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.
By devoting the majority of his career to the Fraternity, Charles “Chuck” White, Western Michigan ’62, has achieved a level of professional dedication to SigEp that hasn’t been seen since Founder William Phillips, Richmond 1903. For Phillips, contributing to SigEp was more than a passion; it was his vocation. For decades, he put his talents to use to serve his brothers as SigEp’s first Grand Secretary.
White also found his calling by serving on the Fraternity’s staff. White spent a combined 40 years leading the Fraternity and the Educational Foundation and, in the process, influenced much of what SigEp is today. Programs, donor initiatives and even the national Headquarters office, Zollinger House, can be traced back to White’s leadership.
It all began when, following an impactful and formative experience as a member of SigEp’s chapter at Western Michigan, White joined the Fraternity staff for the first time as a regional director. A few years later, he rejoined the staff for good, taking on the role of executive director.
As a member of the SigEp staff, White guided the brotherhood through many challenges and obstacles. When fraternal organizations across the country were struggling during the 1960s, his work to expand chapter services support was instrumental in helping the Fraternity survive. In the ’70s, determined not to cut back on critical services, he led the staff through years of financial crisis, often borrowing funds over the summer that were repaid during the school year. In the ’80s, as drinking on campuses across the country worsened and legal liabilities piled up, White spearheaded the creation of risk management guidelines that helped all fraternities lower insurance rates and keep their brothers safe.
Years later, a new opportunity permitted White to step into a role leading the SigEp Educational Foundation. Through the ’90s and 2000s, he supported SigEp’s long-term financial needs, ensuring that what was being created would last for years to come.
The SigEp of today likely wouldn’t have been possible without White’s contributions. In his second year as executive director, SigEp launched a first-of-its-kind series of regional academies, now better known as the Carlson Leadership Academy. The Fraternity’s move to its Zollinger House Headquarters building was the result of White’s work as president of the SigEp Educational Foundation. The SigEp Learning Community and Balanced Man Program came to fruition and grew during his watch. Likewise, the Ruck Leadership Institute and Tragos Quest to Greece became integral elements of the SigEp experience when his work took those programs from dreams to reality.
Despite everything he’s done to make SigEp a leader among fraternities, when White was inducted into the Order of the Golden Heart at the 2019 Conclave, he gave much of the credit to his wife, Susan. He expressed his gratitude for her support in making his career with SigEp possible. “I could never have done my job if Susan didn’t do what she did for me,” he said.