Since then, I’ve had more than a lifetime’s worth of laughs, reunions, boys’ weekends and the constant camaraderie of my brothers.
But sometimes it’s not just about the good times – brotherly love can get you through the toughest days too.
This was the case when my biological brother, James Allen Cox, Vincennes ’79, died from a heart attack in his mid-40s. At his funeral, I was surprised when the doors opened and a huge group of brothers, from all over the country, came in together and filled the back of the room. I’ll never forget that moment, having all those men there to support me.
When Allen’s son, my nephew, turned and asked, “Uncle Phil, who are all those guys?” I responded, “Oh, they’re fraternity brothers. You’ll understand someday, when you’re a SigEp, too.”
I am following in the footsteps of an outstanding Grand President, Brother Bert Harris, Florida, ’74. His leadership, determination and clarity of purpose have placed SigEp on a stronger foundation. But the good work we began under his leadership is far from done.
In the last two years, SigEp has passed 300,000 lifetime members, achieved an all-time high GPA of 3.15 and invested in our development programs like never before. In so many ways we are bigger and better than we’ve ever been.
But along the way, we’ve also lost chapters – far too many chapters – to “frat boy” behavior. In every case, I’ve thought of the young men who won’t have the chance to experience our Fraternity like I have, men who will never know the life-changing impact it has or the good times and lifelong network of support it brings. In every case, it felt like a stab to the heart of Sigma Phi Epsilon.
Still, I believe that this, and almost every challenge we face, can be overcome when we live by our cardinal principles, especially brotherly love. That’s because I believe brotherly love isn’t just a feeling. Sometimes it’s a decision.
It is a decision to spend a little more of your budget on member development and community service. It is a decision to enforce chapter standards for brothers whose lives are out of balance but can get back on track with a little tough love. It is a decision to confront the brother who wants to be more “fratty,” more “old school,” more TFM, who wants to make the new guys “earn it” by hazing them, “just a little bit.” And for alumni, it’s a decision to step in, sign up, volunteer, donate and say “I believe in Sigma Phi Epsilon.”
That’s brotherly love, and that’s how we can ensure the future and success of our brothers and our Fraternity.
In the next two years you can expect to see me, maybe a lot of me.
In my career, I travel constantly. Over the years, I’ve dropped in on many chapters, calling ahead to schedule dinner with brothers. As Grand President, I plan to continue and accelerate that practice. And when we visit, I’ll be there to listen. I’ll want to know what challenges you and your chapter face, and how SigEp can better serve you and help you achieve your goals.
I’ll also want to discuss our shared goals of providing an outstanding Fraternity experience for all members, supported by the best development programs and volunteers. I’ll tell you about the thousands of alumni and friends who are investing in SigEp as volunteers and donors and our efforts to do more to support them.
In the meantime, let’s live our values every day and spread the word that SigEp is different. Let’s bring more young men into our brotherhood and invest in the programs that will define their experience.
To steal a phrase from the SigEp Creed, “I believe in the American college fraternity. I believe in Sigma Phi Epsilon.” And I believe that together we can change lives. I hope you’ll join me.
Phillip A. Cox
Phillip Cox, Indiana ’84, served the Fraternity as chapter counselor, Alumni and Volunteer Corporation (AVC) president and treasurer for the Indiana Chapter. He also served as district governor for Indiana from 1993-98. He is a Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient. At the 2013 Conclave in Grapevine, Texas, Cox was elected Grand President. Cox has been in investment management for 20 years and is the national director of managed accounts and alternative investments for Schwab Institutional. He enjoys visiting SigEp chapters and meeting with the brothers and volunteers. Brother Cox resides in Indianapolis with his wife Jane. Their twins, Phillip and Caroline, are college students at North Carolina – Chapel Hill and Miami of Ohio, respectively.