Conclave’s major events kicked off Thursday evening with the Balanced Man Celebration in Denver. After a difficult two years, the BMC honored the accomplishments of many chapters and AVCs, while conveying heartfelt gratitude for the strength of our brotherhood during difficult times — and setting a vision for the future. While the much-anticipated reveal of Buchanan Cup-winning chapters (see a full article on them here!) is the pinnacle of the BMC, the rest of the ceremony offered plenty of meaningful moments and recognition of the hard work of so many of SigEp’s chapters and AVCs. You can view the full video here.
Success despite adversity
Hosted by standup comedian Steve Hofstetter, Columbia ’01, the event provided a lot of laughter. After a welcome video message from Denver Broncos legend Terrell Davis, Hofstetter recognized Maine Alpha at the University of Maine with the Attendance and Man-Mile Awards for the large contingent they brought across the country to Conclave.
Highlighting the importance of SigEp Learning Communities — accredited environments for chapter members to learn and live together, Ryan Hamrick, Illinois ’16, presented the Pay it Forward grant to assist two chapters in their efforts to establish SigEp Learning Communities. Thanks to the generosity of Illinois Alpha, the grant was awarded to Illinois Beta at Illinois Tech and Illinois Gamma at Monmouth.
Reinforcing the value of high-quality living-learning environments for our chapters, SigEp National Housing Board Chairman Steve Young, Kansas ’80, presented the Cornerstone Award to four AVCs: South Dakota Alpha at South Dakota State, Iowa Gamma at Iowa, Florida Epsilon at Florida State and Kentucky Delta at Western Kentucky. These Cornerstone Awards recognized AVCs that have made impactful improvements to their chapter facility.
Over the past two years, six new SigEp chapters have earned their charters. At the BMC, we honored their hard work and the high level of operations they’ve achieved. Presidents from three chapters with a long history of success led the recognition, with eight Past Grand Presidents of SigEp presenting the newly-chartered chapters with gavels. The recognition commemorated these newly-established chapters: Illinois Beta at Illinois Institute of Technology, Mississippi Beta at Mississippi State, Missouri Beta at Missouri, New York Gamma at NYU, North Carolina Pi at Western Carolina and Texas Eta at Sam Houston State.
Vision for the future
Grand President Tom Jelke, Florida International ’90, took the stage to summarize the past two years and set a vision for the future of SigEp. He outlined the new strategic plan, three ingredients to drive SigEp’s culture going forward: People, Experiences and Environments.
“This year, you had to be focused on recruiting the right people,” Jelke said. “Almost half our chapters actually recruited more members than the year before. In a pandemic. You did not let anything stop you from providing the opportunity of life-changing SigEp membership to a high quantity of quality new members.” Along with undergraduate recruitment, Jelke recognized the critical importance of volunteers — in our chapters, on the national level, and the nearly 1,000 alumni brothers who raised their hands during the pandemic to provide personal career coaching to our undergraduates.
Experiences, Jelke said, became more important than ever when the pandemic kept brothers (six feet or more) apart. “Now more than ever, people need the connection, brotherhood, mentorship and development SigEp provides.” He highlighted the expansion of SigEp’s programs during the pandemic, “reaching more undergraduates — not less” with leadership opportunities through the Balanced Man Program, Career Coaching, virtual Ruck Leadership Institute and officer training programming.
The Fraternity’s high-quality living-learning environments, led by the 55 chapters who have become certified SigEp Learning Communities in the last two years, are critical to maintaining and expanding our success. “We continue to lead the fraternity world,” Jelke said, “consistently working toward the goal that SigEp will be the safest place on campus.” He pointed to SigEp’s success in achieving zero insurance losses in the past five years — contrasted to many other Greek organizations who have seen up to 200% increases in insurance costs due to unsafe environments.
“Now more than ever,” Jelke concluded, “it’s time to firmly cement SigEp as not only the best fraternity around, but the best student organization on campus.”
While Jelke initially laid out these focuses at the 2019 Conclave, world history took a turn just a few months later. “The pandemic brought loss, stress and isolation,” Jelke said. “This unique time forced us to look closely and prioritize what matters … and through all the adaptations and pivots, what emerged as the most important priorities? Our people, our experiences and our environments.”
“Everyone in this room is still standing”
Hofstetter closed the show with an emotional moment that highlighted the power of our brotherhood. “2020 was the toughest mental health year of our lifetime,” he said. “Look around you. Despite how tough this year was. Despite the challenges put before us, we rose.”
He called on anyone who had relied on a brother for support during the past two years to stand. “Now, as we have done figuratively so many times before, I want you to put your hand on the shoulder of the family you stand next to. This weekend is a reminder that no matter how hard we were pushed, everyone in this room is still standing. Because everyone in this room had someone to lean on.”
“I’ve said it before, I’ll say it now, and I will say it forever – it’s great to be a SigEp.”
View the full BMC stream below.