The Beta Omega Chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon celebrated their annual Red Carnation Ball ceremony a few weekends ago. As a recent alumnus of the chapter, I immediately began to reminisce about the special moments and experiences that I endured as an active member during College. The times that I spent as a member of this Fraternity were undoubtedly the best years of my life.
Simply put, being in a fraternity:
- Allowed me to have more fun than one can imagine
- Helped me form lifelong friendships with some of the most important people in my life
- Provided me with ample opportunities to grow into a better man and great leader
- Gave me the chance to make a positive difference in the world
- Was the best thing to ever happen to me
I am eternally thankful for joining a Fraternity, but when some people think of that term, many negative stigmas are bound to arise. Before joining a Fraternity, I must admit I was also one that believed in those stereotypes. Coming out of High School, I was very opposed to get involved with a Fraternity. When I heard the word, “Fraternity” or “Rush,” I immediately thought of the “Frat culture” stereotypes that were presented in movies and the media. I believed that Fraternities were pointless clubs that consisted of rich, preppy kids that spent their entire time binge drinking, putting off their studies, and aggressively hazing others for pure enjoyment. To me, a Fraternity was nothing more than a group of people that were dedicated to mimicking the movie, Animal House and I wanted no part in that replication.
When I began my first semester of College at Missouri State University, I didn’t have much of a plan for myself. Being almost 4 hours away from home, this was the first time that I was truly on my own. I quickly realized that I needed to show initiative and own up to responsibilities in an adult manner. This was a very rough awakening for me. I only knew a small handful of people coming into my freshmen year and had a hard time creating new relationships with others. I was very overwhelmed with this new, college experience and became insecure about myself. Being in such a weak state, I knew it was vital for me to seek involvement in order to find ways to adapt and acquire a rewarding College experience.
On one of the first days of the semester, an old friend of mine invited me to a recruitment event at his Fraternity’s house. I was still opposed to the “frat life” category but decided suck up some pride in order to make connections with new people. Hours later, I ventured across campus to the TKE house along with the company of a friend that I graduated with. When we arrived at the house, I was acquainted by my friend that had invited us over. Immediately he introduced us to several other members of this chapter. Though I was still very skeptical about fraternities, I was relieved to build connections with new people. The people that I met within the chapter were very welcoming, laid back, and friendly individuals. Still with a heavy guard in place, I was very worried that these people would push me to join so I could partake in some wild, “frat life” shenanigans that I would regret.
I was fortunate enough to build friendships with these people early. These individuals demonstrated persistence to recruit me into joining the chapter, but they showed more initiative to get to know me. It felt great that these people were not forcing pressure on me to join, but felt even greater that they were making effort to build a friendship with me instead.
Days after meeting these guys, I was welcomed back to the house. After arrival, I was given a tour of the entire house, greeted by more members of the chapter, and was offered a brief history lesson about the organization. Having learned that many icons like Elvis Presley, Aaron Rodgers, Danny Thomas, and President, Ronald Reagan joined this fraternity allowed me to realize that this chapter serves a greater purpose. I learned that Tau Kappa Epsilon is specifically catered towards “creating better men for a better world.” Prior to this time, I thought fraternities were just shameful clubs of spoiled, young alcoholics but my perception completely changed. I realized that this was an organization that is devoted to creating servant leaders that are dedicated to making a positive impact in the world.
Hours after this tour was over, I was pulled aside and issued a bid card. This was my invitation to officially get involved with the chapter. After being issued the bid, I walked back to my dorm room ecstatic. Once I walked into the dorm building, I stormed up to my bed room, and reflected on the opportunity that was just presented to me. Without hesitating, I immediately signed the bid card and returned it the following day. Months later, I was officially initiated into the bond of this chapter along with the remainder of my pledge class that consisted of 19 others that I considered to be some of my best friends.
After pledgeship was complete, I was instilled with a new sense of confidence, motivation, and passion to play a role that would help bring success to this fraternity. This chapter molded me into a leader in a very short amount of time. In my sophomore year, I was elected to my first executive position where I served as the Chapter’s secretary. This first taste of leadership sparked a positive addiction for me. Serving my role as Secretary was very rewarding, but I grew hungrier to develop and sharpen my abilities to become a much greater leader. I was committed to contribute as much effort needed to help this chapter flourish to new heights. When I wrapped up my term as Secretary, I encountered my largest responsibility yet, as I transitioned into the role of Chapter President in 2015.
Taking the reign as President of a chapter that consisted of nearly 100 men may seem like a fun, lavish role to undertake, but in retrospect, it was hardly anywhere near that description. This was undoubtedly the most difficult position that I held during my collegiate experience. In this position I was liable for the actions made by every member of the chapter, while also securing the responsibility to oversee all activity that pertained to the fraternity.
As President, I was put into position to act as much more than just the face of the organization. Holding this title provided me with the duties to operate as:
- The mediator between the active chapter, the chapter’s alumni core, Tau Kappa Epsilon’s National Corporation, and many Missouri State Campus professionals
- The chapter’s chief administrator, decision maker, and executor
- The governing spirit, facilitator, and spokesperson for the organization as a whole
When I began serving this role, I was the only council member with prior executive experience. Initially I thought that working alongside an inexperienced executive assembly would serve to be a massive disadvantage for me, but I am happy to say that I was wrong. Ultimately, I was fortunate enough to work with a very collaborative group of talented, diverse, loyal, and passionate individuals that were hungry to provide a positive and impactful service. These men were able to utilize their specific strengths to drive success throughout this chapter in several categories.
