Editor’s Note: The Order of the Golden Heart is the Fraternity’s highest honor. Its members have made a measurable impact on the SigEp experience through a lifetime of service, often at great personal sacrifice. The gold medallion was first awarded at the 1959 Conclave. Only 168 SigEp alumni have received this great honor, and members join a lineage of inductees that begins with Founder William “Uncle Billy” Phillips, Richmond 1903.
Here, we share the story of one of the five brothers honored with this award at the 56th Grand Chapter Conclave in Houston.
Jay Hurt, Davidson ’88, has left an indelible legacy on SigEp that is rarely seen on such a large scale. Not only is Hurt a former national board member and Foundation life trustee, he’s also a contributor to the original Balanced Man Project and co-founder of the Ruck Leadership Institute. In fact, most of the well-known programs that our brothers enjoy today were influenced in some way by this dynamic leader and innovator.
Hurt’s gift as a leader was evident even in his undergraduate days when he joined the national board as a student director. He immediately translated this ability to volunteer roles after graduation, supporting chapters across the state of Texas. These chapters and their volunteers noticed early on that he led others with confidence and experience far beyond his years. Hurt went on to guide housing campaigns that bolstered chapters across the southwest for years to come.
Thanks to this early success, Hurt was soon tapped for larger projects: taking on the role of district governor, serving as a SigEp National Housing trustee and later, leading the SigEp Educational Foundation. His election to the National Board of Directors in 2001 made Hurt the first and only brother to serve as both a student and alumni director. He was also among the SigEp giants who met to develop the Balanced Man Project, which became the Balanced Man Program.
As he took on new leadership challenges within SigEp, Hurt also grew professionally, leading the dramatic transformation and growth of a family business and later founding a second worldwide company with revenues in excess of $1 billion. In both his career and volunteer efforts, he was setting an example for young leaders in our chapters.
Hurt often encourages young brothers to seek out their own challenges in life, to find ways to build their mettle and gain experience that will prove invaluable over time. During his Order of the Golden Heart induction speech at the 2019 Conclave, Hurt told the brothers in the room, “You have a responsibility to become the best person, the best leader, the best balanced man you can be.” Leadership is clearly his passion and calling within SigEp.
It’s no surprise that Hurt was inspired to co-found one of the greatest innovations in SigEp history — the Ruck Leadership Institute. The program, named for Hurt’s mentor and friend Frank Ruck, Michigan ’46, has given brothers a chance to enhance and expand their leadership skills, challenge the status quo, and one day, drive innovation in their schools, careers and communities.
In the two decades since Ruck’s founding, brothers have learned timeless leadership lessons that have changed their lives and the lives of countless others who they, in turn, have impacted. With the consistency and commitment of a true leader, Hurt has returned regularly to Ruck to challenge and guide SigEp’s most talented leaders.
In his remarks after receiving the Order of the Golden Heart at Conclave, Hurt took the time to note the contributions of his fellow volunteers, saying, “There are countless individuals that have been mentors, friends and brothers along the way. I can’t thank them enough, and they mean so very much to me.”