The college years provide young SigEps with the moral compass and critical experiences that inform life decisions and expand personal abilities. As brothers set out after graduation, each day brings new opportunities and challenges. Priorities are established, daily decisions add up and the narrative of a life is written.
With more than 300,000 alumni, there are countless stories of SigEp men who have devoted their entire adult lives to ideals cemented during the formative years of college. We celebrate their triumphs and extraordinary contributions in chapter newsletters and on homecoming weekends, in the pages of this Journal and at national gatherings. Above all accolades, two awards stand out. At the biennial Grand Chapter Conclave, the Order of the Golden Heart is presented on the Fraternity’s largest stage.
THE ORDER OF THE GOLDEN HEART is the Fraternity’s highest honor. Its members have made a unique and measurable impact on the SigEp experience through a lifetime of service, often at great personal sacrifice. Conceived by Past Grand President Bedford W. Black, Wake Forest ’41, the gold medallion was first awarded at the 1959 Conclave. Only 155 SigEp alumni have received this great honor, and members join a lineage of inductees that begins with Founder William “Uncle Billy” Phillips, Richmond 1903.
The article below shares the stories of five honored with this awards at the 54th Grand Chapter Conclave. Their life journeys and commitment to SigEp virtues serve as inspiration for us all.
Phillip A. Cox
Outgoing Grand President Phillip A. Cox, Indiana ’84, has never shied away from helping brothers in need. Following graduation, he served as a regional director and director of housing on SigEp’s Headquarters staff. During that time, he learned of a chapter struggling under a mound of inherited debt and, despite his modest staff income, stepped up to support the group by personally paying their monthly utility bill.
Returning to Indiana, he took on roles as chapter counselor, president and treasurer for the Indiana Beta AVC while building a career in the investment management industry. In 1993, Cox became district governor for the state.
When he learned in the early 2000s that the Indiana Chapter’s house was in danger of foreclosure, he once again sprang into action, rallying support from alumni. Along with several other committed brothers, Cox contributed his own money to save the property. When the chapter recolonized after a few years off campus, he personally guaranteed the facility’s loan. Cox’s faith in the brothers was rewarded in 2009 when Indiana became the very first SigEp chapter to charter as an accredited Residential Learning Community.
Cox has shown equal dedication and passion to building SigEp’s volunteer infrastructure. As a National Director and chairman of SigEp’s Volunteer Task Force, Cox was a leading voice regarding the needs of volunteers. He brought more volunteers into the fold and worked to make sure they had the support needed to carry out the many activities, big and small, that provide critical support for undergraduate brothers.
After being elected Grand President at the 2013 Dallas Conclave, Cox led the charge to expand the scope and quality of in-person volunteer education, launch new online education initiatives and hire a staff dedicated to supporting volunteers. From the Conclave stage, and in every board meeting that followed, his resolve was clear: SigEp would make volunteers a priority.
In fall 2014, Cox helped expand in-person volunteer education with a pilot program in fifive cities. Volunteers were able to address unique challenges faced by their chapters and build support networks within their region. Determined to ensure the availability and growth of these opportunities, Cox’s brothers and friends established the Phillip A. Cox Volunteer Institute at the 2015 Conclave. In recognition of Cox’s legacy, $850,000 had been committed to the program’s endowment as of October 1, 2015.
During the presentation of the Order of the Golden Heart, it was clear just how profound an impact Cox has had on members throughout the Fraternity.
Cox put his hand over his heart and smiled in appreciation as the Conclave assembly stood in applause. Though his voice wasn’t at full strength, he whispered some words to his wife that she shared with the crowd: SigEp had given him so much. Despite being honored for his service to others, his thoughts were on all that he had received.
Edward “Skip” Dahlkamp and Robert L. Trovaten
As an undergraduate recruitment chairman, Skip Dahlkamp, San Diego State ’63, grew the California Delta Chapter from 13 members to 150 in just five semesters. He also ensured the long-term sustainability of the powerhouse chapter during his two terms as vice president.
