Chuck White, Western Michigan ’62, dedicated his professional life to making Sigma Phi Epsilon the leader among college fraternities. To White, it was more than just his career. SigEp was his calling.
He first served the Fraternity as a regional director and assistant housing director after graduation. Following a four-year stint in the U.S. Army, he returned to SigEp’s Headquarters in 1967 to lead chapter services.
White spent the next 38 years guiding the Fraternity through some of its biggest challenges and obstacles. In the ’60s, anti-war activism on college campuses led to steep declines in membership in fraternal organizations. White’s efforts to expand chapter services support during this time proved crucial to SigEp’s survival. Decreases in membership continued to affect Greek organizations into the ’70s. White, then serving as SigEp’s executive director, steered the Fraternity through years of financial crisis, all the while, determined not to cut back on the support SigEp chapters needed.
In the ’80s, when drinking on campuses across the country increased and fraternities faced unprecedented legal liabilities, White stepped up to help. As president of the Fraternity Executive Association, he developed risk management guidelines that helped all fraternities lower insurance rates and keep their brothers safe — and may well have preserved Greek life for future generations.
White then answered a new call when he became president of the SigEp Educational Foundation. In the early ’90s, he oversaw the successful Campaign for the Heart, which doubled the Foundation’s assets. Raising $7 million in just a few years, the campaign far surpassed its initial goal. His tireless promotion of the campaign and its potential to impact generations of brothers positioned the Fraternity to launch some of its most enduring and life-changing programs.
White retired in 2005, but that didn’t slow him down. Ever committed to the Fraternity, he joined the volunteer ranks, supporting and advising the Foundation as a life trustee and reinforcing the importance of SigEp’s legacy as a member of the Fraternity’s archives committee with fellow Order of the Golden Heart recipient Archie Yeatts, Richmond ’64.
It is impossible to sum up all of White’s accomplishments, because so many of the things now considered fundamental aspects of the SigEp experience were implemented during his tenure. In his second year as executive director, SigEp launched a series of regional academies, now better known as the Carlson Leadership Academy. Much of the credit for the Fraternity’s move to its Headquarters at Zollinger House is due to White’s fundraising efforts when he served as president of the SigEp Educational Foundation. The Ruck Leadership Institute and Tragos Quest to Greece — both vital to developing balanced leaders for over 20 years — were championed by White.
In his more than 40 years on staff and as a volunteer, Brother White touched thousands of lives and redefined what it means to be a fraternity man. On hearing of White’s passing, brothers from around the country sent tributes expressing what Chuck meant to them. Here, some of the brothers who knew him best share their memories.
“Chuck’s vision and determination to build a more positive and relevant fraternity experience laid a strong foundation for SigEp to rise above just being a good middle of the pack competitor. He expected everyone to give their very best, and he then motivated us to do it. Chuck was ‘all-in’ for a lifetime.
“We have lost one of our SigEp giants. May he rest in peace as we continue his challenge to excel.” — Steve Shanklin, Murray State ’70
“Chuck White’s persistence over 20 years finally brought me back to SigEp. And brought balance back to my life. I owe him everything. May his memory be a blessing.” — Garry Kief, Southern California ’70
“When I first became involved with the Foundation, Chuck was my go-to guy for any of my needs. He was a SigEp of the best kind, always there to help. When I was the chairman of the Kansas Beta fundraising campaign for $2.7 million to remodel the house, Chuck always had a helpful suggestion. He was a good friend of my son, John, a SigEp from Creighton and a chapter president. My wife, Sunny, and I, along with our family, enjoyed being with Chuck at Conclaves. He was a dear man and a gentleman always.