Working alongside such a special core of men paid off extremely well as we were able to leave a powerful stamp during my Presidential tenure. In 2015, our Fraternity achieved monumental success as we were able to raise thousands of dollars towards St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and other notable philanthropic causes. That same year, I was honored to lead this chapter to achieve a top 5 chapter ranking among all fraternities at Missouri State University. Out of 18 other chapters, Tau Kappa Epsilon excelled as an upper tier Greek organization in the categories of: philanthropic donations raised; academics; recruitment results; community service participation; athletics; and on-campus participation as a whole. Additionally, with such satisfactory results in place, Tau Kappa Epsilon was able to receive recognition as one of the top 25 International chapters. As Chapter President, I was incredibly humbled to see this chapter acknowledged as one of the leading organizations among nearly 400 other chapters.
Serving as Chapter President was the most rewarding position that I undertook during College. While this position was stressful, and required astronomical amounts of responsibility and hard work, I am incredibly grateful to have served this role to the best of my ability. I’m extremely thankful for the challenges that this position allowed me to endure. Overcoming these obstacles provided me with a gratifying learning experience which molded me into a better student, leader, and ultimately as a person.
In November of 2015, my tenure as chapter president came to a close. I was happy to close this chapter in my life but was even happier, knowing that I left the chapter in the hands of someone I could trust as I was fortunate to transition one of my best friends as my successor. It was satisfying to watch one of my closest friends fill my shoes and bring a different wave of success to this chapter.
Although I was no longer in operational control of the chapter, I continued to devote full service as a member. That semester, I collaborated with 3 of my closest friends to plan last years Red Carnation Ball Ceremony. This was a huge project that took months of effort and planning. I was exposed to a new line of work that I was not familiar with but I was humbled by the end result.
Looking back, this was easily one of the most eventful and exciting weekends that I experienced during College. 2016’s Red Carnation Ball was held at a lakeside lodge just outside of Branson. Members, dates, and alumni gathered to the resort that Friday afternoon. You couldn’t have asked for greater weather. The sun was shining, the humidity was absent, the lake was….filled with water, and the weekend was flooded with excitement, fun, and great vibes.
That same Saturday evening, my 3 counterparts and I hosted a formal banquet dinner on the lakeside property. I was proud to see how successful this portion of the weekend turned out, as 4 “frat guys” were able to coordinate only the fanciest bbq-catered meal for a party of over 100 other “frat guys.” The dinner was held under an event tent, and was decorated to match the setting of a luxurious restaurant. The dinner festivities began with a slideshow that was compiled with pictures and video clips that highlighted the success and excitement that the chapter was able to create through the years.
Once the slideshow was over, the entertainment picked up as the chapter award ceremony took bout. Two of my best friends emceed this portion of the celebration, and I must say, they definitely should have considered rehearsing prior to. When giving out the awards, constant jokes and stabs at one another other took place throughout the entire ceremony. Though it may not have been the most professional display, it certainly was entertaining and memorable. Ultimately, when you bring a close brotherhood together, you’re bound to be exposed to the stupidity of a Fraternity stigma in some regard.
All jokes aside, this ceremony concluded in a very memorable and meaningful fashion for me. That evening, I was awarded with one of the most humbling honors of my life, as I was honored as the inaugural recipient of the Chapter’s Heart and Soul Award. I was incredibly flattered to be recognized by my brothers in this category. This award recognizes an individual for their copious amount of hard work, integrity and passion that they devote to the chapter. Earning this title was something that I was extremely proud to receive and it left me grateful to have joined such an incredible organization years ago. Serving a brotherhood like Tau Kappa Epsilon for over 4 years of college was the greatest pleasure that I endured at Missouri State. I was truly fortunate to be acknowledged with such praise by this chapter that took a chance on me; by the chapter that shaped me into a man that I am proud of; and by the chapter that is now a family to me. Winning this award took the solidified, exuberant passion that I possessed for Tau Kappa Epsilon and raised it to an insurmountable level.
All in all, it’s amazing how unpredictable life really is. For a major stint of my life, I was completely opposed of fraternities and Greek culture as a whole. To say that my perspective about fraternity life changed would be a drastic understatement. I was once afraid of what the media portrayed a fraternity as but am delighted to prove them to be only farfetched claims. I learned that a fraternity was much more than outrageous tailgates, parties, absurd hazing escapades, and alcohol consumption. A fraternity is a lifelong bond that was built on creating servant leaders that are dedicated to making a positive impact on humanity.
The point of this blog wasn’t to convince everyone to join a Fraternity. I understand that it’s not for right for everyone. My message was intended to express the importance of keeping an open mind on things. A cliché phrase that often gets thrown around is to “never judge a book by its cover.” This phrase accurately conveys the theme of this story.
I am incredibly proud to be lifelong member of this bond, but am even prouder to say that I am more than just another “frat boy” statistic. I took a leap to give fraternity life a chance, and it became the best decision of my life. Tau Kappa Epsilon molded me personally and professionally in a manner that continues to help me generate success throughout my life.
In conclusion, don’t be afraid to shake out of your comfort zone, embrace a challenge, and explore new opportunities. It may be worth your while.