Thanks to Dahlkamp, the chapter began attracting the best men on campus, men like Bob Trovaten, ’67. Trovaten assumed several leadership roles, including president, and he stewarded the chapter to continued success.
Eager to see California Delta continue to thrive, both Dahlkamp and Trovaten became volunteers immediately upon graduation. In 1967, they committed to working together to support their chapter, and the fulfillment of that promise has led to a combined 99 years of service. Not all of those years were easy. They saw each generation of brothers bring new challenges. But they faced those challenges head on, together.
In the late ’90s, Dahlkamp and Trovaten were forced to confront a deteriorating chapter culture marked by hazing and a lack of undergraduate accountability. In 1997, the decision was made to close the chapter, but the pair doubled down on their 30-year investment in California Delta.
Dahlkamp and Trovaten worked to ensure that the dormant chapter’s home remained in SigEp’s hands while increasing alumni support. The property was the last remaining fraternity home at the center of campus, and they were eager to keep SigEp out of a new Greek village. They believed remaining close to campus, and away from other fraternities, would help a future chapter build and maintain an identity based on the Balanced Man Program. They also had plans to develop a Residential Learning Community and knew that proximity to faculty would be key.
During the chapter’s dormant years, Dahlkamp kept alumni informed about their progress as he and Trovaten rebuilt the volunteer ranks. In 2000, they celebrated the chapter’s return to campus with their fellow alumni-volunteers who had worked so hard to restore California Delta.
With an ever-expanding group of new SigEps on campus, Dahlkamp and Trovaten set out to renovate the chapter house that had sat vacant for four years. They launched a $1.2 million capital campaign to revitalize the facility. Dahlkamp served as campaign chairman, while Trovaten managed the contractor and architect throughout the renovation. Both Dahlkamp and Trovaten committed their personal finances to the project, even co-signing the mortgage until the renovation was completed.
The finished home received accreditation as a Residential Learning Community, and an in-house classroom hosted a university course in leadership for brothers. The house also included a faculty office, new library and communal study space. The success of the project won the San Diego State AVC SigEp’s Cornerstone Award at the 2013 Conclave.
Under Dahlkamp and Trovaten’s leadership, California Delta has overcome significant obstacles to achieve great success. The chapter has won the school’s Dean’s Trophy for six years in a row and SigEp’s Buchanan Cup at four of the last five Conclaves. After nearly five decades, the pair remains involved with the chapter, actively mentoring officers, supporting a growing RLC and bringing more alumni into the fold.
As Dahlkamp and Trovaten were inducted into the Order of the Golden Heart, they grasped each other by the hands, showing a sign of the brotherly love and support that has sustained their involvement since they were young men. “I would like to say ‘thank you’ to all of the great people that we have had the honor of meeting and working with over the time that we have spent with Sigma Phi Epsilon. It’s a deep, deep, heartfelt thanks,” Trovaten said, speaking for the pair on the Conclave stage.
Kenneth S. Maddox
After graduating from Oregon State, Ken Maddox, ’75, joined SigEp’s traveling staff as a regional director. He spent the first seven years of his career at the Headquarters office before returning to the Northwest in 1982. While working in business development and consulting for Pacific Institute in Seattle, Maddox began volunteering with SigEp’s Washington Chapter as alumni board secretary. Maddox would humbly refer to himself as a simple scribe, but he was so much more to the Washington Beta brothers.
As Maddox threw himself into the role of mentor, the depth of his talents became apparent. He advised the chapter’s executive board on best practices in everything from operations and recruitment to organizational culture. Even as Maddox started a family and took up competitive sailing, he continued to make himself available to the young men of Washington Beta. He infused the chapter with a passion and energy that led to improved academic performance and increased recruitment. As a result of its sustained success, the chapter was awarded a Buchanan Cup at the 1985 Grand Chapter Conclave.