“He will be greeted at the gate and welcomed with loving and spirit filled arms. God bless Chuck White.” — AJ Scribante, Kansas State ’56
“Chuck is responsible for putting me on the path of my deeper involvement with the Fraternity by asking me to become legal counsel in 1979. That afforded me the opportunity to travel the country, often with him, and meet SigEps I would never have known otherwise. I, like others, lost routine contact with Chuck when he retired, and I am so thankful that Brian Warren asked Chuck and me to head up the archives project. We spent many hours together in the attic at Zollinger House looking through boxes and reviewing papers. He was a treasure trove of historical memory of people and events. COVID-19 will be remembered for many things, but I will remember with great regret that it forced us to pause the archives project, and it took away my friend and brother.” — Archie Yeatts, Richmond ’64
“Chuck was my boss when I came onto the Headquarters staff in 1985. Though I’m pretty sure we were all afraid of him on day one, we loved him dearly. Chuck had great passion and a clear vision of what SigEp needed to be — and he led us there. We’ve lost another SigEp hero — and he’ll be deeply missed.” — Chris Bittman, Colorado ’85
“Chuck was one of the most influential men in my life. I am really happy we had several times to recognize and celebrate him in the last couple of years.” — Rick Bennet, Central Missouri ’74
“It would be difficult to overstate Chuck White’s impact on the Fraternity and the many men’s lives, including my own, that he impacted. Like a great football coach, all you have to do is look at the many people that he brought along in our Fraternity, like Gary Griffith, Ken Maddox, Shawn McKenna, etc., because those people, in turn, did greater things both for the Fraternity and in their careers.
“His masterful organization and recruitment of trustees for the Educational Foundation was groundbreaking. Some of our greatest brothers, like Garry Kief and many others, were brought back to the Fraternity by Chuck White to do great things. The Educational Foundation has grown into the bedrock of our Fraternity under his leadership.
“Chuck and Susan White were loved by many of us, and he will be missed. God bless the White family.” — Doug Nabhan, Purdue ’77
“Chuck had a special influence on my life. Chuck and Gary Griffith recruited me onto the staff as my first job out of college. Many of the business and management skills that made the rest of my working career a success were developed in those early years on the Headquarters staff. My assignment as regional director in the middle of the country took me to Emporia, Kansas, where I met my wife, Edie. Chuck and Susan became good friends to Edie and me while living in Richmond on two occasions.
“When ready to leave the Headquarters staff the first time, Chuck introduced me to John Gentleman, who was a chapter brother of Chuck. That introduction resulted in my being hired by the Segal Company in New York, where I spent a career of 40 years, interrupted by a short return to the Educational Foundation. Being recruited by Chuck to return and work for the Foundation led to Segal then reaching back out to recruit me to San Francisco. Our move to the Bay Area might not have happened if not for that return to Richmond.
“So you see, my career success, opportunity to live in a beautiful part of the country and my wonderful family were greatly influenced by Chuck.
“You were a formative boss and mentor, a great friend, and just a good man, Brother Chuck White.” — Tim Biddle, Colorado State ’73
“Chuck was detail oriented, expected much of others, was oftentimes playful, with a rich, warm smile and laugh. His famous and effective question asked so often when visiting with others, ‘I’m confused,’ was his invitation to continue a conversation.” — Ken Maddox, Oregon State ’75
“The entire fraternity movement in America has lost a giant. It is only unfortunate that so few of us got the blessing of personally knowing and working with the man who so profoundly influenced us and the hundreds of thousands of young men and women in America.
“In the early ’80s, shortly after I joined the staff, Chuck, Frank Ruck and Barry Posner called a retreat at Tarrytown, New York, to shape a new mission for SigEp. The whole staff went — this was long before women at most places, Headquarters included, were fully integrated into such corporate programming. It was the first time many of the women had even been on an airplane, much less a business trip! The whole Fraternity and each of us were changed forever, and SigEp has led nationally ever since.
“He challenged us all in so many ways. When things got tough, Chuck leaned in — and expected the same of us. He rarely backed down, at times as maddeningly challenging as a drill sergeant — which I think he had been once. But he and Susan taught us that work should be a total family experience, as my wife and children will attest. May we all continue Chuck’s passionate push to develop balanced leaders for the world.” — Craig Templeton, Kansas ’81
“What a life! Chuck impacted so many people and I was blessed to be influenced by him. He hired me to be a regional director, and throughout the ensuing 20+ years, challenged me to continue to contribute. He was the epitome of a leader, and his love for Sigma Phi Epsilon and his family was unequaled. His legacy and creativity in times of change for fraternities positioned SigEp where it is today. His leadership of the Educational Foundation was revolutionary. We will all miss him.” — Carlos Quintero, Clemson ’73
There will never be another like Brother Chuck White. His legacy is indelible and he will be deeply missed.
A group of Chuck’s closest friends has requested that we honor Chuck and extend his legacy by supporting what he invested a lifetime doing — preparing future generations of SigEps to lead with confidence and integrity. Endowing the Chuck White Ruck Team in his honor will memorialize Chuck through future generations of SigEp men from campuses across the country who will attribute their growth as a leader to Team Chuck for the rest of their lives.