Through remembrance and celebration, the Brotherhood Luncheon at Conclave focuses on our cardinal principle of brotherly love. And as Past Grand President Steve Shanklin, Murray State ’70, reminded attendees, SigEp’s founders chose this ideal, because while brotherhood faces inward toward members of the Fraternity, brotherly love uses fraternal ties to impact the world with genuine care and affection.
Hosted by Director Brad Nahrstadt, Monmouth ‘89, Friday’s luncheon began with the necrology, which remembers those who have passed away since the previous Conclave, led by SigEp National Chaplain Rev. Ray Ackerman, Oklahoma ’77. Following lunch, the Clayton-Doud Award and Honor of Philias were presented in recognition of SigEp’s commitment to brotherly love, honoring heroic acts of service to brothers and our communities.
The Clayton-Doud Award
When Jim Clayton, Tennessee ’57, fell upon hard times with his company, Clayton Homes, fellow SigEp Wallace C. Doud, Wisconsin ’48, came quickly to his aid and helped navigate the difficult juncture. In appreciation of Doud’s service, Clayton endowed the Clayton-Doud Award, which recognizes brothers who exemplify the Fraternity’s charge to help fellow brothers in their time of need.
At the 2019 Brotherhood Luncheon, the Clayton-Doud Award was presented to Brian Harris, Maine ’12, Owen McCarthy, ’10, and posthumously to Andrew Gerke, ’08.
Gerke and Harris became fast friends during college, bonding over their shared love of music. The two spent many hours at the chapter house playing drums and talking about music. But Gerke wasn’t just a friend; he took Harris under his wing and acted as a mentor, encouraging him to go for his dreams and helping him achieve them.
When Gerke died suddenly in a car crash the year after his graduation, Harris and the entire chapter were devastated. The loss made Harris reflect on what he really wanted to do with his life. Inspired by Gerke’s passion and a desire to follow his own dreams, Harris decided music was much more than a hobby to him. Attending a lecture by a music therapist his senior year compelled him to combine his interests in psychology and music by studying neurological music therapy in grad school.
As he was finishing his master’s program, Harris reached out to McCarthy, another trusted brother and friend, to get advice about his idea for a new music therapy practice. McCarthy was about to complete his MBA at Harvard Business School and provided the insight on business strategy that Harris needed to fine-tune his business plan. The two became partners, launching a company that uses music as therapy for patients with neurological injuries and disorders. Today, that company, MedRhythms, combines science, technology and music to help people with neurological injuries and disorders improve speech, motor and cognitive skills. Harris serves as CEO, while McCarthy serves as president of the company, and together, they help restore people’s lives through the healing power of music.
Although he couldn’t have known it at the time, Gerke’s willingness to share his interests and serve as a mentor to a young brother inspired that brother to dedicate his life to helping others. The brotherly love Gerke expressed has been multiplied many times over and will positively impact many others for a long time to come.
The Honor of Philias
The Honor of Philias 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. Chapters or individuals may receive the Honor of Philias as recognition of their special expression of the Fraternity’s cardinal principle of brotherly love.
The luncheon concluded with the presentation of the Honor of Philias. The 2019 honoree was Jared Fenton, Pennsylvania ’17, founder of the Reflect Organization, a campus-based organization dedicated to empowering students to foster a culture of self-care and support.
In Fenton’s freshman year, a classmate took her own life, and a good friend later faced a mental health crisis. He became increasingly aware that many students were struggling in different ways, but were afraid they would be judged for speaking up about it.
There was one group talking about it — his fraternity brothers. His chapter had a discussion group that encouraged brothers to talk openly about their experiences, including any struggles they were dealing with.
Fenton knew he wanted to help people on his campus who were facing issues but maybe thought they were alone. He launched his nonprofit on his campus, then called Penn Reflect. The organization hosts monthly dinners where students can openly discuss the challenges in their lives in a relaxed setting.
The organization started small. In fact, most of the attendees at the first meeting were Fenton’s chapter brothers, who showed up to support his new project. But as word of mouth spread, the organization grew quickly. Within a year, over Reflect dinners were drawing hundreds.
Attendees have reported being more likely to seek help and feeling less isolated, because they know others are struggling as well. The group has now spread beyond Penn’s campus and is making a similar impact at five other universities across the U.S. In addition, students and officials from universities around the country continue to reach out to Fenton about starting chapters on their campuses.