Past Grand President Phillip A. Cox, Indiana ’84, told us often, “Behind every great chapter is a group of dedicated volunteers.” These men and women make a difference in our chapters and campus communities every day. And they don’t do it for the recognition. They do it because they love SigEp and believe in the Fraternity’s ability to bring out the best in young men. Among the thousands of dedicated SigEp volunteers, a select few stand out as truly exemplary.
The Exemplary Service Award recognizes SigEp volunteers who have tirelessly served the Fraternity and modeled the way for others for more than 20 years. The following alumni received their awards at the culmination of the 2018 Carlson Leadership Academies.
Ray Ackerman, Oklahoma ’77
For more than four decades, Father Ray Ackerman has played a major role in furthering the Fraternity’s mission to develop values-based leaders.
His leadership of SigEp’s national Ritual and Values Task Force has yielded invaluable insight on staying true to the Fraternity’s ideals while keeping pace with cultural shifts. Since 1997, Ackerman has also served as the Fraternity’s national chaplain, creating moving tributes to brothers who have passed away and presiding over the Grand Chapter Conclave Necrology.
After graduating, Ackerman spent a year on SigEp’s staff as a regional director. Upon returning to the midwest, he served as chapter counselor with the Oklahoma and Oklahoma State Chapters. Today, many consider his commitment to helping new members become better men key to the development of the Balanced Man Program. Since joining the priesthood, Ackerman has served on several ad hoc alumni committees and is an at-large member of the Oklahoma Chapter’s Alumni and Volunteer Corporation (AVC).
Upon accepting his award, Ackerman spoke and concluded with this challenge: “Let us all choose to make a difference. This is the nature of our brotherhood. This is what it means to be a SigEp.”
Mike Ellis, Purdue ’84
Mike Ellis has pretty much done it all, having amassed a broad range of experience as a national and chapter volunteer.
His time as a Student Director on SigEp’s National Board made Ellis eager to continue volunteering as an alumnus. Just a year out of college, he was tapped to chair the national Alumni Development Committee. During this time, he also began a 10-year stint as chapter counselor for the Northern Illinois Chapter and later served as a district governor.
A Distinguished Alumnus recipient, Ellis chaired the national Technology Task Force and has been instrumental in helping the Fraternity adapt to changes in technology. He’s also trained alumni who don’t live near a chapter to use technology to serve as mentors and participate in meetings remotely.
Ellis has perfected remote volunteering: He currently serves on the AVC of his home chapter, as well as two others — all while traveling for his job as a technology consultant.
At the awards ceremony, Ellis shared why he volunteers, saying, “For me, volunteering has been the outward expression of my oath and of virtue and diligence. It has been the bedrock of brotherly love in my whole adult life.”
Rick Slimmer, Muhlenberg ’75
Rick Slimmer has long been the heart and soul of his chapter. For more than 40 years, Slimmer has led Muhlenberg’s AVC and served as its treasurer. His service, however, goes far beyond managing finances.
Chapter volunteers consider him a mentor and say they volunteer, in part, for the opportunity to work with him. To undergraduates, he’s been a mentor, advisor and, sometimes, even a surrogate parent.
Slimmer recently helped to oversee
a major upgrade project at the chapter
home that included a renovated, high-tech library and the installation of a sprinkler system. His dedication is apparent in everything he does, including the many times he checks on the house during the summer and holidays when brothers are away.
Previously recognized by the Fraternity as a Distinguished Alumnus, the chapter renamed a scholarship in his honor at its 75th anniversary celebration in 2013. The lounge in the chapter house also bears Slimmer’s name.
“My experiences with the Fraternity, both as an active brother and later as part of the AVC, have really become a deep part of me in my mind and in my heart,” Slimmer said, explaining how much his years of volunteering have meant to him.
Steve Shewbrooks, Florida ’66
As co-chair of the Florida Alpha recolonization committee, Steve Shewbrooks helped lay the groundwork for the chapter’s successful return to the University of Florida.
Shewbrooks also led the AVC’s recent $3 million capital campaign, bringing alumni from several decades together to build a modern living-learning center that will serve undergraduates today and for generations to come.
Currently, he’s advising brothers on implementing the new substance-free policy and including safe, fun activities in game-day programming.
Other volunteers say what makes him special is that he’s never been one to say, “That’s not my job.” Whenever he sees a need, he steps in and does his best to fill it, whether it’s mentoring individual members, leading a project or serving on a committee.
When he accepted his award, Shewbrooks spoke about the many friends he’s made since college and shared a special message with undergraduate brothers. “Cherish the friends you make in chapter during your time in school,” he said. “But look forward with anxious anticipation to the lifelong friends you’ll make in SigEp after you get your diploma and on the long and winding journey of the rest of your life.”
Ron Smith, San Diego State ’69
Ron Smith’s visionary leadership paved the way for the San Diego State Chapter’s current success. As AVC president, Smith worked tirelessly with university officials and volunteers to bring the chapter back to campus.
Some brothers struggled academically at first, but by the time the chapter received its charter in 2004, its GPA was above 3.0. A year later — inspired by Smith’s focus on academic achievement — members voted to make 3.0 the chapter’s standard GPA, and Smith was honored with SigEp’s Distinguished Alumnus award.
In 2008, Smith also became chapter counselor and co-chaired the capital campaign for what would become the chapter’s state-of-the-art Residential Learning Community. After 15 years as AVC president, he handed over the reins to focus on serving as chapter counselor.
In 2015, Smith organized a steak dinner to recognize brothers who finished the year with a 3.5 GPA or better. Earning an invitation to this annual event is now a point of pride among brothers and has added another element to their friendly academic competition.
A retired educator, Smith encouraged undergraduates to make the most of the Balanced Man Program. “Go through all the challenge levels,” he said. “Earn that Brother Mentor status. Come back to your chapter as junior and senior leaders and help those younger guys find their way so that they can be not as good as you, but — like we know you’d want them to be — better than you. You can show them how.”