Fellow alumni saw in Maddox a gifted and dynamic young leader with a promising future. In 1987, just five years after leaving the Richmond staff, he was tapped to return to the Headquarters office as executive director. In this role, Maddox added renewed clarity and purpose to leadership events, played a crucial role in the development and launch of the Balanced Man Program, and reinvigorated the regional director program. Even today, former regional directors cite their time under Maddox’s tutelage as a key step in their professional growth. Another great accomplishment of his tenure was the adoption of new expectations for chapter performance and accountability that exceeded standards set by other fraternities at the time. In recognition of his immense professional contributions to the growth of the Fraternity, and for having successfully delivered SigEp through one of its most critical periods, Maddox was awarded the Sigma Phi Epsilon Citation at the 1997 Conclave.
After 10 years as executive director, he returned home to Oregon. Though SigEp was no longer a full-time job for Maddox, he continued to regularly invest full-time hours into the Fraternity he loved. He was immediately recruited to join the board of directors for SigEp National Housing, and he lent his time and expertise to the Oregon Chapter, as well as a number of national committees. For 12 years, Maddox served as president and treasurer of the Oregon Beta AVC. In 2011, he became president of SigEp National Housing’s board. Under his leadership, dozens of new building projects and renovations have been completed, providing safe, modern living-learning environments for chapters across the country.
When Maddox was called to the Conclave stage to accept the Order of the Golden Heart, the extent of his impact on the lives of brothers was apparent. Brothers from chapters nationwide waved greetings and reached out to shake hands with him as he approached the stage with a wide smile. Upon accepting the award, he offered a simple, but heartfelt, acknowledgement of his Oregon Alpha Chapter: “I wouldn’t be here if they weren’t there.” Then, expressing what the brotherhood has meant to him over the years, Maddox said, “I look around the room … and many of you are people who at times of great sadness and great pleasures, you’ve shared that with me. So thank you so much.”
Richard “Dick” Rodgers
In his nearly 30 years as chapter counselor for the Georgia Tech Chapter, Dick Rodgers, Illinois ’49, has been a tireless source of wisdom and leadership. After moving to Georgia for professional reasons, he eagerly accepted the opportunity to give back to his Fraternity and share his knowledge of life and SigEp with the Georgia Tech brothers. Even as he built a successful career in marketing, Rodgers remained a mentor and confidant for brothers during their time on campus and after graduation.
He mentored the chapter as it transitioned to the Balanced Man Program and provided support that has helped the brothers earn recognition from the university and national Fraternity. During his volunteer tenure, Georgia Tech has been awarded the Buchanan Cup, earned accreditation as a Residential Learning Community and received multiple Chapter Home of the Year Awards.
Over the years, Rodgers fostered an environment where scholarship was a priority. Today, the brothers of Georgia Tech enjoy the highest GPA in the chapter’s history—a feat that’s even more commendable, given that it’s nearly four-tenths above the all-campus average. The chapter’s membership has increased, as well, and is now at its highest since 1993.
In his role as mentor, Rodgers sought to expose the Georgia Tech brothers to new ideas and unique opportunities. During the run-up to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, he realized the chapter should have a chance to be part of the once-in-a-lifetime event. As a member of the Olympic Village Housing Committee, he helped ensure the SigEp chapter house became part of the village. This meant brothers had to undergo several months of training to learn the finer points of etiquette and cultural awareness necessary to host foreign dignitaries. But the hard work paid off as the Games opened and the Georgia Tech Chapter welcomed athletes and coaches from Luxembourg and San Marino. The experience not only expanded the worldview of the young SigEps, but also brought national and international attention to the chapter.
Rodgers never shied away from taking on necessary projects that fell outside his official duties as chapter counselor. Prior to the Olympics, back in the early 1990s, the chapter facility needed major renovations. Determined to provide the best environment for his younger brothers, Rodgers helmed a successful $1 million capital campaign. The end result provided the atmosphere needed to enhance fellowship and learning in the chapter. A decade later, Rodgers led a second capital campaign to make further improvements to the residence. Today, the chapter library is named in his honor.
Those fortunate to see Rodgers inducted into the Order of the Golden Heart expressed their admiration with hearty applause. As he received SigEp’s highest honor, Rodgers referred to himself by his Grand Chapter roll number, a nod to the belief that he remains just one of the many capable leaders in a brotherhood that has grown well past 319,000.