Editor’s Note: The Sigma Phi Epsilon Citation is bestowed upon alumni who have achieved extraordinary success and stature in their chosen professions. Since the award was first presented in 1965, only 256 have received the honor. Among them are world leaders, titans of industry and commerce, renowned authors and artists, civil servants and military heroes, award-winning actors and all-star athletes.
Here, we share the story of one of the five brothers honored with this award at the 56th Grand Chapter Conclave in Houston.
As an undergraduate, John Thrasher, Florida State ’65, participated in intramurals while also being actively involved in his SigEp chapter and working part-time to put himself through school. This drive has served him well throughout a career as a key decision-maker in several of Florida’s leading institutions.
After graduation, Thrasher completed a management training program with an insurance company before deciding to join the military. While in the Army, he became the aide to the commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Centers in Germany. He spent the next two years traveling with the general throughout Germany, organizing his schedule and preparing briefings. He credits skills he’d developed while serving as an officer in the Florida Epsilon chapter — organizing events, handling finances and managing relationships — with helping him succeed in the role. In addition to two Bronze Stars earned for his service in Vietnam, Thrasher received an Army Commendation Medal in recognition of his work in Germany.
After completing his military service, Thrasher returned to Florida State University and earned a law degree. He practiced for several years as an attorney before combining his interests in education and politics to make a successful run for school board in 1986. Then in 1992, he won a seat in the Florida House of Representatives. He was re-elected three times and served as speaker in his final term. During his time in the Florida Legislature, Thrasher’s support was crucial in passing a bill to create a medical school at his alma mater. Following his career in the House, he served as chairman of the university’s newly created board of trustees for four years.
In 2009, he returned to public service, first winning a special election to fill a seat in the Florida Senate and then a full term the following year. As an elected official, Thrasher had to effectively balance competing priorities to do what was best for the people of the state. That experience, combined with his service on education-related committees, proved good preparation for Thrasher’s next challenge.
In 2014, Thrasher was named the 15th president of Florida State University. Taking on this role has once again given him the opportunity to directly impact education. It’s an issue he’s long been passionate about; in fact, he often refers to his current position as his dream job. Under his leadership, FSU is now recognized as one of the top 20 public universities in America, and he’s led a $1 billion fundraising campaign that will support scholarships and additional faculty positions.
In addition, Thrasher has been a national leader in the effort to shift the culture of Greek life. In the wake of a hazing-related death at Florida State, he advocated for a safer culture focused on personal responsibility and continues to challenge students to take the lead in creating positive change.
In his remarks at Conclave, Thrasher acknowledged the strong influence SigEp had on his career trajectory. “I had a vague idea that I wanted to be involved in government or politics, but I didn’t know how to do it. SigEp gave me the motivation, the confidence and the experience to pursue leadership opportunities in the Fraternity, in the Army and throughout my career.”