The Honor of Philias recognizes SigEps who have demonstrated the cardinal principle of brotherly love through exceptional acts of unselfishsh service. The 2015 award was given to the brothers of Southeast Missouri State, who rallied around the family of their late chapter brother Bobby Christman, ’17, and ensured his legacy would aid others in need. Christman, whose story was shared in last issue’s In Memoriam, was tragically shot while defending his girlfriend during an armed robbery earlier this year.
Christman was the epitome of a Balanced Man. He was a gifted athlete who helped found the university’s wrestling club and became a model student as a member of SigEp. He was passionate about the Fraternity and was elected recruitment chairman of his chapter.
When brothers learned of his critical injury, they rushed to the hospital to join his family by his side. It was winter break, and many drove through the night. SigEps filled the hospital waiting area and corridors as everyone awaited news of his condition. When the hopelessness of the situation became clear, they kept vigil as Christman’s family said their final goodbyes.
Even in death, Christman’s brothers remained at his side. The entire chapter served as pallbearers and honor guard at Christman’s funeral, carrying him to his final resting place. Chapter President Aaron Clite, ’16, delivered the eulogy and shared a quote Christman had sent to his brothers before his death: “Get control over your life. Be a better person to others. Be productive and love life, because you only have it for so long. So don’t waste it.”
Moved by Christman’s life of strength and service, the chapter did everything they could to support his family, commemorate his legacy and ensure that their fallen brother would forever impact the lives of others.
General James T. Conway, Southeast Missouri State ’69, former Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps and a SigEp Citation recipient, visited the campus to comfort his chapter brothers in their time of grief. He encouraged them to find a way to honor Christman, and they decided to build a memorial scholarship as a tribute.
The chapter and alumni vigorously raised funds to establish a permanent endowment in Christman’s memory. Online giving sites, social media and word of mouth were used to generate support. They sent out letters to alumni and hosted numerous fundraising events to establish the Bobby Christman Memorial Fund. They quickly collected over $40,000, with donations coming from the school’s athletic department, the Greek community and SigEps from more than 25 different chapters. The new endowment will provide an annual scholarship to a deserving undergraduate brother and serve as a permanent way for Christman’s family and friends to honor his life.
Determined to make an even greater impact, the chapter committed to go beyond raising funds. In life, Christman had given of himself to others unreservedly. Because of his selﬂess decision to become an organ donor, even in death, he has continued to give hope to ﬁve others struggling for life. This ultimate act of giving inspired his brothers to become organ donors themselves. In addition, they promoted organ donor awareness by organizing events and sharing Christman’s story. Securing hundreds of organ donor commitments from their university community, the chapter ensured Christman’s legacy will be felt in an untold number of communities.
“Any soul fortunate enough to receive the gift of life from one of these donors will be another person saved because of Bobby,” said Past Grand President Steve Shanklin, Murray State ’70, as he commended the chapter’s efforts at Conclave.
The Southeast Missouri State RLC accepted the 2015 Honor of Philias at the Conclave Brotherhood Luncheon, with the moment serving as another meaningful tribute to Christman’s life. After inviting the chapter to join him on stage, Shanklin surprised the brothers with a letter from Christman’s parents, Bob and Dawn. Unable to attend Conclave, the two wrote, “We knew pretty quickly that we had inherited 95 sons. We felt their arms around us and their support for our family.”
The Honor of Philias award was established in 1989 by Past Grand President and Order of the Golden Heart recipient Jack D. Wheeler, North Texas ’61, and his wife, Kate. Their endowment provided a $5,000 gift toward the Bobby Christman Memorial Fund.
“Of all the fraternities he knew, we are the only one that chose brotherly love over brotherhood in our founding principles,” said Shanklin of Wheeler. “Many times, these terms are seen and used interchangeably. But Jack stated that brotherhood looks inward toward its brothers, while brotherly love looks outward to embrace all humanity in its charge.”
The Honor of Philias is given biennially at each Grand Conclave to a chapter or individuals that have powerfully exhibited the Fraternity’s cardinal principle of brotherly love. The award itself is a crystal obelisk on a granite base permanently displayed at the Fraternity’s Headquarters at Zollinger House in Richmond, and recipients are given an exact replica.
Past recipients of the award have included brothers who cared for a member seriously injured in a car accident in 2013, helped a new member diagnosed with cancer in 2011, supported a brother who tragically lost his eyesight in 2009, aided in Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts in 2007, empowered Iraqi college students in 2005 and performed many other acts of kindness stretching back to 1989. The award has encouraged and inspired SigEp brothers to extraordinary acts of brotherly love, just as Past Grand President Wheeler and his wife, Kate, intended.