or has to deal with the administration.
Also, they are just cool individuals. Just like you, they were in college once and still know how to have a great time. Even if an alumnus’s major and career path are completely different to your own, I bet you that they have some advice or know someone that could help you further your own career goals. But the question facing many of our undergraduate leaders is how do we build such a good relationship?
The answer is to treat your alumni like the valuable stakeholders they are. No alumnus wants to return to a Lodge that is trashed from the night before. During events that will have alumni present, involve them as if they were undergraduate Brothers because here’s a little secret: even though they do not pay dues anymore, they still are your Brother.
But what about the alumni that are more involved in the day to day operations? The ones who place all of these demands on us? Make an honest attempt to get to know them and where they are coming from. Try to get on the same page in tackling issues facing the Alpha. COMPROMISE. Compromise a lot. They have seen the Alpha go through its ebbs and flows more than you have. Trust me when I say that a lot of times you can save yourself a lot of trouble by just listening to your alumni more often. They want to see you avoid some mistakes they have seen or maybe even done themselves.
As a Chi Psi from our newest host institution (Alpha Rho Delta/Miami University), the alumni that helped support my Alpha from its earliest days were from Alphas all over the country. Obviously, Central Office has been supportive of us with their Visitors, as well as offering up Jeffrey Hall for initiation on a couple of occasions, but these local alumni who have been so supportive in our daily operations have been invaluable. I am just going to name some alumni whose actions directly impacted my undergraduate experience, so if I neglect to mention someone it was not an intended slight.
Two of our biggest contributors, Bob Windsor, Eta’55, and Bob Dearth, Alpha ’66, Rho Delta’12, had Alphas that had been dormant long before their involvement with us. Brother Windsor provided us with a perfect example of how fraternity is a lifelong commitment, and Brother Dearth has been at the center of everything that Rho Delta has been able to accomplish. Their love of Chi Psi was all that compelled them to help us find our organizational blueprint for success. Joe Hughes, Beta ’84, Psi Delta ’97, facilitated my PSD, one of the highlights of my pledging experience. Kurt Wells, Mu Delta ’95, sits on Rho Delta’s alumni corporation and Bill Greene, Mu Delta ’95, has been the driving force behind the Chi Psi Buckeye Cocktail, an event that has continued to grow the past three years. Bill Royce, Rho ’78, Nu Delta ’02, and Bryan Heil, Epsilon ’80, helped make the ritual take on its full meaning during my time in Oxford with their assistance in running initiation. Andy Dewing, Omicron Delta ’84, has put in countless hours helping us acquire and maintain our Lodge in his role on our housing corp, Oxford Holdings.
All of these contributions from alumni of other Alphas have helped shape my Chi Psi experience into something better. To any Rho Delta alumni reading this–you know who you are, and it would not be fair to single anyone out for fear of missing someone! Thank you, alumni, for everything that you make possible for our undergraduates. Even if they are not always the best at showing it, they are grateful as well!