Gary Ordway, Drake ’66, brought his chapter back from dormancy — a feat that had never been accomplished at Drake — and led it to become a model organization for Greek chapters across the country. Ordway has been the guiding force behind the chapter’s dry house environment and helped lead a capital campaign to make the group’s Residential Learning Community an ideal place to live and study. Today, the impact of his vision and mentorship can be seen in more than a decade of Buchanan Cup wins.
Ordway began advising SigEp’s Drake Chapter more than 40 years ago. He was a young attorney and noticed that many of the risks students faced in college concerned alcohol. He organized seminars for the chapter to help brothers better understand the physical dangers of alcohol abuse as well as the potential liability faced by the chapter and its members. Ordway’s honest and frank conversations began in the 1970s, well before alcohol awareness programs achieved their current national prominence.
In the 1990s, the Drake Chapter experienced a cultural backslide as some members lost focus and their sense of what made SigEp different. Ordway attempted to reverse the situation. He took on the role of Alumni and Volunteer Corporation treasurer, and then president, working to provide brothers with added mentorship and stability. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to turn back the tide of a negative culture, and the chapter was closed in 1996.
Though no Greek organization had ever returned to Drake after a closure, Ordway refused to become disheartened. He worked with university officials and the national Fraternity to negotiate a time frame for the chapter’s return.
Ordway knew he also had to build a strong base of support among alumni. He got them excited about rebuilding a chapter that embodied true SigEp values and kept them informed about plans for the recolonization. Bill Crawford, ’63; John Mertz, ’52; Rod Rhoads, ’57; and Gary Wistrom, ’62, joined Ordway on the Alumni and Volunteer Corporation as the group worked to restore their chapter.
Following his instincts about the negative effects of substance abuse within Greek culture, Ordway insisted the chapter return with an alcohol-free facility. In 2000, SigEp recolonized at Drake and soon found a chapter home by renting a former Chi Omega sorority house. Since that time, the chapter has been able to create a culture focused on academics and having fun without the pressure to drink.
As he was inducted into the Order of the Golden Heart at the 2017 Orlando Conclave, Ordway shared the simple philosophy behind his chapter’s substance-free housing policy. “When a young man walks in the door of Iowa Delta, he’s precious,” said Ordway. “And we want to do everything we can to help him succeed.”
In 2001, Ordway was re-elected president of the chapter’s Alumni and Volunteer Corporation and began to champion SigEp’s Residential Learning Community program. He helped the chapter develop academic programming and volunteer requirements needed for accreditation. He also set out to improve the chapter’s physical environment and provide brothers with a home that exemplified the ideal living-learning community. In 2005, Ordway, along with fellow volunteer Andy Wright, ’69, led an $800,000 capital campaign and successfully facilitated the purchase and renovation of the former sorority house.
When SigEp returned to Drake, it had started small with just 15 men; but Ordway’s influence provided fertile ground for a chapter to grow and thrive. Membership quickly grew to 60 and, eventually, 110 brothers. The chapter received its new charter in 2002 and earned its first Buchanan Cup in 2003. The brothers received the biennial award again in 2005 and at the next two Conclaves, eventually earning a Gold Buchanan Cup in 2011 in recognition of a decade of sustained excellence.
When the chapter was surprised and disappointed at not receiving the award in 2013, Ordway was there to offer encouragement and help the young men regroup. He established a mentor committee to help them refocus on their goals. The results were impressive, and Iowa Delta went on to earn Buchanan Cups in both 2015 and 2017.